Voter fraud accusations reveal web of ethics-challenged electoral allies

The Democratic County Central Committee, file photo, August 13, 2015. Tom Hsieh, second from left, is levying accusations of voter fraud this week. Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/SF Examiner
The sordid Chinatown ballot-fraud saga came to a close last night at a meeting of the local Democratic Party, at least for now.

A near unanimous vote of the Democratic County Central Committee urged in one voice to protect Chinatown seniors from voter fraud. But behind the scenes, many political gears ground, and one squeaky wheel sounded off.

As On Guard reported this week, long-time local political consultant Tom Hsieh accused the Chinatown Community Development Center of having a hand in voter fraud. Unknown persons allegedly entered CCDC’s housing complexes, took ballots from seniors, and cast votes in their stead.

CCDC has denied involvement up and down, and their rebuttals online are worth a read.

Nonetheless, the District Attorney’s Office is looking into the matter. Some pointed to Hsieh’s accusations as a thinly veiled attack on District 3 supervisor candidate Aaron Peskin, on behalf of his opponent, Julie Christensen.

At the DCCC meeting Wednesday night, Hsieh said the Department of Elections is plagued by challenges when it comes to Chinese voters, many of whom are “incredibly isolated” and monolingual.

“Many haven’t attended high school, and if they had, it was many years ago,” Hsieh said.

Hsieh and DCCC member Matt Dorsey presented a consensus measure Wednesday night, which aimed to urge the Department of Elections to use all means necessary to ensure those voters are not defrauded again.

For electoral watchers, this was a wacky moment. Though he’s certainly no firebrand, the politically progressive Dorsey and the conservative-moderate Hsieh are not a likely pair. The two may both be democrats, but in San Francisco terms it’s like seeing John Boehner pass a hanky to Nancy Pelosi — weird.

After Dorsey and Hsieh finished heaping copious praise on one another (also weird), DCCC member Raphael Mandelman (a progressive) pointed out the chicanery he said motivated the resolution.

“For me, I think this resolution before it was amended, and after it was amended, is nonsense,” he said.

Mandelman decribed the resolution as “an unwarranted attack on the CCDC.” They have housed “tens of thousands” of people who come to the United States, he said.

He said Chinatown is “under siege” from real estate and tech interests. Those same interests, he said, have taken over the Asian Pacific Democratic Club. Hsieh, who was accusing CCDC of engaging with voter fraud, is from the Asian Pacific Democratic Club.

“I think it speaks to what the real people think is wrong with politics,” Mandelman said, “and what turns them off to it and drives them away from it.”

Take Mary Jung, for instance ­— she serves many roles in San Francisco politics, and all of them are in conflict.

She’s on the board of the APDC, which is making accusations against the Chinatown Community Development Center regarding voter fraud right now. But politically, Mayor Ed Lee is opposite of CCDC, so it makes sense that Jung would line CCDC up against the wall.

Her role is further muddied, since she’s also director of government and community relations for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against San Francisco renters’ interests every election.

Jung herself is a lobbyist, and recent ethics filings show her in and out of meetings with Mayor Lee, and a bevy of Mayor’s Office staffers, concerning Mission District housing (Proposition I, anyone?).

Lastly, Jung is also the chair of the Democratic Party, and voted for the democrats to endorse Julie Christensen in the controversial District 3 supervisor race. As chair, Jung is influential in appointing new members to the Democratic County Central Committee, considered critical in launching political careers for elected office.

In that last role, she was sitting a few seats from Mandelman when he levied his critique.

“Other than that snide remark about what I do for a living, do we have a motion?” she then asked.

In the end, only Mandelman and Carol Migden voted against the voter fraud resolution. The political machine grinds on, to the election Nov. 3.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email him at

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