Editor's notes

Ed Lee's stance on corruption speaks volumes about him as mayor

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tredmond@sfbg.com

I say it over and over again, because some people clearly aren't paying attention:

Corruption matters.

When the mayor of San Francisco surrounds himself with people who don't show any respect for campaign finance or ethics regulations, who think it's fine to skirt (and possibly break) election laws, it undermines faith in local government.

And at a time when conservatives at the national and state level are mounting a concerted campaign to shrink, weaken and ultimately burn down government, the last thing San Francisco needs is to give them fuel.

Listen: When Willie Brown was mayor, a tax lawyer named Ron Chun was running for assessor. Generally a good guy, generally progressive, full of creative ideas. But when I asked him about how to get more revenue into the city, he said:

"Why should we bring in more revenue? Willie Brown's just going to waste it on his cronies anyway."

He wasn't alone. A lot of generally progressive people felt as if paying taxes was throwing money down the sewer. Because everyone knew that Brown was hiring unqualified people, pouring cash into contracts for his pals, handing out raises and benefits to city workers who supported him — and treating critics as if they were traitors to the nation.

Mayor Lee says he doesn't approve of what looks an awful lot like voter fraud and doesn't support what the independent expenditure committees are doing in his name. But anyone with any sense knows that the IE groups and the Lee campaign and the Lee administration are all parts of a permanent floating crap game where the players move around but everybody knows everybody else and there's no way to keep communications completely shut off. If Lee wanted these "independent" groups to quit using stencils to make sure voters choose him for mayor, these operators would stop.

But he talks to people like Brown, people who have disdain for honest, open government, and they tell him not to worry. These things blow over. Once he wins the election, it won't matter.

But when you have a mayor who invites corrupt actors into the house, it does matter. It matters a lot.