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Nothing Ventured: Gavin Newsom Didn't Exert Himself to Pay off America's Cup Costs 

Wednesday, Oct 23 2013

It was pretty easy to tell who won or lost an America's Cup race. The boat crossing the finish line first won. The boat that didn't, didn't. Oracle Team USA managed to do the former eight consecutive times to win the Cup.

It was pretty amazing.

Figuring out whether the city won or lost will take time. The controller is working on it. So's the Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst. The denouement of the spectacle erstwhile Mayor Gavin Newsom boasted would trump the Olympics and Super Bowl will be the sound of fingers frenetically punching calculator buttons.

The numbers would look worse for San Francisco if Newsom's successor, Mayor Ed Lee, didn't lend a hand to the hapless private fundraisers tasked to "endeavor" to offset the city's costs. Via payments made at Lee's behest, individuals and organizations ponied up for the city. These "behested payments" present a problematic situation: Allowing entities with pending city business to donate unlimited sums to politically preferred nonprofits raises red flags. As SF Weekly noted before, an outfit called Kilroy Realty dropped a cool $500,000 toward the city's Cup bill, and, two months later, was expeditiously permitted to add six more lucrative stories to a skyscraper to be sited at 350 Mission.

So, there's that. At any rate, cash was short and Lee hustled up some. But it's odd that the politician who launched San Francisco into its dalliance with the America's Cup — whose early proposals would have resulted in nine-digit losses and possible bankruptcy for the Port of San Francisco — didn't do the same.

A search of now-Lt. Gov. Newsom's reported behested payments reveals there aren't any.

Gov. Jerry Brown reported some $2.6 million in behested payments, with much of it going to the Oakland Military Institute or Oakland School for the Arts. Even Jerome Horton, the chair of the mighty Board of Equalization, scared up $352,000 for beneficent causes.

Newsom didn't ask for anything for anybody.

His office didn't return our messages. Perhaps everyone is still smarting over the U.S. Olympic Committee's nixing of a Reno-Tahoe Olympic bid, for which Newsom had been tub-thumping. Too bad: His 33-page Statement of Economic Interest reveals more than $1 million in personal investments in aspiring Olympic host Squaw Valley.

So Newsom won't be making any money off the forthcoming games. But unlike his former city's gambit with the America's Cup, he doesn't stand to lose any, either.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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