Two words Ed Lee doesn't want to hear

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There are two words no candidate wants to hear a month before Election Day:

"Criminal investigation."

I give District Attorney George Gascon credit -- I didn't think he'd ever really go after municipal corruption, but he's showing at least a bit of political spine here, launching an investigation into the dubious campaign contributions of Ed Lee. Lee's campaign immediately said there would be full cooperation:

Last week, Mayor Lee's campaign returned 23 contributions associated with Go Lorrie's Shuttle company as a result of the campaign's own concerns and compliance review. On Friday, the campaign reached out to the District Attorney's Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Ethics Commission and the Fair Political Practices Commission to offer its full assistance in any investigation or review. It is important to note that there is nothing about the District Attorney's statement or initiation of an investigation that suggests that Mayor Lee’s campaign is a target.

And at this point, there's no way to know how far the investigation will go or what it will turn up. But the very fact that the D.A. is looking into all of this looks bad for Lee.

And if Gascon's office scours not only the Go Lorrie's money but the rest of Lee's campaign contributions -- and the independent expenditure committees that aren't supposed to be coordinating with each other or the main campaign -- he might find more.

Bill Barnes, who works with the Lee campaign, told me that he was doing everything possible to make sure the contributions were all on the up-and-up. "I can't control the i.e.'s," he said, "but we are very careful to follow the law."

He also said that it's possible there were mistakes, like the Go Lorrie's money. "We're raising a lot of money in a short period of time," he said.

But you see, that's part of the problem. You enter the race late, refuse to accept public financing (and abide by spending limits) and start trying to raise more than a million bucks in a few weeks, and it's too easy to get sloppy. Add in the fact that people like Willie Brown, who never cared much for campaign contribution or ethics laws, are involved in the fundraising, and you have a recipe for real trouble.

 

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