Thursday, April 22, 2021
News + Politics The real-estate sleaze reaches high tide in the DCCC...

The real-estate sleaze reaches high tide in the DCCC race

Facts and truth don't matter a bit in last-minute hit mailers. Oh -- and are the people funding the real-estate slate even registered to vote in this town?


The sleaze coming out of the real-estate industry has reached astonishing levels in the past couple of days, with Big Tech and the Association of Realtors spending gobs of money on utterly inaccurate mailers attacking the progressive candidates for Democratic County Central Committee.

First we had an attack on candidates who support the decriminalization of sex work – even though many of the real-estate candidates take the same position (as do an increasing number of public health and human rights organizations).

Aaron Peskin is the target of two wildly inaccurate mailers that hit this weekend
Aaron Peskin is the target of two wildly inaccurate mailers that hit this weekend

Then we have a piece that arrived yesterday that tries to link the “Peskin Machine” candidates to former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi – except that more than half the people who are pictured as supporting the former sheriff didn’t actually support him.

And there’s a piece suggesting that Peskin “took money from the LGBT community to repeal Prop. 8 – but the money disappeared.” Actually, the money went to a voter-education project that Mary Jung – the current chair whose slate members are pushing this crap – voted for and supported. Oh, and the records of that money? They would have been kept by the person who was secretary back in 2008, when the program took place – and her name was Mary Jung.

The flier says Peskin “stands accused” of misusing that money – but at this point, the only person “accusing” him is … Mary Jung.

Debra Walker was the treasurer of the DCCC at the time. She told me that the committee set up an operation not to raise money but “canvassing to change people’s minds” — to knock on doors and talk to voters about Prop. 8. The money that came in paid for the canvassers.

“Frankly, this is all BS,” she said. The operation was fully approved, “Dozens of people were hired to do the canvassing — and it worked.”

Seriously: If there were something scandalous here, you have to think that it would have come out during Peskin’s recent race for supervisor, when the entire weight of the Mayor’s Office was coming down to try to stop him.

I was particularly intrigued to see the piece that tries to slam members of the progressive Reform Slate for their “unforgivable judgment” in supporting Mirkarimi, who “was locked up for domestic violence.” Actually, Mirkarimi was never really locked up; he surrendered, was booked, and immediately released. But never mind: A lot of people did, indeed, think that Mirkarimi should be removed from the office of sheriff after he plead guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment.

And guess who one of the most prominent local politicians calling for the sheriff’s resignation was? Yeah – Aaron Peskin.

Mary Jung, center, has been chair of the party for four years and suddenly discovered something that she thinks will make Peskin look bad
Mary Jung, center, has been chair of the party for four years and suddenly discovered something that she thinks will make Peskin look bad

The five “Peskin machine” candidates who are pictured as supporters of Mirkarimi are Rafael Mandelman, Cindy Wu, Petra DeJesus, Jon Golinger, and Alysabeth Alexander.

Alexander is, and last year was, vice president of politics for SEIU Local 1021, which endorsed Mirkarimi’s re-election. DeJesus told me she was a personal friend of the former sheriff and his wife, “and I don’t turn my back on my friends.”

But Golinger never supported Mirkarimi. “I never made any statement about him, although I agreed with Peskin’s position,” Golinger told me. “In fact, I voted for Vicky Hennessy.”

Same for Mandelman: He made no statement during the Mirkarimi controversy, and at the DCCC voted “no endorsement” for sheriff.

Cindy Wu said the piece “is a waste of their donor’s money. I never endorsed Ross and didn’t say anything public about his race.”

What’s the source on this faulty allegation? The fine print says – are you ready? “public records available everywhere.”

There are no public records that I can find suggesting that Golinger, Wu, or Mandelman made any sort of statement in support of Mirkarimi during the period when he was in trouble over his domestic violence incident or during his re-election campaign. The allegation, as far as I can tell, is just wrong.

The Mirkarimi situation was complicated by a lot of factors. Some people didn’t like the idea that the mayor could suspend an elected official without pay and without due process; in fact, some who didn’t want Mirkarimi in office argued that the voters had elected him, and the voters should remove him through a recall.

Some people argued in good faith that the charges against him did not rise to the level of removal from office.

The Board of Supervisors meeting where all this went down was fascinating, and I was impressed, for the most part, by how sincere all of the members were and how seriously they took their votes.

Local 1021 endorsed Mirkarimi because he was the most progressive sheriff in the nation and a good employer for union members. DeJesus and others stuck with an old friend.

Everyone’s accountable for their votes, so if you think supporting Mirkarimi was a problem, fine: But at least be accurate. This, like so much of what has come out of the real-estate camp, is just factually wrong. (And yes, the two most recent hit pieces were paid for by the Association of Realtors. Jung is the group’s chief lobbyist).

Oh, and there are more interesting elements behind some of the flood of mailers you’ve been getting pushing the real-estate slate for DCCC. A full $80,000 of that money comes from two sources – Kevin York Systrom, CEO of Instagram, and Evan Williams, CEO of Medium. Both list their addresses as San Francisco.

I was curious to see if these folks who want to buy the local Democratic Party are even registered Democrats, so I checked the latest (May 31) version of the Master Voter File at the Department of Elections. It’s an Excel file, so it’s pretty easy to do a search by name.

Unless I missed something or the files are screwy, there is no Kevin Systrom listed in the city’s voter registration files. There are several people named Evan Williams, but none are living in the 94102 zip code that Williams lists on his contribution forms.

So it’s possible, based on my review of (actual) public records, that neither of these fine San Franciscans who care so deeply about the future of the Democratic party are even registered to vote in this town.

Full disclosure: I am proud to do some freelance work for Local 1021, editing the union’s quarterly magazine. In the past year I have also taught at SF State’s Osher Lifelong Learning Program, at USF, and at City College, have sold a few stories to other alt-weeklies, and in the unlikely event that anyone else offers to pay me for anything else, I will be happy to share.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 81572 more Infos: […]

  2. Thank you danimalfarm. I stand corrected again. The actual change in the law was as you said, not as Fognican asserted. I should have known not to accept the amended law text without checking the terms of the ballot proposition.

  3. Foginacan is correct that 2.101 was amended with Prop D, but wildly incorrect as to the nature of the amendment. The only change made in that section was to change “Any person appointed to the office…” to “Any person appointed, elected, or any combination thereof to the office…”

    It’s conspiratorial nonsense. The charter is very clear that term limits time out after four years of not serving on the board.

  4. This is an important issue but this writing comes across as a group of jumbled and disorganized thoughts. Referring to a “piece” in the mailbox doesn’t tell me much. Tim, quit ranting, get some sleep, and come back with something a little more linear and thoughtful.

  5. Here’s what Ballotpedia said about Prop. D from 2012 November election:

    Proposition D: “Proposes to change the election cycle for the offices of City Attorney and Treasurer so that these offices will be elected in the same years as the elections for the offices of Mayor, District Attorney, and Sheriff. In addition, this measure proposes to amend the definition of general municipal election so that such elections occur only in even-numbered years and every other odd-numbered year.”

    Nothing there about term limits or the terms under which Peskin would be able to run for his old seat.

  6. I believe term limits for SF supervisors are written into the city charter and changes to that must go before the voters. When did this happen? I know there was a recent change in term limits for state legislators that was approved by the voters, but it’s not the same.

  7. It WAS written into the term limits. They amended the law.

    The spirit of term limits is 100% violated if a termed out politician returns to the very same office for additional terms, as if they never were termed out.
    Someone like Peskin thinks he owns that seat, he epitomizes the reason for term limits.

  8. Tim-
    Thanks. I hate to pull rank here but I have the same right to speak that you do. Even if you don’t agree with what I say.


  9. I still can’t understand why Lee put here there. I’m told she’s really nice, but a fish out of water when it comes to SF’s hardball politics.

  10. How about that sleazy email I got from (Dem) Party Boss John Burton, telling me to vote for Comrade Kim, the TRUE Democrat in the race?? Though his own Party overwhelmingly endorsed (80%) Scott Wiener at the state convention? Not the best way for an old party hack to end his career on

  11. Fognican, I think your problem with the term limit laws are that they don’t prevent someone from stepping down for a period and then running again. This could have easily been written into term limit laws and because it wasn’t, I don’t think the “sprit” of the law is violated by Peskin winning a third term or Jerry Brown running for two subsequent terms.

    There is a problem with term limits, especially as it applies to legislators: they often fail to gain the experience needed to do their jobs and wind up at the mercy of big money special interests and lobbyists for those groups. Term limits for executive offices have been with us for a long time and have been fairly successful, but term limits for legislators were pushed by conservative interests hoping they would be better able to game the system.

  12. I don’t think it ever does in a legal sense. You can say pretty much anything you want about someone holding or running for political office, and in today’s environment, plenty of people do.

  13. Playland please get a life and stop trolling the internet about how horrible and imperious etc… Supervisor Peskin tends to be.

  14. “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet $98/hr”…..!tr857ur

    two days ago grey McLaren. P1 I bought after earning 18,512 was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over hourly. 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !tr857u:➽:➽:.➽.➽.➽.➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsCodeGetPay$98Hour…. .★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★::::::!tr857o….,…

  15. Aaron Peskin is a very good man! I’ve know him for twenty years, and in all that time I have NEVER seen him violate the concerns of the middle and working classes and the creative community who gave our city its flavor and joy.

    Aaron is principled, clear minded, and stands up for the common man against the oligarchic interests who now ceaselessly devour San Francisco.

    Unlike certain individuals who pose as “progressive” until they are on the board of supervisors and later in the state assembly, Aaron Peskin stands wholeheartedly for Social Justice.

  16. It’s always alluded to in stories about his Filbert residence, and that one big apartment complex and it was well discussed all last summer.

  17. I do.
    Ed Lee’s is a somewhat different, filling an interim position then running for a full term. Peskin is about to do the same – when he was previously termed out.

  18. I received his despicable piece of shit mailer a couple of days ago and posted about it. It’s one of the most lying, slanderous hit pieces I’ve seen in 40 years of SF dirty tricks. I assume the little turd Tom Hsieh is related to the other one. I notice that none of the ‘reform’ candidates and Brown/Conway brown nosers have disavowed it.

  19. Peskin was at one point tied to Conway, and other Republicans , and I worry when someone like Rose Pak starts to look like the good guy, but that wasn’t my point. Peskin didn’t create the political games in this City, but he sure personifies them.

    The only way to go up against that mafia is to connect with one of the big money tech guys, a few scary groups that don’t seem to go away, and their new front groups. Not even the much fabled Real Estate Association had much clout in San Francisco until very recently. But look at what happened to Christensen as a cautionary tale. These aren’t San Franciscans looking to play king, these are big money corporate types looking to play kingmaker. Conway already recruited his younger, lesser experienced candidates to go up against Peskin.

  20. Actually, the owner was entrenched in opening a major chain retail. You are pretty ignorant about district 3.

    And calling Peskin a coward for not running against Lee is just more Sam nonsense. He ran for district 3 because he lives in district 3.

    Julie ‘I bought my position at SPUR with a $10k donation’ Christensen was a horrible supervisor, a worse candidate and without the Conway’s bankroll, would have lost to a wooden spoon.

    Projects just that just sit for years because the owners want to do something that isn’t allowed is a good thing.

  21. I rant against Peskin because I’ve heard too many stories from neighbors about how he was imperious, abusive and demeaning when they called on him. There is a reason why Telegraph Hill voted against him.

    If he wasn’t a cowardly bully then he would have had the courage to take on Ed Lee in the last election. Instead he found somebody that he could beat up, newbie Julie Christensen. Classic schoolyard bully behavior.

    His job on the Pagoda site was to find a reasonable compromise. All the owner wanted was to make some money; I don’t think they cared if it was Rite Aid’s or anyone else’s. There was also 901 Lombard which just sat there for years until Peskin was out of office.

  22. While I see your point about Peskin potentially abusing the system, he had nothing to do with Conway and his influence.

  23. The anti-reform hit pieces follow standard form for this type of mailer but were fairly amateurish in their execution. For a comparison look at the three hit pieces aimed at Josh Arce. They were clear, professionally designed, and carried an air of credibility missing in the ones put out by the anti-reform groups.

  24. Do you feel the same way about Jerry Brown serving four terms as governor? How about Ed Lee serving more than two terms as mayor?

  25. But voting for Peskin 3 times, for what was until recently a 2 term position,is an example of the kind of political abuse that leads to what we’re seeing from Ron Conway and his kind, crossing the line.

  26. That Pagoda site went unused because the owner wanted to put a Rite-Aid there. That was totally inappropriate for many reasons, including increased traffic and impacting already scarce parking. And if I’m not mistaken, it would have required a variance from our ‘no chain retail’ rule as well. Peskin was solidly backed by district 3 residents on that one. The ‘all or nothing’ owner got his due.

    As for not blaming Peskin for all of SF’s housing woes, you have no standing as you constantly rant about him.

  27. We don’t blame Peskin for all of SF’s housing woes. No one person is responsible, nor is any one city group responsible for a phenomena that stretches from San Diego to Seattle to Austin to Brooklyn,

    But Peskin sure as heck doesn’t help, which is one reason that he is so despised by all but a few nimby’s in a few concentrated areas. Have you been to 555 Washington lately? A decrepit old building on a site that could have housed thousands. Yes, wealthy thousands but it would not have displaced anyone and there are hardly any neighbors. That was the one where Peskin famously camped out in Chiu’s office to block. How many years did the Pagoda Theater site go unused? yeah…we need more Peskin.

    And please, please keep us up to date on your boycott of Instagram and Medium. Let us know how many people give them up for you. Please!!!! Even better….Instagram is owned by Facebook….let’s put Facebook out of business while we’re at it!!!!

  28. ¤ Quite apart from the sleaziness of these mailers, it is sleazy of Tom Hsieh to send them under the name of a front group called “San Franciscans for a Livable City.” There is of course an actual Livable City organization that has nothing to do with this sleaze.

  29. Are you allowed (and should you be allowed) to list a business address on a contribution form?

  30. Just mentioning Peskin’s name is like a dog whistle for nutcases who blame him for all of SF’s housing woes. The majority of us voters in district 3 who actually vote have voted for him 3 times now. The majority of voters city-wide who actually vote have voted FOR height restrictions on the waterfront at least 3 times now.

    Maybe it’s time for Conway and the rest of his carpetbagger CEOs to find another city that is ripe for their type of takeover – a city like Fresno where they have a lot in common with their Republican brethren, and where Conway won’t have to hide like a snivelling rat to support Republicans. His type of bullying would be appreciated there.

    And maybe it is time to boycott Instagram and Medium.

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