USS Bonhomme Richard in dry dock at NASSCO shipyard
With San Diego's mayor in its pocket and a bundle of cash already laid out, the world’s military contracting lobby appears to be leaving nothing to chance in its bid to kill the Barrio Logan Community Plan update, scheduled for a citywide vote June 3.
As previously reported here, the war-fighting lobby ran up a $729,000 tab in 2013 to conduct a referendum campaign to force the plan, adopted by a 5-4 city-council vote last fall, onto the ballot.
The biggest donor was National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, owned by military contracting behemoth General Dynamics, with $200,000; second largest, with $75,000, was giant British-based military contractor BAE Systems; in third place, with $50,000, was Continental Maritime of San Diego.
The congressional campaign of ex–city councilman Carl DeMaio, an unsuccessful GOP candidate for mayor in 2012, made an in-kind contribution of $800.
Since then, BAE has kicked in with more, giving $150,000 to the contractor's political committee, called the “Protect Our Jobs Coalition,” sponsored by the Port of San Diego Ship Repair Association, on March 7.
L-3 PacOrd of Norfolk, Virginia, formerly known as Pacific Ordnance and Electronics Company, came up with $10,000 on March 10. It is a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, another giant defense contractor.
On March 13, Kloeckner Metals of Roswell, Georgia, a subsidiary of German-based Klöckner & Co., was likewise tapped for $10,000.
According to its website, the ship-repair association was "established in 1982 to increase industry cooperation and cohesiveness and create greater public awareness and understanding of the industry's issues."
The group is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit, which under federal law is not required to disclose the names of its donors and can engage in political activity as a so-called business league.
Association president and chief executive Derry Pence, a retired Navy captain who has previously worked for General Dynamics, was paid $66,638 in 2012, according to the group's IRS filing for 2013, the most recent available. The board, chaired by BAE's Dave Manchester, includes Joe Pritchard of General Dynamics NASSCO and Russ Pearce of L-3 PacOrd.
As reported here in December by Dorian Hargrove, in addition to their close ties to newly elected GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer, the military contractors have had a cozy relationship with Republican city attorney Jan Goldsmith, as revealed by emails from industry lobbyist Chris Wahl to Goldsmith's office obtained under the state public records act.
"On behalf of my client, General Dynamics NASSCO, I would like to request a meeting next week, if possible with City Attorney Goldsmith," reads the opening passage from Wahl's October 24 email. "The purpose of the meeting is to discuss Barrio Logan issues, including next steps related to the referendum of the Community Plan."
Attendees, according to Wahl's email, were Matt Luxton, chief financial officer for NASSCO, Sarah Strang, the shipbuilder's director of communications, and Wahl.
On October 28, Goldsmith's assistant, Carmen Sandoval, responded, "Great, we will see you all then."
In addition to putting its cash into the referendum campaign itself, representatives of the military contractors lobby have been heavy donors to the new mayor.
General Dynamics NASSCO president Fred Harris gave a personal total of $6000 to Faulconer's 2014 campaign, according to city records, and employees of BAE, including Manchester, contributed a total of $6800.