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‘They’re like Hillary’s emails’: Powerhouse behind Boudin recall dismisses ethics concerns over Brooke Jenkins

Mary Jung, chairperson of the Safer SF Without Boudin campaign, speaks at Portsmouth Square on May 28, 2021. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard.

The leader of the Chesa Boudin recall confirmed for the first time that she connected District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to the three nonprofits that paid her six figures at the same time that the campaign cast her as a volunteer.

The acknowledgement came Monday after the politico initially denied getting Jenkins the jobs at the nonprofits closely linked to the recall. 

“I provided a connection for District Attorney Jenkins to the nonprofits that she consulted for,” Mary Jung told The Standard. “The leadership of those organizations ultimately made the decision to bring her on as a consultant.” 

After Mayor London Breed appointed her to replace Boudin, Jenkins disclosed earning more than $170,000 working as a consultant for the nonprofits during the recall. While she maintains her work for the charities was unrelated to the recall, the payments raised questions about whether she deceived the public.

During an interview with The Standard, Jung said “no” repeatedly when asked whether she got Jenkins jobs at each of the nonprofits tied to the recall and to Jung herself.

Jung also dismissed ethical concerns about the DA, comparing them to the Republican-fueled controversy around Hillary Clinton using a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

Mary Jung (left) and Brooke Jenkins (right) speak to the media after the recall of SF DA Chesa Boudin on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

“I think they’re like Hillary’s emails,” said Jung, a political powerhouse and former head of the local Democratic Party. “I think what happens is people find something—it doesn’t matter how tenuous it is—and they run with that.”

Jung was speaking at the election night party for Jenkins, who pulled off a significant victory over criminal defense attorney John Hamasaki and other challengers in the race to finish out Boudin’s term.

Her denial in the case of one of the nonprofits, Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, initially seemed to contradict a statement Jenkins made that Jung and an associate put her in contact with the nonprofit.

“It was a conversation with Jay Cheng and Mary Jung,” Jenkins, who reported earning $153,000 from the nonprofit, told The Chronicle.

Jung later clarified that she did connect Jenkins with the work at the nonprofits—but that the “leadership” of those organizations made the final decisions to hire her.

How Jenkins landed her employment with the nonprofits is important because the payments could put her in legal jeopardy depending on whether she was indirectly paid to act as a spokesperson for the recall.

An anonymous complaint filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission and California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) accuses Jenkins of failing to register as a campaign consultant—a possible misdemeanor.

A retired judge and Boudin supporter, Martha Goldin, also filed a complaint with the State Bar accusing her of dishonesty.

Former SF Mayor Willie Brown talks with Mary Jung (right) and SF Park and Rec Commissioner Vanita Louie at Brooke Jenkins' swearing-in for SF district attorney on July 8, 2022. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

It’s unclear whether any of the complaints spurred an investigation.

The complaint filed with the FPPC is still pending review because of an apparent backlog of election-related complaints, according to a spokesperson. The Ethics Commission and State Bar, meanwhile, cannot confirm by law whether they have launched investigations into the other complaints.

Jenkins began working for the nonprofits last December, shortly after quitting her job under Boudin and volunteering as the public face of the recall.

Jung chaired the deep-pocketed recall campaign that propelled Jenkins to power. She also had connections to the nonprofits that paid Jenkins, including as the CEO of one of them, Sister’s Circle Women Support Network.

But Jung said she was not looking for Jenkins to replace Boudin when the two first met last September or October to discuss the recall.

At the time, Jung was hardly certain that the recall would even make it on the ballot given San Francisco’s opposition to recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“We talked about it in terms of if we were going to get enough signatures,” Jung said. “Would we be able to pull it across the finish line?”

Jung said she became more confident that the recall would succeed when the campaign commissioned a poll in February showing 68% of respondents would vote to remove Boudin from office.

“I said, ‘Oh, my God, we could actually win this,’” Jung said.

But she said she did not realize she wanted Jenkins to be district attorney until Mayor London Breed chose her to replace Boudin in July.

“As the chair of the committee, first of all, I had no favorites,” Jung said. “Literally. Honestly. I had no favorites.”

Jung said she tried to not give the appointment “any thought” until after the recall passed.

“I didn’t know who was going to be standing in June or July,” she added. “I just didn't. I’m not a mind reader. I was not encouraging anybody. I mean, I was encouraging everybody enough and not encouraging anybody, if that makes any sense.”

Ultimately, Breed was rumored to have considered Supervisor Catherine Stefani and former DA candidate Nancy Tung before landing on Jenkins.

“It’s in the back of my mind, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking, ‘Is it going to be Nancy. Is it going to be Brooke? Is it going to be Catherine?’” Jung said. “Is it going to be that other person? Who knows, right? I had no idea. But I also wasn’t willing to give it any time.”