Michael Simonsen hails from trash hauler Republic Services, where he’s spent the last four and a half years as Municipal Relationship Manager.
Trash hauling lobbyist
With a tumultuous election year drawing to a close, the revolving doors at San Diego City Hall have gone into overtime as old staffers depart for greener lobbying fields, and new ones arrive fresh from playing the influence-peddling game. Michael Simonsen, the freshly minted chief of staff for newly elected Seventh District Democrat Raul Campillo, hails from trash hauler Republic Services, where he’s spent the last four and a half years as Municipal Relationship Manager, per his LinkedIn profile. “Pragmatic public affairs, marketing and business development professional with over 20 years’ experience in developing and implementing community, government, and media relations programs,” says LinkedIn. “Highly successful in creating and managing strategic partnership initiatives while enhancing brand reputation. Excellent communication skills in small or large groups. Proven leader with outstanding writing and organizational skills.” Before Republic, according to his bio, Simonsen worked a decade for controversial city paramedic provider Rural Metro as a market development director and California director of public affairs. Before that, he was director of labor relations for the city’s firefighter’s union, and before that, chief of staff for Sixth District Councilwoman Donna Frye.
Raul Campillo raided the rubbish removal industry to find a chief of staff.
Campaign contribution disclosure records show that while employed by Rural Metro and Republic Services, Simonsen came up with a total of $7348 for city candidates since 2006, including nearly $2300 for the successful mayoral bid of Democrat Todd Gloria, and $449 for the Vivian Moreno for City Council 2018 committee. While working as an influence peddler for Republic in 2018, seeking a “non-exclusive franchise agreement” for “solid waste and recycling collection, processing, and disposal,” Simonsen fundraised for Moreno and her fellow Democrat Chris Ward, who has since moved on to the state Assembly. That year, according to an October 17, 2018 filing with the city clerk’s office, Simonsen sought on behalf of Republic an “Ordinance authorizing mayor, or his designee, to execute amendments to Solid Waste Transportation Franchise Agreements.”
According to the document, he lobbied then-councilmen David Alvarez, Scott Sherman, and Chris Cate regarding the issue. Republic has long been a financial pillar of ballot efforts by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to manipulate city government. In 2011 the company kicked in $25,000 in 2011 to Prop B, the chamber’s bid to replace guaranteed pension for city workers with 401K plans, later tossed by the state Supreme Court. In January 2010, Republic gave $10,000 to Prop D, a proposed city sales tax boost favored by GOP then-mayor Jerry Sanders and Frye, but soundly rejected by voters. In October of last year, the Guardian reported that the largest stockholder in Republic with almost 34 percent, was billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The company has long fought with the Teamsters, backed by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, over what the union says are low wages and lack of safety investment.
Gloria’s Mickey Mouse policy klatsch
Covid-19 has been responsible for keeping many at home, including legions of elected officials used to free resort stays and chowing down at eateries thanks to special interests seeking their favor. Such was true with newly elected mayor Todd Gloria, a state Assembly Democrat before moving over to city hall earlier this month. But Gloria managed to sustain the influence-peddling gravy train longer than most, making it up to Disneyland on March 6 for a two-day “policy retreat” by the California Latino Legislative Caucus, worth $1362, provided as a gift from the non-profit California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, according to Gloria’s December 17 disclosure report.
Disneyland and freebies make Todd Gloria smile.
A week after the legislators’ junket, Disneyland closed its doors due to the pandemic. Besides funding legislator overnights in the Magic Kingdom, the Latino Legislative Caucus foundation was “established to promote and support Latino culture and heritage in California and to educate the public about Latino culture, heritage and issues of importance to Latinos in California,” says its website. As a registered charity, the group doesn’t have to reveal its donors. As of the end of 2020, Disneyland remains shuttered, with 32,000 workers in Anaheim and Florida’s Disneyworld set for lay-offs in the new year. Gloria’s other pre-pandemic freebies included food and beverage worth $87.64 from Los Angeles utility giant Southern California Edison on January 13, $110.40 in food and beverage from the Building Industry Association of San Diego on January 25, $120 in event tickets from the Century Club of San Diego on January 26, and $125 worth of food and beverage from the San Diego Lodging Association on February 13.
— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)
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