Lobbyist Also Registered Visits with DA Gascón, Another Campaign Client
Lobbying clients of local political consultant Alex Tourk — who is under investigation for potentially illegally lobbying City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose campaign for mayor Tourk is running — also donated to Herrera’s mayoral campaign, records show.
Tourk and his firm, Ground Floor Public Affairs, represent a host of clients with interests in wooing San Francisco public officials, according to filings. These include California Pacific Medical Center and the Police Officers Association, on whose behalf Tourk registered lobbying visits with Herrera and Gascón. Both CPMC and the POA also donated to Herrera’s mayoral campaign, according to records.
In CMPC’s case, the Herrera campaign contribution came on the very same day Tourk registered a lobbying visit on the behalf of the hospital.
Tourk visited his client Herrera on behalf of California Pacific Medical Center on October 13 and August 31, 2010. Dr. Martin Brotman, chairman of CPMC’s Board of Directors, donated $250 to Herrera’s campaign on August 31, 2010, according to records.
CPMC wishes to build a massive new medical center on Cathedral Hill and must curry favor with elected officials in order to bypass the zoning restrictions necessary for construction.
The Police Officers Association, on whose behalf Tourk visited Herrera on February 10, 2011, donated $500 to Herrera’s mayoral campaign on September 13, 2010, according to campaign finance and consultant records on file at the city’s Ethics Commission.
Tourk mistakenly registered the visits as lobbying visits, when they were in fact “casual conversations,” according to Herrera campaign spokeswoman Jill Nelson.
“Elections code is very specific as to what constitutes a lobbying meeting,” Nelson told the Appeal on Thursday, “and those weren’t lobbying meetings.”
Whether lobbying visits or not, Tourk was well-compensated for his services: the Police Officers Association has paid him $16,000 thus far in 2011, according to filings.
Other Tourk clients, on whose behalf the consultant did not lobby Herrera, also donated to Herrera’s campaign. Gerard Orozco, vice president of Tourk client CH2MHill, a construction firm, donated $500 to Herrera on September 20, 2010.
Tourk did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. A request for comment from the Gascón campaign – left with a Tourk staffer, who answered the phone at Gascón’s campaign headquarters – was not immediately returned.
City law prohibits campaign consultants from contacting current or former clients. That law was authored by former Supervisor Chris Daly, who put the lobbying restrictions on the ballot “when I was mad at [former Gavin Newsom campaign consultant] Eric Jaye,” Daly said Thursday. Jaye lobbied Newsom, his client, on behalf of other clients, receiving money from both the Newsom campaign and those clients for the privilege, Daly said.
“The [Tourk-Herrera and Tourk-Gascon] lobbying visits are illegal and unethical,” Daly said. “The campaign contributions are legal, but unethical.”
Herrera referred the ethics investigation to the Oakland City Attorney to avoid further conflict.
That Tourk appears to have broken the law in contacts with both of San Francisco’s two top lawyers – as City Attorney, Herrera is responsible for investigating campaign malfeasance; as District Attorney, Gascón is responsible for prosecuting campaign malfeasance – will not bode well for either campaign or for Tourk’s firm’s future, said a local political consultant speaking on background.
“At best,” the consultant said, “this is really, really awkward.”