It's a strange-bedfellows tale of trash and casino chips.
The Pala Band of Mission Indians and their affiliated entity Pala Casino came up with $20,000 on April 23 for a campaign committee calling itself Citizens Against Career Inside Politician Bill Horn for Supervisor 2014, run by Service Employees International Union Local 221, representing county workers. Horn is running against Oceanside mayor and fellow Republican Jim Wood.
This isn't the first financial foray by the tribe into county politics, motivated by its number-one land-use cause: halting the Gregory Canyon solid waste facility, a massive landfill being developed by San Diego lobbyist Nancy Chase, widow of project originator Richard Chase.
In November 2012, a group called USA PAC out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, undertook a mysteriously funded $30,000 direct-mail campaign on behalf of then-candidate for county supervisor Dave Roberts.
Originally known as the Congressional Elections PAC, the political action committee had been linked by Mother Jones to conservative Texas construction giant Leo Linbeck, III. Earlier in 2012, the committee had backed Republican Tea Party candidates in Texas and Tennessee, raising questions about why it had chosen Roberts, a Democrat, for its political largesse.
It wasn't until November 20, after the campaign was over with Roberts the victor, that USA PAC was required by federal law to file a campaign disclosure statement. It showed the source of funds for the pro-Roberts mail campaign to be the Pala Band, though no one with the tribe would comment, and the PAC was closed-mouthed as well.
Pala had endorsed Roberts during the campaign, which he acknowledged in a statement, saying, “They are an extremely important part of our County’s history, and I look forward to having the honor of working with them.”
Over the years, Horn has taken stands on both sides of the landfill controversy; earlier this month he told a campaign audience he'd now like to see the property become a park, according to an account in the Coast News.
The Indians have been pitted against a formidable, if currently undercapitalized foe in lobbyist Chase, a former aide to fallen GOP San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock.
In 2012, Chase backed the mayoral bid of Democrat Bob Filner, who subsequently made her daughter Molly chief of protocol during his brief tenure in office last year.
In June 2004, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins reported that Chase and her husband had split four years earlier, though they remained married and developing the controversial Gregory Canyon landfill together:
"With Richard as project manager and Nancy as the behind-the-scenes lobbyist and PR play-caller, the Gregory Canyon landfill pushed slowly through the environmental bureaucracy as the Chases fended off repeated political and legal ambushes."
After her husband's death in 2009 at 67, Chase took over the effort. Spotted earlier this year entering an exclusive, invitation-only inaugural party held by newly elected Republican San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, Chase has subsequently struggled to get the landfill into the ground.
She and her partners in the trash venture filed for bankruptcy this February, but the case was dismissed last month because the developers had not filed the necessary paperwork, according to an account by U-T San Diego.
"Chase characterized the end of the case as a 'good thing,' " the paper reported, quoting the lobbyist as saying, "The dismissal of the bankruptcy means we’re working on new financing. We’re working on other opportunities.”