Ed Lee’s political connections in spotlight due to campaign attorney 

A lawyer who defended the Chinese Chamber of Commerce against a dissident spiritual movement that was banned from San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade is now Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign attorney.

The hiring of Randy Riddle as legal counsel is yet another link between Lee and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak. Lee has come under increasing scrutiny for his relationships with Pak and former Mayor Willie Brown. They claimed to have helped orchestrate his appointment as mayor in January and also helped persuade him to go back on a pledge that he wouldn’t run for mayor in November.

Riddle, a former deputy city attorney who now works with the private law firm of former City Attorney Louise Renne, handled a high-profile lawsuit in 2006 that the Falun Gong spiritual group filed against the chamber.

The group had been banned from participating in the annual parade because it was considered too political. Falun Gong is banned in China and the chamber had cited the group’s opposition to the Chinese government in denying it a place in the parade.

In the lawsuit, the group claimed that The City should be required to take back a $77,000 parade organization grant given to the chamber because the merchant group discriminated against it when it denied Falun Gong a place in the parade.

The Board of Supervisors at the time even passed a resolution condemning the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jake McGoldrick were the only dissenting votes.

In the end, a Superior Court judge and the state Appeals Court sided with Pak and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s the one and only time we represented them,” said Riddle, adding that the chamber was still trying to recover attorney’s fees but that another law firm is handling that matter.

“Rose was the primary contact there and I still talk to her,” Riddle said. “I haven’t had any conversations with her in the last two weeks, in the last two months.’’

The choice of Riddle as a campaign attorney appears to be a case of going with a familiar name, which is not unusual in city politics, according to San Francisco State University political science professor David Lee.

“People in this town are in small political circles, so it’s not surprising,” he said.

Lee’s campaign spokesman, Tony Winnicker, said they felt fortunate to have been able to retain Riddle from Renne’s firm so late in the campaign.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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