Last month San Diego's GOP Lincoln Club dispatched a hit piece featuring a grinning Nathan Fletcher standing alongside his onetime Republican backer and George W. Bush intimate Karl Rove.
The mailer, aimed at Democratic and Independent voters, sought to portray the onetime Republican assemblyman, now a newly hatched Democratic mayoral hopeful, as an opportunistic chameleon, ready to jump aboard any cause as long as it advanced his personal fortune.
The same has been said of Qualcomm, where Fletcher now works, and its founder, La Jollan Irwin Jacobs, who is widely seen as the key mover behind the Fletcher push for mayor.
In the early 1990s, Jacobs, then struggling to establish the so-called CDMA cell-phone technology that would make him a billionaire, was an early big-money backer of Democrat Bill Clinton.
As professor Scott Kennedy, director of Indiana University's Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business, wrote in 2007:
US-based telecom semiconductor maker Qualcomm received a license to market its CDMA technology for cellular phones in China in 1999 because the company’s chairman, Irwin Jacobs, was a large contributor to the Democratic Party and a friend of American President Bill Clinton.
The Clinton Administration made Qualcomm’s license a mandatory requirement for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
Jacobs and his son Paul, now Qualcomm CEO, have also built bridges of influence with their campaign money and cash support for many Republicans, especially during the tumultuous era of Clinton's successor, George W. Bush.
A key Qualcomm friend in China during that time was U.S. ambassador Clark ''Sandy'' Randt, Bush's fraternity brother at Yale's Delta Kappa Epsilon in the late 1960s.
Randt learned to speak Mandarin and after Yale spent four years in the top-secret U.S. Air Force Security Service, a cryptographic intelligence agency that is closely intertwined with the National Security Agency, otherwise known as the NSA.
In 1982 he became first secretary and commercial attaché at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. After that, Randt got a job in the Hong Kong offices of the giant international law firm of Shearman & Sterling, watching over multinational business interests in China and giving heavily to Republican politicos, including Bush and Sen. John McCain. Bush named him ambassador to China in early 2001.
When Barack Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, Randt stepped down as ambassador and became "special advisor" to Hopu Investment Management, which the Wall Street Journal reported that November was "a $2.5 billion private equity fund set-up by Fang, a well-connected Chinese banker, with backing from Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and Goldman Sachs."
In his autobiography, George W. Bush wrote, "[In my] senior year I joined Skull and Bones, a secret society; so secret, I can't say anything more."
Of the outfit, Time magazine said in 2009:
Minus the trappings of wealth, privilege and power, Skull and Bones could be a laughably juvenile club for Dungeons-and-Dragon geeks. But its rumored alumni have made up a disproportionately large percentage of the world's most powerful leaders.
(One historian has likened the society's powers to that of an "international mafia," for as another writer put it, "the mafia is, after all, the most secret of societies.")
Bonesmen have, at one time, controlled the fortunes of the Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford families, as well as posts in the Central Intelligence Agency, the American Psychological Association, the Council on Foreign Relations and some of the most powerful law firms in the world.
Whether or not his friend Randt was also a member of the club, Bush didn't say, but two other San Diego-related characters are said by many to have belonged: Predator drone makers and Yalies Linden and Neil Blue of General Atomics.
Linden Blue is a leader of the anti-Fletcher Lincoln Club.
Randt joined the Qualcomm board last month.
In a news release announcing the appointment, Paul Jacobs was quoted as saying:
We are fortunate to welcome Ambassador Randt as a member of Qualcomm's Board of Directors.
As China remains a key emerging region, his extensive background in working with China's government and businesses will provide invaluable insight to Qualcomm's ￼board as we look to further expand the Company's footprint in the country's rapidly growing and evolving wireless ecosystem.