Morgan Dene Oliver
Mara’s marred Morgan Dene money
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, a Democrat, has been raking in super-sized campaign contributions from some of Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s most stalwart backers, including one mixed up in an embarrassing wedding scandal tied to the failed SoccerCity city land grab. From the beginning of January through the end of June, Elliott’s 2020 reelection committee raised a total of $160,035, according to her campaign’s six-month accounting, filed July 31. Near the top of the list of deep-pocketed developers is Morgan Dene Oliver, whose occupation is listed on Elliott’s disclosure as Chief Vision Officer for Brookfield Properties. Oliver individually gave $2300 to the first-term city attorney on May 29, per the disclosure.
Despite appearances, City Attorney Mara Elliott enjoys big campaign donations from developers and lawyers.
Photograph by Matthew Suárez
Brookfield Residential Properties Inc. of Canada bought out the San Diegan’s OliverMcMillan development company in February 2018 for an undisclosed sum. The move followed 2017 revelations that Oliver met secretly with Faulconer and backers of SoccerCity in a lobbying bid that convinced the mayor to support their Qualcomm Stadium takeover well before public disclosure and hearings. Then in May 2017, it came to light that McMillan had quietly opened his posh Point Loma bayside mansion for the August 2015 wedding of Faulconer’s then-chief of staff Stephen Puetz. The festivities were held four months before Soccer City’s pitch to the mayor.
Besides developer cash, about 30 percent of City Attorney Elliott’s political money this year has come from those listing their occupations as lawyers, filings show. The downtown law firms Seltzer, Caplan and Procopio, both registered to lobby at city hall for real estate interests, rounded up a total of nearly $3000 each in employee contributions. Individual $1150 givers to Elliott’s cause included San Diego Housing Commission general counsel Charles Christensen of Christensen & Spath; David Watson of Duane Morris; and Candace Carroll of Sullivan Hill.
From the ranks of non-lawyer lobbyists, Chris and Jennifer Wahl of Southwest Strategies each kicked in $1150. Other sizable campaign money has come from three executives at ColRich. The firm’s chief Danny Gabriel and co-chairman Richard Gabriel, along with president Barry Galgut, each kicked in $2300 in late June, the disclosure shows. The controversial Mission Valley and Otay Mesa housing and commercial developers have proven to be a reliable source of campaign cash to Vivian Moreno, the successor to her boss, termed-out Democrat David Alvarez, to the eighth district city council seat. He was a beneficiary of ColRich funding as well.
Councilman Chris Ward wonders why fellow politicians are content with free $7 meals, as he is.
Photograph by Matthew Suárez
Suite life and politics
One current and one would-be local legislator took advantage of the hospitality offered by the Barona casino tribe during the year’s first quarter, according to lobbying disclosures. On March 8, Assembly Democrat and frequent Barona diner Lorena Gonzalez stopped by for a free repast valued at $88 in Barona’s private gaming area. Democratic Assembly hopeful and current member of the San Diego city council Chris Ward got a more downscale meal worth $6.95 at the casino’s Sage Cafe, “with comfortable indoor and conservatory seating, and panoramic views of the beautiful valley and award-winning golf course,” according to Barona’s online write-up. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, Democrat of Coachella, picked up a free March 7 overnight stay at the casino hotel worth $89.
Also on March 8, Democratic Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes of Colton and her spouse, San Bernardino Community College District Trustee Frank Reyes, dined free in Barona’s private gaming area to the tune of $176.12... Meanwhile, back in the land of the Walt Disney Company, Laurel Brodzinsky, Assembly member Gonzalez’s legislative director, picked up a free ticket worth $30 to a Star Wars feature screening at Sacramento’s Crest Theatre on May 1, according to Disney’s second-quarter lobbying disclosure report, filed July 29. Also among legislative entertainment freebie recipients was Mercedes Flores, secretary for the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee, which includes Democratic San Diego mayoral hopeful Todd Gloria. She received two gratis suite tickets valued at $458 to the April 14 Chayanne Desde El Alma concert in Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, courtesy of cell phone and cable giant AT&T.