Around San Diego's city hall, even good deeds can be turned to the peddling of influence.
Number one example: One San Diego, a nonprofit corporation set up to implement the neighborhood agenda of Kevin Faulconer, and at the same time burnish the poverty-fighting credentials of the Republican mayor from Point Loma, widely presumed to aspire to higher office.
"A new nonprofit called ‘One San Diego’ hopes to boost the city’s neglected neighborhoods with cleanup efforts, educational initiatives and other measures, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and several community leaders announced Monday," reported U-T San Diego on November 17 of last year.
“For too long San Diego has been seen as a city split between the prospering neighborhoods north of Interstate 8 and southern neighborhoods that are left behind,” Faulconer was quoted as saying.
Said the newspaper: "The nonprofit aims to end that division and give residents in every neighborhood an equal chance to succeed by doling out grants, providing incentives to small businesses and hosting public forums to look for other ways to help."
Faulconer was joined at the nonprofit rollout by the new group's president, former Democratic city councilman Tony Young, who quit his council gig to briefly become head of the local Red Cross before heading off to become a lobbyist at city hall, with a client list including Mission Valley development titan Tom Sudberry.
“You’re stronger as a city when communities like Logan Heights and Encanto and the people who live in San Ysidro have an opportunity to become great,” the account quoted Young as saying.
Boardmembers, the paper reported, included Ruben Barrales, a former assistant to George W. Bush and ex–San Diego chamber of commerce chief executive who heads a political action committee to recruit and train GOP Latino candidates, and Lani Lutar, onetime head of the San Diego Taxpayers Association, a big-business lobbying group closely associated with local Republicans.
Just who would put up the cash for the foundation wasn't mentioned by the U-T, which said only, "One San Diego will have to compete for scarce donor dollars with a variety of other foundations and nonprofits, but Young said he was optimistic the group would become a force."
Nonprofit corporations such as One San Diego aren't required by federal law to identify their donors, thereby making them convenient conduits for political "dark money," cash given without disclosure by corporate fat cats for the benefit of politicos.
But California law requires that such gifts to nonprofits made to benefit elected officials be disclosed in so-called behesting statements.
"These payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts," notes the website of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, "but are payments made at the 'behest' of elected officials to be used for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes. While state law limits the amount of campaign contributions and gifts, there are no limits on these so-called 'behested' payments." Single gifts of $5000 or more need to be disclosed.
Asked to turn over behested payment statements filed by Faulconer for One San Diego contributions, the city said in a February 27 letter that it didn't have any.
Then, last week, following further queries regarding behesting disclosure requirements made to a representative of the city’s ethics commission, a new document appeared.
In a March 5 disclosure of behests, uploaded to the city's political disclosure website, Faulconer revealed that One San Diego had received six $5000 contributions, from February 9 through March 2, for a total of $30,000.
On February 9, according to the statement, Cisterra Development made its contribution. On January 26, the company, run by Steven L. Black, won a controversial lease-purchase deal for city office space in downtown's Civic Center Plaza.
On February 18, says the disclosure, Tom Sudberry's Sudberry Properties and Petrochem Materials Innovation, Inc. of Carlsbad each gave $5000.
Petrochem is a supplier of paving products; Faulconer has made street repair a major part of his political agenda.
Pacifica Enterprises of Rancho Santa Fe, which has been involved in controversial Belmont Park lease negotiations with the city, made its donation on February 23.
On March 2, Bridgepoint Education and EMS Management of Greenwood Village, Colorado, each came up with $5000, according to the disclosure.
EMS, also known as Emergency Medical Services, is a provider of paramedic services and a major donor to both Republicans and Democrats in jurisdictions across the country.
Noted the U-T’s November story: "While the city has no control over the nonprofit, Faulconer said he could help smooth approvals for projects and possibly boost grant opportunities."