The true source of the bulk of a $15,000 contribution given to the 2014 reelection bid of Democratic governor Jerry Brown by the Thoroughbred Owners of California PAC has finally been revealed. As we reported earlier this year, the money was received by the Brown camp on February 3, a few days after the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, operator of the famous track, gave $5000 to Brown. The virtually simultaneous contributions came amid a reportedly fierce lobbying effort by the cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach regarding four upcoming Brown appointments to the board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the fairgrounds. In addition, both cities had been angling to get the state to sell the fair-and-racing complex to them, an effort that has gone nowhere since Brown took over from GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The cities’ plan to take over the racetrack and adjoining property hinged on a scheme to get Arizona horseman Mike Pegram and two partners to ante up $30 million toward a proposed sale price of $120 million, with the balance to be raised by $45 million in revenue bonds and a $45 million state loan. In return, Pegram’s group would have gotten a 55-year lease on the track.
But after Brown arrived in Sacramento, and an enabling bill by Democratic state senator Christine Kehoe failed to advance in the legislature, Pegram pronounced the deal dead last July. He told the Union-Tribune, “We said, ‘You know what, this isn’t going anywhere,’ and instead of spinning our wheels, we decided we’ve got better things to do.” Pegram left open the possibility that he might return to the bargaining table should political conditions improve.
Now it turns out that Pegram — owner of 26 McDonald’s restaurants in Arizona and 2 Nevada casinos — and fellow Arizona horse owner Karl Watson, one of Pegram’s prospective partners in the Del Mar deal, each gave $5000 to the Thoroughbred owners PAC on February 1. The Brown camp reported getting $15,000 from the PAC on February 3. The information was revealed in a March 18 financial disclosure by the Thoroughbred association and one by Brown dated February 3, posted online by the California secretary of state’s office. Before the Brown contribution was made, according to the filing, the PAC had just $7622 in the bank and at the end of the reporting period the PAC had a cash balance of $2622. The two horsemen’s contributions represented the only money received by the fund for the year to date.