Mayor Ed Lee’s committee gives $10,000 that it doesn’t have to the 8 Washington project UPDATED

Pub date November 1, 2013
SectionPolitics Blog

Mayor Ed Lee presents himself as a model of fiscal responsibility, but the Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco Committee that he controls has recently been spending big money that it doesn’t have, including more than $10,000 that it has recently given to the Yes on Propositions B&C campaign, according to campaign finance filings.

The Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco Committee, a general purpose committee that Lee and its Treasurer Kevin Heneghan are jointly responsible for, made late contributions of $8,666.66 on Oct. 29 and $1,667 on Oct. 30 to San Franciscans for Parks, Jobs and Housing, Yes on Props. B&C, which supports the 8 Washington project. Lee’s committee also made a $4,333.34 contribution to the Yes on A campaign on Oct. 29.

The Lee committee’s contributions are actually small potatoes for the Yes on B&C campaign, which is spending more than $2 million to have voters green-light the project, most of it coming from the developer, Pacific Waterfront Partners, which kicked in late contributions of $450,000 on Oct. 28 and $250,000 on Oct. 24, bringing its total to about $1.8 million.

But what’s interesting about the Lee committee’s donations is that the final pre-election statement that it filed on Oct. 24 showed that it had just $1,208 in the bank and $26,886 in outstanding debts — most of that to Oakland-based EMC Research for polling it conducted during the Sept. 22-Oct. 19 period.

Neither Heneghan nor Lee responded to our calls for comment, and Lee doesn’t have any public events scheduled between now and election day on Tuesday, so details on this intriguing bit of deficit spending and what kind of polling work the mayor’s committee was doing remain a mystery. [UPDATE 11/5: Lee’s office deferred to Heneghan, who just emailed us this response: “As you know, political committee report filings are a snapshot in time. The Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco ballot measure committee has received additional contributions since the most recent report that will be appropriately reported. All activity through the committee in support of ballot measures endorsed by Mayor Lee will continue to be appropriately reported as well.” We asked Heneghan whether he would disclose the donors, and we’re waiting to hear back.]

The Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco Committee hasn’t reported raising any money this year, unlike last year when it raised about $400,000 from some of the city’s biggest establishment players, including Lennar Homes ($35,000), Committee on Jobs ($30,000), San Francisco Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth ($25,000 in basically a pass-through from venture capitalist Ron Conway), San Francisco Association of Realtors ($20,000), and the city’s police and firefighters’ unions ($10,000 each).

But how exactly could the Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco Committee give $10,000 to the Yes on Props. B&C campaign if it didn’t actually have the money to cover the checks?

When we asked a source at San Francisco Ethics Commission about it, at first he was puzzled, and then he told us that while the committee is required to report late expenditures that it makes before the election, it isn’t required to report late contributions that it receives. That we won’t find out until its Form 460s are due Jan. 31, 2014.

So who really paid for Lee’s contributions to the Yes on B&C campaign, as well as more than $20,000 in polling work that Lee’s committee paid for? And what will our mayor do in return for the people who are digging his committee out of its debts?