Newsom will vote on campaign donors' projects


On the front page of the Chronicle Aug. 12, California Watch reported that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has been promoting the interests of campaign donors in San Diego and San Bernardino. It’s nothing criminal, but it looks bad – and it’s just the start.

Newsom, who sits on the state Lands Commission (one of the few critical duties of the Lite Guv) has received thousands of dollars in donations from interested parties looking to exploit San Francisco’s waterfront, public records show. And he will be voting on the future of their projects.

Newsom received $2,000 for his 2014 campaign from two lawyers, Neil Sekhri and Mary Murphy. Both attorneys are at the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, and are involved with the controversial 8 Washington project – which comes before the Lands Commission Aug. 14. Since part of the site of the most expensive condos in San Francisco history is state Tidelands Trust property, the state has to approve the deal. Newsom will be one of three members voting.

The future site for the Golden State Warriors arena is along the waterfront. The decision to turn over that land to private investors will come before Newsom’s panel, too – and Newsom has received more than $6,000 from interested parties.
The Strada Investment Group, which is representing the Warriors as a development consultant, gave Newsom $5,000, records on file with the Secretary of State show. Jesse Blout, real estate investor for the group contributed $750. Scott Stafford, principal, contributed $750. Marty Glide, chief executive officer of the Warriors, contributed $2,000 Newsom’s campaign.

Aaron Peskin, former supervisor and a foe of 8 Washington, issued a press release Aug. 13 calling on Newsom to recuse himself from voting on that project. Newsom’s office hasn’t responded to us, but it’s a safe bet that’s not going to happen. Newsom didn’t get where he is by stiffing campaign donors when they need him on a big vote.

There’s another  problem with the Lands Commission vote on 8 Washington. According to former City Attorney Louise Renne, the commission can’t vote on a project that doesn’t actually exist.

Her argument, laid out in an Aug. 7 letter to the commission, is simple: More than 31,000 San Francisco voters signed a petition demanding a vote on the project – and the Department of Elections has certified the referendum for a citywide vote. That can’t happen until November 2013. “Under these circumstances,” Renne wrote, “you do not have a currently valid 8 Washington Street/Seawall Lot 351 project before you for consideration. Approvals of the project are suspended by law.”

Does the commission even care if what it’s doing is legal? Anyone placing bets?

UPDATE: We just got a statement from Newsom's chief of staff, Chris Garland, who told us that the Attorney General's Office and the Lands Commission legal staff agreed that none of the panel members have a conflict of interest.  "The lieutenant governor has enjoyed the support of parties on both sides of this issue and is capable of looking at the item impartially and doing what is right for the state," he said. "This isn't a matter of contributions; it's matter of calling balls and strikes on an important project."

Okay then.


The mention of Peskin reminded me of how Clear Channel gave $20,000 to the pro-Muni Reform Committee that Peskin controlled (the same measure that the voters later had to gut). In that case it was OK that Peskin didn't recuse himself on matters affecting Clear Channel because he is a Progressive hero. But thanks for pointing out that Newsom is trying to do the same thing even though he doesn't have the same rights that a Progressive does.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

After this job, I won't be surprised to see Newsom run for congress. He'll fit in perfectly in that corrupt cesspool.

Reading this article my thought was: This is exactly why more and more people are understandably turned off by politics and want nothing to do with it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

ensure their interests are listened to and understood? Isn't that why unions make donations to progressives?

But a savvy politician will always use his own judgment to make an independent vote. There's no story here; this is routine.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

Corruption is systemic and routine. Everybody wants to be listened to and understood. But it seems that only big businesses have the money it takes to get a politician's ear. It's not democracy when you have to pay money to be listened to and understood.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 7:33 am

And the nonprofits and labor are as organized and resourced relative to average folks as the big businesses are relative to labor and the nonprofits. The latter are thus the 1% of the 99%.

That leaves the 98% orders of magnitude less represented than the corporations and the special interests that appear to share populist politics but are actually creatures of the 1% because that's who pays their meal tickets.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 7:53 am

although they tend to have more effect locally.

And moreover, unions and non-profits can do something big business cannot - put feet on the street to enforce their message.

A big part of the validity behind the Citizens United SCOTUS ruling was to re-balance the power by giving business something to fight back with. If you can't vote or put feet on the streets, then what else is left but cash?

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 8:30 am

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there is perfect parity between the power of left and right in the US.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 9:18 am