Election hotline jingled, but no fraud identified

S.F. Examiner File PhotoAllegation: Mayor Ed Lee’s backers in last year’s election fielded fraud accusations.

A new phone hotline dedicated to election fraud in San Francisco apparently uncovered no major local malfeasance this campaign season.

About 20 calls came in to the dedicated line, although some of them were referred to the Department of Elections as general inquiries, District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman said. She said other complaints received a “cursory look” from the District Attorney’s Office, but none warranted any major investigation or charges.

Still, voters should expect the hotline to be a mainstay of future election seasons.

“We do feel like the election fraud hotline provided a deterrent,” said Stillman, who declined to reveal the nature of any complaints. “This is an anonymous tip line. We just want to ensure the confidentiality of the reports.”

Although the most recent round of campaigning included some contentious races for the Board of Supervisors, it lacked the volume of accusations seen in the 2011 mayoral race, which included plenty of animosity over contribution laundering and phony election booths.

In October, District Attorney George Gascón said the fraud phone line was a partial response to those shenanigans, which were carried out on behalf of then-interim Mayor Ed Lee.

At the time, Lee’s campaign promptly called for a stop to such activities, with the mayor himself calling the stunts “moronic.”

In the alleged money laundering — separate accusations brought against former CitiApartments employee Andrew Hawkins and managers for the Go Lorries airport shuttle company — Lee’s campaign returned about $15,000 due to the appearance that donors had bundled together multiple $500 offerings to skirt The City’s contribution limits.

Cellphone video also showed makeshift voting booths set up by an independent expenditure committee that was stumping for Lee in Chinatown. Senior citizens were reportedly helped to fill out mail-in ballots in which the names of certain candidates and issues were obstructed by plastic stencils.

In February, Gascón filed still-pending charges against Go Lorries managers. But in September, the District Attorney’s Office said there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Hawkins. Again citing insufficient evidence, Gascón’s office also decided not to file charges in the voting booth matter.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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