Today, California Common Cause lauded San Francisco’s ban on government officials soliciting behested payments from “interested parties” in the wake of a string of controversies involving those payments. The first-of-its-kind ban in California, which went into effect last week, was adopted in response to a massive corruption scandal that was exposed in 2020 involving multiple city departments and high-ranking city officials. Behested payments appear to have played a significant role in the scandal. California Common Cause touted San Francisco’s behested payment law as a model for other jurisdictions and the state to follow.
“This ordinance takes aim at restoring San Franciscans’ trust that their government is not on the auction block after a series of scandals involving behested payments,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, California Common Cause Executive Director. “Corruption, or even the appearance of corruption, undermines Californians’ trust and faith in our government and behested payments have led to a series of scandals that have eroded that faith across the state in recent years. We hope that other municipalities and the state will follow San Francisco’s lead to pass laws to prevent politicians and government officials from soliciting behested payments from those with a vested interest in currying favor with those officials.”
California’s Fair Political Practices Commission reported that there has been an explosion in behested payments at all levels of government in the state. The report found that the City and County of San Francisco saw some of the largest spikes in behested payments. Prior to the passage of the ordinance, politicians and City officials were able to ask major donors and special interests to make large contributions to a third party, which might include a nonprofit, foundation, or other cause, even if those entities were run by their spouses or relatives or in some way enriched the politicians making the asks.
The San Francisco ordinance bans solicitations for these payment from any person or entity with ongoing business before the City or County, including lobbyists, those attempting to influence a legislative or administrative action, those seeking or holding contracts, or anyone involved in a proceeding regarding administrative enforcement, a license, a permit, or other entitlement. The officials prohibited from soliciting payments under the law include elected officials, members of City boards and commissions, and department heads.
To read the city ordinance, click here.
To read a summary of the ordinance compiled by the San Francisco Ethics Commission, click here.