Was Realtor-financed attack ad illegally coordinated with Lee?

David Lee appeared in this video that was supposedly produced independently of him or his campaign.

District 1 supervisorial candidate David Lee might have violated election laws prohibiting candidates from coordinating with groups doing independent expenditures after being featured in a pricey attack ad blasting his opponent, incumbent Sup. Eric Mar.

The San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters yesterday filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission requesting an investigation into illegal coordination between Lee and the Association of Realtors, which produced an ad entitled “Send Mar Back to Mars,” in which Lee appears to have participated in the filming.

“Our concern is that Lee’s campaign has collaborated with the San Francisco Realtors Association in providing footage,” says Fabiana Ochoa, a member of the steering committee for the League.  “That’s really a violation of the law.  It’s a concern this year because we see how national super PACs have an influence on campaigns.”

Lee’s direct fundraising and the allegedly independent expenditures on his behalf this week topped $557,486 – more than any other San Francisco supervisorial campaign in history — prompting the Ethics Commission to again raise the expenditure cap on the public financing in Mar’s race. Lee and his campaign have refused to answer questions about this or other issues. 

“No one has ever seen that kind of spending here in San Francisco.  It’s turned into a challenging and nasty campaign,” Ochoa said.  “It’s a small district but the game has changed.”

Progressive groups — including the League, San Francisco Tenants Union, and Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club — are fighting back with a rally scheduled for this Monday at 5pm outside the Realtors Association office at 301 Grove Street. They’re urging participants to bring pots and pans, reminiscent of the group of scowling children who were smeared with dirt and banging pots and pans in the video.   

In an email to the Guardian, the Ethics Commission’s Executive Director John St. Croix said, “The Ethics Commission can not confirm, deny or discuss complaints.” If the Ethics Commission does investigate and finds that Lee knowingly participated in this advertisement, it is unclear what exactly the penalty will be and the District Attorney’s office is not jumping to any conclusions yet. “For now it’s still with the Ethics Commission so we can’t comment on it,” says Stephanie Ong Stillman, press secretary for the D.A.’s office.

In a time when corporations are considered people and wealthy interests have unprecedented political influence in elections, all eyes are on the candidates and how honestly they run their campaigns.  Current San Francisco law prohibits candidates from organizing with independent expenditures like this one.

The ad, which cost $50,000 to make, mocks Mar’s efforts to remove toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals by featuring kids protesting his policies.  The glossy 3 ½ minute commercial is high-quality with Hollywood production value, leaving skeptical viewers wondering if Lee’s cameo was staged and his participation deliberate.   If it was, then Lee also violated laws that ban candidates from accepting campaign contributions exceeding $500.

The Association of Realtors clearly has an interest in David Lee, considering Mar supports tenant rights, and the Tenants Union has make its rally and campaign an effort to “save rent control” and called it a “march on the 1 percent” that is trying to buy the Board of Supervisors and remake San Francisco.

Realtors Association President Jeffery Woo would not discuss the issue when reached by phone.  In an emailed press statement to the Guardian, the Association of Realtors wrote, “ We stand by the facts, and humor, of the video we produced on the election in District 1 and do not plan to remove it from YouTube as it has achieved success in raising important issues in San Francisco.”

The Guardian also reached out to the political media expert who produced the film, Fred Davis, but he did not return our calls. 

Davis, who served as chief media strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, is a Hollywood-based veteran of campaign marketing and has produced some of the most notorious political ads in recent history including the Demon Sheep video for Carly Fiorina’s 2010 GOP senate campaign.  He also created the highly lampooned 2010 ad featuring Delware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who assured viewers that she was “not a witch.” 

Judge for yourself whether Lee participated in the making of this video:



It's obvious the independent expenditure was coordinated with the campaign. I was struck by this the first time I watched the video last week.

There's no other way to explain the footage of Lee at the end. It was either provided by the campaign or shot in coordination with the campaign. Either way it's a violation. I defy anyone to provide another explanation.

Unfortunately, I have little or no faith in John St. Croix's corrupt Ethics Commission to do anything about it. Thanks for covering this Guardian. Please stay on top of this story in the coming days and weeks to hold St. Croix accountable.

Posted by guest on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

Re: "Either way it's a violation. I defy anyone to provide another explanation."

They sent someone with a camera to a Lee public rally.

Posted by Another Guest on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 6:45 am

I know for a fact what happened. David Lee was told he was going to be in a commercial for his campaign and made an appearance; he was NOT told the details of what was going to be in the ad and knew nothing about the sleazy ad man who made it.. When he saw it, he was appalled at what they'd made and asked that it be withdrawn. They refused to take it off YouTube and it remains there. He's publically disavowed it, and is not a happy man when asked about it. It's a very simple story, no mysteries or conspiracies involved... blowing it up into something more is only making Eric Mar look more desperate for votes and showing how he'll use any attempt he can to get them.

Posted by Even Another Guest on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

Can we expect to see a slate card from the Bay Guardian with FPPC# "pending" like we have seen since 2008 (at least), so not more shit about "illegal" stuff.

You must think people are fucking stupid!

Posted by Fly on the wall on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

No, actually. It is just video of Lee at a public rally.

What makes anyone so sure that the producers didn't just go to a Lee rally and shoot the video? Did he have any way to stop them from doing so?

Also, if Lee supplied the footage then how come it matches the high quality of the rest of the video? And given the high production costs, what is so hard to believe that they just sent a camera to a rally to video Lee?

Posted by Troll on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

These ads are so ridiculous that they are only helping Eric.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

when the target is a progressive. SEIU's wink-wink-nodd-nodd collaboration is barely noted.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

Were they all the progeny of real estate people? Some private school? I'm curious as to whether California labor law was violated.

As for the trolls commenting "you do it too!" -- that's what they *always* say. It doesn't have to be true, even, for them to say it... and when they criticize someone on the left and we rightly instruct them that what they are criticizing is SOP on both sides -- they claim *we* use the "you do it too!" response because ... because of some dumbass reactionary reason I can't remember right now.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

Those kids working on that video, it must have been like making shoes 14 hours a day 7 days a week, those poor Dickens like children. What an atrocity this is for those kids!

Posted by matlock on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 5:52 am

interests backing Lee -- don't agree with California's labor law such as the need for a work permit, following Coogan's Law, etc., then there is no need to follow such law.

Now maybe it's all innocent; just a bunch of right-wing parents lying to their kids and otherwise compelling them to act up for the cameras for the sake of promoting their adult political goals, and no money or other valuable considerations changed hands. That's innocent, right?

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 7:57 am

Kids being in a commercial is like working in sweat shop at 12 making textiles for twenty-five cents a day. Those poor Dickens like waifs, I hope Henry Higgins comes along and saves them from their destitution.

And those poor kids with those brain washing right wing parents using them for their political goal, that would be a first for San Francisco. No liberal has ever used kids for any sort of political goal ever. Kids in this town have never been used as political pawns of any sorts. Ever.

The good liberals like lillipublican and I should pass a law to bar the parents of these kids from ever breeding again, they are ruining our utopia. These parents should have these kids taken away from them or be forced to move from our utopia, in our tolerant city there can and shall be no thoughts but those approved by the Comité de salut public.

These parents force these kids to slave over a political ad for endless hours at thirteen cents a day, these parents have a political agenda that brainwashes kids into a political philosophy that this tolerant city has no room for.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 9:37 am

I find it interesting that the same people who are alleging "child abuse" over a few simple scenes of some kids running over a hill and looking angry are saying nothing about a pro-Obama ad that has been making the rounds for some time. This ad features a 11 or 12 year old girl who, accompanied by Samuel Jackson, Continually listens to him state, "wake the fuck up!" To her apathetic family and friends. At the end of the commercial, she herself opens a window and shouts the same thing to her neighborhood. There seems to be a double standard here…

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

Maybe you could pursue this noble and important cause, Lilli.

Of course, that would require you to step away from the SFBG message board (total readership - 17) for at least two hours. So yeah, that's not going to happen.

Posted by guest on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 9:45 am

I think you should post the link again to this ridiculously desperate Facebook site, so you can remind readers four times instead of just three. The postings on the site have been repeated several times too... obviously you don't have enough material to even fill a page, but I guess you've decided if you repeat the same postings over and over again, maybe it'll look like more.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 9:57 pm





Posted by Fact Check on The Bay Guardian on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 8:08 am

The silence is deafening.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 7:51 am

He's just following his namesake's example, maybe they can recycle the stencils.

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 8:52 am

But it's OK when the Guardian (the bastion of truth) breaks the law?

BTW, have you been in Chris Daly's pub lately?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 11:26 am

There is a difference,The Guardian is not running for public office

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 9:28 am

Neither are the San Francisco Association of Realtors.

But thank you for having the courage to admit that the SFBG do break election law, for the greater good, of course ;-)

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 10:11 am

While i certainly do not march in lockstep with SFBG, or anyone else, I actually neither made or implied what you stated, but you are entitled to your interpretation.

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 11:01 am

It sounds otherwise, let me explain.

You replied:
"There is a difference,The Guardian is not running for public office"

to the statement:
"But it's OK when the Guardian (the bastion of truth) breaks the law?"

To me that suggests that you think it is OK for the BG to break the law as it is not running for office. If not, what did you mean by the statement:
"There is a difference,The Guardian is not running for public office"

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

We have not broken any election laws. We're a newspaper that does endorsements, and if outside groups want to publicize those endorsements on mailers, that's up to them, but it's not something we're involved with.

Posted by steven on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 10:24 am

David Lee is GUILTY of election fraud under state law if the Independent Election money and effor is NOT considered independent under law as stated in the following "....under any arrangement, coordination, or direction with respect to
the candidate or the candidate’s agent and the person making the expenditure"

(b) An expenditure may not be considered independent, and shall be treated as a contribution from the person making the expenditure to the candidate on whose behalf, or for whose benefit, the expenditure is made, if the expenditure is made under any of the following circumstances:
(1) The expenditure is made with the cooperation of, or in consultation with, the candidate on whose behalf, or for whose benefit, the expenditure is made, or any controlled committee or any agent of the candidate.
(2) The expenditure is made in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, the candidate on whose behalf, or for whose benefit, the expenditure is made, or any controlled committee or any agent of the candidate.
(3) The expenditure is made under any arrangement, coordination, or direction with respect to the candidate or the candidate’s agent and the person making the expenditure

Posted by thatsthewayitis on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

Let me restate, thatsthewayitis: "Eric Mar doesn't have as much money behind his campaign, very few of his re-election signs are even seen in the neighborhood, and that really pisses me off."

Posted by Even Another Guest on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

David Lee is seeking public office, using public funds, will be paid with public funds if elected, and be in a position of public trust that will give him the power to make decisions that impact public policy and our private lives.
The Guardian is a self supporting independent business publishing a weekly newspaper.

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

How many of you actually live in the Richmond district? Eric Mar, like Jake McGoldrick, had his time at bat and he struck out. We need new blood; he's done nothing for our district, and a walk down Geary Blvd. and all its empty businesses will illustrate that.. Despite the outrageousness of the video - which I actually think is pretty original, despite the sleazy bio of the ad man - the facts stated are all true. David Lee's campaign has disavowed the video, but the Realtor's Association are refusing to take it down, despite him asking them to do that some time ago. What I think is reminisicent of something Romney would do is Mar is trying to somehow drum up charges against Lee as being against Rent Control in order to gain votes because the Realtor's Association has funded a lot of his campaign. Lee's a supporter of rent control, and has made that public for some time. Be aware, people... the "petition" you're signing on the street is just an excuse to get your name and address so that they can call you before voting day and encourage you to vote for Mr. Mar. If this is the dirty campaign tactics he's using to get votes, I'm more than happy to see him unseated. It's a little ironic that someone who's calling the video "unethical" (and, by the way, giving it a lot of exposure) is calling the kettle black with his "rent control" scam. There's something also incredibly selfish about supporters who are promoting Mar but don't live in the Richmond district; until you see what it's like to be ignored over several important district issues, you have no right to be judging anybody. Can you imagine the outrage if Richmond district residents walked into the Mission and started telling them how to run their district?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

Wow -- I just read this and I agree 100% with you. I just posted a long reply about the outrageous charge Mar is making that Lee is "anti-rent control". I read this and -- if I didn't know better, I'd think I had written it. Nice to know that someone else understands what Mar is trying to pull -- and how smarmy this really is.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:53 am

To call this rag a newspaper is an insult to all rag newspapers.

Why don't you just incorporate as the "We hate David Lee Committee" and divulge how much you're being paid by Eric Mar and the Progressives?

The repeated character assassination that is going on in your pages reveal how totally incredible (in the true sense of the word, e.g. "you cannot be believed")

Just looking at your headlines makes me want to take a shower -- I know and have worked on community issues with both David Lee and Eric Mar. What's so tragic about your hatchet job is that Lee actually DOES have integrity -- and I know from personal experience that Mar has NONE.

Posted by Your witch-hunt of Lee is outrageous and embarrassing on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:51 am

David Lee is strongly in favor of rent control. Why do the realtors support him? Because property values will go up if our Supervisor is for business development and doesn't let 28th and Geary look horrible for 2 years. Property values will go up if Richmond District residents are guaranteed they can buy a home or rent one and send their kids to school at one of the Richmond District's great 6 elementary schools, 2 great middle schools or Washington High if they don't get into Lowell or SOTA, instead of having to go into a lottery and have no idea where they'll go. If you have 2 or 3 kids and buy a home, what would you pay more for, a home in Burlingame or Palo Alto which guarantees a great school, or a home in the Richmond where you could get an equal school (Alamo, Peabody, Sutro, Argonne, Lafayette, McCoppin, Presidio, Roosevelt, Washington) but could also lose the lottery and be sent to a school that's not only worse but a long drive or bus ride away? If Lee gets neighborhood schools back on the ballot and it wins, which it will if they add a statement no kids already in a school will be switched, property values will rise in the Richmond. This has nothing to do with rent control. There is a constant drain on values of families who leave when their kids turn 5 if they lose the lottery. Every family who moves away lowers property values and City taxes. Every family who moves in, and many more will if they put in neighborhood schools, raises property values. We also get more community if all the kids on a block go to one school, all the parents know each other, etc.

Lee wants diversity. He supports busing from the Fillmore or Mission. He supports putting public housing into the Presidio or at open spots. There are no projects in the Richmond, putting a couple in could make our schools more diverse and at the same time guarantee every family in the Richmond a school close to home, a high quality, free, public school if they choose it. This will make our neighborhood so much better and more stable.

Posted by Fred Dobbs on Oct. 20, 2012 @ 1:45 am

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