Hillary Clinton recently endured an 11-hour “fact-finding” hearing on the events in Benghazi, Libya, led by Congressional Republicans who were obviously more interested in throwing political firecrackers than actually finding facts.
Most of us here in San Francisco breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. But apparently the leaders of the Asian Pacific Democratic Club and its spokesperson, Tom Hsieh Jr., loved the show — and were inspired to bring the same kind of mud-slinging political theater showcased on Fox News back home to San Francisco.
And that’s about the most charitable thing I can say about Hsieh’s baseless crusade against the Chinatown Community Development Center.
Let’s start with the complete lack of credibility on the part of the APDC. They are, for all intents and purposes, the Chinese campaign arm of the Christensen campaign. The club has registered as a pro-Christensen independent expenditure campaign. They have spent upwards of $60,000 campaigning for Christensen. They have also received more than $250,000 in contributions, the vast majority of which come from tech investors, real estate interests and the Airbnb-funded “No on Prop. F” campaign. Their lead hit man and board member, Hsieh, has been paid $107,000 by APDC to date.
The club’s president, Jay Cheng, is a registered lobbyist for the San Francisco Realtors, as is board chair Mary Jung. These two have exhibited an extremism in their opposition to any kind of tenant protections or Ellis Act reform that puts them on the far-right margins of San Francisco’s political spectrum. It has been widely documented that these two pro-Realtor lobbyists have appeared together with Christensen at events in Chinatown, while the law says they must remain entirely independent. Of course, Hsieh is not addressing that ethical impropriety in his diatribes against CCDC.
What he is addressing, purportedly, is allegations of voter fraud. These are serious allegations, and anyone who had real knowledge that voter fraud had occurred would not be running to a press conference but to a police station. The “evidence” forwarded by Hsieh — much like that offered by the Benghazi Republicans — turns out to be rumor, innuendo and speculation. In this case, all of it generated by canvassers who are being paid by the APDC. Not what you would call credible.
The fact is Hsieh and company are using one of the oldest tricks in the book — waving their arms wildly to distract voters and the press from the unsavory and possibly illegal activities being engaged in by their allies, such as using gifts of food to draw Chinese-American seniors into campaign events for appointed Supervisor Christensen, and doing it on school property that is not supposed to be used for campaign purposes.
They always call this part of the campaign the “silly season.” I, for one, don’t see the humor in the mean and hypocritical tactics undertaken by Hsieh and friends. What I sense, instead, is last-minute desperation. My advice to all those who are following the story: Don’t get Benghazied by the desperate ploys of the real estate industry, which is terribly frightened that a real pro-tenant candidate, such as Aaron Peskin, might win a seat — and a majority — on the Board of Supervisors. Keep your eye on the ball, vote Tuesday, Nov. 3, and vote Aaron Peskin for Supervisor.
Art Agnos is a former California State Assemblyman and served as mayor of San Francisco from 1988 to 1992.