Ken Leighton 7:59 a.m., May 22
Ex-firm of judge in moguls' anti-Filner case revises disclosure to show more campaign contributions
Downtown's Sheppard Mullin, a major hotel developer lobbyist, amends filing four days after story on contributions of its lawyers to failed GOP mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, a city hall lobbying mainstay for members of San Diego's hotel development industry, La Jolla's tony Bishops' School, as well as San Diego Gas & Electric and a host of other major corporate and industrial clients, has amended its third quarter 2012 lobbying filing to show that members of the law firm gave more money to the mayoral campaign of Republican city councilman Carl DeMaio than it previously had disclosed.
The new filing may confirm the view of some critics that the city's deep and convoluted web of political giving and behind-the-scenes influence peddling is so difficult to track that even a major player such as Sheppard Mullin - with a national legal reputation and millions of dollars of corporate business to protect – hasn’t been able to adequately account for the extensive fundraising activities of its employees, a lapse that could subject violators to city and state legal sanctions.
The filing, time-stamped by the San Diego city clerk's office at 3:35 yesterday afternoon, comes on the heels of our story Friday reporting that Sheppard Mullin lawyers donated heavily to DeMaio and two other GOP candidates, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (who subsequently left the party), while giving just $250 to the ultimate victor, Democrat Bob Filner.
According to the document, Sheppard Mullin failed to disclose contributions to DeMaio made by several of its partners, including Christopher Neils, the lawyer who has handled extensive legal work for Douglas F. Manchester, the hotel developer and U-T San Diego publisher now engaged in an editorial war with Filner over whether the mayor should sign a funding contract negotiated by GOP ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, a major beneficiary of hotel industry political largesse.
Sheppard Mullin's amendment says it was filed "to itemize campaign contribution made by Christopher Neils to Carl DeMaio on 8/2/2012; to add campaign contributions made to Carl DeMaio by John Ponder on 8/10/2012, Christopher Neils on 9/3/2012, and Richard Freeman on 8/21/2012; and to add contributions made to Sherri Lighnter by James Mittermiller on 8/15/2012 and Jerry Gumpel on 9/29/2012."
In addition, the disclosure says, the amendment was required "to add fundraiser activity for Sherri Lightner on 8/15/2012."
The revised filing shows that the Lightner fundraiser, co-hosted by attorney James Mittermiller, came up with $5669 for the Democratic city council incumbent from La Jolla, who beat GOP challenger Ray Ellis. La Jolla's Bishop's school has been a Sheppard Mullin client during a controversial bid for an expansion funded in large part by UT San Diego publisher Manchester.
Manchester's fellow hotel magnates, C. Terry Brown, William Evans, and Richard Bartell, are the principal movers behind a now pending lawsuit to force Filner to ratify a city funding deal with the so-called San Diego Tourism Marketing District. The case is to be heard by Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Taylor, a 20-year veteran of Sheppard Mullin.
As we reported March 6, Taylor's 2012 re-election nominating petition was circulated by longtime political operative Jennifer Tierney - who has worked for GOP ex-mayor Dick Murphy and Republican District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, among others - and was signed by city councilman Todd Gloria and a city hall aide, along with Robert H. Gleason, chief financial officer of Evans Hotels, whose president Bill Evans, is treasurer of the plaintiff in the case.
In response to that report, Taylor filed a minute order acknowledging Tierney's role, but denying he knows Gloria or Gleason.
Taylor, appointed to the bench by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, also used the order to deny he was "GOP leaning," saying he was registered to vote as declining to state a political party, and declined to recuse himself from hearing the case against the Democratic mayor.