Glaring irregularites in Ed Lee's mayoral campaign should be investigated
EDITORIAL The indictments of two executives of an airport shuttle company on charges of laundering campaign money are, in themselves, a rarity and something to celebrate: the district attorney of San Francisco is actually attempting to enforce the laws against political corruption. That's unusual in this city, and worthy of note.
But at this point, the entire sum total of prosecutions involving the scandal-ridden campaign of Mayor Ed Lee amounts to a pair of cases against people who made what appear to be illegal contributions. As of today, the message that's being sent is that nobody in the Lee campaign did anything wrong. And that seems a little bit curious.
Lee's late entry into the race — after he'd promised for months not to run — and his refusal to abide by the rules of public financing forced his supporters to raise a large amount of money very quickly. There were so-called independent expenditure committees collecting donations and running parallel campaigns that, by law, should have been entirely distinct from Lee and his official effort. We've always been dubious about the supposed lack of coordination.
Then there were the well-documented instances of irregularities serious enough that every other candidate in the race asked for state and federal monitors to watch the election. Several eyewitnesses told local reporters that they saw volunteers for one of the supposedly independent groups filling out absentee ballots for voters, using a special template that ensured the votes would go for Lee. Some said they saw ballots being collected at a makeshift voting booth. In a video provided by the campaign of State Sen. Leland Yee, it appears that volunteers were both filling out ballots and placing them in bags — both clear violations of law.
Gascon's announced investigations of all the allegations — but more than three months later, nothing has come of it. His office won't confirm or deny whether investigations are ongoing or whether any further indictments may be forthcoming. But at the Chinese New Year Parade, Chinatown powerbroker and Lee ally Rose Pak announced that she had heard Gascon was investigating her.
There's been plenty of time to collect evidence, and Gascon has a responsibility to let the public know, as quickly as possible, what's happened to the rest of the allegations. If everyone in the Lee campaign is really innocent, and none of the independent groups supporting the mayor did anything wrong, he should say that, and present the evidence.
It doesn't help Lee, the city, or the integrity of the voting process to have these cases drag out. Gascon needs to conclude them, expeditiously.