"In my eight years in office, I saw hundreds of these memos," former Board President Aaron Peskin told us. "I saw plenty of material that I could have leaked that would have been useful to me politically. But all of us on the board, across the political spectrum, understood that you just don't do that. Because if you do, it tears the government apart."
We're journalists here, and we never support government secrecy. We have consistently defended reporters who publish leaked documents (and would do so here, too, despite our criticism of the way the Chron played this story). And there are times, many times, when it's best for city attorneys and the officials who get their advice to let the public know what those memos say. We support whistleblowers and principled city employees and officials who defy the rules of secrecy and tell the public what's really going on.
But Newsom was serving no grand public interest purpose here. He was simply using confidential legal advice to attempt to thwart a political opponent, for the purpose of promoting his own ambitions. That's alarming. If Newsom wants to be taken seriously as a candidate for governor, he needs to demonstrate that he can stand up to his political advisors and so far, he's failing, miserably.
P.S.: Sup. John Avalos has asked the Ethics Commission and the city attorney to investigate the leak, which is fine but this shouldn't become an attack on the right of the press to publish confidential documents. None of the investigators should try to question the Chron reporters to seek the source of the leak particularly since Newsom has as much as admitted, to the Guardian's Sarah Phelan, that he was the one who authorized his staff to hand out the memo. *