As Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani ups the ante on Kevin Faulconer and San Diego's clubby political and media establishment by challenging the integrity of the mayor's stadium task force, fresh attention has been drawn to its chairman, like Faulconer a veteran of the influential PR firm of Porter Novelli.
Speculation continues to mount over the football team's possible jump to Los Angeles, and some believe that Fabiani, the onetime Clinton hardball master, could be sending a not-so-veiled warning to San Diego politicos that their past peccadillos, overlooked by Republican kingpin Douglas Manchester's U-T San Diego, might come back to haunt them.
Faulconer in particular could have much to lose in his Chargers confrontation, as his handlers are touting him as a moderate member of the GOP suitable for higher office.
The ex-PR man recently returned from a trip to New York and Washington, where he got a largely unquestioning reception on daytime cable news segments and at the Brookings Institute, appearing on a webcast courtesy of a program backed by JPMorgan Chase.
Manchester's U-T has been similarly friendly, failing to report the lobbying activities of Faulconer's close friend and political consultant Jason Roe — first revealed here in January — until Fabiani sent a February letter to the mayor questioning the ethics and legality of the arrangement.
The newspaper, whose owner spent at least $356,000 on pro-Faulconer campaign contributions, has also yet to report on the city's ongoing legal battle with the state over $271 million in debt service for Petco Park. If the city can’t force the state to pay up, the taxpayer-subsidized downtown ballpark could sap the public treasury here until 2032.
With Faulconer's stadium task force packed with high-dollar political players, insiders note that Fabiani is sitting in the middle of what's known in politics as a target-rich environment.
Unlike the U-T, which hasn't mentioned the sizable amount of political cash furnished by task force members to Faulconer and his political allies, members of the out-of-town media may not defer scrutiny of the city's business and political network of connections.
The chairman of the task force, Adam Day, is no stranger to controversy, having been caught up three years ago in the Del Mar fair board's "Ticketgate" case by the U-T’s own “Watchdog” reporting unit.
"Fairgrounds board President Adam Day," the U-T said in a February 23, 2012, story, "reported receiving 12 tickets to the Bruno Mars concert for himself and his immediate family — even though he has only five children.”
According to the story, “Day, assistant tribal manager at Sycuan, updated his disclosure to reflect seven other tickets went to Glenn Quiroga, executive vice president of the Sycuan Tribal Development Corp."
The paper added, "Day said in interviews with The Watchdog that Quiroga and the other recipients had a business or community relations purpose for the venue. ‘Regrettably, an administrative mistake occurred, but the result now is greater transparency, which we all seek.’”
A state Fair Political Practices Commission investigation of Day and fellow members of the Del Mar fair board was triggered by a complaint filed by Ian Trowbrige, a retired Salk Institute researcher and self-styled citizen watchdog "concerned about political favoritism," the story said.
“I would say that the board members received tickets and turf club benefits in excess of their official needs and should have paid for them or reported them as gifts,” Trowbridge, who died in 2013, was quoted as saying.
The state agreed not to pursue charges after boardmembers amended their disclosure statements.
"Day made the most changes to his original disclosure form, dated July 18," the U-T reported. "He listed several people who received fair and concert tickets, including Pete Smith of the Rancho Santa Fe Association and Lindsay Natzic, a former receptionist to county Supervisor Bill Horn."
In a February 10, 2012, story, the U-T noted that Day had a financial link to Smith.
"On separate state disclosure forms dating back to 2008, Day disclosed that he has received between $10,000 and $100,000 in consulting income annually from the Rancho Santa Fe Association,” the paper said.
"Smith said Day has helped guide the association regarding new legislation over land use and other issues at the state level. Smith downplayed any suggestion of a connection between the free tickets and Day’s consulting contract. "
According to the newspaper's account, Smith retorted, “Are you saying we would pay Adam thousands of dollars for a couple of tickets to the fair?”
GOP city attorney Jan Goldsmith has held that stadium task force members do not have to file income and gift disclosure statements required by state law because the group is not an official city body.
We have a call in to Day's Sycuan tribal office in El Cajon for more details.