Members of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce — the fundraising and influence network from which the (in)famous Rose Pak draws her power — appear to be the main financial backers behind Progress for All, the campaign committee behind the effort to draft Mayor Ed Lee to run for a full four-year term in November, and which celebrated its end as a political entity with a City Hall rally Monday, wherein the effort boasted of producing 51,000 signatures urging Lee to “Run Ed, Run.”
But since those signatures aren’t submitted for verification to any third-party, there’s no way of telling how many are valid or even exist, political insiders note. In short, we know little more now than we knew before: some people want Ed Lee to run, and some of them have money.
As has been reported in numerous other outlets, seven people each wrote $5,000 checks to the Progress for All campaign committee.
They are Raymond Li, who runs a Chinatown pharmacy; Kinson Wong, owner of Chinatown eatery R&G Lounge; Ringo Wong, owner of Regal Jewelry, Thomas Chan, owner of United Pyrotechnics, Ltd.; Kwan Cheung of Hunter Company, Ltd.; and Francis So of South San Francisco-based Fon Express.
Victor Makras, of Church Street-based Makras Real Estate, is the decidedly non-Chinese outlier, but he has ties to former Mayor Willie Brown, whose name almost always follows Pak’s in mayoral discussions.
It’s certain that six of the hefty donors are all merchants with Chinese names — but is that all it takes to be a member in the Chinese chamber, and ergo part of the network of merchants and other business leaders upon whom Pak can lean for money?
A consultant working on a rival campaign certainly thought so. “These are the people who want to remain relevant [if Ed Lee is elected],” the consultant said, noting that it’s “my understanding” the merchants are Pak-related.
Pak could not be reached at the main offices of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which maintains no public listing of members (at least not one accessible to a reporter with no Cantonese).
Enrique Pearce, the political consultant who managed Progress for All’s efforts before it terminated operations on Monday, said he “honestly wasn’t sure” if the merchants were Pak-connected Chamber members.
“Mayor Lee certainly has strong support from folks of Chinese descent, there’s no question of that,” said Pearce, who added that these donors are merely part of “that base of support that wants to see the mayor announce [his candidacy].”
Other campaigns are today using signature collection totals as signs of their campaign’s relative strengths. That’s not something Progress for All can do with its purported 51,000 signatures, which are not verified by the Department of Elections as signatures submitted in lieu of a filing fee are, noted an insider working on a competing campaign.
“We don’t know if they are from San Franciscans — we don’t know if they’re from real people,” the insider said.
So for all the hoopla the Ed Lee situation has caused in the San Francisco political echo chamber, it has gone unnoticed among real people, “about 40 percent of whom think Gavin Newsom is stil the mayor,” the insider said, relaying experiences gleaned out door-knocking.
That said, Progress for All has been successful — in steering the conversation away from the nine major declared candidates and from the issues, the insider noted.
“The focus has been on whether or not the mayor will run,” the insider said. “That’s taken a significant chunk of the debate away from [the actual, you know, campaign].”