money.jpgAs State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) cruises to an easy reelection to another Senate term, his thoughts — and fundraising efforts — are turning elsewhere: to his run for Mayor of San Francisco. Yee’s bid to replace Gavin Newsom, while not yet official, will be made all the easier if he can secure the Democratic Party’s endorsement — and what better way to work towards the official party nod than planting one of his legislative aides on the body which doles out endorsements?

Judging by the money thrown 24-year old Melissa Apuya’s way — for whom membership in the Democratic County Central Committee would be her first elected office — Yee is hoping that the move will pay off.

Apuya, who is described as a “field representative” for Yee, received endorsements from several local political groups, but she’s also raised over $20,000 towards her DCCC campaign — $19,400 of it courtesy of one giant donation. Who was the benefactor? None other than her boss’s reelection committee (Yee For Senate), which wrote Apuya two checks totaling over $20,800 in May, records show.

Neither Apuya nor Yee responded to e-mails or telephone messages sent and left on Friday. Apuya’s phone appeared turned off, going straight to voicemail.

Of course, none of the above is illegal, even if it does reek of pay-for-patronage politics. One high-ranking Democratic Party official called the exchange “gross. But that’s how it works,” the official said.

Aides for Nancy Pelosi, Fiona Ma, Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Michela Alioto-Pier are also vying for DCCC membership. (and Melanie Nutter, Pelosi’s aide and a DCCC incumbent, has a $5,000 contribution from a Chicago couple named Mary and Michael Silver comprising the bulk of her war chest). However, only Apuya has relied so heavily on her mentor for financing.

In addition to Yee, Apuya’s DCCC campaign has two other donors: one is a $300 check from progressive bane Building Owners and Managers Association. The other is a $100 donation from an actual person: one Victoria Noelle Sobrepena, who is listed as a “contracts administrator” for FibroGen.

Nearly all of the money Yee pledged to his aide’s DCCC bid went straight back into the greater political grist mill: political consultant Jim Stearns, who handles most progressive campaigns, received about $15,000 from Apuya to pay for campaign mailers (on which Yee is also prominently featured). Stearns, too, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.

The silence isn’t surprising — what, after all, is there to say? Yee wants to be mayor and Yee is willing to open up his wallet in order to become mayor. And none of this is anything close to the $81 million Meg Whitman’s put up for her governor bid.

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