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San Diego lobbyists got record $5.5 million in 2020

Pandemic political giving by city hall influence peddlers at nearly $1 million

Maddy Kilkenny, David Alvarez
Maddy Kilkenny, David Alvarez

The year of the big Covid-19 shutdown was San Diego city hall's most lucrative year for behind-the-scenes influence peddling.

"In 2020, a total of 57 lobbying firms and 61 organization lobbyists registered a total of 380 individual lobbyists with the City Clerk," says the Annual Summary of Lobbying Activity for 2020, reviewed August 12 by the San Diego city Ethics Commission.

"Lobbying firms reported receiving a total of $5,529,336 from their clients," according to the report. "Organization lobbyists reported making a total of 2,135 lobbying contacts with high-level City Officials."

Grouped by quarter, lobbying payments ran from a high of $1,604,468 during April through June of last year to a low of $1,040,223 from October through December.

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Those numbers represent a sizeable boost from the year before, when total lobbyist compensation stood at $4,272,931, and lobbying contacts numbered 1,612, per the commission's report for 2019, dated June 5, 2020.

“During the 2019 calendar year, 58 lobbying firms and 57 organization lobbyists registered a total of 379 individual lobbyists with the City Clerk,” the report notes.

As they increased their take from clients, members of the city's registered lobbying corps in turn hiked their campaign giving with an avalanche of cash to local politicos, the data shows.

"Lobbying firms and organization lobbyists reported a total of $982,772 in campaign contributions made to City candidates, and to committees primarily formed to support or oppose City candidates," notes the report covering 2020.

In addition, the document says, "Lobbying firms and organization lobbyists disclosed raising $458,716 for City candidates and for committees formed to support or oppose City candidates."

The year before, generally an off year for political activity, lobbyists themselves came up with $268,835 in cash for candidates and committees, raising $924,273 from others.

"It should be noted that the definition of 'fundraising' is limited to funds personally delivered to a City candidate, and contributions a lobbyist has taken some credit for raising with the candidate or the candidate's controlled committee," the report explains.

Besides being a historic year for Covid-19, 2020 marked the final months in office for GOP San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, who cultivated his ties to money-laden lobbyists, many of them political friends and former staffers, for gubernatorial campaign cash.

Close Faulconer advisor Phil Rath prospered mightily during the Republican's reign, raking in more than $10,000 apiece from a raft of influence-seekers, including Chick-fil-A and marijuana vendor Loud, Inc.

Also among Rath's greater-than-$10,000 clients, a June, 2020 review showed: Newland Sierra, LLC; Paragon Partners; Torrey Holistics; UMMC, Inc; Will Senn; SBC Inc; Lennar Homes of California; Vulcan Materials; Real Outrageous Partners, LLC; Strainwise; and Torrey South Ventures, LLC.

Democrats also boarded the influence-peddling gravy train, including Faulconer's vanquished Democratic mayoral challenger David Alvarez, a former city council member who in February of last year inked Los Angeles developer Kilroy Realty as his first lobbying client.

And the firm of one lobbyist, Maddy Kilkenny, once an assistant to Republican county supervisor Greg Cox and a campaign giver to both Faulconer and his Democratic successor Todd Gloria, grabbed an April 2020 deal with city lessee SeaWorld, to lobby "any and all decisions regarding COVID-19 response, reopening, and rent."

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Maddy Kilkenny, David Alvarez
Maddy Kilkenny, David Alvarez

The year of the big Covid-19 shutdown was San Diego city hall's most lucrative year for behind-the-scenes influence peddling.

"In 2020, a total of 57 lobbying firms and 61 organization lobbyists registered a total of 380 individual lobbyists with the City Clerk," says the Annual Summary of Lobbying Activity for 2020, reviewed August 12 by the San Diego city Ethics Commission.

"Lobbying firms reported receiving a total of $5,529,336 from their clients," according to the report. "Organization lobbyists reported making a total of 2,135 lobbying contacts with high-level City Officials."

Grouped by quarter, lobbying payments ran from a high of $1,604,468 during April through June of last year to a low of $1,040,223 from October through December.

Sponsored
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Those numbers represent a sizeable boost from the year before, when total lobbyist compensation stood at $4,272,931, and lobbying contacts numbered 1,612, per the commission's report for 2019, dated June 5, 2020.

“During the 2019 calendar year, 58 lobbying firms and 57 organization lobbyists registered a total of 379 individual lobbyists with the City Clerk,” the report notes.

As they increased their take from clients, members of the city's registered lobbying corps in turn hiked their campaign giving with an avalanche of cash to local politicos, the data shows.

"Lobbying firms and organization lobbyists reported a total of $982,772 in campaign contributions made to City candidates, and to committees primarily formed to support or oppose City candidates," notes the report covering 2020.

In addition, the document says, "Lobbying firms and organization lobbyists disclosed raising $458,716 for City candidates and for committees formed to support or oppose City candidates."

The year before, generally an off year for political activity, lobbyists themselves came up with $268,835 in cash for candidates and committees, raising $924,273 from others.

"It should be noted that the definition of 'fundraising' is limited to funds personally delivered to a City candidate, and contributions a lobbyist has taken some credit for raising with the candidate or the candidate's controlled committee," the report explains.

Besides being a historic year for Covid-19, 2020 marked the final months in office for GOP San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, who cultivated his ties to money-laden lobbyists, many of them political friends and former staffers, for gubernatorial campaign cash.

Close Faulconer advisor Phil Rath prospered mightily during the Republican's reign, raking in more than $10,000 apiece from a raft of influence-seekers, including Chick-fil-A and marijuana vendor Loud, Inc.

Also among Rath's greater-than-$10,000 clients, a June, 2020 review showed: Newland Sierra, LLC; Paragon Partners; Torrey Holistics; UMMC, Inc; Will Senn; SBC Inc; Lennar Homes of California; Vulcan Materials; Real Outrageous Partners, LLC; Strainwise; and Torrey South Ventures, LLC.

Democrats also boarded the influence-peddling gravy train, including Faulconer's vanquished Democratic mayoral challenger David Alvarez, a former city council member who in February of last year inked Los Angeles developer Kilroy Realty as his first lobbying client.

And the firm of one lobbyist, Maddy Kilkenny, once an assistant to Republican county supervisor Greg Cox and a campaign giver to both Faulconer and his Democratic successor Todd Gloria, grabbed an April 2020 deal with city lessee SeaWorld, to lobby "any and all decisions regarding COVID-19 response, reopening, and rent."

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