The visits in 2009 between City Attorney Dennis Herrera and registered lobbyist Sam Lauter — who is a partner of Herrera’s campaign consultants — have generated headlines, but did not result in an investigation or fine by the city’s Ethics Commission, records show.
In fact, the potential ethical violation in question — a city law that prohibits a campaign consultant from lobbying an elected official who is also the consultant’s client — has never once been investigated or resulted in a fine since it became law in 2004, according to Ethics Commission records.
Herrera, one of the candidates for San Francisco mayor, has been in headlines lately for recorded lobbying contacts with political consultant Alex Tourk, formerly Herrera’s campaign consultant, that appear to violate San Francisco campaign law. Tourk, who recorded visits to Herrera on behalf of clients California Pacific Medical Center and the Police Officers Association, has since resigned from the Herrera campaign.
The nonprofit Bay Citizen reported last week that in 2009, when Herrera was running for reelection as city attorney, Lauter lobbied him on behalf of Mirant, the energy corporation which ran the Potrero Hill power plant. The power plant was later shut down, in part because of intense pressure from the City Attorney’s office, which filed suit against Mirant.
Lauter is a partner in Barnes, Mosher, Whitehurst, Lauter and Partners (BMWL), a political consulting firm that also lobbies government officials. Two principals of BMWL, John Whitehurst and Mark Mosher, are the principals of Mosher/Whitehurst Campaigns and Media, which exclusively handles political campaigns. This barrier, while perhaps amorphous, is considered sufficient to comply with the city’s campaign laws.
The appearance that Herrera’s campaign consultants also lobbied him was the result of a “clerical error,” John Whitehurst told the Bay Citizen last week. Amended filings, showing the difference between BMWL and Mosher/Whitehurst, have since been filed.
By law, the city Ethics Commission does not confirm or deny any potential violations or investigations, according to John St. Croix, the commission’s Executive Director. That said, there were no fines assessed to Herrera or his consultants — and since its passage in 2004, no consultant-lobbyist has violated the section of city law prohibiting such dual visits, according to records.
That the Ethics Commission did not find any fault with Herrera and Lauter’s activities is not news, occurring as they did in 2009, but Rufus Jeffris, a BMWL employee speaking on behalf of the firm, hoped that this would help everyone involved “move on.”
“We certainly like to focus on our work and not these types of distractions, like talking to our clients about stuff appearing in papers,” he said Monday. “We’re still having to answer questions from reporters, that’s for sure.”