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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Willie Brown's $750 K "lobbying" payday

Nice scoop by J.K. Dineen in the Business Times (how would any of us understand local commercial real-estate without him?) He reports on a recent bankruptcy court decision involving developer David Choo, and notes that as part of the settlement, former Mayor Willie Brown "stands to collect $750,000 for his lobbying efforts, according to court documents."

Wow. That's a lot of cash, even by local lobbying standards. And it dwarfs what other attorneys involved in the case are getting; the highest-paid law firm, Reuben and Junious, is getting just $211,000.

What's most interesting: Dineen reports that Brown is getting paid as a lobbyist. That makes sense; Brown certainly isn't known as a bankruptcy lawyer. What he typically does is make phone calls and help cut deals. 

But if Brown was working as a lobbyist while Choo was trying to get his now-failed buildings approved, then most likely he was talking to people at City Hall, since land-use decisions are local. And if he does that, he's supposed to register as a lobbyist -- which during the entire period in question, he never did.

Nobody else is looking at the story, but it's actually pretty big news. It sheds light on the huge amounts of money that get thrown around when someone's trying to build a commercial office tower in San Francisco. It shows how much of a player Brown is and how much influence he's seen to have under the Lee Administration. And it may help the push for tighter ethics rules that would require attorneys like Brown, who hide behind their professional privilege, to register and file lobbying reports, just like everyone else in the business.

I, of course, called Brown to ask what he did for all that money. If he calls me back I'll let you know right away.

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