The League of California Cities, operating out of a posh Sacramento office, is funded by cities with taxpayer dollars to lobby for legislation dear to the hearts of city councils throughout the state. The group is staunchly opposed to strict limits on eminent domain because they would crimp the ability of cities to condemn land for redevelopment projects, such as stadiums, shopping malls, and other “civic improvements” that just happen to result in campaign contributions from developers. (The league also argues that the measure, Prop. 98, is actually intended by its sponsors to abolish rent controls imposed by some California cities and that it would interfere with municipal water projects and therefore inhibit development. “No Water = No Growth” is one of the league's campaign slogans.) Though it portrays itself as having the public’s interest at heart, the league, presided over this year by San Diego city councilman Jim Madaffer, is actually a full-blown political operation and has set up a committee to raise campaign funds from the very special interests that are dependent on favorable actions by local government. Called CITIPAC, the committee raked in about $100,000 in 2007 and is on track to bring in a record sum during this year’s election season.
San Diego County–based contributors include utility giant Sempra Energy, which gave $2000; EDCO Waste and Recycling ($1500); BIOCOM PAC, a biotech industry group ($1000); and Public Policy Strategies, the outfit run by Tom Shepard, consultant to San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders ($120). All the money raised so far this year has gone to pay for a $250,000 contribution to the campaign opposing Prop. 98, the anti-condemnation measure, and supporting Prop. 99, a watered-down limitation.