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Rotten with Sempra/SDG&E money

Politicos and local media get low-profile cash from utility giant

Sempra execs (such as Frank Urtasan) cotton to local politicians (such as Lorie Zapf)
Sempra execs (such as Frank Urtasan) cotton to local politicians (such as Lorie Zapf)

Arguably the most powerful corporation in San Diego, akin to the public utility octopuses of old, giant Sempra Energy has the political clout to match. But a big part of the electric company's influence isn't always publicly manifest, which is the way the firm is said to like it.

Somewhere in the bowels of its downtown corporate headquarters, executives from Sempra and its state-regulated subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric make critical decisions on how to distribute the company's trove of political money to best benefit its stockholders. When it comes to city politics, Sempra knows what it wants and, the record shows, usually gets it.

From February of 2013 through this January, employees at Sempra coughed up a total of $29,500, according to a spreadsheet analysis of city campaign-disclosure records. In the mayor's race, GOP winner Kevin Faulconer got $13,500, Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher took in $5000, and Democratic city councilman David Alvarez got $450.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, backing Faulconer, received $7500; the GOP Lincoln Club got $1250, and incumbent Republican city councilwoman Lorie Zapf's reelection campaign got $950.

It was the same over at SDG&E, with Faulconer's mayoral bid getting $7695. The Lincoln Club, which backed Faulconer with hit pieces against his foes, received $2500; the chamber's PAC got $3500; and Zapf received $1400. Alvarez got $1050.

In addition, according to Sempra's latest lobbyist filing, the company's Francisco J. Urtasun threw a Faulconer fundraiser on January 8 that came up with $8625.

And the money hasn't stopped coming.

On April 18, Sempra came up with $10,000 for an outfit called New Majority San Diego, which says on its website that it is "comprised of San Diego's top business leaders, from various industries, who are highly involved in local, state and federal politics. With their far-reaching influence in the economic sectors vital to the region. New Majority Members help set the political priorities for each election cycle."

The group backed Faulconer and has endorsed Zapf and her fellow Republican and downtown lobbyist Chris Cate for city council, as well as Bonnie Dumanis for district attorney. It favors ex-city councilman Carl DeMaio, another Republican, for Congress against incumbent Democrat Scott Peters.

On April 9, Sempra gave another $25,000 to the Chamber PAC. Democrats haven't been entirely left out. Back on March 3, Sempra gave the county party $5000 and kicked in another $2000 on May 1. More Sempra cash is expected to roll in to one side or another, if not both, before next month's elections.

Sempra also has come up with major money to maintain an opinion-molding presence in local media. The company pays U-T San Diego, the newspaper and website owned by real-estate developer Douglas Manchester, an undisclosed amount of money to place so-called sponsored coverage in its "Marketconnect" section, which, according to the paper "is produced with or by the marketer."

According to a recent Sempra-sponsored U-T item, "While providing reliable power for San Diego residents each and every day, San Diego Gas & Electric’s number one priority is the safety of the public." No mention was made of the wildfire controversies the company has faced in the past.

In addition, at least one of the utility's chief influence-peddlers and public-relations executives is known to serve in a nonprofit media position. Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell, chamber of commerce veteran and current vice president of state government affairs for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co., another Sempra subsidiary, is one of six members on the board of directors of Voice of San Diego, the nonprofit online news and opinion operation co-founded by late Tribune editor Neil Morgan.

According to his bio on SDG&E's website, "Prior to joining SDG&E in 2005, Mitchell served as vice president of public policy and communications at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce where he worked with the Chamber’s members and diverse volunteer base to develop a public policy agenda that is favorable to the business climate and standard of living in San Diego." The Voice website lists SDG&E as a "community partner."

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Two poems by Julia Wehner

A reminder of how richly good it is to feel, and to live
Sempra execs (such as Frank Urtasan) cotton to local politicians (such as Lorie Zapf)
Sempra execs (such as Frank Urtasan) cotton to local politicians (such as Lorie Zapf)

Arguably the most powerful corporation in San Diego, akin to the public utility octopuses of old, giant Sempra Energy has the political clout to match. But a big part of the electric company's influence isn't always publicly manifest, which is the way the firm is said to like it.

Somewhere in the bowels of its downtown corporate headquarters, executives from Sempra and its state-regulated subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric make critical decisions on how to distribute the company's trove of political money to best benefit its stockholders. When it comes to city politics, Sempra knows what it wants and, the record shows, usually gets it.

From February of 2013 through this January, employees at Sempra coughed up a total of $29,500, according to a spreadsheet analysis of city campaign-disclosure records. In the mayor's race, GOP winner Kevin Faulconer got $13,500, Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher took in $5000, and Democratic city councilman David Alvarez got $450.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, backing Faulconer, received $7500; the GOP Lincoln Club got $1250, and incumbent Republican city councilwoman Lorie Zapf's reelection campaign got $950.

It was the same over at SDG&E, with Faulconer's mayoral bid getting $7695. The Lincoln Club, which backed Faulconer with hit pieces against his foes, received $2500; the chamber's PAC got $3500; and Zapf received $1400. Alvarez got $1050.

In addition, according to Sempra's latest lobbyist filing, the company's Francisco J. Urtasun threw a Faulconer fundraiser on January 8 that came up with $8625.

And the money hasn't stopped coming.

On April 18, Sempra came up with $10,000 for an outfit called New Majority San Diego, which says on its website that it is "comprised of San Diego's top business leaders, from various industries, who are highly involved in local, state and federal politics. With their far-reaching influence in the economic sectors vital to the region. New Majority Members help set the political priorities for each election cycle."

The group backed Faulconer and has endorsed Zapf and her fellow Republican and downtown lobbyist Chris Cate for city council, as well as Bonnie Dumanis for district attorney. It favors ex-city councilman Carl DeMaio, another Republican, for Congress against incumbent Democrat Scott Peters.

On April 9, Sempra gave another $25,000 to the Chamber PAC. Democrats haven't been entirely left out. Back on March 3, Sempra gave the county party $5000 and kicked in another $2000 on May 1. More Sempra cash is expected to roll in to one side or another, if not both, before next month's elections.

Sempra also has come up with major money to maintain an opinion-molding presence in local media. The company pays U-T San Diego, the newspaper and website owned by real-estate developer Douglas Manchester, an undisclosed amount of money to place so-called sponsored coverage in its "Marketconnect" section, which, according to the paper "is produced with or by the marketer."

According to a recent Sempra-sponsored U-T item, "While providing reliable power for San Diego residents each and every day, San Diego Gas & Electric’s number one priority is the safety of the public." No mention was made of the wildfire controversies the company has faced in the past.

In addition, at least one of the utility's chief influence-peddlers and public-relations executives is known to serve in a nonprofit media position. Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell, chamber of commerce veteran and current vice president of state government affairs for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co., another Sempra subsidiary, is one of six members on the board of directors of Voice of San Diego, the nonprofit online news and opinion operation co-founded by late Tribune editor Neil Morgan.

According to his bio on SDG&E's website, "Prior to joining SDG&E in 2005, Mitchell served as vice president of public policy and communications at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce where he worked with the Chamber’s members and diverse volunteer base to develop a public policy agenda that is favorable to the business climate and standard of living in San Diego." The Voice website lists SDG&E as a "community partner."

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Comments
6

When you "partner" with SEMPRA, you are no friend of the people, unless you mean the SEMPRA stockholders.

No surprise SEMPRA would want to bankroll conservative Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, compliant Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Faulconer's former staffer new District 6 carpetbagger candidate Chris Cate, along with right-winger Carl DeMaio.

SEMPRA consorts with pseudo-journals like Manchester's U-T and schnorrer Voice of San Diego and funds political action committees for the Chamber of Commerce. What else is new?

Those terrible wildfires were ignited in the back-country of San Diego County by downed above-ground livewires of SEMPRA subsidiary SDG&E, which later tried to bill customers for costs of the disaster. Just like SEMPRA's current gambit with closed-down San Onofre nuclear generating station: sock it to ratepayers for the costly and dangerous mistakes of the parent company.

Always better to support the San Diego GOP establishment to secure power and influence.

May 6, 2014

I agree with Monaghan. So let's STOP supporting the San Diego GOP establishment! REJECT GOP candidates Carl DeMaio, Lorie Zapf, Chris Cate, and Mitz Lee! VOTE for Democrats CAROL KIM for District 6 and SARAH BOOT for District 2 -- they will work for the PEOPLE of San Diego -- NOT for the big corporations.

May 7, 2014

You really believe that the Dem.'s are not ALSO fully onboard with SDG&E?

I suggest that you contact their Offices and see how much money they have accepted, I'm guessing that SDG&E is donating to both sides of this next election, because it will save them billions in San Onofre refunds!

May 7, 2014

That SDG&E can depend upon ZERO MSM coverage of the on-going multi-billion dollar San Onofre Replacement Steam Generator Project Debacle say is all.

SDG&E controls San Diego, while at the same time telling all their ratepayers that they are putting ratepayers safety first...

N☢T

More info here: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20...

May 7, 2014

Responding to Maryb918 --

MITZ LEE is the only local, informed and experienced community candidate in the race for City Council District 6. She has lived in Mira Mesa for years and served on the Board of Education representing that community. She worked on the decennial redistricting that created this new City Council seat.

Mitz Lee is a political Independent. Her opponents are both carpetbaggers and puppets fronting for deep-pocket special interests like the Lincoln Club and the San Diego County Democratic Party.Haven't we had enough of that?

May 7, 2014

Sounds like my kind of candidate... I hope District 6 voters are smart enough to send her to City Council!

May 8, 2014

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