Backroom brokers - Page 2

Behind the carefully orchestrated downtown campaign to take over City Hall

"Anything less than our candidates [being elected in each of the three swing districts] will pose a real danger to the movement."


One of the central players in this attempt to take the city away from the progressives and hand it over to downtown is Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is actively supporting Alioto, Lee, and Safai.

Eric Jaye, the mayor's chief political advisor, has no formal role in the three district campaigns, but Newsom rarely makes a move in local politics without consulting Jaye. In fact, when reporters call the mayor's press office to ask for comments on local candidates and initiatives, they are typically referred to the private consultant.

Jaye told us he's talked to all of Newsom's candidates. "I told them to run on district issues," he said.

The mayor and the latest member of the Alioto clan to seek office (Joe's sister, Michela, is already on the board) have walked precincts together. And Newsom is so involved with the downtown effort he's skipping a major Democratic Party gala (where he was slated to get an award) to spend time instead with the Republican-led Coalition for Responsible Growth (CRG).

Jaye's main job this fall is running the PG&E campaign against the Clean Energy Act, Proposition H. So far PG&E has spent more than $10 million on the effort, and that number will grow in the final week before the election. Part of that same campaign has been propping up Newsom ally Carmen Chu, who has benefited from thousands of dollars of PG&E spending on her race. Chu's face is all over PG&E's No on H fliers.

Another central operator is Alex Tourk, the former Newsom aide who resigned after learning that the mayor had been sexually involved with Tourk's wife. Tourk is now running the CRG operation.

"They brought me on board to do a volunteer campaign that, yes, they funded, but which seeks to inform voters in a non-partisan fashion where the candidates in D1, 3, and 11 stand on key issues," he said.

That campaign's goal was to get 10,000 people to mobilize — he called them, using a term popularized by Richard Nixon, the "silent majority."

Tourk maintains that door-hangers the group has been distributing don't endorse any candidates or push any initiatives. But the messages fit exactly with the overall downtown strategy — they seek to discredit the progressives by linking them with controversial ballot measures such as Proposition V, which would urge the School Board to save the military recruitment program, JROTC.

The supervisors have nothing to do with JROTC, but downtown and the Republican Party are using it as a wedge issue.

CRG is facing some political heat of its own: SF Weekly reported in its Oct. 22 issue that CRG's recently elected president, engineer Rodrigo Santos, accepted money for professional work from someone who had business before the Building Inspection Commission while he served as commission president. Santos is a Republican, like several key Newsom appointees.

Making matters worse are revelations that Mel Murphy, vice president of the inspection commission and a CRG member, distributed invites in City Hall to an Oct. 17 CRG fundraiser for Safai and Alioto. City officials aren't supposed to do political work at City Hall.

Alioto's filings show that on Oct. 17, he received $500 from the firm of Santos and Urrutia's structural engineer Kelton Finney and $250 from S&U engineer Calvin Hom.


Political consultants Tom Hsieh Jr. and Jim Ross are involved in the District 1 race (Hsieh also responded to the Guardian on Safai's behalf) — and are using PG&E and downtown money to support Sue Lee.

Beyond Chron reported Oct.

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