Wanted PR consultant Ryan Chamberlain burned by SF politics

Ryan Chamberlain may have been burned by SF politics, leading to an FBI national manhunt.
Courtesy photo

PR consultant Ryan Chamberlain is now in FBI custody in connection with allegedly posessing explosives, but in a letter he wrote to loved ones via his iCloud, Chamberlain recalled the road to his depression.

Many of the examples he cited involved his time as a political consultant in San Francisco. Chamberlain is very well-known within San Francisco political circles.

"He's a classic political operative -- crafty, cynical, but also really nice," Adriel Hampton, a former SF Examiner political reporter, told the Guardian. "I always liked him, even when I was busting him in a story."

Some San Francisco political insiders were up in arms about the FBI's manhunt for Chamberlain, despite the law enforcement agency's assertions that Chamberlain was "armed and dangerous" and possessed explosives.

Alex Clemens, founder of well-connected PR firm Barbary Coast Consulting, expressed surprise in numerous outlets, and also on his Facebook page.

"I've known the guy for a decade," he wrote in a Facebook post. "I hired him as a contractor for a month or two in '09 to handle some social media efforts for a client in North Carolina. And that for the second time in a few months, I am head-spinning surprised to learn of these allegations against another SF political operative. What. The. Hell?"

As a city hall insider and San Francisco political moderate (and former member of the Republican Central County Committee), Chamberlain helped run former Mayor Gavin Newsom's succesful mayoral campaign in the Richmond District as a field organizer. In a letter released on Chamberlain's iCloud today, he cited his experience with Newsom as one of the life losses that hurt him. 

"Getting left out of the Newsom win was hard," Chamberlain wrote. "But I was always able to override it by forcing some common sense onto my brain... but every time it would somehow come back... i'd hit bottom again."

But what did he mean by "getting left out" of the Newsom win? Apparently he thought he'd be getting a job in exchange for his efforts, but that never happened. Political consultant Johnny K. Wang, who worked on the Newsom campaign with Chamberlain, filled us in on the details of working alongside Chamberlain during Newsom's first mayoral bid. 

"We started off working for free," Wang said. "Then we worked seven days a week, day and night, with extremely low pay. We gave it our all. The people in the campaign became like brothers and sisters, because they practically lived together. The understanding was, in return, you’ll take care of us because we are good workers and we have proven our loyalty." Instead, Wang said, "We were burned by the campaign," an outcome that he said Chamberlain was particularly upset about at the time. 

Yet Wang insisted that in more recent history, Chamberlain had been acting normal and exhibited "zero signs" that he was capable of domestic terrorism.

Phillip Hirsch, a bystander, took this footage of Chamberlain's arrest.

Perhaps Chamberlain ran afoul of Newsom due to an incident from 2003. In a post on local news site Fog City Journal, progressive H. Brown wrote of an incident during Newsom's run for reelection against green party candidate Matt Gonzalez, in which Chamberlain allegedly "worked the Internet" to falsely claim green party activists were being bussed in from out-of-state, arriving in the middle of the night, to bolster the ranks against Newsom. 

Brown claimed there were no such activists being bussed in, and that the politically embarrassing incident got Chamberlain "fired," but the Guardian has not independently confirmed that account.

In fact, many details of the FBI's targeting and pursuit of Chamberlain are still sketchy. 

The FBI alleged that he possessed explosives, but would not elaborate on what type of explosives agents claimed to have found in his home. Another unanswered question: How did the FBI come to the conclusion Chamberlain was a suspect in the first place? Was Chamberlain digitally surveilled, as he hinted in his online post?

"The whole thing is weird," Wang said. "None of the FBI’s stories make sense. First he’s a domestic terrorist, then he’s made no threats to anyone. What do they know for sure? I’m assuming they know something, because you don’t start a raid and a national manhunt without some facts."

"It’s unacceptable," Wang added. "I want to see some real bomb making materials. I want to see a car that’s rigged to explode. Because otherwise, it’s just accusations."

A Twitter update sent by Chamberlain after the news broke of the manhunt.

There are many unknowns, but we do know from Chamberlain's note that his political losses weighed heavily on him. One such loss was in 2006, when he helped run the group SFSOS, which politically battled San Francisco progressives. The group aided Rob Black, then a candidate for District 6, in a campaign against progressive Chris Daly, who prevailed in that race.

Another Fog City Journal report, shortly before the election, described Chamberlain's disdain for Daly.

"As Chamberlain speaks, he gets more inflamed about Chris Daly," FCJ wrote. "Clearly, he believes in the work he's doing."

In fact, Chamberlain was so impassioned against Daly that as part of his consulting work, he wrote a free e-book called The Case Against Chris Daly.

Daly, it should be noted, holds no grudges.

"In terms of whats been going on," he told us, "I've felt a bizarre mix of vindication and pity." 

As San Francisco media adds context to Chamberlain's story, right-wing bloggers have tried to paint Chamberlain as the second coming of Leland Yee-- another liberal gone wild.

But by San Francisco standards, Chamberlain was a far right "Marina moderate." He was far from a lefty liberal. 

"There are some folks on the internet trying to malign the guy as a San Francisco leftist," Daly told us. "I mean, the guy isn't." 

In Chamberlain's letter, he wrote of making progress with what he described as feeling "dark."

"I was still fighting," he wrote in the apology note to friends. "One day at a time, I was pushing through...Today was going to be a good day. I got great friends.... But so much was broken from this past year-and-a-half, and from moments way back before that, I guess it was just insurmountable, and the time's up.

"Thank you. I'm sorry. I love you."


Below we've embedded "The Case Against Chris Daly," written by Ryan Chamberlain, to give a hint at his political history.


The Case Against Daly by FitztheReporter



I love a good H. Brown tale as well as anyone, but Ryan wasn't fired from the Newsom campaign. There would have been no unmet expectation by Ryan of a job at City Hall if he'd been fired by the campaign. Much to the contrary, Ryan worked his ass off and worked smarter than was expected. This was back in 2003, concurrent with the Dean campaign and the catapulting of internet politics. Ryan got the intersection of tech and politics like few in San Francisco, going back as far as when we first became friends in 2000. He would've been a great asset to the Newsom administration.

So far, every allegation that has undergone any scrutiny has turned out to be false. No, he didn't have ricin. No, the FBI didn't need fricking Geiger Counters and Hazmat Suits. That he was "armed" was apparently just an assumption and that he was "dangerous" was invented out of whole cloth.

At this point, it's become clear that the focus needs to shift from the victim to the persecutors. Did the FBI really convince a judge that there was probable cause that Ryan had Ricin? Was the raid of Ryan's home based on NSA surveillance? Was his "crime" some thought-crime off of websites he visited? Can visiting a website ever even be a crime?

Hopefully the FBI will call of the man hunt and let Ryan come in for mental health care. But the manhunt needs to stop. At least when the FBI railroaded Richard Jewell, the public was aware that a real crime had been committed. There isn't even proof of a crime that in this persecution.

Last week, if I'd been asked, I would have have said I'd give the benefit of the doubt to Ryan over the FBI. After seeing facts come out in this case, I'm only more certain that Ryan deserves the benefit of the doubt more than the FBI.

Remember, it was only 2 or 3 years ago that the FBI mistakenly kicked in the door of another innocent San Francisco political operative.

I agree with Johnny Wang, this is unacceptable.

The FBI needs to call off the manhunt and work to vindicate Ryan in the media with the same vigor with which they attempted to destroy his reputation. And there's going to need to be an independent investigation as to how the FBI and SFPD screwed up so royally in this case. Not an internal investigation, but an independent investigation. This is unacceptable.

Posted by Bob Brigham on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

Bob, Ryan Chamberlain produced a door hanger that was emblazoned with images of human wastes, #1 and #2, and affixed it to my home, and to make matters worse, someone paid him to do that.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

Bob, Ryan Chamberlain produced a door hanger that was emblazoned with images of human wastes, #1 and #2, and affixed it to my home in his frenzy against Chris Daly, and to make matters worse, someone paid him to do that. Those same interests have kept him afloat all of these years. I'd wager that this site settles down now that he's out of the picture.

I'm not one to labor under the misapprehension that the FBI, the domestic secret police, plays on the level when it comes to serving the interests of the politically powerful. But then again, Ryan did put human feces and urine to print and onto my house. He probably crossed someone very powerful and here we are. Daince with 'em what brung y'all.

Say what you would about me, but I've never done anything politically that's been anywhere near as appalling as attacking with human waste. The only people I intentionally offend are those ineffective seat warmers who populate the political culture.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

If someone goes nuts it's the fault of external factors?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

Skimming the embedded booklet was fun. So many nice memories from 1999 until a few years thereafter.

The current political situation is much less fun and empowering. Instead of supervisors such as Daly who used his political seat to achieve real accomplishments such as the preservation of 1,700 units of rent-controlled units in NEW CONSTRUCTION (Trinity Plaza), the city now has the current corporate and land speculator tools of Mayor Lee and BOS members Chiu, Kim, Weiner, Farrell and Tang who ensure that only very rich and a few poor people are welcomed in the city. Even after Daly showed the way on how to preserve rent-controlled units when new construction required demolition of existing units, Mayor Lee and BOS gave away tens of millions of extra profits to the developers of Park Merced, where an even greater number of rent-controlled units could have been built in exchange for the demolition of older units because of the much higher density given the developers. The city will never improve for middle-income families until politicians such as Lee, Chiu, Kim, Tang, Weiner and Farrell are gone from the scene and replaced by politicians with smarts and principles like Daly. Chris Daly may not be the best choice as a mayoral candidate next year, but I hope he's found a candidate that can rally a city filled with angst-ridden tenants to finally kick Mayor Lee out of Room 200.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 8:46 pm

Principles like screaming how landlords and evictions are evil but then going on to purchase TWO foreclosed homes and then moving his family into one while becoming landlord of the other? Or how he has a BMR place in the city but still had enough money to purchase a bar AND those two homes? Those principles?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

I think he rented the bar which is now defunct. Daly is now an SEIU flunky.

His wife and children returned to Fairfield, and the homes were probably purchased with the help of her parents.

What is wrong with buying a foreclosed home?

Posted by London Breed Constituent on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 8:50 am

He purchased the bar but rented space from the building owner. He owned the bar but couldn't make it work so it closed. The point is is that he has enough money to purchase a bar but lives in a BMR.

I personally don't have a problem with people who buy foreclosed homes. I do have a problem with people who harangue and demonize landlords and banks for foreclosing on people but when it becomes profitable for them, they do the exact same shit they castigate others for doing.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 1:01 pm

Chris, is that you?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

Wealthy and powerful operators use the guy to do their dirty work, literally door hangers with images of human feces, internet trolling and attack sock puppetry, kick him to the curb after they win, and then hope he can find what he needs to deal with the the demons he was grappling with?

Hey, the SFBG comments section has been awfully quiet since this weekend....

Posted by marcos on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 5:27 am

A burnt-out failed one-time aspirational but doomed third-rate political operator goes postal.

But I guess trolling local blogs 24/7 keeps you off the streets and out of mischief.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 6:07 am

That would be the husband, house, cats, garden and job--a life outside of the hobby of politics that keeps me balanced, thanks.

But seriously, my explosives are in my fingers, my keyboard is the bomb. Yet Chamberlain's nefarious activities--putting human feces imagery on peoples' homes as a political appeal--make my calling out the political class on their chicanery harmless.

Not only has Chamberlain's conduct been concretely offensive, he was paid to do so by people with a great deal of money and political influence, the same ones who are financing David Chiu's campaign to lard out corporate welfare from Sacramento.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 6:57 am

You had a plane ticket to leave in May. You're not still here are you?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 12:19 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

Something very ominous is happening as we all sleepwalk gazing into our phones. If you have ever had a kid , a 10 year old boy for instance - you no doubt have a couple of Estes rocket engines, some volatile nasty liquids in our garages, a box of nails and screws, propane tanks .Me, being a photographer have remote transmitters that fire my strobes. I have two 5 gal tanks of gasoline for emergency. I could go on
About the FBI, Homeland Security etc etc and how they can create a terrorist out of their rich fantasies and perhaps justify their existence.
I hope the entire law enforcement world is very embarrassed of the dopey antics we all witnessed. You all looked ridiculous. Come get me ... I could use some stock photos of Cops in haz mat suits.
Dysfunction junction SF
Political photog

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

true freedom is lost. You know it, and I know it--my "bs detector" tripped as soon as I heard the cops' description of what they had--but most people are like dazed sheep.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 05, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

What is happening in this country is truly frightening. That said... it couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

Love how the local chattering class are all tripping over themselves to defend this jerk.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 15, 2014 @ 11:20 pm

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