"America is already great, but we can make it greater." That appears to be the campaign slogan for San Diego businessman Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente II, who recently set up a website touting his candidacy for president of the United States. Some may consider it a prank or a hoax, but as San Diego has found out, he appears to have the extreme self-confidence to believe he can make it. On the website he is identified as "one of the most successful and prominent Hispanics of the world."
De La Fuente took over businesses run by his father and mother. For several decades, De La Fuente II has been active in ownership of car dealerships, real estate, and banking.
In 1993, De La Fuente II won a $56 million suit against the county and settled for $38 million. Then came a dispute over his Border Business Park that has bounced around like a ping-pong ball. In 2001, De La Fuente won a judgment against the City for more than $100 million. Later, Mike Aguirre, as city attorney, got the judgment reversed.
But there are still a welter of suits outstanding and the city is not out of the woods. De La Fuente II has also been involved in other lawsuits. I could not reach the lawyer who has handled most of the suits, Vincent Bartolotta, to find out if De La Fuente's candidacy is for real.
I did find that he filed as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission. De La Fuente's Statement of Organization lists him as custodian of records as well as treasurer of his campaign. He says he will run as a Democrat. I could not reach Francine Busby, chairman of the party, but I did reach Derek Casady, president of the La Jolla Democratic Club, and Jess Durfee, past county chairman. Neither knew anything about it.
In 1998, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government agency insuring savings deposits, held a 20-day hearing in San Diego. In a stormy session, the agency flayed De La Fuente for "personal dishonesty" and recommended that he be banned from banking. The agency showed a diagram of the De La Fuente businesses — a mare's nest of cross-ownerships, including a couple of companies in offshore havens. In giving loans to family entities, his bank exceeded lending limits to insiders, said the agency.
De La Fuente said that the agency was "worse than the Gestapo."
An administrative law judge agreed that he should be banned. De La Fuente sued the agency when it blocked his attempt to merge two San Diego banks on the ground that he had been banned from banking. A federal judge ruled that De La Fuente's constitutional rights had not been violated but ruled partly in his favor. For instance, the ban might have been "extraordinary," said the court.
De La Fuente's business interests are in Latin America as well as the United States.