The billionaire's mayor - Page 4

Mayor Ed Lee calls himself a progressive — but rich, powerful conservatives are funding his campaign


Third party committees formed on Lee's behalf, meanwhile, are working in tandem. On Sept. 16, leaders from all the committees met at the office of Building Owners and Managers (BOMA), an affiliation of San Francisco landlords. "The purpose is to coordinate our efforts, both field and media, to achieve maximum effectiveness," Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth coordinator Vince Courtney wrote in an email. Recipients included Jim Lazarus and Rob Black of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, representatives from the Coalition on Jobs and BOMA, and Rodrigo Santos, a partner in a structural engineering firm called Santos & Urrita which has worked on numerous live/work loft construction projects throughout the city. The email also went to a representative of Left Coast Communications, the outfit that helped steer Run, Ed, Run.



A San Francisco Chronicle article from 2001 examined the depth of Brown's patronage politics. "It is well known this town has been for sale since Willie took office," John DeCastro, president of the Potrero Boosters neighborhood association, was quoted as saying. "Money gets things done."

And while Lee has a very different political persona than Brown, many of the same people who worked with the former mayor are in the Lee campaign orbit.

"The Ed Lee campaign looks the Willie Brown government in exile, from top to bottom," Former Sup. Aaron Peskin charged. "Every scurrilous person involved in ripping off the San Francisco taxpayer is neck deep in the Ed Lee campaign. If this guy gets elected mayor, anything that's not nailed to the floor they're going to take."

As the city's chief executive, Lee comes across as a dedicated public servant who tends to side with the city's moderates, thrust unexpectedly into the rough and tumble of San Francisco politics. Yet as a candidate, he's rarely discussed in political circles without mention of his two most visible and influential backers, Brown and Pak. At a mayoral campaign forum in August, Board President David Chiu directed a pointed question at Lee. "So Ed, about a week or two before you told the world that you wanted to — that you were considering — running for mayor, you told me that you had looked at yourself in the mirror, you didn't have the fire in the belly, you didn't want to run — but that you were having trouble saying 'no' to Willie Brown and Rose Pak," Chiu said.

A Brown-era City Hall insider told the Guardian that Lee, who previously served as head of the city's Department of Public Works (DPW) and City Administrator, ascended to his high-ranking posts in part because he was favored by Brown and Pak.

"It was no secret, at least in Room 200, that when Ed was summoned to the office, he got his instructions directly from Willie Brown to do something for someone," this person recounted. "Willie Brown was smart, he put Ed in positions (Purchaser, DPW) that don't have commission oversight by charter, and can spend millions. That was not by mistake."

The statement could be chalked up to mudslinging from any disgruntled foe with an axe to grind, but the wariness of Brown-era politics may stem from past experience. There's a history of federal investigators looking closely at Brown-appointed city officials for questionable behavior, and several of those former officials turned out at the kickoff for Run, Ed, Run this spring.

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