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— In the final days before last week's San Diego city primary election, some last-minute big money was quietly delivered to incumbent mayor Dick Murphy and deputy city attorney Leslie Devaney (running to succeed her termed-out boss and mentor, Casey Gwinn) as well as to councilman Jim Madaffer. Source of the funds: the county's Republican Central Committee, which used its state campaign account to funnel a series of contributions from corporations with pending business at city hall to the group's chosen political aspirants. According to documents on file in the California Secretary of State's office in Sacramento, Murphy picked up $15,385 on February 27, the Friday before the election. The same day, Madaffer got $7957. Devaney collected $8385 on February 19. Because of a legal loophole, the committee isn't bound by the city's $250 maximum contribution limits. More than a few special-interest fat cats have weighed into the closely contested city races with late money. For instance, an outfit called 5th and J LLC gave the Republican committee a total of $10,000 in $5000 increments on February 10 and 14. Records show that the company is run by Ramen Samimi. He's the downtown developer seeking to build a 334-room hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. One of the parcels Samimi wants to build on is owned by Ahmad Mesdaq, who runs the popular Gran Havana Cigar and Coffee Lounge on the site. Mesdaq doesn't want to sell and has been fighting Samim's efforts to get the city council to use its extraordinary powers of condemnation to take the land and business away from him. Mesdaq says the next hearing on the matter is scheduled before the city's planning commission on March 11, after which it is set to be taken up by the city council on March 30. Other big 2004 donors to the GOP committee included CP Kelco, February 13 ($5000); Sempra Energy, February 13 ($5000); Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego, February 5 ($5000); Pacific Golf Communities, LLC, January 23 ($5000); Corky McMillin Companies, February 2 ($4000); and BCL, Inc., February 9 ($3000). McMillin is the controversial developer of Liberty Station on the grounds of the old Naval Training Center. BCL is a developer with major projects subject to city council approval. CP Kelco, a local industrial giant that makes products from kelp harvested offshore, has been in the middle of many sensitive negotiations with Murphy and the city council over such issues as water rates. In addition to the generous cash contribution from the Republicans, according to the disclosure, Murphy also benefited from an "in-kind" contribution from the county GOP committee, which paid for a public-opinion survey from Virginia-based Tarrance Group worth $20,625, according to the disclosure. Murphy, a Republican, faced off against two other adherents to the GOP: Ron Roberts, who will go against him in the November runoff; and Peter Q. Davis, the port commissioner and ex-banker who fell by the wayside.

Academic profit-taking Back in September 1997, then-UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes was appointed by Mayor Susan Golding to serve on a city task force about what to do for the Padres, who were threatening to leave town unless they got a new stadium. "I worry that Major League Baseball cannot be economically viable in San Diego," Dynes told the Union-Tribune. "That's a serious problem for the community. I really don't want to see the Padres leave." The committee's final report, approved by Dynes, concluded: "The Padres cannot generate the revenue necessary to become economically viable and remain competitive in Qualcomm Stadium.... In a new, baseball-oriented ballpark...the Padres can potentially become a stable, competitive, healthy franchise in San Diego for years to come." The rest, as they say, is history. What Dynes didn't reveal was that his father-in-law, wealthy investor Warren Hellman of San Francisco, was pals with John Moores's venture capital firm, JMI Equity. The Hellman-Moores arrangement was a joint investment in Blackbaud, a South Carolina maker of software aimed at charity fundraisers. Moores was subsequently appointed by Governor Gray Davis to the UC Regents and last year was in turn a key player in making Dynes president of the entire UC system. Now, JMI and Hellman, father of Dynes's wife Frances, are aiming to cash out of Blackbaud. According to documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Blackbaud wants to sell its shares to the public. Stockholders listed on the disclosure include the Hellman family firm, Hellman & Friedman, with 42 million shares, and "JMI Equity Fund IV, L.P.," with 3,330,000 shares. Frances's brother Marco is listed as an executive of Blackbaud ... Embattled San Diego State football coach Tom Craft, accused last month of reeking of alcohol while on road trips with the team and encouraging boozing by players, was busted in North County in December 1997 for drunk driving. Craft had a blood-alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit. Records show he pled guilty, paid a $1350 fine, and successfully completed a court-ordered rehab program.

-- Matt Potter

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