By Joe Fitzgerald
Election recap: Ed Lee’s shady campaign was 2Legit2Quit
2Legit2Quit, the catchy MC Hammer music video, tells the perfect story of everything wrong with Ed Lee’s mayoral campaign win.
The circumstances surrounding the money spent on the video, and on Lee’s entire campaign, are about as “legit” as a two-day-old MUNI transfer.
First up is the smarmy ex-mayor turned SF Chronicle columnist Willie Brown. Having allowed tech businesses to flood San Francisco during the dot-com boom, ushering in an era of “pay-to-play” politics, you’d think showing his face in any candidate’s campaign video would be an instant kiss of death.
But the man who appointed more political cronies than he’s had young girlfriends has turned around his public image by writing movie reviews and witty anecdotes about how tough it is being filthy rich.
People love the guy nowadays.
Brown was key in helping to set up funding for Ed Lee’s campaign through his friend and long-time ally Rose Pak, a power player in the Chinatown business world.
The fact that Pak and Brown were pulling the strings in Lee’s campaign is not news, but the amount of money spent outside of Lee’s official campaign is. You see, each candidate has a cap on how much money they can accept from individual donors: $500. That’s it, that’s all she wrote.
But a glaring loophole in campaign laws allows those with big money to set up “independent expenditure committees.” These committees, which technically aren’t under the control of campaigns, are free to spend money on whatever or whomever they choose.
And there’s no limit on the funds those committees can receive.
Ed Lee had nine separate IECs spending big bucks on his campaign.
It all started with “Run, Ed, Run.” Did you see those signs all over San Francisco? They featured a happy cartoon face, with a bushy mustache and glasses: the perfect caricature of our cuddly interim mayor. Behind the campaign of course, was Rose Pak and her Chinatown cronies under the guise of a group called “Progress for All.”
The San Francisco Ethics Commission ruled that, since Lee wasn’t yet running for mayor when Progress for All started raising money to convince Lee to run, none of that money could be counted as campaign dollars.
Which brings us back to the campaign video “2Legit2Quit.”
A separate IEC, called “San Franciscans for Jobs & Good Government,” paid for the entire video. They had MC Hammer performing, with appearances by Giants pitcher Brian Wilson and tech/business luminaries from Google and Twitter.
So who were the San Franciscans for Jobs & Good Government? It was Ron Conway (Silicon Valley investor), Sean Parker (Facebook), and Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com) who each pitched in an average of $100,000.
Are you one of those who can’t afford to live in San Francisco anymore due to sky-high rents? Well, you can thank the tech industry for turning San Francisco from a city rich in diversity into a playground for 20- and 30-something yuppies.
Even after the Mission, Noe Valley and Castro districts were gentrified to high heaven, Ed Lee still found it necessary to give a $28 million in tax breaks to Twitter to convince it to stay in the City. And with all the money they’ve poured into his IECs, he’s now deep in their pockets.
Ed Lee was voted in by the people to represent the people, but just who those people are … that’s what should have you worried.
$500 – Max. amount any donor can give to a mayoral campaign.
$151,000 – Amount Ron Conway donated to Independent Expenditure Committee for Ed Lee’s campaign.
5 – Number of committees formed to raise money expressly for Ed Lee’s campaign.
81,000 out of 700,000 – Number of eligible voters in San Francisco who actually voted for Ed Lee.