Quid pro SDSU
The arrival on Montezuma Mesa of San Diego State University’s latest president Adela de la Torre, who officially took control of the school in a flashy April 11 inaugural, has marked the beginning of an institutional housecleaning now sweeping a legion of executives out the door. The presidential purge is creating lucrative openings for highly-paid replacements and isn’t such bad news for some of the departed incumbents, who are picking up fat pensions accompanied by gigs with firms doing business tied to the university.
Topping the list of the well-heeled departed is Mary Ruth Carleton, vice president for university relations and development, and an ex-Oklahoma City TV personality. Carleton was the school’s fundraiser in chief for a decade before leaving at the end of last year for a top job at Marts & Lundy, a multi-national consulting outfit specializing in extracting mega-contributions from super-rich alumni and parents of students in exchange for a healthy split of the action. The company’s website lists San Diego State University and the school’s subsidiary operation in Tbilisi, Georgia, along with SDSU’s Campanile Foundation on its client roster.
“At the end of the day, you need to find out what makes a person happy and figure out their motivation to move them to be a philanthropist who will support your institution repeatedly for a long period of time,” Carleton told University Business in October 2016 regarding her knack for money-raising. The item headlined “Good as gold: Higher ed fosters fundraising all-stars” also featured advice from Teri McIntyre, an SDSU Major Gift Officer working under Carleton. McIntyre recalled having “an honest conversation” with a rich alumnus about his desire to “name a program” after himself that “ended with a $2.8 million gift.” McIntyre, who has since become Director of Development, Health Sciences Advancement at Moores UCSD Cancer Center in La Jolla, got $192,646 from SDSU in 2015, including $55,550 in benefits, according to TransparentCalifornia.org.
In 2017 Carleton, who rocketed through SDSU ranks while being mentored by SDSU president Steve Weber, pulled down $312,637 in total pay and $101,665 in unspecified benefits for a hefty total of $414,303. In 2018, Carleton’s pay was boosted by about $12,000 to $325,193, though her total compensation can’t be determined because the university did not provide information regarding her benefits, per Transparent California. By comparison, de la Torre, who assumed office last year, has already seen her original compensation package of $428,645, plus free rent in a sprawling Alvarado Estates mansion hiked $12,859 to $441,504.
Juan’s Buffett cash cow
Congressman Juan Vargas, the first House member from San Diego to push for impeaching President Donald Trump, has picked up the biggest contribution to his reelection fund from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy Political Action Committee. Filings with the Federal Election Commission show that that the Des Moines, Iowa-based political operation kicked in a total of $7500 during January and March of this year, and during 2018 provided $5000 for the San Diegan. The PAC attracted unwanted attention last year when it came to light that it had given $2500 to anti-immigration Republican congressman and Trump ally Steve King of Iowa. “Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s company-affiliated political action committee has donated to Rep. King’s re-election campaign in recognition of shared renewable energy policy goals, which help protect the environment and advance a sustainable energy future for our customers,” Jessi Strawn, Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s corporate communications director said in an October 18 statement to the website Sludge. “We do not always agree with every position taken by the candidates we support.”
Berkshire Hathaway runs MidAmerican Energy Company, an Iowa utility giant that this year has been lobbying for state legislation that would require solar panel users pay fees to MidAmerican for use of the company’s power grid. “The assault on private solar generation being waged at the Statehouse isn’t to help utility customers, as ads would like you to believe,” wrote solar proponent Chris Hoffman in the March 25 edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “It is only to eliminate private generation as a competitor to the utility companies. It is meant to weaken any attempt by Iowans to free themselves from higher utility costs.”
The second largest contribution to Vargas during the period was $5000 from the Ally Financial, Inc. Advocacy PAC. Ally, bankrolled by Detroit-based car lender spun out from General Motors Acceptance Corp.