City officials’ suite deal with 49ers

They say that money can buy power and influence. And in San Francisco, once you’ve got those, it’s no stretch to nab premium 49ers tickets before the rest of us — and for free.

While it’s not expressly forbidden by law, this decades old custom that allows public officials to get free seats doesn’t feel quite right. In fact, it seems unethical.

San Francisco-based attorney and ethicist Peter Keane puts it more bluntly:

“The relationship between [elected officials] and Candlestick Park and the 49ers is really a corrupt relationship. It’s a situation that simply doesn’t pass the smell test.”

In total, public officials get about 76 free tickets per game, which is no trifling number. And that’s not all: these privileged few are also getting free parking, valued at $30 per game.

The million-dollar question is, how can this be considered legal? There are gift laws in place that are supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening, chiefly because it can constitute a form of bribery.

Naturally, there’s a loophole being exploited. The city code justifies this type of arrangement when it serves the public in some way.

That’s all well and good in theory, but then, can anybody claim that the public is being served by these politicians sitting in luxury boxes sipping beers? How about if they can’t attend and give the tickets to their family and friends? Is there a public service in that?

The answer seems obvious. So why, then, isn’t anybody stopping this?

Apparently, the mayor has asked the city attorney to “take a closer look,” and at least one city supervisor said that she would stop accepting the tickets personally. However, a complete shift in this dynamic could take a while if it comes at all.