Several San Francisco neighborhoods over the last week have been targeted with illegal campaign flyers against Assembly candidate David Campos -- breaking both state election laws requiring the group and its funding source to be identified and local laws against placing political flyers on utility poles and other surfaces.
Former Ethics Commission Eileen Hansen this week filed a complaint about the guerilla campaigning with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which has jurisdiction over state races.
“I am asking for the intervention of your office into what appears to be a blatant and arrogant violation of campaign finance reporting and disclosure laws in California’s 17th Assembly District Primary Election,” Hansen wrote in the April 30 letter. “As you well know, the political climate in San Francisco is quite sensitive, and nerves are raw. If this violation is allowed to continue, it will have a chilling effect on the entire election and further alienate voters, and potential voters.”
The race between Campos and David Chiu has indeed gotten more heated in recent weeks, but Chiu campaign spokesperson Nicole Derse denies that the campaign has any knowledge or involvement with the illegal campaigning: “We think everyone in this race should be transparent.”
In her letter, Hansen casts doubt on the Chiu campaign’s claims of innocence: “The wide distribution, professional design, and overnight appearance in distant locations strongly suggest that these flyers have been produced and distributed by a funded political organization aligned with Assembly candidate David Chiu, whose aim is to attack and discredit Chiu’s opponent David Campos.”
And she even identifies a leading suspect in this illegal campaigning: Enrique Pearce and his Left Coast Communications firm, which has a history of dirty tricks campaigning on behalf of Mayor Ed Lee and other establishment politicians. Hansen notes that the flyers appeared right after the registration of a new campaign committee, San Franciscans for Effective Government to Support David Chiu. Although the group hasn’t reported any fundraising yet, its contact phone number goes to Left Coast Communications and Pearce, who hasn’t yet returned our calls on the issue. [UPDATE: Pearce called back and categorically denied any involvement with the illegal flyers, and he blasted Hansen for speading what you called "scurrilous lies" with no foundation, saying he has called her directly and expects an apology.]
This campaign stunt in reminiscent of an “independent expenditure” effort in the District 6 supervisorial race in 2010, when Pearce was connected to a mailer supporting Sup. Jane Kim that was funded partially by Willie Brown, again because the supposedly independent group listed his phone number even though he was worked directly for Kim.
The anti-Campos mailers include some nasty and misleading charges, labeling Campos “City Hall’s Hypocrite” by falsely claiming Campos ignored rising evictions until he decided to run for the Assembly and that he was concerned about Google buses but wanted to charge them less than $1 per stop. A third flyer claims Campos “lets wifebeater sheriff keep his job” for his vote against removing Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office for official misconduct.
“This is a secretly funded shadow organization aligned with David Chiu, committing a desperate move that is as illegal and it is false in its claims,” Campos told us, saying he hopes the FPPC is able to stop and punish those involved.