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How Da Mayor Makes Da Money

Recent dealings with Willie Brown’s fingerprints all over them.


Part of "The Power and the Story," on the empire of former mayor Willie Brown Jr., from the June 2016 issue.

→ A June 2013 bankruptcy settlement revealed that belly-up real estate developer David Choo owed Brown $750,000 for his lobbying endeavors. Of note, Brown was not a registered lobbyist at the time.

→ In 2014, Brown signed on to lobby for a consortium of developers who wished to alter a deal that the city had struck to finance the Transbay Transit Center. That effort was thwarted. Regardless, Brown collected his six-figure lobbying fee.

→ In a bombshell 2015 Wall Street Journal article, emails between tech CEO and accused domestic abuser Gurbaksh Chahal and aspiring gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly revealed that Brown had been paid a $250,000 retainer to intervene on Chahal’s behalf with District Attorney George Gascón. After a judge ruled as inadmissable a video purportedly depicting Chahal striking his female companion more than 100 times, the case fizzled. Brown returned most of the money, ultimately keeping around $52,000.

→ A 2013 Center for Investigative Reporting article revealed that an aide to Mayor Ed Lee had traveled to China and Japan to connect potential investors with the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Center, a company co-owned by Brown. Among the services the firm offers: securing EB-5 visas for international investors who pledge hundreds of thousands of dollars toward real estate projects in the U.S. (According to the report, would-be Chinese investors were told that Brown was the company’s dong shi zhang—the chairman of the board.)


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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