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Corruption Watch: Supervisors Finally Pass Legislation to Close Gap in Fundraising Rules
Saturday, May 21, 2022

Corruption Watch: Supervisors Finally Pass Legislation to Close Gap in Fundraising Rules

San Francisco supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to approve anti-corruption legislation that aims to prevent city officials—including the supervisors themselves—from getting too cozy with contractors and other people who want government business.

The legislation, which has to be voted on one more time next week, will bar officials from asking individuals who have business before them to make donations to their chosen nonprofits. Such donations, known as behested payments, are generally legal under current law, but they have historically been an avenue for corruption.

Sponsored by supervisors Matt Haney and Aaron Peskin, the new proposal sailed through the Board of Supervisors despite earlier concerns that the restrictions would prevent officials from doing legitimate fundraising. It comes nearly two years after an FBI investigation into former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru shed light on the prevalence of pay-to-play politics at City Hall.

As director of Public Works, Nuru solicited donations from trash-hauling firm Recology to select nonprofits, even though he played a role in setting the rates the company charged customers for garbage collection. Federal prosecutors have said those payments were a form of bribery.

Before the vote, Haney said the legislation would help “rebuild public trust and confidence and undo a culture of corruption that led to the sort of situations that we saw around Mr. Nuru and many others who he was associated with.”

Peskin said the legislation seeks to put an end to quid-pro-quo behavior that has “persisted for too long” in San Francisco.

The proposal took more than a year to make its way to the full board. The supervisors pushed it forward only after the Ethics Commission threatened to put the legislation on the June 2022 ballot. The commission is still scheduled to take a vote Friday on whether to bring the legislation before voters.

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The legislation applies to elected officials, department heads and commissioners. It includes a range of exemptions for individuals who seek to influence officials–such as those rallying on the steps of City Hall–but do not have financial ties to the issue in question.

If approved by the supervisors on second reading, the legislation could still be vetoed by Mayor London Breed.

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Michael Barba can be reached at [email protected].

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