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Friday, June 13, 2014

Michael Petrelis: Is His 'Campaign Ad' Legal?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 12:59 PM

click to enlarge Insert "penal code" pun here - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Insert "penal code" pun here

Earlier today, we wrote about professional rabble-rouser Michael Petrelis releasing a campaign ad of sorts for his campaign of sorts against Scott Wiener in District 8. Of sorts.

Depicted to the right, it juxtaposes the image of Wiener taken by Petrelis, without permission, when he attempted to snap a photo of the supervisor's penis as Wiener relieved himself at a urinal with a shot of Supervisor John Avalos, taken with permission by a journalistic well-wisher as Avalos posed, photogenically, at a sink.

Petrelis continues to portray himself -- and this city's taxpayers -- as the victims of a powerful, vindictive, out-of-control politician. He does not seem to comprehend how attempting to photograph another man's penis in a men's room, and then admitting that's exactly what you were trying to do and bragging about it on the Internet, could constitute a chargeable offense -- or even make someone angry.

He continues to claim that his decision to do the above with an elected official and not a random urinal-user made things worse for him, not better. But a man randomly photographing strangers' genitalia in the john couldn't couch his act as a political statement -- as Petrelis and his supporters do. Instead he'd be branded a degenerate and likely have that camera broken, if not his face.

But this is an old matter. A more relevant question: Is Petrelis' new stunt a violation of city campaign law?

The answer to that question: Not exactly.

Avalos has told both your humble narrator and his colleagues that he never intended for this photo to be used in connection with campaign materials: "Petrelis just picked up the photo and made it his own."

The supervisor has just learned a lesson imparted upon all too many amorous teenagers: Don't pose for photos you don't want on the Internet. Ever.

click to enlarge Aficionados of fecal puns will enjoy this juxtaposition of signs outside the Scott Wiener Memorial Men's Room in City Hall - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Aficionados of fecal puns will enjoy this juxtaposition of signs outside the Scott Wiener Memorial Men's Room in City Hall
It's arguable that this ad could fall under San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.163.5: a false endorsement. But, notes John St. Croix, the executive director of the Ethics Commission, that section only applies to materials released 90 days or fewer before an election.

If this ad were released in the not-too-distant future, repercussions might ensue. But, today, it's certainly more legal than going on penis safari in the City Hall men's room.

As for Avalos, had he intended for this shot to be used in campaign material, that would have put him in the position of posing for a political ad while on work time and on city property. St. Croix says this is inadvisable. As are all campaign shots taken in the men's room.

So, there you have it. Petrelis' behavior may be self-serving, self-promoting, and in questionable taste. But it's not illegal. Not this time, and not yet.

God bless America.

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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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