Some of America's biggest military contractors are on a big-money warpath against the Barrio Logan community plan that has become a proxy battlefield for Republican city councilman Kevin Faulconer and his Democratic colleague David Alvarez in their race for mayor.
Faulconer has made his opposition to the Barrio Logan community a key part of his campaign for mayor, frequently attacking its land-use limitations near the city's shipyards as a jobs buster. Alvarez, whose district includes the area, is the plan's champion, asserting that it would protect the health and safety of those living near the shipyards without interfering with commerce.
The plan was adopted by the city council on a 5-4 vote last fall, just as the primary election for mayor ramped up. Faulconer quickly jumped to the fore of a referendum campaign to repeal it.
Donors to the referendum effort, which has since qualified for the ballot, weren't known until January 31, when a campaign fund calling itself “Protect Our Jobs Coalition” was required by law to file a disclosure report covering the period between October 1 and December 31 of last year.
According to that document, the group spent a total of $729,463 on its effort, raised $432,550 in cash, and was $287,483 in debt.
The biggest donor was National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, owned by military contracting behemoth General Dynamics, with $200,000; second largest, with $75,000, was giant British-based military contractor BAE Systems; in third place, with $50,000, was Continental Maritime of San Diego.
The congressional campaign of ex–city councilman Carl Demaio, an unsuccessful GOP candidate for mayor in 2012, made an in-kind contribution of $800, the report says.
Unpaid bills included at least $91,486 owed Southwest Strategies, the public relations and lobbying boutique founded by Al Ziegaus, an ex-reporter with the now defunct Evening Tribune. The firm's clients have included Fox Sports, Medbox, a marijuana-vending-machine company, and billboard giant Lamar Outdoor Advertising.
Spending on the San Diego measure has represented a big portion of General Dynamics’ political payments, according to figures provided online by OpenSecrets.org. During the 2014 campaign cycle to date, the General Dynamics political action committee has given $477,500 to federal candidates.
The military contractor is well known for using its big money to influence the political process. Last August, the Center for Public Integrity covered an effort to sell what critics said were unneeded tanks to the army.
The Pentagon says it has enough Abrams tanks — and has even mothballed some in the California desert. The Pentagon wants to halt the program to save $3 billion.
General Dynamics’ lobbying and campaign contributions spiked at the moment of key hearings and votes (the company’s contributions went up from average of $7,000 a week to nearly $50,000 at strategic junctures).
As a result, General Dynamics and the congressional delegation from Ohio, where the tanks are assembled, prevented a freeze on M1 refurbishment from 2014 to 2017, even at a time when public opinion is galvanized against wasteful federal spending.