GO Lorrie, A San Francisco Airport Shuttle Service, Charged With Making Illegal Contributions To Ed Lee Campaign

02/14/2012 08:50 pm ET
  • Aaron Sankin Assistant San Francisco Editor, The Huffington Post

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced on Tuesday his intention to file charges against airport shuttle service GO Lorrie for allegedly making illegal donations to the campaign of then-interim Mayor Ed Lee.

During last year's mayoral contest, an investigation by the Bay Citizen uncovered $11,500 in campaign donations given by the company to the Lee campaign funneled through nearly two dozen of GO Lorrie's employees and their family members.

GO Lorrie General Manager Jason Perez allegedly directed his workers to write $500 personal checks to Lee with the promise that they would later be reimbursed.

As per the provisions of San Francisco campaign law, $500 is the most any one individual can contribute to a single candidate.

Prosecutors accuse Perez and company Chief Financial Officer Hanan Qutami of spreading out their donations through multiple sources in an effort to skirt local campaign finance rules. However, arrangements like Go Lorrie's run afoul of state election law, which deems it a misdemeanor to make a political contribution in the name of another individual.

"Campaign finance and disclosure laws help to ensure fairness and transparency in our elections," said District Attorney George Gascon in a statement, "and my office takes the violation of these laws very seriously. After a thorough investigation, we have found clear evidence to charge Go Lorrie's and two of its employees with making illegal campaign contributions."

When news of the scandal broke last year, some alleged that the campaign contributions were made in exchange for a reorganization of San Francisco International Airport's shuttle parking system that was highly beneficial to the company.

In a letter sent to City Attorney Dennis Herrera--who was in the process of challenging Lee in the mayor's race at the time--a lawyer representing one of GO Lorrie's direct competitors hinted at foul play. "[The changes] cannot be justified on any basis founded on proper considerations, such as passenger convenience, efficiency, traffic concerns, etc...Most alarming of all are reports that these proposed changes are the result of direct and unrelenting pressure from political forces in the city. This type of artificial interference with airport operations smells of political favoritism."

Airport Director John Martin insisted that the parking reorganization was made with no input from City Hall; nevertheless, Lee still returned all of the donations his campaign received that had any connection to GO Lorrie.

"Mayor Lee's campaign is committed to 100 percent compliance with all campaign laws and we deplore any violation," said Lee's campaign spokesperson Tony Winnicker in a statement to SF Weekly. "That's why we return any contributions that raise suspicion through our own review, inquiries and concerns."