San Diego One of San Diego's richest and most powerful players is also one of its most enigmatic. John Jay Moores -- Padres owner, downtown development magnate, University of California regent, confidante and patron of ex-president Jimmy Carter -- rarely communicates directly with the taxpaying public, save for a few throwaway lines handed to sportswriters about the ups and downs of his professional baseball franchise. But the wealthy ex-Texan and nominal Democrat is never far from the minds of local political insiders and pundits, who see his shadowy influence -- much of it mediated by ex-Democratic state senator Steve Peace, now a well-paid Moores executive -- almost everywhere.
A recent case in point: a hush-hush six-month lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., financed by his JMI Realty holding company. Disclosure statements on file with the U.S. Senate reveal that on September 30 of last year, Del Mar Heights-based JMI hired Wayne Berman and Stewart Hall of the Federalist Group, LLC, to lobby Congress and the president regarding "base closure and realignment issues." The company also represents the University of California and Science Applications International Corporation. A year-end 2005 filing, dated February 7 of this year, described the influence peddling on behalf of JMI as being about "issues related to base closure redevelopment." According to that filing, the lobbyists had contacted the "Executive Office of the President," along with the House and Senate. The contract, worth $160,000, ended this April 1, says an August 9 filing by the lobbyists.
The timing of JMI's lobbying effort parallels progress of the controversial Navy Broadway Complex project, ultimately awarded to rival developer Doug Manchester on March 31. Days before that, on March 27, the Irvine Company, then regarded by many as the front-runner to win development rights from the Navy, announced it was hiring ex-Padres president Charles Black and former JMI executive Thomas Sullivan, a move that suggested they would lead the Broadway project. A March 8 U-T story said that JMI "chose not to bid" for the project's long-term lease rights. Almost since the day it was announced, Manchester's proposal has been opposed by a host of critics, who complain about its lack of public spaces and schlocky design. They've found a seemingly unlikely ally in the Union-Tribune, known for boosting most big local development projects. The paper, which has repeatedly bashed Manchester's Broadway complex concept, has long been editorially friendly to Moores.