I had, as they say, a spirited and frank discussion last week with Enrique Pearce, the political consultant working on the Run Ed Run campaign. I chided Pearce, whose firm is called Left Coast Communications, for leading an effort that, at the very least, involves some touchy legal and ethical issues. (After all, the group is raising money for a campaign for a candidate who hasn't filed as a candidate. There are reasons why federal, state, and local laws mandate that people who are running for office declare that they want the office before they start raising money.)
Pearce insisted he was doing nothing illegal. (Okay, if he says so.) He also argued that his firm is the most progressive consulting operation in the city. (Whatever.) But the real focus of our discussion — and the reason it's worth talking about — was the question of whether corruption really matters.
I think sleaze — and the appearance of sleaze — is a defining progressive issue. If Pearce agrees, he's got some 'splainin' to do.
Let's back up here. When Willie Brown was speaker of the state Assembly, he passed some good legislation, and allowed some very bad legislation to become law. But his greatest legacy is term limits — and the terrible public perception of what was once one of the best state legislatures in the nation.
Brown was the epitome of corruption, a guy who actively flouted the notion of honest, open government. Among other things, he had a private law practice on the side — and clients would pay him big money because of his influence on state legislation. Of course, we never knew who the clients were; he wouldn't release the list.
When he was mayor, his sleazy ways continued — and left even progressive San Franciscans believing that you can't trust City Hall with your money. Which means, of course, that it's harder to convince anyone to pay more taxes.
There's no question that Brown and Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak (don't get me started) were key players in putting Mayor Ed Lee in office, and that they're playing a big role in this new effort. Which means, as far as I'm concerned, that it's utterly untrustworthy — and that progressives should be miles and miles away.
I'm not arguing that Ed Lee is a bad mayor (he's way better than the last guy). He might even turn into a good mayor if he runs for a full term. Pearce thinks he'd be better for progressives than state Sen. Leland Yee. We can argue that later.
But as long as his campaign is directly linked to people whose standard practices undermine the heart of the progressive agenda (which depends on a belief that government can be trusted to take on social problems), then you can count me out.