Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Advocacy group closely tied to big hotel owner backs legal attack on Filner
Executive board of business lobbying group includes Mike McDowell, vice president of corporate affairs for Atlas Hotels
As reported earlier this week by Dorian Hargove, city councilman Todd Gloria, who is not a particularly close ally of fellow Democrat Bob Filner, has called a city council meeting Monday to provide support to the hoteliers currently suing the mayor in an attempt to get him to sign a disputed contract negotiated by former GOP mayor Jerry Sanders.
There will be shown a slideshow touting the importance that the tourism industry has on San Diego, such as its "$18.3 billion economic impact on the region."
Also on display, judging by a "call to action," posted online late Friday by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, will be a packed house of lawsuit backers. "Support Tourism - Support Jobs - Support San Diego," says the notice. "This money is solely dedicated to advertising San Diego as a tourist destination to the rest of the world."
In an exchange of news releases yesterday, the lawsuit backers accused Filner of interfering with a "partnership with the City that has served our industry and tourism employees," while the mayor called them a "small group of wealthy hoteliers [holding] our economy hostage to their personal agenda of secrecy and greed."
The coming legal battle between the Democratic mayor, who has received a major segment of his campaign cash from labor unions, and the owner of Atlas Hotels, Inc., C. Terry Brown, a Republican funding titan, is shaping up as a historic moment in San Diego politics.
Brown is chairman of the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, at the center of the storm over whether and how to collect and spend $30 million a year in public money.
In 2003, the sharp dressing mega-millionaire, along with wife Charlene, spent almost $200,000 in an attempt to pass higher room taxes and has continued spending heavily, trying to muster political clout for his plans.
Long a friend and financial supporter of GOP presidents, in October 1988 Brown wrote an impassioned letter to Ronald Reagan seeking a pardon for Dominic "Bud" Alessio, scion of the powerful San Diego family who had been convicted in 1973 of lavishing gifts on a federal prison official while his father and uncle, doing time on income tax evasion charges, got special treatment, including visits from women.
Bud's father John was a protégé of C. Arnholdt Smith, the one-time Daddy Warbucks of San Diego, brought down by fraud charges in the wake of the collapse of his bank.
Reported the Los Angeles Times on October 6, 1988:
Some of the federal investigators who worked the tax evasion and prison bribery cases contend that the letter-writing campaign for a White House pardon is another example of the Alessio family spreading its influence.
"That's his nature to make friends with big people," said Lenard Wolf, who was the lead FBI agent on the bribery case.
On the executive committee of the taxpayer association's board is Mike McDowell, Vice President Corporate Affairs at Brown’s Atlas Hotels.
McDowell previously was the taxpayer group's chairman
Other board members include lobbyist Craig Benedetto of California Strategies, the Republican influence peddling outfit founded by onetime Pete Wilson aide Bob White, whose employee Tom Blair is providing public relations for the tourism marketing district that is suing Filner.
According to its most recent lobbyist disclosure filing, covering the final quarter of last year and posted online by the San Diego city clerk's office, the Taxpayers Association wants to privatize city services, and also seeks "streamlining" of public works approvals, speeding up cash payments to contractors.
Association staffer Chris Cate gave $200 to the unsuccessful bid of GOP then-city councilman Carl DeMaio against Filner; Ildiko "Lani" Lutar came up with $150 for Republican Ray Ellis, who lost out to incumbent Democratic city councilwoman Sherri Lightner.
Lutar played a prominent role in the twitter tempest that broke out earlier this month at a banquet held by another city hall-oriented influence group, the Downtown Partnership, during which Filner joked about the well-known toupee worn by Republican City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
Lobbyist Lutar was not happy and tweeted unfriendly remarks about the mayor. (She has subsequently announced she is leaving her position with the association.)