Let the big-money mayoral TV advertising war begin.
Such is the word from San Diego Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer's reelection team, which has so far purchased 280 spots on the Republicans' favorite local station, KUSI, owned by GOP stalwart Mike McKinnon.
Mike McKinnon (and wife)
Disclosure records show the mayor's TV ad volley kicks off May 7 with a six-day contract for 66 30-second spots with a total gross price of $11,500.
Another six-day agreement begins May 14, also consisting of 66 spots at the same price. From May 21 through May 27, the mayor's campaign has contracted for another 68 spots priced at a total of $12,250.
And from May 28 through June 7, the date of the election, the Faulconer forces have contracted for 80 spots priced at $13,975, bringing the total KUSI buy to almost $50,000, the records show. The campaign has also asked for advertising rates from NBC-owned KNSD but has yet to purchase time, according to records of the Federal Communications Commission.
The mayor, whose campaign was sitting on a hefty cash balance of $769,646 at the end of last year, having raised a total of $1,025,262 during the period,is seen by insiders as likely to load up on many more commercials in the months ahead.
Whether any of the paid media firepower will be turned on the mayor's foes remains to be seen.
Faulconer-friendly forces are said to be spending heavily for opposition research against at least one of his principal opponents, Democrat-turned-Independent Lori Saldaña.
“I expect Kevin to try and attack me. That’s what people who are drunk on too much money do," said Saldaña in a March 29 news release alleging that a Washington DC firm by the name of Directive Research was engineering a smear campaign against her.
In response, Faulconer campaign guru Jason Roe told the Union-Tribune, “We do not plan to research our opponents and we are not familiar with any of the groups or inquiries that Ms. Saldaña is referring to."
But, in addition to the Faulconer-controlled reelection committee, the GOP Lincoln Club and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's political action committee are major funders of a political committee called “Communities United for Tomorrow's Economy supporting the 2016 re-election of Mayor Faulconer.”
By the end of 2015, the group had $594,893 of cash in the bank. According to a post by the San Diego Rostra blog last summer, “During the month of June, the committee received contributions from the chamber, Lincoln Club, California Restaurant Association, Building Industry Association, Associated General Contractors, Lodging Industry Association, and California Apartment Association."
Such so-called independent expenditure committees are ostensibly barred by law from coordinating expenditures with the candidate and his campaign staff, making it possible for Faulconer to disavow any responsibility for dirty tricks.
As previously reported here, the Lincoln Club’s Communities United group has retained the services of Corbin Gauert of Kansas City, who has been associated with Axiom Strategies, the take-no-prisoners Midwest political consulting outfit employed by the presidential campaign of Texas GOP senator Ted Cruz — which also happens to be the former professional home of Faulconer’s mayoral chief of staff, Stephen Puetz.
In past mayoral races, the Lincoln Club has adopted the role of political attack dog on behalf of Faulconer, in particular with repeated hits on Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher during the pair's 2013 election battle.
The club's hit pieces against Fletcher and his employer, Qualcomm, founded by billionaire Democrat Irwin Jacobs, drew the opprobrium of Jacobs's son Paul, then the firm's CEO.
"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?" said Jacobs in a October 2013 letter to the political group.
"I demand a full apology and a retraction of this slanderous attack on our company and its more than 13,000 local employees."
Two years ago, Directive Research's Lloyd Miller was quoted as saying that past educational history of a candidate could be a promising source of negative material.
"According to him, the greatest boon to opposition researchers has been the digitization of college newspapers, which let you peer back for any inapropos deed or utterance of a candidate (or anyone on their staff). He reminded the attendees not to forget to search for a target’s presence on legacy social media like MySpace and LiveJournal, and, when asked if he followed any reputational statute of limitations for missteps or had a kind of 'age of reason' below which errors were irrelevant, he replied, 'We don’t get to decide what’s relevant in campaigns, the voters do.'”
According to a profile on the website of the Leadership Institute, Miller previously worked for Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC and was deputy research director for Meg Whitman for Governor of California, "running both field research operations and the 24-hour war room."
According to state records, he received $116,074 for that activity.