October 28, 2015

CCDC Disappointed with Partisan SF Chronicle Story



Chinatown is being swift boated – again.

A political action campaign committee is once again making unfounded accusations against CCDC to serve their own partisan agenda -- with a story appearing in today's Chronicle.

For the past week, a well-funded political campaign committee with their own ax to grind, the Asian Pacific Democratic Club PAC, has sought to associate CCDC and a candidate for Supervisor (who they happen to oppose) with allegations of “voter fraud.”

Our Executive Director, Rev. Norman Fong, responded and specifically countered last week’s unfounded accusations. This week, APDC has embellished its story further with new allegations which are similarly distorted and one sided. We’ll get to those fabrications in moment. We have all learned to expect such irresponsible mudslinging from PACs.

What is surprising and disappointing to us is how today's Chronicle has facilitated a political hit without providing any critical evaluation of the allegations. On a formal level here are the facts on the Chronicle’s story:

- The Chronicle ran APDC’s allegations without giving CCDC any opportunity to respond. Both of the reporters have our spokes people’s phone numbers. None of us received a call.
- Within an hour of the story going on-line last night we called Chief Editor John Diaz and asked for an opportunity to respond. We received no return call while there was still a chance to get our side of the story in the article.
- This morning, we called John Diaz again and asked for an opportunity to publish an Op-Ed to respond to the allegations. This was denied. He told us we could write a “Letter to the Editor.”

So on a basic level, this was not fair play.

Since we were not allowed an opportunity to respond in the Chronicle, we are responding here.

Let us be clear: the Chronicle article distorts the truth and merely accepts as fact the allegations of a partisan and politically motivated campaign.

Let’s start with the first sentence:

The San Francisco district attorney’s office is investigating allegations of voter fraud in low-income housing operated by the Chinatown Community Development Center.

This is no doubt a true statement because APDC filed such a complaint and the DA’s office has stated they are investigating “all” allegations but the suggestion is that CCDC is being targeted. There is nothing to suggest that this is the case. In actuality, as Norman Fong stated earlier, CCDC has been working with the Department of Elections and the District Attorney to address the community wide concerns regarding the ballot. But all of these reports of allegations need to be viewed again in context. That context was provided not by the Chronicle but by the SF Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald who wrote:

John Arntz, head of the Department of Elections, told me he takes the allegations seriously, but “just because there are allegations doesn’t mean they are true.”

With this important caveat in mind, let's turn to the supposedly factual allegations by the APDC promoted by the Chronicle.

First, APDC claims that based upon “accounts from at least 25 Chinese voters” there is “a systematic organization of harvesting ballots in these nonprofit buildings.” This is a very serious charge. But the article provides no details for us to examine or evaluate its accuracy. Nothing in the article suggests that the Chronicle reviewed those specific allegations for how APDC draws this conclusion. Nor is there anything to suggest the Chronicle independently corroborated the claims.

Rather, it appears the Chronicle is merely rebroadcasting the political assumptions (and agenda) of APDC. For example, the Chronicle reports the following as fact:

The Asian Pacific Democratic Club last week filed a complaint with the city’s Department of Elections after hearing several accounts from elderly Chinese voters about having their ballots taken by a pair of women who support former Supervisor Aaron Peskin in his campaign to unseat Supervisor Julie Christensen.

This incredible and inflammatory allegation is at least deserving of some inquiry. For example, how is it possible for the Chronicle or APDC to know that the unidentified pair of women “support” the former Supervisor? And if there are facts to support that claim, has the Chronicle reviewed and confirmed any of them? In the absence of such an inquiry, it is apparent that the Chronicle merely parroted the allegations of the APDC campaign.

In contrast, other media have done more homework than the Chronicle. The very first voter that APDC identified as having been defrauded was located by a KTSF Channel 26 reporter and interviewed revealing substantial inconsistencies with the more sensationalistic allegations by APDC.

Second, APDC claims that they have “crunched early election returns and found that absentee ballots are being returned in much higher numbers from CCDC buildings than from the rest of District Three.”

Again, the Chronicle apparently has accepted APDC’s claim as fact and offers no independent analysis of the data to provide any context or alternative perspective. Instead the public is left to ponder what appears to be another suspicious “pattern.”

Other journalists have done more to independently assess turnout in Chinatown. For example, Portia Li of World Journal has reviewed election returns with David Lee of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee and noted that Chinese voters overall are voting at a much higher rate than other parts of District Three. So the higher returns in CCDC’s Chinatown buildings need to be viewed in that context. Responsible news accounts should compare apples to apples.

In order to evaluate the latest APDC’s claims CCDC asked a political consultant to also “crunch” the data on early returns by building. And consistent with Portia Li’s analysis, that data shows higher absentee ballot returns across Chinatown. Here is the additional data provided by our consultant:



Turnout in CCDC buildings is in yellow. What this data shows is that the turnout in CCDC buildings is consistent with other ‘high turnout’ buildings in the District, most of which are in Chinatown. This reveals, CCDC buildings are performing similarly to other affordable housing sites in Chinatown (those in red). One of CCDC’s buildings performs 10% higher than the average in this subset, another CCDC building performs 10% lower than average. Viewed in context, the voter turnout in CCDC buildings are not suspicious outliers but consistent with other affordable housing buildings in the midst of a very vigorous campaign in Chinatown.

APDC’s selective presentation of the facts again presents unfair and distorted picture of CCDC. This fits APDC’s ‘pattern.’ Last week, APDC charged CCDC with violating our nonprofit status by allowing Aaron Peskin to campaign in one of our buildings. We pointed out that Julie Christensen has also campaigned in our buildings. After that response, APDC has dropped that line of attack and has come up with another one. And no doubt they will come up with something new again as the election season winds down unless or until the media ask more critical questions.

Finally, the other element of balance that is missing in this story is any critical evaluation of the source itself. The Chronicle notes that APDC has endorsed Julie Christensen. But this is a gross understatement. APDC has become one of the most well funded PACs in Chinatown, with tens of thousands of dollars flowing to them from tech and real estate interests. Their aggressive and apparently questionable machinations have been reported by other media such as SF Weekly and 48 Hills. Yet the Chronicle treats them as just another news source.

We have come to expect sly political hits from political campaigns with hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for consultants. What saddens us is that Chronicle has failed to cover an inflammatory story with at least some element of objectivity and has refused to allow impacted parties a meaningful opportunity to respond.

 
 
 
 

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