Thursday, September 29, 2011

Community Fascism in San Francisco

2011-09-29 "Lawyers with SF contracts big donors to Herrera; Candidate for S.F. mayor might have violated law" by John Coté from "San Francisco Chronicle"
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is running for mayor on a platform that touts his independence from powerful interests, has received more than $45,000 in campaign contributions since 2009 from attorneys at law firms that combined have received millions of dollars in city contracts from his office, a review of campaign finance records shows.
One of the donations appears to violate a city law barring contractors with deals worth at least $50,000 from donating to officials who approve those contracts. A new round of campaign finance reports will be filed today.
There are also at least six instances in Herrera's last two campaigns where multiple attorneys contributed to him within a few months of their firm receiving a contract worth more than $50,000 from his office, an analysis of campaign finance documents show. Lawyers are among the most active political donors nationally, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Any overlap between Herrera's donors and contractors is coincidental, his camp maintains.
"It's to support good candidates," Herrera spokesman Matt Dorsey said. "It's not to get city contracts."

'Protecting integrity' -
Herrera said the contracts were awarded on merit and no donations affected decisions made by his office.
"I've made sure I fought to protect the public interest and the integrity of city government," he said.
Five of six law firms scrutinized for their contracts and employee donations also had contracts under his predecessor, and one has ties to the city that go back decades.
The city's contractor ban, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2000, is designed to prevent pay-to-play politics, where people contribute to candidates to get lucrative city contracts. It applies from the start of contract negotiations until six months after the contract is approved.
Herrera acknowledged that a $500 contribution, the maximum possible under city law, to his 2009 city attorney re-election campaign from Joseph Saveri, a member of the board of directors at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, appears to have been improper.
The contribution came in October 2009, less than six months after Herrera's office formally approved a $226,250 city contract with that law firm and another to pay the firms for representing the city on a contingency basis in pursuing price-fixing claims against a Muni vendor starting in 2003, city documents show.
The contract came after a court ordered payment of the $226,250, but Herrera said "the Saveri contribution may have been one that fell through the cracks." His campaign account "will reimburse the check as required by law," he said.
James Quadra, at the time a partner with at least a 20 percent stake in the other law firm that was part of that contract, Moscone, Emblidge & Quadra, also donated the $500 maximum to Herrera just two days before the contract was approved in June 2009, city records show. Herrera, though, said there was no violation of the contractor ban because the agreement had been signed in 2003.

Pattern among donors -
The other donations to Herrera from attorneys whose firms have city contracts don't appear to be violations of the city's contractor ban, which only applies to select executives, like members of the board of directors and those with ownership stakes of 20 percent or more.
Of the donors from firms that received contracts, the vast majority aren't top executives, though some are partners whose compensation is traditionally tied to their firm's performance.
Within six months of the June 2010 formal approval of a $500,000 contract from Herrera's office to the law firm Hanson Bridgett to assist with complex construction litigation cases against the city, 23 attorneys there donated a combined $6,950 to Herrera's campaign, including seven giving the $500 maximum, records show.
Andrew Giacomini, managing partner at the firm, said the donations were unrelated to the contract.
"It's kind of a common thing in the San Francisco legal community to be interested in the city attorney's race. It doesn't surprise me at all that multiple people continued to support Dennis' mayoral campaign," said Giacomini, who backs Herrera but was barred under the contractor ban from donating to his campaign. "We were hired for that project because we had unique qualifications in construction litigation."

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