$99,000 spent to fight circumcision ban in San Francisco

In its fight to quash a ballot measure aiming to ban circumcision of underage males in San Francisco, a Jewish-led coalition spent more than six times as much as the ban’s proponents did.

The Committee Opposing Forced Male Circumcision, which backed the measure that ultimately was stricken from the Nov. 8 ballot in July by a Superior Court judge, spent $14,000 on their efforts, according to recent filings with the San Francisco Ethics Commis-sion, covering political activity through the end of September.

The filings show the Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom, the political action committee organized by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council to wage a fight against the ballot measure, spent nearly $99,000 on its efforts.

“Anti-circumcision activists used demagoguery to fuel their effort,” JCRC Associate Director Abby Michelson Porth said. “The good news is it cost us a fraction of what it would have cost had the legal victory not occurred.”

Abby Michelson Porth

If that hadn’t happened, Porth said, the Jewish-led coalition would have had to run a full political campaign all the way up to the election. “It would have cost upward of four times what we spent,” she said.

The JCRC itself charged the PAC more than $10,000 for the salaries of employees, including Porth, who spent time working to defeat the measure.

All donations of $100 or more made to a committee on either side of the ballot measure were listed in the documents obtained from the Ethics Commission.

Supporters of the JCRC-led coalition mostly were individuals and organizations in the Bay Area; the largest individual contribution came in July from Roselyne Swig, the prominent Jewish San Francisco philanthropist, who donated $10,000. National Jewish groups helped as well, among them the Anti-Defamation League, which donated $25,000.

The effort to ban circumcision, by contrast, appears to have been supported mostly by in-kind, nonmonetary contributions. Of the $14,000 spent by the Committee Opposing Forced Male Circumcision, $8,500 came from Richard Kurylo, who works in the operations unit of the San Francisco City Controller’s office; his contributions are classified either as “signature gathering expenses,” “petition circulators” or “photocopies/supplies.”

Many of the monetary donations to ban circumcision documented in the Ethics Commission filings came from prominent anti-circumcision activists. Kurylo personally gave $1,000; Lloyd Schofield, the ballot measure’s proponent, contributed $600; and Frank McGinness, the treasurer of the committee supporting the ballot measure, donated $1,600.

“It would’ve been nice to get more money to be able to do more,” Schofield said. “We did what we could with what we had.”

The first itemized monetary donation to the proponents’ campaign was $150 from Matthew Hess, the San Diego–based anti-circumcision activist who authored the San Francisco ballot measure.

Hess contributed an additional $500 in March and also was the creator of the anti-circumcision comic book “Foreskin Man,” which was widely criticized by the ADL and others as anti-Semitic.

J. staff writer Dan Pine contributed to this report.