San Diego During last fall's election campaign, Jerry Sanders told voters that if elected mayor he would take a positive message abou San Diego on the road. In late March, Sanders traveled to New York and Washington, D.C., the first major trip of his mayoral tenure. Planning for the trip had begun by February 22, when the mayor's government relations director, Andrew Poat, sent an e-mail to several city staffers seeking their assistance. That same day Poat wrote to Marek Gootman of the Washington public relations firm Patton Boggs to help arrange a meeting for the mayor "with our congressional delegation." According to a July 13, 2005, posting in the online newspaper the Hill, "Mega-firm Patton Boggs has its finger on nearly everything on Capitol Hill. Increasingly, it has turned its attention to local governments.... San Diego pays Patton Boggs $200,000 a year, but one local official says the firm helps make money in the end by helping its congressional delegation secure federal earmarks."
Poat broadened his requests to Gootman on March 1, saying that the following day he wanted to discuss a "political contact" at the Department of Homeland Security and possible meetings for Sanders at various agencies and the Pentagon. He also proposed "a 'wow' event (White House?)." Gootman responded with a request to put off the discussion one more day. "We're still being crushed by [Appropriations].... We're basically pulling all-nighters," he wrote.
Complicating Poat's efforts, word of the mayor's upcoming trip was getting out, at least to San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn. During the noon hour on March 1, Poat wrote to Sanders's director of community and legislative services, Kris Michell: "FYI -- his office called wanting to know when the Mayor's meeting at Homeland Security will occur, as Horn wants to attend. I didn't want to push back -- assumed Mayor has discussed this with him." In the end Horn did not make the trip.
By March 6 Poat was thinking about the trip's more precise details. An opening plan had the mayor flying first to New York, arriving on Sunday, March 26, and then taking Amtrak to Washington two days later. Poat wrote to the Museum of Modern Art's Katy McDonald and to attorney David Caplan in New York. "I thought I would touch base and see if either of you has any ideas on a Sunday evening dinner if [the mayor] gets in early. Are there any big companies with San Diego operations in New York City? Other movers and shakers that would be appropriate dinner invites? We will obviously be looking at the financial market people as well...." McDonald e-mailed in return, "He should absolutely come to the Museum for dinner. I'll put my thinking cap on about companies. The most important San Diegan in NYC is David Caplan, however!"
The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation helped shape Sanders's New York activities. In fact, the organization had taken the lead in what would become the trip's New York theme. "Think of Paul Harvey's 'Rest of the Story,' " the corporation's president Julie Meier Wright tells me by phone. "We have gotten only negative publicity for the past several years. The rest of the story is all the good things about San Diego." In March 2006 the corporation launched a public relations campaign called "San Diego Works," with advertisements in Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, and several other national magazines. "We invested $220,000 in the ad buy," says Wright, who calls her organization's cooperation with Mayor Sanders a "convergence of interests."
The economic development corporation is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting the business interests of the San Diego area. Its website states that it is "funded by a coalition of private-sector investors," the city, the county, the port district, Chula Vista, "and several other cities in the region." The City of San Diego provides more than 40 percent of its revenue.
As he continued to organize the East Coast trip, Andrew Poat stayed in touch with the economic development corporation. On March 16 he wrote to the corporation's vice president of investor relations and development, Lauree Sahba: "Security is wondering if we know likely locations for [the mayor's] meetings -- even if we don't know times. They are trying to figure out logistics. (1) Do [you] have addresses for the targets? (2) Wild fantasy. Any chance we could have the mayor stay at the hotel and have the mountains come to Mohammed?"
The following day Poat wrote in a similar vein to San Diego's chief financial officer Jay Goldstone, scheduled to accompany Sanders to New York. "In the interest of the Mayor's time and logistics," wrote Poat, "if it is possible for any of the meetings to be conducted at the Mayor's hotel, that would be appreciated. I don't want to be rude -- [understand] the appearance of asking people to come to him -- [but] if they offer or you think it appropriate, I know that would be easier on the Mayor."
It turns out that the security sought for the East Coast visits was two officers from the San Diego Police Department's executive protection detail. Their names are blacked out in the e-mails. Poat contacted Sahba again on March 20. "The security guys want their own car. I will ask them about someone riding along with them. They will have a [New York Police Department] lead car to get them to the right place."
The officers came up in a discussion between Poat and Patton Boggs's Marek Gootman about possible restaurants where the Sanders delegation could have a group dinner in Washington. On March 23 Poat wrote, "Security guys will attend -- but not eat with us. Usually at an adjoining table." In response to Gootman's recommending the restaurant Two Quail, "if you don't mind the charge," Poat said, "I liked Two Quail -- but haven't been there in a decade. If $500 is the minimum, that isn't too bad. That's only $50 each, which we can cover."
To formalize the request for the two officers, Sergeant Shaun Donelson of the police executive protection detail wrote a March 27 memo to San Diego police chief William Lansdowne. He told the chief that on the East Coast trip Sanders would need "assistance with ingress/egress and security." Donelson estimated the officers' participation in the trip would entail the following expenses: airfare, $1823.20; Hertz rental car, $589.52; Amtrak, $336; meals, $280; hotel (three nights in the Hyatt Regency in Washington), $675. The total was $3703.72. "The travel expenses will be paid from the Executive Protection Detail/Chief's Office budget," wrote Donelson.