The latest high-stakes confrontation between Republican newspaper publisher and mega-hotel developer Douglas Manchester and his wealthy Democratic foe, La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs, over the minimum wage is likely to make national headlines and attract campaign cash from far and wide, perhaps including that from the Koch brothers of Wichita.
The city-council vote today (Aug. 18) to override the veto of GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer of the Democrats' wage-boosting ordinance is expected to trigger a costly referendum onslaught led by Faulconer political guru and tobacco-industry lobbyist Jason Roe. Whether the GOP's cash will be matched by Jacobs and fellow San Diego Democrats remains to be seen.
Roe and Duane Dichiara, longtime principals of the political consulting powerhouse Revolvis Consulting, have capitalized on their Faulconer ties by setting up a prosperous city-hall influence-peddling shop they call the Presidio Public Affairs Group.
Clients include Lorillard, Inc., third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States, and billboard behemoth CBS Outdoor.
“If the veto override happens, we’re ready to go,” Roe was quoted as saying in GOP kingpin Manchester's U-T San Diego, which left out the part about Roe's longtime political relationship with Faulconer and his role as a high-dollar corporate lobbyist.
Roe was identified by the paper as working for the San Diego Small Business Coalition, which, as previously reported here, was set up by the chamber of commerce on July 14 to run the anticipated referendum to put the minimum-wage ordinance on the ballot.
An earlier committee funded by restaurant and hotel interests to pass a competing minimum-wage measure that was labeled a “sham” by opponents was shut down August 9, according to an August 14 disclosure.
Manchester's U-T has already ramped up a hard-hitting campaign against the wage boost, warning minimum-wage proponents in a July 30 editorial that "it can get ugly" and to "expect hardball." Does that mean the Koch brothers are on board?
The voluble developer has had an editorial partnership with the Alexandria, Virginia-based Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, reported by the Columbia Journalism Review to be financially backed by the Kochs.
In addition, former Franklin Center vice president Steve Greenhut has been hired as a U-T editorial columnist. A Franklin-linked investigative reporter, who arrived at the U-T last year, returned to Texas about the time of Falconer's February victory over Democratic city councilman David Alvarez.
The U-T has not disclosed the terms of its relationship with the Koch brothers. A U-T web page devoted to the project currently says, "This site is no longer active," and refers readers to the U-T editorial page.
On the other end of the nation's political big-money spectrum is Qualcomm founder and Barack Obama funder Jacobs. Last year, Manchester and his allies in the GOP Lincoln club took on the billionaire and his son Paul, Qualcomm's chief executive at the time, in a fierce political struggle over Nathan Fletcher, the Republican-turned-Democratic ex-assemblyman and Qualcomm executive backed by Jacobs and his son for mayor.
"Is the Lincoln Club so desperate and out of constructive ideas that they are resorting to attacks on private employers, forsaking their supposed principles and lying to serve a political agenda?" said Paul Jacobs in a letter released after the club dispatched a nasty hit piece against Fletcher and Qualcomm last October.
"I demand a full apology and a retraction of this slanderous attack on our company and its more than 13,000 local employees."
This time around, Irwin Jacobs has taken to the opinion pages of the U-T to announce his backing for the minimum wage.
"We urge our local business community, let’s not delay, let’s not divide, and let’s not throw good money after bad," said a polite op-ed piece last Friday co-bylined by Jacobs and temporary-worker mogul Mel Katz. "Please drop the referendum threat."
Is Jacobs's stomach for confrontation with the take-no-prisoners publisher as strong as his words? In addition to a series of intensive hits against Faulconer's opponents by the U-T, Manchester personally spent at least $356,000 to fund the GOP on behalf of the victorious mayor, according to state filings.
In light of Manchester’s threat to "get ugly" — and the Lincoln Club's past attacks on Qualcomm — observers say U-T reporters and their supporters are expected to dig into labor practices at the chip-making giant in a way company stockholders may not appreciate.