continued In fairness to those who've questioned Frye's money trail and stands on the issues, Danon isn't above reproach. In March, the Building Industry Association, a nonprofit developer-advocacy group, commissioned the San Diego Group, a local polling firm, to measure the attitudes of 300 "likely voters" in District 6. The poll focused on the four front-runners: Danon, Frye, Pallamary, and Peter Navarro.
Soon after this poll was finished, an e-mail was sent within the organization by internal-communications director Jaymie Bradford. It emphasized two things: if members wanted more information about any of the candidates, he would provide it; and he encouraged members to walk precincts for Danon on April 7, ten days before the primary. It is not illegal for organizations to support or oppose a candidate and lobby their members using in-house communications. There is, however, a question about the Building Industry Association's payment for a "nonpartisan" survey and the apparent use of its results to endorse Danon.
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission law, "payments for communications" within an organization are allowed, but independent expenditures on behalf of a candidate that top $1000 per year must be reported.
Did the survey cost the Building Industry Association more than $1000? In an e-mail, Matthew Adams, governmental relations director, did not say how much it spent on the survey. To the question, did Danon himself or an agent of Danon ask the association to conduct a poll or to endorse him, Adams wrote, "All candidates were invited to be interviewed." To the question of mixing neutrality with partisanship, "Since we took no position in the race, we communicated with our members on precinct walks for Steve Danon and Mike Pallamary." Pallamary told me he knew of no such endorsement and no precinct-walking on his behalf. I replied to Adams that it seemed the association was taking a position by urging its members to walk precincts for Danon, and, as he claimed, Pallamary. These two candidates are on record as being friendlier to the Building Industry Association than Donna Frye. Requests to Adams for further disclosure were not answered. The Reader has forwarded a letter and a copy of this article to deputy district attorney Sally Williams and to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
As for Danon's charge that Frye is taking tainted money, evidence shows the knife slices both ways. Danon said April 29 on KUSI that in 1998, as Roberts's chief of staff, he "physically wrote the legislation" that would ban campaign contributions and gifts from registered lobbyists to county candidates. Danon told me, "The legislation is the board letter. I wrote the direction that outlined the policy." The board letter briefly outlines the policy while it urges other supervisors to support the ban. The letter is signed by Roberts.
Deputy county counsel Arne Hansen said Roberts and his staff "proposed the change and indicated in general what to write. I think drafts were submitted to them for their comments, maybe." Hansen said it is not permissible for him or his boss, John Sansone, to go back and forth with chiefs of staff "on legal questions...but we like to make sure that the policy changes are accurately produced in the ordinance. So there is some going back and forth."
Despite Hansen's explanation, one wonders whether there is a conflict of interest between a staff member who is not a lawyer (like Danon) and his proofing of the legal language of a municipal ordinance.
While the county ordinance has no jurisdiction over a city election, Danon was self-congratulatory on TV for banning these donors from county access. Why then, in January of this year, when he registered as a candidate in the District 6 city election, were his first two contributor checks from Nicole Clay and Janay Kruger, lobbyists with the county and the city?
"There has to be a level playing field," he told me. On KUSI, Danon emphasized that if he wins, he "will propose that same kind of legislation [against lobbyist contributions] for the city."
But the county ban didn't stop you from taking lobbyists' money in the District 6 election?
Danon repeated the mantra: "There needs to be a level playing field." I reminded him that he has collected two to two and a half times the money Frye has, despite her heavy independent expenditures. Again, many longtime lobbyists -- Robert Pinnegar, Brian Seltzer, Johnnie Perkins, Jeff Marston, Scott Blech, and others -- who are registered with the county (and who don't live in District 6) have been maxing out their donation to Danon's District 6 run.
But, Danon said, this money came "from individual contributors."
Is it soft money from the unions going to Donna Frye or is it your individual donors plus Republican and developer soft money that makes the district election not a level playing field for you?
"I think people could draw their own conclusions," Danon said.
Finally, there's the mini-scandal over Danon's illegally placed campaign signs. Attorney Donald Mayes, who ran in the primary and garnered only 299 votes, received an info packet when he filed that included a notice about signs from Mike Wisnieski, senior zoning investigator with the city's Neighborhood Code Compliance. Wisnieski's letter said that Mayes, like all candidates, would be "held financially responsible" for signs illegally placed: $100 a pop.
In early March Mayes began seeing Danon's signs on utility poles in the public right-of-way. At one public forum, Mayes asked Danon to take those signs down. Danon replied that he wasn't aware of improper signs and wondered who put them up -- a zealous loyalist or a member of the opposition, trying to get him fined? Danon told Mayes he'd take care of it.
On the subsequent Saturday, Mayes spotted a Danon sign a quarter-mile from Danon's home. Mayes found Danon and his wife working in their garage and confronted Danon. "Steve," Mayes said, "if you're really serious about removing the signs, there's one right down the hill, at Morena and Jutland. How about jumping in my car and we'll go remove it together." Danon told Mayes to stop harassing him. "I want you to leave, now." Mayes insisted; they should rip it down together. An indignant Danon finally told Mayes that if he was so disturbed about illegal signs, he should call Wisnieski.