Darrell Issa, Scott Peters, and Juan Vargas at Chargers' signature-drive rally, April 23, 2016
Let the big-spending political game begin.
So says Dean Spanos and his wealthy extended family from Stockton, as related by the first financial filing with the city clerk's office of a campaign committee calling itself Citizens for Sports, Entertainment and Tourism, with Major Funding by Chargers Football Company, LLC.
According to the April 22 disclosure, the team has so far kicked in a total of $862,694 in cash for a signature drive to place the matter of building a controversial $1.8 billion city-subsidized downtown stadium on November's ballot.
Before the campaign winds up in the fall, that could seem like a pittance, based on widespread expectation in political circles of a $15 million or perhaps as much as $20 million effort by Spanos to convince voters to hike the city's tax on hotel stays, devoting the resultant cash to the personal fortunes of the Spanos clan.
The first big-money volley came Saturday, when the team staged a downtown rally boasting free food and a Chargers Girls show, along with former star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Philip Rivers, NFL honcho Roger Goodell, and three members of Congress.
With Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer and city councilmembers, both Democrats and Republicans, currently on the sidelines in questioning mode, it was up to the unusual trio from Washington to hype the project.
“Great cities have to dream big. They have to have the leadership that believes we can do more,” Republican Darrell Issa told the crowd, according to Union-Tribune coverage of the event.
“Mayor, get off your duff,” cried out border district Democrat Juan Vargas to the absent Faulconer. “Let’s go.”
“Don’t let them tell you we can’t do something great," said La Jolla's wealthy Scott Peters, also a Democrat.
Expecting to exit San Diego for Los Angeles, the Spanos family has long eschewed making campaign contributions to city candidates here.
Records show that the last electoral hopeful to get Chargers-connected money in a city election was then–city councilman Brian Maienschein, who was running in April 2008 for city attorney. Kimberley Layton, the team's community relations director, gave him $100.
And in 2015, the team came up with a grand total of $185 for the Greater San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's political action committee.
Issa, on the other hand, an ally of the NFL in its battle against critics of domestic violence among its players, has accepted major political money from the league.
As reported here last August, Dean Spanos personally came up with $2500 for the Darrell Issa Victory Fund in April 2015.
Also last year, Issa's committee got $5000 from the NFL's Gridiron political action committee, federal records show.
The congressman is noted for his resistance to a September 2014 effort by Bay Area Democrat Jackie Speier to get his House committee to hold hearings regarding domestic violence by NFL players, including ex-Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, captured on an elevator surveillance camera knocking out Janay Palmer, his then-fiancée.
“Reports of a decision or agreement to hold a hearing are inaccurate," said an Issa-issued response to Speier's announcement of a deal with him to open an investigation of the league’s many problems.
“The NFL’s failure to appropriately respond to crimes and misconduct has harmed the prestige of the game and the millions of Americans who look up to these players as role models,” Speier said in a September 11, 2014, release.
“The NFL’s gross mishandling of the deplorable actions of Ray Rice is the latest example of how this insulated institution has incompetently dealt with serious issues.”
Added the statement, “This committee must also investigate the league’s tolerance of performance-enhancing drugs, the impact of traumatic brain injury on players later in life, and the tax-exempt status the NFL enjoys, thanks to a loophole Congress created in the ’60s.”
Besides Issa’s good fortune, the two Democrats at the Chargers rally also had something to be grateful to the NFL about.
This March 29, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee got $15,000 from the Gridiron PAC. The committee got the same amount the year before. The National Republican Congressional Committee received the same, as did the senatorial election committees for both parties.
In addition to Issa, two other area House members, Democrat Susan Davis and the GOP's Duncan Hunter, have drawn financial support from the NFL. Each of their campaigns received $1500 from the Gridiron PAC last year.