Second Money Laundering Charge Sinks Lee Campaign

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

Published on November 02, 2011 with 22 Comments

Interim Mayor Ed Lee. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

November 2, 2011

A new allegation of money laundering has been leveled against the campaign to elect interim Mayor Ed Lee to a full-term.

It is the second such allegation of money laundering to dog the Lee campaign which is already under investigation  by District Attorney George Gascón and the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for alleged money laundering by employees of Go Lorrie’s Airport Shuttle, as well as allegations of criminal vote tampering by Lee supporters.

In a damning report published today by the San Francisco Chronicle, Andrew Hawkins, a property services manager who is known to have carried a gun and a nightstick to intimidate and evict CitiApartments tenants, allegedly promised campaign donation reimbursements to as many as sixteen employees of CitiApartments in exchange for maximum $500 contributions to Lee’s campaign, according to the report.

Hawkins was named as a defendant in a 2006 lawsuit for employing tactics of intimidation and harassment and other abuses against CitiApartments’ tenants.  CitiApartments was also sued by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in August 2006 for an array of unlawful business and tenant harassment practices which sought to dispossess long-term residents of their rent-controlled apartments in order to re-rent the units at higher market rates.  CitiApartments reportedly settled with the City for $10 million earlier this year.

“I think San Franciscans have now seen enough,” said City Attorney and mayoral candidate, Herrera, who is calling on the FPPC to join Gascón in investigating the CitiApartments money laundering charge. “Too many of Ed Lee’s supporters act as though they’re above the law — on money laundering, on ballot tampering, and more — and Ed Lee isn’t strong enough to stop it. If this is how they behave before an election, just imagine how they’ll behave after the election, if Ed Lee wins. This scheme is clearly a bid for political payback by CitiApartments henchmen for my litigation to protect tenants five years ago. It is patently illegal, and I call on the FPPC to join the District Attorney in investigating.”

Responding to the latest allegation of money laundering, Lee campaign spokesperson Tony Winnicker told the Chronicle, “If this is true, then these people have perjured themselves. They looked directly into the eyes of our campaign staff and lied, and they should be held accountable.”

Update, 11:41 am: Addisu Demissie, spokesperson for the David Chiu campaign, released the following statement:

“This is now the fourth allegation of illegal conduct by Mayor Lee’s supporters, and it should be investigated fully by the District Attorney and appropriate authorities,” Demissie said.

“With six days to go before Election Day, it will be up to the voters to decide whether this kind of bullying, pay-to-play politics is what they want to see at City Hall for the next 4 years. David is going to spend the last 6 days of this race talking about why he represents a new generation of leadership for San Francisco that will stand tough against the special interests and shake things up at City Hall.”

Update, 12:06 pm: Senator Leland Yee released the following statement:

“This is yet further evidence that we need state and federal election monitors now,” said Senator Leland Yee. “San Franciscans cannot afford to just wait out the clock until November 8. There appears to be massive voter fraud that should be immediately investigated to protect the integrity of this election. Either Ed Lee is condoning these illegal tactics or the wool is being pulled over his eyes – not what we need of our Mayor.”

Update, 12:21 pm: Supervisor John Avalos released the following statement:

“Andrew Hawkins is a thug who worked for CitiApartments. He and his goonsquad are responsible for the intimidation of thousands of tenants including seniors, people with disabilities and families with children. They would have made him a major if he’d been a better man– not the kind of guy to be proud to have in your donor base.”

Update, 12:48 pm: The Jeff Adachi campaign released the following statement:

“Whether or not the Ed Lee campaign was explicitly involved is beside the point.  The fact that the Edwin Lee saga has continually been embroiled in a myriad of controversy, must lead any logical person to question the true motives guiding his administration’s decision making.  One has to take a long hard look as to why certain individuals, who stand to benefit handsomely, are so eager to circumvent the law in order to see Ed Lee elected,” said Colin Dyer, communications director for Jeff Adachi.

Jeff Adachi added, “These new allegations only further indicate the type of politics Ed Lee chooses to engage in. Backroom deals and the association with political insiders highlights this City’s need of a Mayor that is independent of special interests and represents the needs of the people, not the wants of a few.

“As one of the few candidates that hasn’t been embroiled in campaign money controversies, I think voters should follow the money in electing a mayor who won’t be influenced by power brokers or special interests. This is the second instance of alleged money laundering involving Ed Lee’s campaign. This kind of activity stains our democracy.”

Update, 1:56 pm: Michela Alioto-Pier released the following statement:

“Ed Lee needs to take responsibility for his campaign and the actions of his supporters,” Alioto-Pier said. “Ed is trying to blame donors, but somehow 15 other campaigns have managed to raise money without the score of questionable actions taken by Ed Lee and his friends.”

Update, 5:23 pm: Joanna Rees released the following statement:

“If the mounting criminal investigations involving Ed Lee’s supporters tell us anything, it’s that he is either unwilling or unable to stop those around him from repeatedly trying to circumvent the law,’ Rees said. “That’s not leadership, its Ed Lee’s well connected friends leading him right off a cliff.

“With the election now just days away, it is imperative for District Attorney Gascon to expedite his investigations and prosecute violations to the limit of the law. San Francisco simply cannot afford to wake up on the day after the election, only to find that Room 200 has been auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Comments for Second Money Laundering Charge Sinks Lee Campaign are now closed.

  1. A call to Tony Serra’s office might be a good place to start.

  2. @Ann, you might contact the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC and ask for the names of attorneys who practice in the area of election law or who have practiced before it.

  3. @Ann, I am a retired Federal Trade Commission lawyer. I do not know an election lawyer. I can only suggest you try the San Francisco Bar Association lawyer referral service asking for the names of attorneys familiar with this area of the law.

  4. @Ralph: Are you a lawyer and/or do you know an election lawyer who could speak to this? Not just the injunction, but all the legal issues.

  5. A court probably would not issue an injunction based on allegations of money laundering by employees of Go Lorrie’s Airport Shuttle, as well as allegations of criminal vote tampering by Lee supporters. And I doubt any lawsuit or disciplinary action, if warranted, will be filed before the election.

  6. I’m not going for an injunction and I doubt any of the candidates will, but Avalos made a funny video to beat “2 Legit 2 Quit”:

  7. MORE MR ED. Candidates Press Conference

  8. Annie and Ralph,

    Go for the injunction too. I don’t know what the feds will do,


  9. The Precautionary Principle.
    Start preparing Mr Ed Recall now.

  10. This must be the October/November surprises everyone was waiting/hoping for.

    Go Niners!

  11. h.: Are you saying that the Justice Department is on the way, to the rescue, no need for an injunction?

  12. Way to go, Annie,

    I love the way you say, “injunction”. Ever try to follow the trail of computer discs from the time they arrive in John Arntz office and go out to the machines and are collected and then returned by a suspiciously circuitous route to the Department of Elections?

    Me either but a friend in the Justice Department tells me that he and his team are doing just that.

    Looks like we may finally get to see Willie in orange.

    Your tax dollars at work.

    Go Niners!


  13. I think that, with a good election lawyer, any or all of the rival campaigns could get an injunction to stop Elections Supervisor John Arnst from counting ballots cast for Ed Lee on the grounds that the preponderance of evidence is that his campaign is in gross violation of election law.

  14. The Board of Supervisors are going to have to certify this. Judson True in David Chiu’s office told me it will be very unusual if they do not. I don’t see any sign of any federal election monitors or investigators yet.

    Is an honest, wholehearted investigation expected from Georges Gascón?

  15. Wow,

    First Nuru and now Andrew Hawkins who may be even worse. Lee’s got some major thug action going there. Toss in David Ho who got canned from Daly’s for threatening to bring down “leg breakers” on a patron who didn’t support Lee and you have the beginnings of a very dangerous administration.

    I’ll stick with my four IRV choices …

    1st choice – Terry Jean Baum

    2nd choice – Jeff Adachi

    3rd choice – John Avalos

    4th choice – Tony Hall

    kudos to Tony Larusso,


  16. Money laundering can save businesses and individuals a lot of money. It is hard to track too, that’s why it is usually used when the person is making money with illegal activities. If you don’t know what money laundering is, this article gives a great explanation.

  17. This, in addition to orgs like CCDC stacking votes in Lee’s favor: (!!!) I don’t like where this is heading.

    Jesse: Looks like a great concept, checking it out …

  18. San Francisco needs a massive get out the vote campaign focused on a coalition-building strategy with folks’ three ranked choices. (which I built) helps people who want to do this. It’ll let you comment on all the candidates, indicate your ranked choice strategy and get out the vote from your Facebook friends.

  19. Tx, had added a c.
    NO on C,D,E,F.
    AVALOS The People’s choice.

  20. Ed Lee is “Just carrying on an old family tradition”.
    The link to Daniela Kirschenbaum’s “Pay to play Bay Area” article in October of 2006, doesn’t seem to work but maybe Luke could post another one. It is a good primer/reminder of the corruption endemic to SF politics, especially for those ‘new’ to the city, complicit, or in denial. To quote Paul Currier, it exposes some of those involved in ‘the criminal enterprise that controls San Francisco.