A lobbyist close to City Attorney Dennis Herrera who is also partners with Herrera’s campaign consultant sent out an email blast earlier this month encouraging his contacts to attend a fundraiser for the mayoral candidate.
The solicitation for campaign cash raises questions about the separation of lobbying and campaign activities at a prominent San Francisco firm, Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter and Partners. Sam Lauter works as a lobbyist for that firm, while Herrera’s campaign manager, John Whitehurst, handles campaign business through a separate business, Whitehurst-Mosher Campaign Strategy and Media.
The latter company was set up in the wake of a 2004 law that strictly prohibits campaign consultants from lobbying current and former clients for five years, according to Rufus Jeffris, a spokesman with BMWL.
That law is already being put to the test. A previous campaign consultant for Herrera, Alex Tourk, resigned on May 9 after he reported lobbying the city attorney on behalf of three clients after having already worked on Herrera’s 2009 re-election campaign.
And last week, the Bay Citizen reported that Lauter lobbied Herrera on behalf of Mirant Corporation for more than $100,000 in 2009 as Whitehurst was working on Herrera’s re-election campaign. Mirant owns the Potrero Power Plant, a polluting power plant that Herrera was instrumental in shutting down.
Both the City Attorney’s Office and the firm have denied any wrongdoing. A filing with the Ethics Commission that showed BMWL was handling the Mirant lobbying contract has since been amended because of an accounting error, Whitehurst told the Bay Citizen.
On May 6, Lauter sent an email from his BMWL account asking his contacts to attend a fundraiser for Herrera at the mansion of Roselyne “Cissie” Swig on June 6.
“Dennis is my very good friend, and I trust him immensely in that capacity,” Lauter wrote. “But in addition to his friendship, I also hold him in the highest regard as an elected official as our City Attorney.”
All of the funds raised by Herrera go into his campaign account. The campaign then pays Whitehurst for consulting and other campaign-related activities.
Lauter was not paid by the campaign to solicit those donations, Jeffris said, and was doing it only as a private citizen who supports Herrera for mayor. A spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, Matt Dorsey, offered a similar response.
“Sam Lauter has the same First Amendment rights we all do to support candidates and raise money for them,” Dorsey said.