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A tax-exempt committee set up by La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs to push through his controversial Balboa Park traffic and parking makeover spent almost $2.4 million between June 2010 through the end of May of last year, according to an IRS disclosure report filed this April 12 by the non-profit group, the Plaza de Panama Committee.

The committee listed only a single donor during the period, the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, which contributed $1,570,000, the report shows.

The filing says that the committee spent a total of $2,374,610 during the period.

The committee reported it had total assets of $2,442,265, $2,374,400 of which were on the books as "construction in progress."

Accounts payable and accrued expenses were $872,475.

Recipients of the committee's money included Civitas, Inc., a Denver planning and design company, which was paid $576,839 for "construction services" regarding the yet-to-be-approved project, according to the disclosure document.

The Jacobs-backed plan is still awaiting a final go-ahead from the city council, and city lobbyist disclosure records have shown that recent Civitas efforts have involved financing a lobbying and public relations campaign led by San Diego-based MJE Marketing Services, Inc.

A city council hearing on the project is set for a week from today.

As previously reported here, MJE's most recent lobbying disclosure statement, covering the first quarter of this year, reveals that it was paid a total of $74,000 by Civitas over a six month period. Those funds were spent after the time covered by the most recent IRS report.

Targets of the Civitas lobbyists included now-departed mayoral press aide Rachel Laing; mayoral aide Gerry Braun; Stephen Heverly from the first district council office of Sherri Lightner; Thyme Curtis, policy director for the second district's Kevin Faulconer; Alex Bell of the office of sixth district councilwoman Lorie Zapf; Drew Ector, an aide to seventh district councilwoman Marti Emerald; and Travis Knowles and Gabriel Solmer, district eight councilman David Alvarez aides.

In addition to Civitas, the Plaza de Panama committee paid San Diego's KCM Group, Inc. $433,400, also for "construction services." According to its website, KCM is "a full-service construction management company and construction consulting firm founded in San Diego on 2000 by Gordon Kovtun."

Two other San Diego vendors are also disclosed: lobbyist and development consulting firm Rick Engineering, which reportedly received $278,602 for "construction services" and the downtown lobbyist and law firm of Seltzer Caplan, which got $99,291 for "legal."

As we reported this February, city lobbyist disclosure filings show that Seltzer Caplan lawyer G. Scott Williams lobbied the project with ex-Union-Tribune reporter Gerry Braun, now assistant to Mayor Jerry Sanders, as well as with deputy city attorney Shannon Thomas, and Development Services staffer Cecilia Gallardo.

In addition to the planning and lobbying vendors in Colorado and San Diego, Irvine's Innovative Design Group received $77,175 from the committee for "construction design."

Jacobs, who is listed as chairman and a director of the Plaza de Panama Committee, is also reported by the disclosure to be the non-profit's only "substantial contributor," although the amount of his contribution is not disclosed.

Besides Jacobs, other committee directors listed in the disclosure report were David Cohn, whose Cohn Restaurant Group runs the lucrative Prado Restaurant concession in the park; Donald Cohn, a wealthy investor and horseman who is a major contributor to the Old Globe Theatre, another park tenant; Darlene Shiley, another Globe benefactor; SDG&E Chairman and CEO Jesse Knight; and Mike McDowell of the San Diego Lodging Industry Association.

We've asked the Jewish Community Foundation for details about their contribution to the Jacobs effort and will update when they get back to us.

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jelula July 3, 2012 @ 12:25 p.m.

This helps to better understand Irwin Jacobs' desire for an MOU with the City (nullified by the court as inappropriate prior to approval of the draft EIR and Jacobs plan). Only one large donor during the first year of existence? An interesting thought, the very large contribution by JCF may have been a composite of a number of smaller donors who didn't want their names associated. I was struck by the lack of specific contributions by members of the Jacobs Plaza de Panama Committee.

I wonder if the contributions rate has improved since closure of that reporting period? We won't know until long after the Council hearing on July 9, probably not until Spring 2013. Why isn't the Committee using a "thermometer" to show growth of contributions - and demonstrating the purported widespread support - if so many people support the plan, including - purportedly - many who can well afford 5, 6 or 7 digit contributions to the cause?


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