The finale may finally be coming into view for cell phone chip making giant Qualcomm, currently the target of a hostile takeover campaign. Echoes of the company's outsized influence on San Diego politics are likely to resonate for years.
Officials of both parties have stuffed their portfolios with Qualcomm stock, at least some allegedly purchased based on insider tips, keeping their hands out for political gifts and gratuities that the company has donated.
News that Paul Jacobs, a son of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, is stepping down as chairman of the board won't necessarily spell the end of his family's power plays here, although tapping the company treasury could be a thing of the past.
It's been five years since New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, acting on behalf of the state employee pension fund, sued Qualcomm, demanding "to inspect the company’s books and records to determine how shareholder funds are being spent for political purposes."
The suit charged that the younger Jacobs, then chairman and chief executive of Qualcomm, was less than transparent about how shareholders' political money was deployed.
"Senior figures associated with Qualcomm, including the Company’s current CEO as well as his father, the Company’s founder and a Qualcomm director until 2012 are widely reported to be politically active and in recent years have donated more than $2 million of their personal funds in furtherance of political purposes," the allegation said.
DiNapoli dropped the case in February 2013 after Jacobs agreed to post semi-annual disclosures of Qualcomm's payments to influence on its website.
“While Qualcomm has been developing a new policy on disclosure of political expenditures for some time, engaging with the Common Retirement Fund has been helpful," the younger Jacobs said in a statement.
The list of San Diego politically-related causes benefiting handsomely from Jacobs-steered Qualcomm largesse has run the gamut from San Diego State's public broadcasting operation KPBS and the non-profit Voice of San Diego website to Nathan Fletcher.
The onetime Republican Assemblyman left the party during a self-styled independent race for mayor, and turned Democrat, the party of the Jacobs family, before another failed try for the same office in the fall of 2013.
During that campaign, the GOP Lincoln Club attacked Fletcher for accepting what the Republicans alleged to be a do-nothing job at Qualcomm, drawing a sharp denial from Paul 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," said the then-CEO in an October 2013 statement on company letterhead.
"The allegations about Nathan’s job are completely untrue, from the erroneous salary figure to the outrageous allegation that his is a 'no-show' job," asserted Jacobs.
“While we do not disclose salary information, we have previously indicated that the figure reported is grossly exaggerated. Nathan’s salary is commensurate with other employees at his level. We do not hire “no show” employees. Our employees have always been the hardest working in the industry and our success reflects that culture.”
After Fletcher's defeat, father and son Jacobs, as well as a bevy of Qualcomm employees, embraced Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer, who paid back a series of suspiciously-timed political contributions by reviving Irwin's controversial Balboa Park traffic and parking makeover plan.
During the weeks following arrangement of a secret meeting between the GOP mayor and Irwin Jacobs in March 2016 regarding the Balboa Park project, campaign filings later revealed, $6150 materialized in Faulconer's campaign fund from no less than ten high-ranking Qualcomm executives, including Paul Jacobs, who kicked in $1000.