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Chronicle editorializes for ethics overhaul aimed at likes of . . . Willie Brown

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Here’s a noteworthy editorial from Sunday’s Chronicle, in case you missed it: The Chron’s editorial board says it’s time to apply clear ethics rules for lawyers acting as lobbyists in San Francisco without having to register as such. And yes, it names Chronicle columnist Willie Brown as the chief example. Whew! Left unsaid: It’s also time for the Chronicle’s own ethics rules to apply to Brown—rules from which he has been exempted.

Might the newspaper’s turning a blind eye to journalistic conflicts of interests involving its star columnist and City Hall political insider continue now that a new publisher, Jeff Johnson, and president, Joanne Bradford, are coming aboard?

Here’s an excerpt from the editorial on why new ethics rules are needed at City Hall for folks like Brown:

Why it matters should be obvious. San Francisco is experiencing a building boom as tall office towers go up, a $1.6 billion subway tunnels under downtown, and the city budget soars past $7 billion. The big approvals and contracts are smoothed through by a largely unseen army of lobbyists who work with surprisingly few restrictions. Conflicts of interest and favoritism can flourish without public disclosure.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu have a plan to change this. They've drafted legislation that would remove the worst of the abuses and put San Francisco on a par with other cities that have tried to clarify public decision-making.

And on the same page, from the sidebar entitled, “Rein in the lobbyists’:

Attorneys who act as lobbyists would need to register for the first time. Fees over $1,000 per month must be reported. Among the name-brand figures who would be roped in by this change is former Mayor Willie Brown, a columnist for this newspaper. Because he’s a lawyer, he’s not now required to divulge his lobbying work.”

Image: Chronicle


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