2013 was a bruising political year for Qualcomm, Inc., the cell-phone chip-maker cofounded by La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs. With his son Paul, then the company's chief executive, they put the firm's big-money chips behind ex-GOP assemblyman–turned–Democratic mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher.
Fletcher's mayoral hopes spiraled into the ground after the Republican Lincoln Club opened fire with a devastating round of hit pieces questioning his relationship with Qualcomm, which had employed him fresh out of the legislature as a "corporate development" director.
The pounding became so intense that Paul Jacobs felt compelled to release a statement condemning the club of influential corporate and real estate lobbyists.
"I was outraged to learn that the Lincoln Club of San Diego — a supposedly pro-business political group — would fund a political hit piece that unfairly and incorrectly attacks one of San Diego’s largest employers," wrote the CEO. "The allegations about Nathan’s job are completely untrue, from the erroneous salary figure to the outrageous allegation that his is a 'no-show' job.
"Is the Lincoln Club so desperate and out of constructive ideas that they are resorting to attacks on private employers, forsaking their supposed principles and lying to serve a political agenda?
"I demand a full apology and a retraction of this slanderous attack on our company and its more than 13,000 local employees."
About a month after Fletcher flamed out, Qualcomm announced that Paul Jacobs was stepping down as CEO and being made "executive chairman" in a move that company director and Hollywood movie executive Sherry Lansing portrayed in a statement as "a smooth transition to a proven executive in Steve Mollenkopf, while providing for ongoing executive guidance and Board-level leadership from Paul Jacobs."
So far, judging by a semi-annual report on its political money-giving just released by the company, the reign of Mollenkopf hasn't resulted in much of a change in the firm's contribution patterns.
Qualcomm’s regular disclosures of its previously dark political giving were mandated under a settlement reached last year after the firm was sued for lack of transparency by New York state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
During the six-month period covering September 30 of last year through this past March 30, Qualcomm coughed up $56,000 for California state candidates, including $10,000 for Democratic governor Jerry Brown's re-election bid, the document says.
The company sunk $63,000 into various federal campaign committees, including $5000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as its Republican counterpart. The senate committees of both parties got the same.
San Diego Democratic congressional incumbents Susan Davis and Juan Vargas each got $1500. Freshman Democrat Scott Peters, facing a stiff challenge from the GOP's Carl DeMaio, picked up $2000. The GOP's Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa had to settle for nothing, likely a belated slap at the Lincoln Club and other Republican locals.
Among political action committees, ANNA PAC, a so-called leadership committee newly started by Anna Eshoo, a House Democrat representing California's 18th District Silicon Valley high-tech hot spot, got the most: $2500.
The Eshoo PAC had its first fundraiser in March, attended by her close friend and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is backing Eshoo's insurgent bid to succeed retiring Democrat Henry Waxman as the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee. House Democrats will vote on the matter after this fall's mid-term election.
As a Politico item about the event put it, "Leadership PACs are a tool lawmakers employ to curry favor with their colleagues by cutting checks to their allies’ campaigns and are often used by lawmakers to help position themselves for plum committee slots.
"Oracle co-president and CFO Safra Katz, venture capitalist John Doerr, entrepreneur Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell Technology Group and Democratic lobbyists from firms like Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Podesta Group and Franklin Square Group are also lending their name and their pocketbooks to Eshoo’s leadership PAC."
In addition to its candidate and party contributions, Qualcomm gave to two 501(c)4 non-profits, which don't legally have to make their donor lists public.
The Ripon Society, a so-called centrist Republican think tank, and No Labels, which calls itself "a citizens' movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to a new politics of problem solving," got $25,000 each. Ripon's senate chairman Pat Roberts from Kansas is soon to face off against a Tea Party challenger in that state's GOP primary.
An independent expenditure committee backing Fletcher's ill-fated campaign for mayor received $49,000 during the period. An outfit called Third Way, which says it "represents Americans in the ‘vital center’ — those who believe in pragmatic solutions and principled compromise, but who too often are ignored in Washington," picked up $25,000.
Two mainstream business-lobbying groups got more substantial support. The Business Roundtable received $235,560 and the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A, was given $475,000, according to the document.