Anti-recall Mayor Ed Lee effort faces funny money allegations

The rag-tag team rallying to recall Mayor Ed Lee is facing the big guns now.

A ballot committee, colorfully titled the Coalition to Stop the Wasteful Recall of Mayor Lee, formed July 27 to combat the recall effort, and it’s already scouring for cash.

Lots of cash — much to the confusion of Chinatown community organizer Rose Pak.

“There’s no recall, you know. Not one politician is getting near it or supporting it,” she said. “So I don’t understand why they’re raising money against a recall.”

Don’t worry, Rose. Former Humble Narrator Joe Eskenazi, now of San Francisco Magazine, has a possible answer for you.

On Monday, Eskenazi reported “powerhouse” Democratic fundraiser Stefanie Roumeliotes was deployed by Lee’s “team” to raise five-figures per donor for the anti-recall effort, though Eskenazi did not point to the “wasteful recall” committee by name.

The effort is smart because ballot committees have no contribution limits. Ipso facto, the anti-recall effort is a bottomless purse to fight on behalf of Lee’s electoral allies and measures.

When I called Roumeliotes to get her take on this, I got a call back from none other than longtime mayoral ally PJ Johnston.

I asked him point blank if the anti-recall money would be used to bolster Lee’s pals.

“I’m not stupid enough to engage in someone else’s speculation on what campaign pieces might come down the road,” he rumbled, in his best J. Jonah Jameson impression. But, he said, “The mayor’s supporters aren’t going to stand by and let [the recall effort] roll over them.”

Johnston refused to disclose the effort’s donors and funding levels.

Sam Lauter, principal at the public affairs organization BMWL, helped me see it through the eyes of a campaigner. One possibility for the anti-recall campaign is to feature supervisor candidates the mayor favors on mailers, broadcasting their support for Lee.

The mailers wouldn’t legally be able to say “Vote Joshua Arce!” for instance, but they’d put candidates’ faces in front of voters all the same.

“It makes sense to promote yourself and promote your allies when people are paying attention,” Lauter said.

And, it’s legal.

The Ethics Commission clarified the rules around the anti-recall effort for On Guard: Even if the recall effort packs up and closes, the anti-recall campaign committee can stay open, collect money and promote the mayor’s allies.

The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no shoving it back in.

* * *

The big Pokemon Go catch-off between state Senate candidates Scott Wiener and Jane Kim finally hit The City on Saturday evening.

Both brought teams of three additional campaigners to capture as many pocket-monsters in the hit mobile game as possible within two hours. One point for every Pokemon caught, and an extra point for every unique species found.

Scott’s team flocked the Ferry Building, and Jane’s team flooded Lilac Alley in The Mission.

Jeremiah Hughes, a dad from the Bayview, was out catching Pokemon with his girlfriend, Verenice Magallon, and son, Julian Hughes, in Lilac Alley when they came across Jane.

“My son loves her,” the elder Hughes said, as his son caught Pokemon with Jane by the murals. Hughes had no idea who she was.

Verenice said “you don’t remember her” from that Tae Kwon Do video? I snorted.

I was dressed in my Pokemon-best (as Professor Oak –– Google it!) and acted as judge and tally-person for the ridiculous event. In the end, Jane’s team beat Scott’s, 738 to 674.

Click here to watch a previously live streamed video of the Pokemon Go contest tally.

Both supervisors committed to donating $500 to each other’s’ charities: Project Open Hand for Scott, At the Crossroads for Jane.

Though Jane’s team won out, in a straight toe-to-toe comparison, Scott scored a scant two more points than the high-kicking black belt.

Looks like Scott’s Pokemon-carrying pushups from his training video actually paid off.

* * *

While big-time politicians hog headlines, the little guys are worth watchin’, too. Case in point: Young Hugo Vargas is moving up in the world.

Vargas initially hit the papers when Dropbox tech workers tried to boot local Latino kids off a Mission soccer field two years ago. Fast forward, and the 16-year-old Academy of Arts and Sciences student is setting out to right the wrongs of gentrification on the Board of Supervisors’ Youth Commission. He was appointed by Supervisor David Campos.

“I’m just scared for the people and my peers being kicked out and priced out,” Vargas said

The Youth Commission itself may not be powerful, but former commissioners move up in politics all the time: Chris Jackson moved on to the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees; Leah LaCroix is on the Democratic County Central Committee; and Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya is a Democratic Party delegate representing California.

When you see “Hugo Vargas for Supervisor” signs in 2032, don’t be surprised.

* * *

Harvey Milk’s newest odd honor is making a splash. Many reported one of the Navy’s John Lewis-class oilers under construction in San Diego will bear the name of the slain supervisor and gay-rights champion.

The usual boring political rah-rah followed, but my favorite reaction to the news came from Harvey’s fellow rabble-rouser, Cleve Jones, who wrote on Facebook: “The ship is an oiler. Anyone who knew Harvey knows he’s in heaven cracking rude jokes about oiling sailors.”

Here’s hoping Milk is up there enjoying those — ahem — heavenly bodies.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.

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