San Francisco Mayoral Race Deeply Corrupted, Says Former Legislator

August 17, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

NTD Television interview with Aaron Peskin,
one two used in this report.
Interview starts at 8′ 43”. (NTD Television)


The current race for the mayor’s office in San Francisco was tainted and compromised before it had even officially begun, according to a former top city legislator.

Aaron Peskin, former president of the Board of Supervisors, speaking with The Epoch Times and its partner media New Tang Dynasty Television on Aug. 10 and 11, described a formidable array of problems, scandals, and signposts to corruption in the city over the last year.

And he called out special concern for one individual who would prefer to remain in the shadows: Chinese community powerbroker Rose Pak.

But concern about the corruption of the election doesn’t stop at Pak, Peskin said. “There are … individuals, but behind those individuals are actually entities that are more powerful than those individuals,” he said on Aug. 11.

“It is really about political influence and how political influence works—and that even includes working with and representing the interest of an outside government in San Francisco,” he continued.

“I am happy to name those names. They include the People’s Republic of China.”

The tendrils that link a mayor’s race in San Francisco to the communist regime in China are complicated; the story goes something like this:

Rose Pak, as de facto head of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, has over the years assiduously cultivated a network of allies in the San Francisco municipal administration. She has “been able to work with people to get undue influence in gaining city contracts, [and] in gaining land use approvals to build new buildings in San Francisco,” said Peskin.

And she has come out as a strong supporter of the incumbent mayor, Ed Lee, who is also in the mayoral race. Edwin M. Lee, however, was never supposed to be in the mayoral race.

He made that promise to the public before he was appointed interim mayor near the beginning of the year. He was stepping in for the remainder of the previous mayor’s term, and Rose Pak was instrumental in shoehorning him into the role.

She was also instrumental in having him renege on his promise not to run this time, Peskin said in the interviews. She did so through an illegal funding body calling itself “Progress for All,” Peskin said.

Peskin laid out the allegations of campaign misconduct in a 37-page letter to the city’s Ethics Commission on July 28.

Progress for All, using a loophole in campaign finance laws, plowed thousands of dollars into pro-Lee advertising from a series of special interest donors before Lee was officially a candidate. Pak was the unofficial backer of the organization.

Some of those donors would benefit materially from Lee’s continued time at the helm, Peskin says—not least of them, Pak.

“It is troubling because it is very apparent from the day he was appointed, to this day, that he is controlled by other people.”

Peskin says he has known Lee for years. “Ed Lee is a decent man, but as the candidate for mayor, Ed Lee is not his own man,” Peskin said. “He is somebody who is doing the work for the real leader of San Francisco, first and foremost, that is, Rose Pak.”

Aaron Peskin, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (Wu Jianguo/The Epoch Times)
Aaron Peskin, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (Wu Jianguo/The Epoch Times)

The reason Pak is so intent on installing Lee? “I think they are very concerned that the way they have controlled power for many years,” Peskin said, referring to Pak and her confidants. “Rose Pak needs somebody whom she can control, and Ed Lee is, despite the fact that he is a good and decent man, somebody she controls.”

He spoke of evidence of Lee’s ties with Pak: for example, Lee’s daughter thanked “Auntie Rose” in the San Francisco Chronicle, and Lee himself said, “Rose, we did it,” when he was first installed. It is reported in the local press that the two dine together regularly.

Lee has told San Francisco media that he does not believe he’s done anything wrong, and that he changed his mind to run for mayor based on his experience in City Hall over the last year. Calls to his office were not returned by press time.

Rose Pak is a short, rotund woman often pictured dragging on a cigarette. According to Peskin, “She is very abusive, she is very nasty, and that intimidates some people and makes some people scared.” She is a powerful figure in San Francisco, however, and exercises effective control over the Chinese community. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce did not return calls.

“I believe that what we are witnessing is that Ed Lee is a puppet who is controlled by Ms. Pak and Mr. Brown [a former, two-term mayor of San Francisco] and the money influences that they represent,” Peskin stated in the Aug. 10 interview. “This flies in the face of those fundamental American, democratic values.

“The connections are deep: Look at the number of trips that Mr. Lee has taken to the People’s Republic of China with Ms. Pak—many over the years,” Peskin said.

“The evidence is all there for people to see, if we want to look at it.” 

With reporting by Cathy Zhang of FM92.3 Sound of Hope Radio, Wu Jianguo of The Epoch Times, and by Su Nan of New Tang Dynasty Television.

The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.