Cisterra is the would-be developer of a controversial Ritz Carlton Hotel, along with offices and housing two blocks east of the Gaslamp Quarter.
A political action committee attached to the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a non-profit group ostensibly devoted to improving life and business in the center city, served as a conduit for lobbyists’ money funneled into races for both Democratic and Republican county central committees. According to the PAC’s July 20 disclosure for the period from February 16 through June 30, $5000 was paid to city council Democrat Vivian Moreno’s central committee reelection bid; $2000 went to a group calling itself Republicans Keeping San Diego Great, benefiting the GOP central committee election bids of Kevin Faulconer mayoral staffers Aimee Faucett, Francis Barraza, and Elizabeth Spillane, chief of staff for termed-out city councilman Mark Kersey. He gave up the GOP last year to become an independent, after abandoning a troubled 2018 Republican state senatorial primary bid. Moreno and the three Republicans prevailed in their respective races, per election results posted online by Ballotpedia.org.
Five thousand bucks is enough to make Vivian Moreno smile.
Moreno has made no secret of her desire to block unwanted Democratic endorsements by the central committee, which could threaten her future political aspirations.
Downtown San Diego’s financial backing of the Faucett, Barraza, Spillane, and Moreno efforts has come from a bevy of special interests, including the influential lobbying firm of Sheppard Mullin, which kicked in $3333 on March 2, and the same from Cisterra 7th and Market, LLC. Cisterra is the would-be developer of a controversial Ritz Carlton Hotel, along with offices and housing two blocks east of the Gaslamp Quarter. According to a July 8 disclosure filing, Sheppard Mullin has been retained by Cisterra to lobby for approval of “land use entitlements, environmental analysis, including Site Development Permit, Development and Disposition Agreement and related approvals for development of a mixed-use project including residential, hotel, commercial and cultural uses at 7th & Market in the Centre City area of downtown San Diego.”
Sempra’s limited charity
San Diego-based Sempra Energy grabbed a few headlines back in March of this year when the giant power company announced its foundation would be handing out “$1 million to help small to medium-sized nonprofits in California as they continue to serve critical needs related to the ongoing coronavirus situation.” Added the company’s news release: “The grants for California nonprofits will be part of a larger $1.75 million Nonprofit Hardship Fund from the Sempra Energy Foundation that will be made available to charities in the areas of the United States where Sempra Energy and its family of companies operate, including California, Texas and Louisiana.”
But the fund was quickly tapped out, with no word yet on when the company will replenish it. “On April 3, the online application was shut down due to a significant volume of requests,” per Sempra’s website. “We have now distributed the full $1.75 million across all three states to help meet basic needs for vulnerable populations and will be assessing unmet needs and factoring these considerations into our future planning.”
Federal disclosure reports show that during 2018, the most recent period for which filings are available, Sempra’s foundation handed out a total of $1.832 million in “contributions, gifts, and grants paid,” but received a total of just $706 in contributions. Interest on the cash balance was $143, 953. The shortfall reduced the book value of the charity’s assets from $10.121 million at the beginning of the year to $8.440 million by December 2018. Major donations included $50,000 each to Save the Children and International Medical Corps; $10,000 went to the San Diego Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Center; and $75,000 to the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C.
Hannah Castillo, former local campaign manager, is now director of coalitions for the Trump campaign.
Trump’s local consultants
Among former San Diegans working for President Donald Trump, the biggest name is arguably Peter Navarro, one-time anti-growth Democrat and mayoral candidate who narrowly lost to Republican Susan Golding back in 1992. But some other locals are playing prominent roles in Trump’s reelection bid. Hannah Castillo, director of coalitions for the Trump campaign, is a GOP Hispanic outreach specialist formerly from Phoenix. In San Diego, she managed the unsuccessful 2016 city council campaign of Ray Ellis and was leadership development manager for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Castillo worked as marketing director for San Diego’s Deverett Media Group, run by self-styled family TV movie-maker Jeff Deverett, according to the website Democracyinaction.us. Among current projects under development, according to the company website is Sweet 15, whose principal Sophie “is turning 15 and her parents are so excited to be planning the big Quinceañera celebration. However, Sophie who would much rather be spending her time and the family money on her new robotics project.”
Another San Diego consultant working for Trump is Ashley Hayek. The ace fundraiser was paid $43,429 by San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer’s city council reelection campaign in 2010 and got $76,385 working for Republican councilwoman Lorie Zapf the same year, city records show. These days Hayek heads up Women for Trump.
— Matt Potter
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