Until this week, Robert Chan, a San Francisco business consultant, was not a key player in San Francisco political circles. That changed Friday when Supervisor Ed Jew — target of an FBI criminal investigation — said he believed corruption charges against him were based on the fact that he had referred some local businessmen to Chan for help in handling problems with city permits.
Jew later accepted $40,000 cash on behalf of Chan, he told The Examiner, but put $20,000 aside in his safe, for use for a local park project.
As of Tuesday, Chan, 39, had not spoken publicly about his possible involvement in the business transaction and has not returned phone calls from The Examiner.
Chan launched his City Hall career in the late 1990s, working for then-Supervisor Leland Yee, now a state senator. Shortly after that, he did a brief stint as a legislative aide in Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s office, and then started his own run for Supervisor in 2000. Chan dropped out, however, a few months before the election.
In 2001, Chan became executive director of the Chinatown Youth Center, which is now called the Community Youth Center. The head of the organization, Sarah Wan, said he was only on the job for a short time, and the organization has had “no more connection” with him since.
“The guy has never held onto a job for very long,” said one City Hall insider who did not want to be identified. “He’s always been a City Hall hanger-oner.”
What Chan has held onto is an association with Ed Jew, who also worked as a Chinatown liaison for Yee back in 2001. It was during this time, according to a 2001 report in AsianWeek, that Jew hosted a $30,000 fundraiser to be used for nonpartisan voter registration efforts in the Chinese community.
At the time of the fundraiser, Jew directed sponsors to write checks to the Chinatown Youth Center, which permitted the new group to use its nonprofit status until it could get its own, according to the news story.
Fast-forward five years: Chan — who is married and has two children in a San Francisco private school — was hired as a consultant by Monster Cable in 2006 to lobby on behalf of the company, which was under fire for laying off 120 workers. Although Chan had registered his company, Bridge Consulting, in 2003, the Monster Cable job was one of his first big contracts, according to a family friend, who spoke highly of Chan, but did not want to be named.
Although Chan is not registered with The City as a lobbyist, he was seen at City Hall talking up Monster Cable’s position in late 2006 and early 2007, during the time the Board of Supervisors was considering a resolution asking the company to offer the workers a better severance package. In February 2007, the nonbinding resolution passed 8-3, with Supervisor Ed Jew among those in opposition.
Adam Keigwin, a spokesman for Yee, said the senator “completely severed ties” years ago with both Chan and Jew, noting that Yee had lobbied on behalf of the Monster Cable workers and endorsed Jew’s opponent during his run for supervisor last year.
Jew did not respond to calls Wednesday for comment on this story.
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