The Ed Lee campaign is, of course, distancing itself from the latest voter fraud allegations. Spokesperson Tony Winnicker says nobody on the Lee team knew anything about it, that the idea of eight low-level associates at a property firm each giving the maximum $500 didn't ring any alarm bells:
"If this is true, then these people have perjured themselves," Lee campaign spokesman Tony Winnicker said when The Chronicle informed him about the donations. "They looked directly into the eyes of our campaign staff and lied, and they should be held accountable.
And honestly, I don't think anyone on Lee's team directly solicited the illegal contributions. I could be wrong, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt. But the notion that Winnicker is shocked -- shocked -- that this sort of behavior was going on doens't quite pass the sniff test. The problem is that Lee refused to take public financing, got in the race late and decided to raise a buttload of money really fast -- and when you do that, and you take cash from the likes of Andrew Hawkins, you're almost guaranteed to run into trouble.
I think Dennis Herrera has it right; his press statement makes the point:
"Too many of Ed Lee's supporters act as though they're above the law -- on money laundering, on ballot tampering, and more -- and Ed Lee isn't strong enough to stop it. If this is how they behave before an election, just imagine how they'll behave after the election, if Ed Lee wins.
This has always been the danger with Mayor Lee -- he's surrounded by some very bad actors, he can't keep them under control -- and if he wins, they'll have the run of City Hall.
Is this enough -- or the cumulative impacts of this enough -- to allow someone else to win the election? I don't know. Around 30,000 people have already voted. Some of Lee's hard-core supporters will ignore the problems and vote for him anyway. But maybe, just maybe, the stench surrounding the campaign will convince a lot of the people who were considering putting Lee second or third to vote for someone else. That's what would turn the tide in the Nov. 8 election.
UPDATE: Bill Barnes, who reviews the contributions for the Lee campaign, told me that since Hawkins had used a different name (Dr. Andrew Hawkins-Cohen) and since the eight donors all listed occupations that seemed plausible for a large donation and all signed the document saying it was their own money, nothing set off any alarms. "We've gotten about 4,000 checks," he said.
But still: If Andrew Hawkins wants Lee to be mayor that badly, there's plenty to worry about.