|Photo: Eric Risberg, A.P.|
The recent positive profile of District Attorney Gascon in the SF Weekly is marred by the implication that City Hall is rife with corruption comparable to the crude pay-to-play scandals of the early 20th century, that Mayor Lee is somehow implicated in serious wrongdoing and may be indicted any day now (Beyond the Law: District Attorney George Gascón's threat to San Francisco's business as usual):
A few days after he'd charged Lee's fundraisers with felony bribery and corruption, Gascón fired off a letter to Lee, holding him responsible for police leaders dragging their feet in cooperating with the blue-ribbon panel's investigation into the institution that allowed the text messages to go on unreported. Police and Lee's powerful backers were appalled. The city's progressive left, however, was thrilled. The city's chief prosecutor was talking about going after corruption, and was taking steps to back it up. He'd already stopped throwing drug users and petty criminals in jail---and was not backing the mayor's efforts to build a new jail. For the first time in decades, the law was on the left's side. The most powerful politician interested in reform and shaking up the city's ossified power structure was a prosecutor. It echoed the days of Langdon and [Abe]Ruef...
This is gross overreach. After all, among other things, Abe Ruef bribed every member of the Board of Supervisors! Mayor Lee hasn't been connected to either those dumb fundraisers that were charged or anything else even remotely criminal, as KQED News pointed out last year ("There's nothing there, Mr. Serra").
But like its sister publication, the SF Examiner, the SF Weekly is straining for a big scandal story not supported by the facts, as I noted last year when the Examiner first made their scandal fantasy explicit (Broke-ass Steuart and the dumb-ass Examiner).
But the corruption---if that's the right word---in our political system is not quite as crude as it was in Ruef's day. Citizens United means that pay-to-play is now more or less legal; politicians just have to be careful about any quid pro quo.
The Weekly does raise a few legitimate issues:
He's also been criticized for moving too slowly. It took Gascón six months to file charges against the Alameda County Sheriff's deputies who videotaped themselves savagely beating a carjacking suspect in a Mission District alley in November.
I asked the same question when charges against a cyclist who hit and killed a pedestrian weren't filed until after the election during which Gascon was on the ballot (see this and this).
Gascon started out promisingly by denouncing Critical Mass shortly after he arrived in San Francisco.
But he later looked like a moral midget when he joined the political mob that hounded Ross Mirkarimi after an overblown incident and a legal case against the Murk that was grossly over-charged by Gascon.
And he looked like an intellectual midget during the goofy kerfuffle about those anti-jihad ads on Muni buses.