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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mayor Ed Lee's "Smoking Gun"

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 12:00 AM

click to enlarge What's hidden in that mustache?
  • What's hidden in that mustache?

While Mayor Ed Lee has insisted he had no connection to the Progress for All committee, the group that was formed to draft him into the mayor's race, campaign records seem to tell a much different story.

Lee filed a form 470 on July 21, 2011 -- about two weeks before he actually declared his candidacy for mayor. The paperwork is mandatory for elected officials and candidates who do not have a controlled committee and who don't anticipate receiving contributions of more than $1,000 in a calendar year. According to the form Lee filed, a "Run Ed Run Committee has been formed" primarily to receive contributions or to make expenditures on behalf of his candidacy.

Lee's spokesman, Tony Winnicker, told us that the mayor was simply following the advice of the ethics director, who had told him to sign the paperwork. "They were raising money and actively encouraging him to run," Winnicker says of Progress for All. "It was just the mayor acknowledging that he had heard of the committee, but it continues to be true that he had zero involvement with it."

John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission, defended the mayor, saying he had advised him to fill out the form shortly before Lee declared his candidacy for mayor. He echoed Winnicker's comments, saying: "What it acknowledges is that [Progress for All] was out there doing something, but it doesn't necessarily mean he had intimate knowledge of what they were doing." St. Croix said.

We pushed him more to explain how this signed form -- which clearly asks Lee to list all committees that were formed to raise and spend money on his behalf -- wasn't a signal that the mayor knew the committee was there to bolster his candidacy long before he ever officially said he was running for mayor. St. Croix let out a sigh, gave a long pause and stated: "I don't know what to say."

But Aaron Peskin, chair of the local Democratic Party, had plenty to say. Peskin had filed a letter with the Ethics Commission before Lee declared his candidacy, detailing exactly how the Progress for All committee was unfairly collecting money and support for months to benefit Lee's candidacy. The Ethics Commission later cleared the committee of any wrongdoing.

"If this isn't a smoking gun, I don't know what is," Peskin says of Lee's Form 470. "Ed Lee is admitting what the Ethics Commission refused to hear -- he is clearly saying that the Run, Ed, Run committee was formed to support him."

All along Lee kept his distance from the committee and stated publicly that he had nothing to do with the Run, Ed, Run campaign. Progress for All -- the group behind the Run, Ed, Run campaign --  was formed as a general purpose committee with the sole mission of educating voters. Since it's not campaigning for a particular candidate, a general purpose committee can collect as much money as it wants.

But other mayoral candidates have accused the committee of forming with one goal in mind: To help Lee get a leg up in this race.

Still, the Ethics Commission earlier this month decided that because Lee wasn't a candidate at the time the committee was in operation, it had done nothing illegal. A few weeks after that, the District Attorney's Office opted not to investigate Progress for All, citing "insufficient evidence." 

"I'm sorry if that's not clear," St. Croix told us.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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