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5 Corrupt Ways to Influence San Francisco Politics

September 17, 2016

By : sfweekly – excerpt

“Corruption,” as anyone who followed the Supreme Court’s tortuous logic in Citizens United knows, is a nebulous concept. And San Francisco’s political system does not clarify matters. Money sloshes from corporations, industry groups, and the rich, and can easily sidestep disclosure requirements and spending limits, flowing downhill through lobbyists, ostensibly independent groups, and even city contractors.

According to the experts, much like political views, corruption is a spectrum. There are flat-out illegal acts, the most common of which is a politician or bureaucrat using his or her position for personal gain. Think of Leland Yee, the former state senator, who was convicted for taking bribes in exchange for passing legislation and greasing the wheels for phony contracts undercover feds pretended to want.

At the opposite end are activities that are, in the strictest sense, legal but can be viewed as unethical. It’s a realm where the likes of Willie Brown thrive and are the most difficult to pin down. So many legal loopholes remain in widespread use that city politicians can often avoid violating the law by simply going around it…

So, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, here are a few common and less common methods officials have used to disrupt city politics, without necessarily breaking the law…

Set up an “independent” fund for a politician...
Give a candidate soft money to throw at future ballot measures...
Contribute to a government official’s charitable slush fund...
Wash local campaign donations through political parties...

Siphon off cash for city contracts...

One form of graft that is hard to track is the use of charge orders in large city projects to bleed cash from city coffers.

The mechanics are straightforward: A contractor bids on a contract with the city — say, to renovate public housing. The company then submits a “change order” saying it needs a little more money to finish a part of the job. But corruption in change orders is hard to sniff out: The technical aspects of a job can be arcane, making the details and costs subjective.

One contractor who has done business with the city says change orders often amount to a sort of bait-and-switch. Some of these siphoned funds, the source asserts, can end up going to officials who oversee contracts, or they can become donations to the campaigns of politicians who grant their appointments…(more)

The change order and moving funds between departments and in and out of budget years. Selling the public on taking on more public debt to buy more infrastructure with no budget to maintain it. Once again the SFMTA is begging for a hefty sales tax increase to add to capital investments, with no plan to maintain what they have, much less what they are buying.


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