The word that California governor Gavin Newsom has endorsed Assemblyman Todd Gloria for San Diego mayor has cemented the reputation of Irwin Jacobs as the city's top political moneyman and would-be city hall kingmaker.
Backstage politicking by the La Jolla billionaire remains mostly out of the public eye, thanks in part to strategic financial gifts he's provided to nonprofit media outlets including San Diego State University's KPBS news operation.
But public records show that the Qualcomm co-founder has long sought to influence by making well-timed donations to office holders of many political stripes.
Atop the list of Jacobs' favorites is fellow Democrat Newsom, who while serving as the state's lieutenant governor in 2012 trashed state Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson when the latter tried to block a Balboa Park road and parking garage effort being promoted by Jacobs.
"After a recent visit to San Diego, I became aware of the proposed Plaza de Panama project," said a February 12, 2012 letter from Newsom to Donaldson made public by a staffer for Republican then-mayor Jerry Sanders.
"This is a project with broad local political, philanthropic and community support so it may be more productive to work in collaboration with the project development team to achieve your goal of preserving this historical open-space.
"As the State Historic Preservation Officer, I hope that you will consider these arguments, withdraw your comments, and begin to work in collaboration with the leaders of the Plaza de Panama project," the lieutenant governor added. "Should you need help making contact with the project team I stand ready to assist."
A month to the day later, Jacobs and his wife Joan gave $12,000 to Newsom's 2014 reelection drive.
The controversial mega-project, sidetracked by years of criticism and litigation, was subsequently thought dead, until June 30, 2016, when Jacobs and Kevin Faulconer announced at a hastily called news conference that the Republican mayor would revive the plan.
“Hello Dr. Jacobs, As promised, below is the final news release. We sincerely appreciate your ongoing support and look forward to the next steps," said an email from Faulconer aide Matt Awbrey to Jacobs on the day of the event. "We will be in touch."
Records retrieved from the mayor's office under the state's public records act show that Faulconer secretly met with Jacobs on March 17 regarding the Balboa Park project.
Six days after the meeting was finalized, a series of four-figure donations from Qualcomm executives, including $1000 from Jacobs' son Paul, began arriving to fund to the mayor's upcoming June 20, 2016, reelection bid.
The Jacobs park plan died its latest death this February, killed by soaring construction estimates and the professed unwillingness by Jacobs to absorb any significant portion of cost overruns facing taxpayers.
But Jacobs is still in the money-driven political game here and remains friendly with Newsom, to whose 2018 gubernatorial election fund the retired smart phone mogul gave $17,000, state records show.
Having personally provided a total of $592,820 to San Diego city campaigns over the past decade — including $37,500 for a 2013 mayoral election fund backing then-Qualcomm executive Nathan Fletcher — Jacobs came up with $1150 on May 6 for Gloria's mayoral bid.