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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

George Gascón, Uninterested in Making Friends, Forms "Corruption Task Force" with FBI

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 12:18 PM


Federal law enforcement likes nothing more than bringing down a corrupt politician. That's one reason why the FBI spent over $1 million wining and dining convicted Chinatown mobster and murder-for-hire organizer Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, and why a case that began with Chow eventually widened to snare former state Sen. Leland Yee and former San Francisco school board member Keith Jackson on racketeering and corruption charges (both Yee and Jackson pleaded guilty to taking cash for political favors; all three are awaiting sentencing.)

But Yee, an outsider in local political circles, was not a huge catch. (Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, for one, is fond of boasting how often he dodged FBI attempts to ensnare him.) A real prize would be a sitting mayor, a key senator, someone with national aspirations. And District Attorney George Gascón is getting close: former fundraisers for Mayor Ed Lee were charged with bribery last month, after revelations in August that they were caught on an FBI wiretap discussing soliciting and breaking up an illegal campaign contribution from an undercover FBI agent. 

And Gascón is not done. Both the DA and the FBI will be looking deeper at a treasured San Francisco value — pay-to-play politics — with a "political corruption" task force announced Tuesday.

Allegations of pay-to-play politics — of campaign contributions being rewarded in the form of public contracts or plum public posts — are as old as the Franciscan chert beneath San Francisco City Hall (though Brown did as much as anyone to make public office in San Francisco suspect.) However, actual prosecutions are very rare. Indeed, after the FBI wiretaps that caught former Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer and former HRC staffer Zula Jones, a former protege of Mayor Ed Lee were revealed in August, it took until January for Gascón to file charges.

He is now suggesting that that's merely the beginning.  “Public corruption is a cancer that must be rooted out and extinguished," Gascón said in a press release. "It’s time for terms like good old boy and pay-to-play to be artifacts of our history, and this task force will work to ensure they are absent from our future.”

As per the release from the DA:

The criminal task force is called the San Francisco Public Corruption Task Force and it will be designed to combat public corruption in the City and County of San Francisco. When appropriate, the task force will partner with the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.
This will not likely make Gascón very popular in select San Francisco political circles — something that the now-maverick DA appears to relish. He has been vocal in criticism of the mayor and the police department, who he accused of stonewalling an investigation (both he and Lee snubbed each others' inaugurations last month.)

But it could make him very popular with voters sick and tired of business-as-usual in San Francisco... and a good candidate for higher office. In the meantime, rooting out City Hall for wrongdoers won't likely win him any friends. 
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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