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Is SF Renters Alliance an Advocacy Group or Campaign Front?

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By Ian Firstenberg

A consultant affiliated with Scott Wiener’s campaign helped prop up an advocacy group claiming to support San Francisco renters. 

San Francisco Renters Alliance” sent out a standard questionnaire last week to San Francisco residents asking for personal and other routine political organization information. The small print at the bottom of the page indicated the questionnaire was “created inside Muir Consulting.” 

Muir Consulting is the public relations firm of Maggie Muir, who, according to LinkedIn, was a former partner at Erwin and Muir Consulting and Public affairs for seven years before launching Muir Consulting in early 2016. 

Her LinkedIn bio details:

She ensures your campaign receives the hands on attention, tailored strategy, and experience it deserves. Her 90% win record speaks to that attention.” 

She goes on to write about previous clients, one of whom is Senator Scott Wiener — she served as his campaign manager in the 2016 race. Among other notable former clients, Muir names Mayor London Breed, District Attorney George Gascon and Mayor Sam Licardo.  

Advocacy or lobbying groups birthed alongside political campaigns is by no means a rarity in American politics — in fact, it’s quite common. However, they typically at least attempt to disguise the connection, giving some pretext of independence. 

It’s unclear what specifically SF Renters Alliance does. In fact, it’s difficult to find any information beyond their sparsely populated webpage and said questionnaire. Their “About Us” page is bare, with a stacked organization and three nondescript banners: “WE’RE REPRESENTATIVE”, “WE’RE ENGAGED”, “WE’RE FORWARD THINKING.” 

No part of their webpage details what they actually do and who they do it for. 

Though the group claims to be a “renter advocacy by renters, for renters” that connects people with resources and opportunities for civic engagement, the site’s landing page first offers to educate people about which elected officials align with “renters [sic] interests.” 

According to state filings, a lobbying organization with the same name was terminated October 10, 2010. A phone number listed on the filings belongs to one Rita Maria Tonucci, a lawyer who has been unable to practice law since the late the 90s. The professional address listed is a residential townhouse near the Panhandle. It’s unclear if these are the same organization or if Tonucci has or ever had any affiliation with the San Francisco Renters Alliance. 

According to LinkedIn, Maggie Muir and her husband own a house in Oakland. Senator Wiener owns a house in the Castro. On her LinkedIn, Muir lists a Van Ness Avenue location as the office space for Muir Consulting but on the website the office space is a Third Street location. The Van Ness Avenue location is also listed as the office of bankruptcy and divorce lawyer Robert T. Kawamoto. 

While we cannot say with any certainty that the advocacy group is a campaign front, neither can we verify that it actually offers any real tangible service. The website does ask people to sign up for a newsletter. Information gained from the questionnaire and newsletter signup form has likely established a robust mailing list, which we cannot confirm won’t be used for political purposes because we can’t confirm much about the organization at all.

Neither Maggie Muir nor anyone else on the Muir Consulting staff was unavailable for comment when Broke-Ass Stuart reached out.

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