Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Will Big-Money Lobbying Win the Airport Parking Battle?
Ace Parking, founded more than sixty years ago by Evan Jones, has long had a virtual monopoly on running San Diego’s publicly owned parking venues.
Insiders note that one key to the company’s success has been staying friendly with local politicos and the judicious use of influential lobbyists.
Ace is currently vying with Chicago-based Standard Parking for the lucrative right to operate the lots at Lindbergh Field, with the San Diego County Airport Authority board set to consider the 'best and final offers" of the two companies today.
Both outfits have been pushing hard for their respective deals, but an examination of local campaign contributions gives ACE a big edge in the political money derby.
According to the city’s online campaign finance database, during the last four years, ACE employees have contributed a total of $14,580 to candidates for city office, both Democratic and Republican, including councilman Todd Gloria, a Democrat ($2040); Republican councilman Carl DeMaio ($1350 for council, plus $500 to DeMaio’s mayoral bid); ex-councilman, now Assembly Democrat Ben Hueso ($700); GOP Assemblyman and mayoral hopeful Nathan Fletcher ($1850); Republican councilwoman Lorie Zapf ($1000); Democratic councilwoman Marti Emerald ($1080); and Emerald’s failed GOP opponent, political accountant April Boling ($2830).
The airport authority’s lobbying registration log shows that Ace has been represented there by Clay Company employees Stephanie Saatoff, Maddy Kilkenny, and Nicole Clay.
No lobbyists registered for Standard, nor did Standard employees make any city contributions, according to the city’s online database and the list of lobbyists posted online by the airport authority.
Since last year, city records show, Clay and her associates at Clay Company have given a total of $2518 to city candidates, including Democratic city councilman David Alvarez ($125); $500 to Emerald; $200 to Fletcher; $400 to Gloria; and $568 to Zapf.
Over at the city of San Diego, records show that Ace is represented by Peterson & Price.
Employees of that firm have been backers of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, giving a total of $889 in 2007 to his re-election campaign.
According to lobbyist disclosure filings, in the second quarter of this year, ACE paid the Peterson firm $8000 to lobby for a "passenger loading zone and valet permit for 1298 Prospect Street", and $1000 for “verification that Lunch Truck is ok.”
In March of last year, according to the records, the firm’s Matthew Peterson gave $250 to the campaign fund of Democratic councilman Tony Young, a member of the airport board who has been quoted by the Union-Tribune as favoring ACE.
The airport authority is run by a nine-member Board, with three additional members serving ex officio. Board members serve 3-year terms and may be reappointed.
Besides Young’s position, Sanders is responsible for two other appointments to the airport board. One is the seat currently held by retired admiral Bruce Boland. The other is held by Robert H. Gleason, an executive at Evans Hotels.
Ironically, another board seat is held by lawyer Paul Robinson, who was appointed by ex-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year.
Robinson, a former aide to Pete Wilson, is widely regarded as one of the city’s top contract lobbyists, whose clients have included San Diego State University, the San Diego Unified Port District, Eastman Kodak Co., the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, Qualcomm, The Irvine Co., and Allied Waste Industries.
As we reported earlier this year, local lobbyists have found airport contracts to be a pot of gold.
UPDATE: ACE beat out Standard for the contract. We'll follow up in the days to come.
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