Yesterday, District Attorney George Gascon announced that Donald Dewsnup, a would-be local realtor and political activist best-known for spearheading an attempted takeover of the local Sierra Club last fall, was arrested and charged with multiple felonies for voter fraud.
Dewsnup, a member of the pro-development activist group SF Bay Area Renters Federation, last year registered to vote in District 3, where Mayor Ed Lee appointee Julie Christensen would lose handily to current Supervisor Aaron Peskin in the November election, as VICE discovered.
However, Dewsnup, known for getting abusive and mad, online, did not live in District 3 — he lived in the Castro, he admitted to Vice, and while he did “provide a false address,” he insisted that he had “not broken any laws.”
But indeed he had — you sign a voter registration form under penalty of perjury; you swear you indeed live where you claim to live, hence the charges announced yesterday. SF BARF members are standing by Dewsnup, claiming he is homeless — and that it's not a crime to register to vote near where you sleep.
Meanwhile, we'd like to point out that other, actual politicians have done exactly what Dewsnup did — in fact, multiple, repeated times, while running for office — and were not charged with crimes by Gascon. Is Gascon punching down on an easy target?
[jump] In 2012, union organizer Leon Chow mounted a challenge to District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who the year before had lost to Mayor Ed Lee in the mayoral race — and who appeared weak to a Chinese challenger in his district, where Lee won more votes.
Chow, a longtime Chinatown activist as well as a labor figure, said he lived at a house on Moscow Street. He did not live there — he lived in Walnut Creek, according to property records. But he filed papers to run for office, which means he needed to be registered to vote. And a peek at voter registration records revealed that he had been registered to vote not only there but at a business address in Chinatown, a place where nobody lived.
It seemed a cut-and-dry case of voter fraud, but Chow was never charged with a crime.
A spokesman for the District Attorney's Office did not return a call for comment, but there appears to be a pattern here: when it comes to corruption, the small fries are easy to take down; it's harder to get a real big fish.
While the DA has filed charges against two former fundraisers for Mayor Ed Lee for allegedly conspiring to launder campaign contributions — arguably the most significant inroad into political corruption in recent memory — it's hard to think of an easier target than Dewsnup.