Contributions from a growing set of city hall's biggest special interests continue to pour in to One San Diego, a nonprofit corporation set up by San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Ostensibly established by the Republican to fight poverty in the city's economically neglected neighborhoods, the entity is also intended to burnish the mayor's image for a presumptive run for higher office, city hall insiders say.
Lately, the mayor's wife Katherine Stuart, who runs a for-profit San Diego convention party business, has taken a prominent role at the foundation, being touted on a KUSI TV segment as "the new leader for One San Diego."
"We're just doing what we can, a little bit at a time," Stuart told the station.
“We hear of a need of a small project, and then we go after it to see if we can find funding, and try to make it happen, as quickly as possible, try to get it done.”
As first reported here March 9, the foundation has proven to be a magnet for cash contributions from an array of real estate developers and others whose business success depends heavily on favorable decisions from the mayor's office and the many city departments he controls.
SDG&E was the biggest donor reported by Faulconer on his most recent "behested payment" disclosure statement, dated March 27. The utility, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, kicked in $25,000 on March 24. The firm has been a regular financial backer of Faulconer and other Republican candidates for city office here.
Other recent contributors include the Sunroad Community Foundation, which gave $5000 on March 9. A 2014 federal disclosure filing lists the directors of the nonprofit as Frederick Tronboll and Abraham Sherman, whose LinkedIn profiles say they are executives at Sunroad Enterprises, the controversial development company run by Aaron Feldman.
He has fought many legislative and legal battles with the city, including over his infamously over-height building near Montgomery Field.
Additional $5000 contributors included Pardee Homes, the Los Angeles–based housing developer; KD Development, owned by political donor and fallen mayor Roger Hedgecock's one-time partner Mike Turk; Vulcan Materials Company, the national sand and gravel giant; and Padres LP, which owns the baseball team that occupies city-owned Petco Park.
In addition, Kleinfelder, a civil engineering company headquartered downtown, came up with $5000, as did Wells Fargo Bank,and the San Diego Tourism Authority.
According to its website, "The majority of funding received by the San Diego Tourism Authority is derived from San Diego Tourism Marketing District Assessment Funds." The legality of the assessments is currently being challenged in court.
One San Diego is officially presided over by Tony Young, a Democrat who left the council to briefly run the Red Cross, but later quit that job to join the corps of city hall lobbyists. A key Young client is Tom Sudberry, a major Mission Valley developer and campaign contributor who is also a key financial backer of One San Diego.
Boardmembers include Lani Lutar, former executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a business lobbying group closely tied to local Republicans, and Ruben Barrales, a former assistant to George W. Bush and ex–San Diego chamber of commerce chief executive who now heads a political action committee promoting GOP Latino candidates.
State law requires Faulconer to make the so-called behesting disclosures within 30 days after the foundation's receipt of donations of $5000 and above from a single source in a calendar year.
"These payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts, but are payments made at the 'behest' of elected officials to be used for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes," notes the website of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. "While state law limits the amount of campaign contributions and gifts, there are no limits on these so-called ‘behested’ payments.”
A donation is considered a behest, the commission says, "if it is requested, solicited, or suggested by the official, or otherwise made to a person in cooperation, consultation, coordination with, or at the consent of, the elected officer or CPUC member….
"This includes payments behested by the official or by his or her agent or employee on the official's behalf."