David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
On Wednesday, Scott Dickey, president of the Competitor Group, led a news conference at the Registrar of Voters office in Kearny Mesa to announce formation of "Movement to the Middle," a group whose members say they are renouncing their political party affiliations.
"We are no longer willing to accept the partisan gridlock and gamesmanship we see at all levels of our government." Dickey said, making no secret of his admiration for Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, the former Republican who has taken leave of his party in the midst of his San Diego mayoral campaign.
Each year, the Competitor Group runs the lucrative Rock 'n Roll Marathon through San Diego city streets, and the company has been highly dependent on the cooperation of local officials for subsidies, event permits, and police assistance.
Dickey and his firm came under scrutiny in February 2009 after the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a Competitor Group subsidiary, Elite Racing, Inc, had profited handsomely from San Diego taxpayer subsidies and what the paper called questionable payouts from a related tax-exempt corporation.
In a May 2009 follow-up, the U-T reported that Elite had "improperly benefited from more than $340,000 of public subsidies and grants," and had agreed to return the money to settle the matter.
"The foundation was operating inappropriately, in many instances for the benefit of the for-profit," Dickey told the paper following the release of an audit commissioned as a result of the U-T exposé.
"Competitor took over Elite Racing in January 2008, and executives say they were not aware of the unusual setup with the foundation until the newspaper report," the Union-Tribune story added.
Since then, Competitor has continued to lobby for favors.
In a May 19, 2010, letter to San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders and the city council, Competitor Group CEO Peter Englehart outlined the details of a proposed exclusive "event and promotion agreement" with the city:
"In consideration of CGI’s overall investment and the need to secure the convention center for our two day Health & Fitness Expo, contracts with local hoteliers and execute long-term partnership agreements, such as our finish line contract with SeaWorld, and in conjunction with our partnership with the City of San Diego, CGI respectfully requests the City grant us the exclusive designation as the official marathon, protecting our market position and course route for a period of ten years."
To do its lobbying, Competitor Group employs the services of Cooley, LLP, the giant Silicon Valley law firm that maintains a branch office here.
According to the firm's most recent disclosure filing with the city clerk, covering the final quarter of last year, Cooley staffers Steven M. Strauss and Wain Fishburn each gave mayoral candidate Fletcher $500. Anthony M. Stieger and Fred Muto contributed $250 each.
In addtion, Strauss was reported to have staged a "cocktail reception fundraiser" for Fletcher in November that brought in $5000.