David Dodd 2:33 a.m., May 19
Key Sanders and Horn Political Operative Signs on with Pro-Jacobs Balboa Park Committee
On the eve of today's San Diego city council hearing on Irwin Jacobs' controversial Balboa Park makeover plan, backers of the La Jolla billionaire and Qualcomm founder have made it clear they intend to pursue a take-no-prisoners strategy.
The Balboa Park Conservancy, a non-profit corporation set up in 2010 ostensibly to "assist and partner with the City with governance, fund-raising and management of Balboa Park," according to its website, did not take a position on the Jacobs project until last month, when it endorsed the cell phone mogul's giant road and parking plan just prior to a hearing on the matter by the city's planning commission.
Then last week, the tax-exempt organization sent out a news release announcing the appointment of GOP Mayor Jerry Sanders ex-staffer Phil Rath, now president of Public Policy Strategies, Inc., to its board of directors. Rath got his start as an aide to North County Republican county supervisor Bill Horn.
Rath's "uses of tactical and aggressive advocacy make him a crucial asset to the Board," the conservancy's release said.
The appointment of the long-time political operative, along with other recent moves by the non-profit, according to the announcement, "parallel the Conservancy’s final push for City Council approval of the Plaza de Panama project."
Public Policy Strategies was founded by Sanders political guru Tom Shepard, currently listed as the outfit's "Strategic Advisor" and a longtime veteran of local Republican politics whose client, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher - a newly minted independent heavily backed by Paul Jacobs, son of Irwin Jacobs and chairman and CEO of Qualcomm - lost his bid for mayor last month.
In addition to Rath, the firm lists former Sanders public relations aide Rachel Laing, as well as Kimberly Hale Miller, a former GOP fundraiser and ex-wife of Sanders chief media honcho Darren Pudgil, among its ranks.
Long an inside player at city hall, Public Policy Strategies hosted a fundraiser on March 13 to benefit the re-election bid of Democratic City Councilman Todd Gloria.The event raised $3,000, according to lobbyists' disclosure filings covering the first quarter of this year.
Among the firm's well-heeled clients is the San Diego Police Officers Association, which earlier this year waged a big money political war against GOP city councilman Carl DeMaio's bid for mayor. He ultimately came out on top in the four-way primary and will face off against Democratic congressman Bob Filner this fall.