San Diego’s Qualcomm, Inc., cofounded by La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs, has lobbied long and hard to greatly increase so-called H-1B visas, the entry permits issued by the federal government, allowing lower-wage foreign engineers to enter the country to work in high-tech businesses.
Two years ago, the company was a major player behind the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2015, which critics, including Russell Harrison, director of government relations for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers–USA labeled “a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to Wall Street.”
As it slashed 1314 full-time jobs in San Diego that year, the company, one of the largest American corporate users of H-1Bs, spent $7,940,000, and $5,560,00 in 2016, to lobby congress and the administration regarding its wants, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Two years earlier, Qualcomm had created an advocacy group calling itself San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform, headed by Nathan Fletcher, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat and a financial favorite of Jacobs and his family during two failed bids to become mayor of San Diego.
"We have good paying, local jobs that are open today, and there are American-educated workers who are qualified to fill those jobs, but each year, almost 20,000 American-educated degree holders are forced to leave our country to take jobs elsewhere,” Fletcher, an ex-GOP Assemblyman who had been hired by Qualcomm after his first mayoral loss in 2012, told a March 13, 2013, news conference at Qualcomm headquarters.
He was joined at the event by Lorena Gonzalez, his future wife and state Assembly Democrat, then secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Labor Council.
Last year Fletcher, who turned Democrat two months after the so-called immigration reform event in May 2013, joined Jacobs and his clan in their big money crusade to make Hillary Clinton president.
When Donald Trump bested Clinton, Fletcher used his Twitter account to repeatedly bash the Republican for his anti-immigration policies, earning favorable February mention from CNN's Jake Tapper, gaining publicity for a widely expected run for county supervisor next year.
Behind the scenes, meanwhile, Qualcomm, whose executive chairman is Paul Jacobs, son of Irwin and a Fletcher friend and political funder, took another tack.
According to an April 18 disclosure filing with the Federal Election Commission, the committee set up to fund Trump's inaugural festivities received $1 million from the giant San Diego chipmaker. An initial $100,000 came January 5, with the balance of $900,000 delivered January 10.
That money equaled the $1 million that the "Papa Doug Trust," run by ex-Union-Tribune owner and La Jolla real estate magnate Douglas Manchester, came up with for the inaugural fund December 12, 2016.
The only other San Diego donor to kick in more than six figures to Trump's inaugural treasury, $202,500 per the disclosure, was George Gould, a major backer of Kevin Faulconer, the Republican who vanquished Fletcher in 2013's three-way mayoral primary.
Rancho Santa Fe's Flatley Family Trust gave $75,000 on January 10.
Qualcomm has long been under fire by critics who say it uses money to influence elected officials without adequate public disclosure. In 2013 the company settled a suit brought by the New York Comptroller's office by promising greater transparency, though contributions to San Diego's Faulconer by company executives last summer contributed to a rash of questions about firm's use of political money.