Forecast: Based on patterns of 2013 and 2014, lobbyists will be flooded with even more cash this year.
Douglas Manchester, departing publisher of U-T San Diego, has long been a big employer of high-dollar influence peddlers, which could be why his newspaper hasn't talked about them.
In his role of mega-developer, the wealthy La Jollan retained the services of city hall super lobbyist Paul Robinson to quietly resolve potentially explosive and costly environmental allegations concerning his development of the Grand del Mar resort and golf course in the northern reaches of the city.
After Robinson helped untie the knots of regulatory resistance, the project last year obtained a slew of grading and related permits "after the fact", though not without the opprobrium of planning commissioner James Whalen.
"The behavior of this developer impugns all developers," said Whalen about Manchester.
A dean of the city's lobbying corps, Robinson is a key player in the GOP Lincoln Club, which Manchester and his paper aided with major money and other backing in its repeated hits against Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher's bid for mayor, supported by Manchester political nemesis and Qualcomm Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs.
"I was outraged to learn that the Lincoln Club of San Diego — a supposedly pro-business political group — would fund a political hit piece that unfairly and incorrectly attacks one of San Diego’s largest employers," wrote Paul Jacobs, son of Irwin, regarding the Republican attack against Fletcher, who had been hired by Qualcomm after his failed first bid for mayor as an independent.
"Is the Lincoln Club so desperate and out of constructive ideas that they are resorting to attacks on private employers, forsaking their supposed principles and lying to serve a political agenda?"
Manchester was such a fan of Robinson that the U-T sponsored a September 2012 debate between him and Democratic assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, then secretary-treasurer and CEO for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, over Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, a bid to raise state taxes.
While the topic of developer pay-for-play has eluded the U-T’s radar, the role of special-interest pleaders at San Diego's city hall has grown ever mightier, as shown in an April 17 report to the city's ethics commission.
"During 2014, lobbying firms reported receiving a total of $3,919,456 from their clients, and organization lobbyists reported making a total of 2,228 lobbying contacts with high-level City Officials," says the document.
"83 lobbying firms and 58 organization lobbyists registered a total of 385 individual lobbyists with the City Clerk."
A quarterly breakout of the influence-peddling activity reveals that dollar amounts paid to lobbyists rose dramatically as the year progressed: $712,900 in the first three months; $894,917 in the second quarter; $966,178 in the third; and $1,345,461 in the fourth.
As for political influence, the lobbyists disclosed a total of $2,673,673 in "fundraising activities for City candidates and committees formed to support/oppose City candidates," according to the report. Direct giving by the influence peddlers to campaigns was $273,706.
By contrast, according to an October 2014 commission report on lobbying in 2013, "69 lobbying firms and 47 organization lobbyists registered a total of 321 individual lobbyists with the City Clerk." Total revenue was reported to be $3,252,081, with 1164 lobbying contacts having been made.
The lobbyists disclosed $2,620,935 in fundraising activities, as well as making $377,213 in direct contributions.
Lobbying has become so pervasive at city hall that no fewer than three former city council members are current practitioners. Point Loma's Byron Wear reported being retained by a breath alcohol content machine vendor, according to his disclosure report.
Fellow Republican Jim Madaffer now works on behalf of shopping-mall owner Westfield, LLC, on "agreements and ordinance related to implementation of event programming for Horton Plaza Urban Park."
The biggest grossing former council member is Democrat Tony Young, who quit his job in mid-term to become head of the local Red Cross only to subsequently depart to join the ranks of the influence peddlers.
According to its quarterly disclosure report filed April 30, Young's Civic Link Strategies has been paid $15,000 by Westfield to lobby the city council to "support [a] construction contract."
He also received $15,000 from San Diego Gas & Electric "relating to SDG&E's rate structure proposal."
In addition, Young got $10,000 from Costa Mesa developer Donahue Schriber to lobby the council against adoption of the One Paseo project backed by rival Kilroy.
The former councilman picked up $7500 from Buchanan Ingersol and Rooney, a big downtown law firm with Lincoln Club ties,regarding "procurement of a city contract."
Besides his direct lobbying activities, Young is president of One San Diego, a nonprofit group set up by Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer and his wife Katherine Stuart with funding from a raft of special interests with business at city hall.