Nobody doubts that former Mayor Willie Brown still holds an immense amount of power in San Francisco. Part of it is his weekly column in the Chronicle, sure, but mostly it's his networks of contacts, clients, and favors built up over decades in the political business. And although Brown is perhaps the city's prime mover and shaker, he's never been an officially-registered paid lobbyist.
The Chronicle is breaking the story (wonder how they got that scoop?) that the former mayor and speaker of the state assembly has signed up with the city as a paid lobbyist, in the employ of high-rise developers who aren't happy with a $1 billion special assessment fee that pays for parks and public amenities downtown near the new Transbay Terminal. The mayor's clients include Boston Properties, the developer of the Salesforce Tower, and other property owners.
Since leaving office, critics have accused Brown of trading on his law license to avoid disclosing his clients—which have included soda companies opposed to a tax in Richmond, PG&E, and developers. and his fees. As Washington Monthly once wrote, "Brown is now a private attorney under no obligation to disclose the identity of his clients or his interactions with the legion of public officials and others who owe their careers to him [...] Brown operates in a post-partisan, post-paper trail world in which he reaps the benefits of power while bearing none of the unpleasant culpability or scrutiny that typically comes with that."
The same kind of lobbying under the auspices of a law practice recently landed former Supervisor Michael Yaki in hot water over unregistered lobbying on behalf of an air system for firefighters. He was sued by the city, and ended up settling and registering himself as a lobbyist.
Now Brown is coming out of the shadows—at least a little bit. According to the Chron, Brown was tapped by Chris Grunwell and Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisors, the longtime lobbyists for Boston Properties, to help out on the fees. As they point out, Brown has a bit of familiarity with these issues: He helped establish the joint powers committee that runs the Transbay projects, and was in Sacramento when the law on the fees was passed.
The big question? How much is Brown getting paid. He wouldn't say, except that it's enough that "I may never have to register again."