Rose Pak, a polarizing Chinatown power figure, violated campaign finance laws when she helped pay for Mayor Ed Lee’s recent trip to China, complaints filed with state and local ethics watchdogs allege.
Local campaign finance law bars many kinds of gift-giving to politicians. People who fall under the category of a “restricted source” are barred from giving politicians gifts, according to local law. Restricted sources include people doing business with The City and those who have worked to influence a politician’s actions within the past 12 months.
In a December magazine article, Pak acknowledged calling on the mayor and Lee’s chief of staff to rescind a job offer for one of Pak’s political opponents. The influence means Pak is a restricted person and violated the law by being one of 40 people to donate $440 for Lee’s nine-day trip, according to Eileen Hansen, a former ethics commissioner who filed one of the complaints to the Ethics Commission on Friday.
“It frankly stinks,” said Hansen, who noted that Pak in 2011 received a letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission that said she was ineligible to give gifts in excess of a state limit of $440 through the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which is not a registered nonprofit or government agency.
Open government advocate Charles Marsteller filed a funding complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission on Friday.
The trip, which cost $11,970, was organized by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, according to records. Forty people, including former Mayor Willie Brown, who joined Lee and Pak on the trip, helped pay for the trip.
A spokeswoman for the mayor rejected any notion of wrongdoing. The mayor thoroughly vetted the trip and gifts that paid for it with the City Attorney’s Office, Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.
Efforts to reach Pak at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, at which she serves as a “general consultant,” were not
The Fair Political Practices Commission confirmed receipt of the complaint Monday. The local Ethics Commission could not comment on the issue.
Lee’s trip to China included meetings with government officials and business leaders as well as a speech to students at a university in Beijing in which he extolled the virtues of the tech industry, according to Falvey.