San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon filed misdemeanor charges against two contributors to Mayor Ed Lee’s 2011 mayoral campaign late Tuesday afternoon.
Passenger shuttle company Go Lorrie’s Travel and Tours is charged with making $11,500 in illegal contributions to Lee’s campaign by passing the money through its drivers and staff. Jason Perez, 40, of San Mateo, the company’s general manager, and Hanan Qutami, 56, of South San Francisco, the company’s chief financial officer are also charged as individuals.
According to a press release from the District Attorney’s office:
Perez solicited GO Lorrie’s drivers, dispatchers, administrators and spouses to each write a $500 personal check to the Ed Lee for Mayor campaign, with the promise that they would be reimbursed. Perez and Qutami then had the 23 contributors, including Perez and his wife, reimbursed with GO Lorrie’s funds.
Companies can only donate $500 according to San Francisco campaign finance law. The Chronicle reports that Perez and Qutami surrendered at the San Francisco County Jail and could be arranged as early as Wednesday.
Lee’s mayoral rivals raised the issue last year in October prompting Lee’s campaign to return the contributions.
“I think that it has become a way of doing business, because they’re not the only ones,” CitiReport blogger Larry Bush told KQED’s Mina Kim. “There are other people who are being investigated by Gascon for exactly the same thing, giving money to employees and reimbursing them.”
In November, Gascon was still evaluating donations from employees of Andrew Hawkins, formerly of CitiApartments. Hawkins e-mailed 16 associates about a fundraising event saying that:
“I expect each and every one of you to be at this event tonight,” he wrote in all capital letters. “Bring your check books and write a check for $500.00 for Ed Lee donation. You will be reimbursed right away for you coming.”
The Chronicle reported that Lee’s campaign also returned $4,500 in checks from Hawkin’s employees.