Tuesday, November 1, 2011

San Francisco mayoral candidates and the gifts they receive

San Francisco City Hall.

People generally like to eat, listen to music and watch football, and when it comes to politicians, they really like receiving opportunities to do those things as gifts.

A review of public forms designed to reveal potential conflicts of interest showed that San Francisco Mayoral candidates have a propensity for accepting everything from toy trucks to 49ers tickets to — above all else — meals.

Every person elected or appointed to an official political position in California is required to annually file “Form 700” with the Fair Political Practices Commission. (I had to fill out a Form 700 for my service on the South San Francisco Housing Authority, for example.) These state-mandated forms include information about the sources of an official's income, investments, business positions, real property holdings and gifts from the previous year (i.e., the form for 2010 would be filed in 2011).

Forms for those who hold local government office are available at City Hall. But as a service, the FPPC has put online Form 700s filed by state legislators, elected city council members and county boards of supervisors. This week, I’ve been reviewing the online forms of the top candidates for San Francisco Mayor.

(Public Defender Jeff Adachi, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting theoretically have their forms available for perusal at San Francisco City Hall. Candidate Tony Hall has been out of his former supervisorship for several years and Joanna Rees has never before held political office, therefore they apparently do not have recent Form 700s for perusal.)

Several other candidates did have their Form 700s available online, however. Alphabetically:

Michela Alioto-Pier didn’t file a Form 700 for 2010, probably because she left her office as Supervisor this past January, before it was due. Alioto-Pier’s 2009 form only reported one gift: a $100 flower arrangement from the Drew School, a small private prep school on California Avenue in San Francisco. (She did have to list her more than $100,000 stock holdings in Exxon-Mobil and two real estate holdings worth more than $1 million each: a home in Santa Helena and a condo on Vallejo Street in San Francisco.)

Ed Lee, the incumbent.
John Avalos, curiously, seems to be the only member of the Board of Supervisors running for mayor to not receive a gift, own any property or stock. His Form 700 was limited to a single page declaring he had no reportable assets.

Current Mayor Ed Lee does, however. In his form covering 2009, while he was city administrator, Lee writes he received a total of $290 in gifts — symphony tickets in July from the City Arts Commission worth $140, and two tickets from the PGA in October for the President’s Cup at Harding Park worth $150.

Lee did not seem to have a 2010 form available online, despite being City Administrator the whole calendar year.

David Chiu.
The bicycle industry-sponsored Bikes Belong Foundation gave supervisor David Chiu his largest gift: a $3,400 trip in August 2010 to the Netherlands to observe “urban transportation and biking practices … with other Bay Area officials.” Does this gift — the largest revealed by any candidate in their filings — make Chiu a puppet of corporate interests? Chiu’s acceptance of the gift from the Bike Belongs Foundation is interesting, because he doesn’t even seem to be the favored candidate of San Francisco bicyclists. That would be Avalos, who was endorsed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (the SFBC ranked the carless Chiu second). Chiu was endorsed by the Chronicle, which may be some consolation.

Chiu's form shows he also got more than $700 from Harvard University for speaking engagements, tickets (worth $258) from the San Francisco Symphony in September 2010 and two tickets (worth $228) from the San Francisco 49ers the next month.

(It should be noted that the largest gift that public officials can generally accept tops out at $420. Chiu's trips seem to fall under an exemption for travel outside of California provided by non-profit entities.)

Bevan Dufty, who like Alioto-Pier left his SF Supervisor’s office in early 2011, also doesn’t have a Form 700 online for 2010. However, his 2009 filing indicates that he likes a show. He received theater tickets worth $250 in February 2009 from the Shorenstein Theater for the opening night of “Wicked.” He also got tickets worth $250 from the San Francisco 49ers for a game on Nov. 29, 2009 (a game the Niners won, 20-3 over the Jacksonville Jaguars). Dufty also was well-fed in 2009, getting $1,220 worth of meals from eight different contributors (some multiple times).

Leland Yee.
Leland Yee lists gifts from 21 different donors, the most among candidates who filed a Form 700. Among them was San Francisco’s Green Toys, which make its items out of plastic recycled from milk jugs. On Jan. 20, 2010, the toy store gifted Yee with a toy truck worth $25.

In April 2010, Yee accepted a gift of $2 (yes, two dollars) in “peanuts” from the California Beer & Beverage Distributors. Everyone knows suds go down better with nuts.

Perhaps the most interesting gift Yee received was a “food” gift on April 5, 2010, from the California State University at Stanislaus Foundation — just days after Yee had criticized the Foundation for paying Sarah Palin for a speaking engagement. A “mend fences” lunch perhaps? Or a case of “let’s criticize them and eat their food, too?”

Yee’s single largest gift was airfare to Washington, lodging and attendance at an awards ceremony from the National Education Association — the nation’s largest labor union — between July 2 and July 4, 2010, worth exactly $1,115.80.

We don't yet know who will be elected San Francisco's mayor on Nov. 8, but you can bet they'll be well-fed.

1 comment:

Monic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.