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— That big two-page ad in the Sunday Union-Tribune of April 16 touting San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders's proposed budget was the brainchild of Pam Hardy, "communications director" for Councilman Scott Peters, according to documents obtained from city hall last week under the Public Records Act. The advertisement -- criticized by some as being more promotional than substantive -- was paid for by big corporations tapped by the mayor's office . Hardy's role -- previously unknown to the public -- appears to illustrate a strategic tie between Sanders and Peters, who as president of the council is supposed to play an independent role in reviewing the mayor's budget.

On February 27, Hardy e-mailed Fred Sainz, PR man for Mayor Jerry Sanders: "Hi Fred. We need to get our heads together about how to draw more media attention to the budget process. Should we try to get Jerry/Scott/Toni/Jay/Andrea or any combination thereof before the U-T ed board? How can we get the U-T to run the 'citizens guide to the budget' insert the Sunday before the budget goes to Council? And how can we get them to do it for free? Got any great ideas?"

The mayor's office did not provide a record of Sainz's reply, but two days later, on March 1, Hardy e-mailed him again: "I have a copy of the Phoenix budget guide, if you'd like to get together for a few minutes today and take a look." Hardy e-mailed Sainz once again on April 4. "Wanted to check in with you about our fundraising for the citizens budget guide. Do we have a fund set up with the SD Foundation? Do we need to craft a letter on behalf of Jerry and Scott?"

By April 13, Aundene Hugg, the mayor's director of "appointments, boards and commissions," had taken command and was aggressively hustling for checks. "We need the check for $4,000 made payable to The San Diego Union-Tribune," Hugg e-mailed Sempra's Lisa Howard. "If we can get that delivered here to the Mayor's office by close of business today, we will forward those checks to the U-T with the Mayor's budget ad art work." The same day, Qualcomm's Monique Rodriguez requested to see a copy of the advertisement. "We still want to help but wanted to see what the ad looks like."

There were a few snafus. "Our apologies for the misunderstanding on Friday regarding payment," e-mailed Gen-Probe's Monica Aguirre. "As Hank left the office that day he said that he had already taken care of this with you.... Good thing that Mindy was around and able to help you. We need a receipt or acknowledgement of the $2,000 contribution for our accounting department. Could you please fax or email one to me this week?"

Lobbyist Chris Wahl of Southwest Strategies also got into the act, rounding up checks from the Downtown Residential Marketing Alliance and an entity he called "WF." City lobbyist disclosure records show that Wahl's clients include Westfield Corporation and Beachfront Properties. "I have the DRMA check in my hand, and will get it to you by tomorrow midday. As for the WF check, we can have that to you by Thursday morning first thing. Does that work?" Other major Southwest lobbying clients dependent on the good will of Sanders and the council include Lennar Communities, Pardee Homes, the Otay Mesa Planning Coalition, and Wal-Mart.

Peters chief of staff Betsy Kinsley e-mailed a status report to Sainz on April 12. "I apologize for the delay, getting 8 [to] sign off was an interesting experience." The U-T was paid $25,000 for the ad.

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