Let San Diego's rich GOP insider political intrigue begin — or continue.
After a strange, if not bizarre, Republican spring campaign season, onetime Wall Street bailout chief Neel Kashkari is safely on his way to a face-off against Democratic governor Jerry Brown in the fall.
As is usually the case in a state as big as California, cash and establishment connections made all the difference in Kashkari's victory over conservative GOP assemblyman Tim Donnelly.
"In the final weeks of the campaign, Kashkari poured $2 million of his own money into the race, while establishment Republicans such as former Gov. Pete Wilson and strategist Karl Rove warned publicly that Donnelly would drag the Republican Party’s image down," noted the Sacramento Bee’s postmortem.
“'For most Republican voters, if they heard from anybody, they heard from Kashkari, and in a vacuum a little means a lot,' said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. 'If Donnelly had been able to raise some money, the outcome might have been quite different.'"
Though still regarded as a longshot against Brown — widely popular in polls and possessor of a huge political bankroll of his own — Kashkari is being celebrated up and down the state by the big-business wing of his party as a standard bearer who will avoid discussion of inconvenient social issues in favor of those that fatten their bottom line.
Earlier this week, the nonprofit Voice of San Diego news-and-opinion website ran an upbeat item reporting that Kashkari "stopped by Monday night’s monthly meeting of the San Diego County Republican Party to rally members around his bid," and wrapped a hearty political embrace around GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer, also a product of the state's big business and real estate development lobby, as represented by San Diego's GOP Lincoln Club.
"But he wasn’t just tailoring his message to the audience at the Town & Country," said the Voice. "Kashkari’s talked up Faulconer’s win throughout his gubernatorial campaign. It’s no wonder: Republicans don’t have many stars in California shining as brightly as Faulconer is at the moment."
The item went on to cite a bevy of Kashkari pro-Faulconer quotes, including, “With your great new mayor in San Diego, you showed how we can do this. So the campaign that you ran with Kevin [Faulconer] was very positive — an inclusive campaign, where he reached out to every group imaginable.”
"'You did it with [Mayor] Kevin Faulconer,' said the Orange County resident. 'You did it [despite] a huge Democratic registration advantage.… You crushed the Labor-funded Democrats. If you can do it in San Diego, [Republicans] can absolutely do it statewide.'"
Though the Voice item didn't note it, one of those backing Kashkari is R. B. "Buzz" Woolley, Jr., the La Jolla millionaire who co-founded the website and is chairman of its board of directors, among whom is Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell, V.P. of state government affairs for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co. SDG&E is listed on the site as a "community partner."
Woolley is listed on the Voice site as among its "top 20 donors" with $100,000 given through the "Woolley Fund at San Diego Foundation." The Woolley-run Girard Foundation is also listed as a contributor of an unspecified amount.
According to a filing with the California secretary of state's office, Woolley, whose occupation was listed as "retired," gave $2000 to Kashkari's campaign on May 27.
A longtime foe of organized labor, Woolley gave $10,000 to 2012's Proposition 32, the so-called paycheck protection measure that would have banned labor unions from using member dues for political purposes.
In addition, in 2011 both Woolley and the Lincoln Club gave $10,000 each to qualify the measure, which was ultimately voted down, for the ballot.
Another major Kashkari backer this spring was the New Majority California political action committee, a big-business advocacy group that also favored Faulconer's mayoral bid. The PAC gave $30,000 to the Kashkari campaign on May 23, according to a June 3 disclosure filing.
Following Faulconer's election, New Majority kicked in $5000 to help pay for an exclusive, invite-only inaugural party for him on the Broadway Pier.
“We wanted to have a great time to celebrate Kevin’s victory and start off on the right foot by celebrating all of San Diego. I thought it was really well-done,” John Cross, New Majority’s executive director, was quoted by U-T San Diego as saying of the blow-out.
Woolley wasn't the largest Kashkari donor from San Diego. That distinction belongs to Dale Yahnke, a self-styled "wealth management" advisor who gave $10,000 on January 24, according to filings. His firm Dowling and Yahnke "currently manages over $2.5 billion for more than 900 clients, primarily individuals, families, endowments and foundations," according to the company's website.
According to city campaign disclosure records, Yahnke gave $350 to Faulconer's mayoral run this year. He and associates of his firm were also modest givers to the 2012 mayoral campaigns of the GOP's Carl DeMaio and then-Republican assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, as well as Republican Ray Ellis's failed bid for a city-council seat.