Could a political contribution by any other name smell sweeter to San Diego Republicans?
That seems to be one of two persistent questions for Los Angeles developer Michael Schlesinger, who has been battling nearby residents over elaborate plans to convert the old Escondido Country Club into condos.
The other is about his recent spreading of chicken manure over the defunct links, causing further discomfort among the project's indignant neighbors.
As previously reported here, Schlesinger's development entity, Stuck in the Rough, LLC got a warning letter from the California Fair Political Practices Commission last month for failing to identify itself as the true source of $37,000 it had given to the GOP Lincoln Club and the county Republican party.
The money had falsely been reported by both the Lincoln Club and the Republicans as originating with Touchstone Golf, a Texas-based course-management outfit.
A major portion of the funds was spent by the Lincoln Club on mailers that helped destroy the mayoral hopes of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher and his employer Qualcomm, founded by La Jolla Democratic billionaire and Hillary Clinton–backer Irwin Jacobs.
The club’s take-no-prisoners political operation is widely seen as opening the way for the election of new Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Judging by recent developments, Schlesinger is far from done with name-changing and big-money campaign-giving.
As reported in U-T San Diego, Stuck in the Rough stands accused by neighbors of “creating a public nuisance by spreading chicken manure over several dying fairways, causing a stench that residents and an inspector described as horrible."
The paper went on to report that "several residents said this week they believe the stinky manure was spread as payback," an allegation the developer denied, asserting it had "never been fined or reprimanded in any way by any authority or city or state department.”
Besides the raging smell war, the Beverly Hills–based Schlesinger has taken his battle to court, filing a pending case against the city for illegal "taking" of the property.
Although the U-T's story refers to the course developer as Stuck in the Rough, a news release issued in September by Schlesinger's PR consultant notes that the new name for the project is "The Lakes at Escondido, LLC," an entity formed at the end of last August, as confirmed by state records.
"Nationally renowned land use attorney Michael Berger of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP has been retained as part of the owner's legal team led by Hecht Solberg," the release says. “Berger received distinction in 2014 as one of America's best lawyers."
The full name of Hecht Solberg is Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley, the Robinson in the firm's title belonging to Paul Robinson, downtown San Diego super lobbyist and a longtime Lincoln Club leader.
Besides the Escondido development, the firm's clients include billboard giant Capitol Outdoor, which wants to change the city's sign laws; the Grand Del Mar Resort, owned by U-T publisher Douglas Manchester; and Orange County's Irvine Company, a big real estate owner in both the city and county.
Whether by coincidence or not, on April 7 both the Lakes at Escondido and the Irvine Company contributed to the Republican Party of San Diego County, Irvine kicking in $15,000 and the Lakes coming up with $10,000.
Worldwide Community Forum, Inc., the firm of U-T web personality and fallen GOP San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock, gave $2500.