From success to scandal: Consultant accused of child porn charges was connected to SF political elite

Enrique Pearce is one of San Francisco’s more successful and more controversial political consultants. And that was true before his arrest Thursday on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography, among other counts.

Pearce, 41, has been a constant force in local politics since 2003, when his effort to put Green Party member Matt Gonzalez in the Mayor’s Office came within 14,000 votes of success — and, possibly, derailing now-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s political career.

Despite losing, Pearce and his consultancy firm, Left Coast Communications, became a go-to in political circles for campaign signs, mailers and logo designs.

Pearce also has been a magnet for controversy, having been accused several times of ethics violations — charges that have been dismissed every time.

Pearce has handled campaign work for several prominent local politicians, including supervisors Jane Kim and Norman Yee, former Supervisor Christina Olague, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, and Board of Education members Sandra Lee Fewer and Hydra Mendoza. Pearce also scored work from high-profile efforts including the push to convince voters to allow the 8 Washington St. condominium project on The Embarcadero waterfront.

Just last year, records show Pearce and his firm logged $665,446 worth of political work — mailers, campaign expenses and consulting fees — for five campaigns.

Those campaigns included signature efforts of Mayor Ed Lee’s administration — including the earthquake-safety and transit bonds, a below-market-rate housing initiative and the drive to raise The City’s minimum wage — along with Kim’s re-election campaign. On Friday, Lee staffers were quick to distance the mayor from Pearce following his arrest.

Pearce has run all of Kim’s political campaigns since the second-term supervisor won a race for the school board in 2004.

As a political consultant, Pearce is “very creative and has moments of brilliance,” Kim told The San Francisco Examiner on Monday. “He had some of the best mailers every year. There’s no doubt that he was good at his job.”

Despite knowing Pearce for more than 12 years, Kim said it has been months since she’s seen him.

“Political consultants are in general not a well-liked group,” she said. “In general, they’re vilified. And I’m sure that had some impact on Enrique. When you’re vilified, it puts a strain on you.”

Pearce has also been accused of flouting the rules. In 2010, detractors charged that Left Coast colluded with a Kim-supporting independent expenditure committee funded by former Mayor Willie Brown.

In 2011, Pearce ran the infamous Run Ed Run campaign to draft then- interim Mayor Lee to run for a full term, and was later accused of using a stencil to instruct Chinese-speaking voters in Chinatown on how to vote. However, neither Pearce nor his firm were found guilty of wrongdoing, Ethics Commission Executive Director John. St. Croix said Monday.

Pearce did not respond to calls seeking comment Monday. Efforts to reach him at his McAllister Street apartment, where he was arrested Thursday, were unsuccessful.

Clarification: This story was updated May 22 at the request of Supervisor Jane Kim to clarify that her comments were in response to questions regarding her former political consultant’s isolation and not meant to address current criminal charges against him.

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