A confrontation on a busy thoroughfare. An interview in a dark apartment with an anonymous source alleging campaign misconduct.
Just another day in the San Francisco mayor’s race.
State Sen. and mayoral candidate Leland Yee today accused interim Mayor Ed Lee of more misconduct. Yee’s campaign brought forward a man who said he was paid cash to hold signs that Yee’s campaign said were from Lee’s official mayoral campaign and work around the city in support of Lee’s candidacy in the Nov. 8 election.
Yee made the accusations at a news conference this afternoon at his headquarters on Van Ness Avenue, saying these accusations prove that the official Lee mayoral campaign and independent expenditure committees supporting him are coordinating with each other.
Such coordination is illegal under state election laws, as is the paying for campaign work in cash.
Lee’s campaign manager, Bill Barnes, strongly denied the accusations, calling Yee “a desperate liar” who is making baseless claims because he is behind in the polls.
The man who said he received the cash for the campaign work refused to appear at the news conference, but later agreed to meet with reporters across the street at the apartment of a Yee staffer in exchange for an assurance of anonymity.
The man said he wanted to remain anonymous because “I don’t want to get hurt … it could get ugly.”
He said Dwayne Jones, a former advisor of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, paid him cash last week to do campaign work for Lee in the city’s Bayview District and also promised a bonus and guarantee of a job if Lee wins the Nov. 8 election.
The man said he was led to believe he was working on the official Lee campaign but found out after talking to a friend with Yee’s campaign that he was actually working for one of the independent expenditure committees and discovered that his cash payment was illegal.
“I wanted to make sure people became aware of what’s going on over there,” he said.
Yee said the latest accusations were “another example of the Ed Lee campaign trying to steal an election.”
On Sunday, Yee and several other mayoral candidates called for an investigation by state and local officials into media reports that included videos appearing to show a group supporting Lee helping elderly voters fill out ballots at a makeshift polling station in Chinatown.
Yee’s campaign alleged that the group was using stencils to guide voters to mark Lee for mayor, then collected the marked ballots in plastic bags.
While today’s news conference was underway, Barnes and Lee’s campaign spokesman Tony Winnicker came to Yee’s headquarters but were apparently not allowed to come inside.
Later, a group of men and women came to the headquarters where reporters heard one man saying he wanted to defend the name of Dwayne Jones. That group was also denied entry to Yee’s headquarters.
Jones was not immediately available for comment at Platinum Advisors, the Sacramento-based consultancy where he works.
Winnicker said tonight that Jones “doesn’t work for the campaign, never has and he never will.”
He pointed out that the mayor said Monday he supports any investigation into allegations of misconduct by the independent groups supporting Lee.
“Clearly some of them think they’re supporting the mayor, but they’re not doing anything to help them,” he said.
Winnicker said ultimately there was “very little credibility” to the anonymous man’s story.
“They won’t give their names, they won’t produce evidence … we’re at the height of silly season here,” he said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News