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District attorney candidate Kamala Harris agreed to pay an unprecedented $34,000 to the San Francisco Ethics Commission to resolve allegations that she violated voluntary campaign spending caps. During a marathon meeting that lasted from 5:30 p.m. until after midnight Friday, the Ethics Commission agreed to accept the payment from Harris’ campaign to end questions about her campaign spending. Harris’ campaign also agreed to place advertisements in local newspapers to inform voters that she has not accepted voluntary spending caps. The commission postponed deciding whether to re-set voluntary spending caps for the DA’s race until Oct. 14. Harris’ settlement was the largest ever paid to the commission, said Mabel Ng, the commission’s deputy executive director. Harris has been under fire for filing paperwork Sept. 25 that announced she rejected voluntary spending ceilings and that she had spent more than the $211,000 cap she initially accepted. Harris’ campaign says the problem stems from a misunderstanding about the cap and recent changes in campaign spending rules. “The commission has realized that my campaign is willing to accept responsibility for the mistake that we have made,” Harris said. But Harris’ opponents say the matter is far from over. Because the San Francisco DA and city attorney’s offices have recused themselves from the matter — DA Terence Hallinan is running for reelection against Harris, and she is on leave from her job as a deputy city attorney to campaign — other offices have stepped in. The San Mateo and Santa Clara county counsels’ offices are handling the city attorney’s duties advising the Ethics Commission, while a criminal complaint has been forwarded by the DA’s office to the state attorney general’s office. Harris’ rivals argue that the ethics flap demonstrates that Harris is unfit for office. “You don’t pay something for nothing,” said Duane Baughman, Fazio’s campaign spokesman. Hallinan’s campaign also slammed Harris, noting that the DA helped pen the Ethics Commission guidelines when he was a county supervisor. “It appears that the only thing [Harris] does well is raise money,” said Marc O’Hara, Hallinan campaign spokesman. Fazio and Hallinan are overreacting, said Harris spokesman Jim Stearns. “Both Fazio and Hallinan’s campaign would love to make political mayhem about what is a mistake that we have taken responsibility for,” Stearns said. Harris will spend $15,000 to $20,000 for newspaper ads that educate voters about the mistake, he said. Harris could have forced the Ethics Commission to spend months probing the issue, Stearns said, but instead asked for a speedy settlement to resolve the issue quickly. Added Harris: “The repair has been made and I am willing to go forward. The community is concerned about the district attorney’s office’s inability to function.” Before Friday’s settlement announcement, Harris hoped to block one ethics commissioner from voting on the issue. According to a letter Harris’ attorney sent Friday to Commissioner Paul Melbostad, the commission and the press, Melbostad had been publicly critical of Harris earlier this year. Commission rules bar such statements, and Melbostad was fined last year for violating the same rule, San Francisco attorney James Sutton wrote in the letter. Melbostad, who is a name partner at Goldstein, Gellman, Melbostad, Gibson & Harris, denied that he had spoken out against any candidate and said he paid a settlement to the commission over a mix-up over a donation. The commissioner, who called the letter “an attempt to intimidate me as well as the commission,” said he voted on the Harris matter Friday.

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