San Diego Fast livers San Diego sheriff Bill Kolender has finally coughed up the money his campaign committee owed the state after prosecutors revealed last year that a well-heeled drinking buddy laundered cash contributions through his employees and friends. "We are in receipt of your payment in the amount of $5,000," says a letter dated last month to Kolender from the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. "We appreciate your cooperation in ensuring that contributions that are illegally made are returned to the General Fund of the state as required by law."
The case goes back to January 2002 and involves Sid Frank, the billionaire booze mogul who kept a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, where he partied with local and national luminaries. Once married to Louise Rosenstiel, daughter of Lewis Rosenstiel, founder of Schenley Industries, Frank made his own fortune in the swinging '70s by promoting Jägermeister, a syrupy, licorice-flavored German liqueur that had been primarily sold as a medicinal potion, into the drink of choice for hearty-partying twentysomethings. Frank surrounded himself with scantily clad young women he called Jägerettes, who toured the country hyping the beverage in rowdy bars by offering free shots of it through a spray gun. In 1997, some of the Jägerettes claimed they had been sexually harassed by Frank and forced his company to settle the case for $2.9 million. That same year he came up with Grey Goose, a "premium brand" vodka aimed at high-end drinkers. In 2004 the operation was sold to Bacardi for $2.3 billion and Frank ended up as number 164 on the Forbes list of richest Americans.
How Frank and Kolender linked up is not entirely clear -- the sheriff once told the Union-Tribune that a "mutual friend" had introduced them in 2001 -- but Kolender's well-known penchant for hanging out with the Chargers and their comely female followers at bars like Bully's East in Mission Valley might have had something to do with it.
In any case, Frank decided he wanted to back Kolender's 2002 reelection and wasn't content staying within the county's $500 contribution limits, so he asked his New York attorney, Jeff Peace, to help out. "On one occasion, Mr. Peace held a meeting of Respondent Frank's personal staff at which he encouraged those employees who were present to write personal checks of $500 to the Kolender campaign," according to the Fair Political Practices Commission report. "Each employee at the meeting then gave a personal check of $500 to Mr. Peace, who subsequently handed many of these employees $500 in cash. The following week, Mr. Peace attended a motorcross event with other personal employees of Respondent Frank. At the event, Mr. Peace asked the employees, and friends of those employees, to write personal checks of $500 to the Kolender campaign. Each person who contributed at the event gave a personal check of $500 to Mr. Peace, who subsequently handed many of these individuals $500 in cash. On or about January 31, 2002, Mr. Peace directed transmittal of the $500 personal checks that he received to Sheriff Kolender's campaign office."
After being caught, both Frank and Peace pled guilty to misdemeanors and paid a total of $30,000 in fines. Kolender denied knowing of the scheme and was not charged. Frank, 86, died at his Rancho Santa Fe home on January 10.
Slush and the city A group of unidentified donors has gotten the green light from San Diego Ethics Commission executive director Stacey Fulhorst to set up a tax-exempt fund to benefit the office of Mayor Jerry Sanders. The money is ostensibly being used to "promote the 'social welfare' of the City of San Diego by organizing receptions in connection with the inauguration of the new Mayor and other activities related to the transition between Mayoral administrations, and by relieving the City of the cost of conducting these activities," says a January 11 advice letter from Fulhorst to James R. Sutton, who represents the group. He is the San Francisco attorney who has worked for some of the city's wealthiest campaign contributors and politicos, including the mayor himself and the "Coalition to Keep San Diego Working," a political action committee backed by Mission Valley hotel mogul Terry Brown and real estate brokers that dispatched, without revealing backers' identities, a last-minute hit piece against Donna Frye in the November 2004 mayoral election.
Fulhorst's opinion, which was dated the day before the Sanders 2006 inaugural state of the city address, said that the group expected to collect $35,000, with a voluntary limit of $1000 per contributor. Sutton said the group would disclose the identity of donors to the city clerk though the law doesn't require that, according to the letter. In addition, "To the extent that the payments made by the organization meet or exceed $5,000 for 'governmental purpose' events at the Mayor's behest, such payments will have to be reported to the City Clerk." Transition expenses were expected to be "office space, consulting fees, and press conference costs, which were incurred after the November 8, 2005, election and prior to the Mayor's swearing-in on December 5, 2005." Other costs were to include "a large, public reception following the State of the City address on January 2, 2006, in honor of the Mayor's inauguration," and "a small reception held in the Mayor's office before his swearing-in ceremony on December 5, 2005." As of Tuesday morning, the group had made no filings with the city clerk.