Eva Knott 6:29 a.m., May 23
Doug Manchester's Texas lobbying team bankrolls Rick Perry
Lobbying and campaign disclosure records show wealthy La Jolla Republican retains Austin influence peddling firm closely linked to GOP governor
U-T San Diego says it is worried about California’s economic future in the wake of Texas governor Rick Perry's Pacific Coast job poaching swing. The GOP pol and one-time presidential candidate is touring the Golden State this week, traveling to San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Orange County on a "business recruitment trip," paid for by various Texas oilmen and industry boosters.
In an editorial last week, the Republican U-T blamed California Democrats, not Perry, for the threat:
As reported by U-T San Diego’s Jonathan Horn and Bradley J. Fikes, Perry’s December visit here followed on the heels of the Nov. 6 elections, when California voters approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, raising sales taxes on everyone and income taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year.
The paper went on to quote several men it identified as San Diego's "key players," including Mark Cafferty, chief executive of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., regarding the dire threat Perry's foray posed to Californians:
“Our region has a target on our back. … While we do the best we can locally at EDC, we need state leadership to fight back.”
Other news organizations around the state haven't taken Perry's outing quite as seriously. Last week, the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters - dean of California's capitol commentators and not known for his admiration of Jerry Brown - opined that Perry is making the tour out of political desperation:
What it's really about is that Rick Perry isn't particularly popular in his home state these days. His campaign for presidency kind of decreased his popularity and he would like to run for re-election in 2014, and he can think of nothing better to get Texans on his side than to tweak those crazy people out there in California, which all good Texans love to hate.
As it turns out, U-T owner and publisher Douglas Manchester - long a major funder of the Republican party and its candidates across the nation – has hired two Texas lobbyists employed by a law firm that is one of Perry's major Lone Star money sources.
According to disclosure records posted online by the city of Austin, the U-T publisher's Manchester Financial Group LLC has retained the services of the Texas capital city's premier influence peddler, Winstead PC. Two shareholders in the law firm, John Donisi and Stephen Drenner, are listed as registered as representing Manchester at Austin city hall through January of next year.
According to an October 11, 2011 news release posted on Winstead's web site:
Drenner is known as the king of entitlements (municipal approvals) around and in the City of Austin, the City of San Antonio and other municipalities in Texas.
Donisi's practice focuses on entitlement work and he is a registered lobbyist with a well-known reputation for success in local government and legislative lobby efforts for his clients.
As reported here last year, Manchester and son Douglas run a branch of the family real estate development business in Texas:
The website of Manchester Senior's La Jolla-based company says his son graduated from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and since then "has applied his business knowledge in all aspects of the hotel, insurance and real estate industries.
"This career path has led him to Austin to engage the firm in commercial real estate ventures and hotel development."
Expected to open in 2015, the $350 million project will be managed by luxury operator Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Manchester Texas Financial Group announced this week. The 1,000-room hotel, which will be connected to the Austin convention center by way of a skybridge, will be the second tallest highrise in downtown Austin
The paper quoted Manchester's second in command, Richard Gibbons, as saying:
"Austin is a very dynamic city and the capital of Texas."
"It's also very high-tech growth-oriented, but the convention center has always been under-utilized because it hasn’t had adequate convention center hotel support."
Manchester's lobbyist on the project, Winstead PC, one of the largest law firms in Texas, is also one of the state's biggest financial backers of the GOP - and Rick Perry in particular.
According to contribution data posted online by the non-profit National Institute on Money in State Politics, Winstead and employees gave a combined total of $1,136,241 in state contributions to various political causes from 2004 through 2012, including $109,590 to Rick Perry. 80.46% of the firm’s cash went to Republicans, while 17.51 percent was given to Democrats.
Reached this morning at his office in Manchester Financial Group’s Grand del Mar resort in San Diego, vice chairman and CEO Gibbons confirmed the company’s employment of Winstead PC and said development of the firm's Austin hotel project was on schedule.