A lot of special interest money is quietly flowing to one candidate in the race to fill the state Assembly seat vacated by Shirley Weber.
Keeping Weber Golden
A lot of special interest money is quietly flowing to one candidate in the race to fill the state Assembly seat vacated by Shirley Weber, who was appointed California Secretary of State by fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom. At the top of the campaign cash heap is Weber’s daughter, Akilah Weber, an obstetrician-gynecologist and vice mayor of La Mesa.
Akilah Weber, like her mom Shirley, is a fundraising juggernaut.
No fewer than four so-called independent committees have weighed into the fray on Weber’s behalf with a total of $525,683 as of March 11, per campaign disclosure records with the California Secretary of State’s office. The biggest spender is an outfit calling itself Frontline Healthcare and Essential Workers Supporting Dr. Akilah Weber for Assembly 2021, with a total of $454,366. Contributors include the California Medical Association Independent Expenditures Committee ($200,000, March 1), the California Dental Association Independent Expenditure PAC ($100,000, February 26), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America IEC ($100,000, February 24), controversial dialysis provider DaVita, Inc. ($25,000, March 15), and the United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund ($50,000, March 15). All that money has bought TV time, digital media, and polling.
In addition, Jobs PAC, which calls itself a “bi-partisan association of California employers,” is spending heavily for text messaging, live calls, and research on Weber’s behalf. Its most recent contributor is SDG&E owner Sempra Energy, with $25,000 on January 26.
Another corporate interest group, calling itself Keep California Golden, has weighed into the campaign, spending $113,927 on Weber’s behalf for research, polling, phone banking, text blasts, and mailers. The group has funded itself with contributions from Driving California’s Economy Sponsored by California New Car Dealers Association ($10,000, March 1), utility giant PG&E Corporation ($50,000, October 27, 2020), and the Merced Police Officers Association PAC ($4200, October 26, 2020), among a bevy of other corporations with business before the legislature.
Many of the Akilah Weber donors, including DaVita, have been longtime funding stalwarts for Shirley Weber. Besides the independent expenditure groups backing her cause, Akilah Weber is hitting up contributors for two personally controlled committees, Weber for California Assembly 2021 ($124,325) and Weber for California Assembly 2022 ($91,715). Corporate donors to this year’s cause include the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Community Action Fund ($1300, March 15), Dart Container ($2500, March 11), the California Hospital Association PAC ($1500, March 10), and Eli Lilly and Company Federal PAC ($2000, March 3.) Sempra came up with $4900 on March 1, and the California Apartment Association PAC gave the same on February 16.
Weber’s putative 2022 reelection committee has already gotten $4900 each from alcohol vendor Anheuser Busch, San Diego’s Anesthesia Service Medical Group Advocacy Fund, and the Shirley Weber Secretary of State 2022 election fund which itself took in $8100 from Anheuser Busch.
Former SDPD officer Lori Luhnow had a habit of abandoning her post during emergencies while chief of the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Santa Barbara’s Coronado chief
Scandal has erupted in ritzy Santa Barbara over newly retired Chief of Police Lori Luhnow, a 27-year veteran of the San Diego police department, and Anthony Wagner, an ex-aide to former San Diego city councilman Michael Zucchet. An exposé by Los Angles Magazine tells the tale. “Luhnow, who retired as Santa Barbara chief last month, had begun receiving her pension from the City of San Diego when she took the [Santa Barbara] job. Yet according to her timecards, available through public information requests, Luhnow took regular three-day weekends in her home in Coronado Island, including during the Thomas fire, the Montecito debris flow, and the Black Lives Matter protests.”
The story recounts how Luhnow arranged to hire Wagner, also a San Diego native, as her “information and engagement manager.” Besides working for Zucchet, Wagner was named by fallen mayor Bob Filner, a fellow Democrat, to San Diego’s planning commission. Wagner is now on a leave of absence in the wake of the magazine’s coverage, including playing alleged hanky-panky with pot licenses. “On March 12, Los Angeles Magazine published an article that raised a number of issues concerning an employee of the police department, Mr. Anthony Wagner. Most of these allegations have been previously investigated, either within the police department or by the city attorney’s office. In addition, the City prevailed in a federal lawsuit by one of the unsuccessful cannabis permit applicants, which was dismissed in December 2019,” says a statement by Santa Barbara interim police chief Bernard Melekian. “Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Magazine article makes new allegations concerning the nature of Mr. Wagner’s role in the process of awarding cannabis licenses that support further investigation. To that end, the Department will be retaining an outside firm to conduct that investigation for the Police Department. I have placed Mr. Wagner on Administrative Leave pending the outcome of this inquiry. I should note that Mr. Wagner has been fully cooperative with this inquiry and welcomes the involvement of an outside reviewer.”
— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)
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