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Fresh from his high-dollar Balboa Park makeover victory at city council yesterday, La Jolla billionaire and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs has found himself at the center of a story about mega-million-dollar donations to a new Democratic super PAC called Priorities USA Action.

As reported by the New York Times, the outfit is run by ex-White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney and is scrambling to catch up to better-funded GOP PACs that have sprung up in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.

"Burton and Sweeney’s creation now appears to be on relatively solid footing. As of late June, the super PAC has amassed a total of $40 million, with almost $20 million in the bank and about a dozen million-dollar donors onboard," the Times reported.

"Among the most recent is Qualcomm’s co-founder Irwin M. Jacobs and his wife, Joan, newcomers to the world of political mega-giving, whom Burton and other Priorities surrogates spent a year courting in person, on the phone and by e-mail before the couple relented and gave $2 million."

According to the Times, a big part of Burton's rainmaking "involves shutting up and listening to rich Democrats vent about his former boss’s deficiencies. Gently he reminded his hosts, 'But things will only be worse if he’s not re-elected.'"

As we've previously reported, Jacobs and his wife are long-time givers to the campaigns of many San Diego, California state, and federal politicos, both Democrats and Republicans, and many observers attribute their influence at city hall to the couple's carefully-chosen political generosity, along with the deep pockets of friends, employees, and family at Qualcomm, the prosperous cell-phone giant Jacobs founded.

Most frequently cited is the case of lame duck mayor Jerry Sanders, a Jacobs-backed Republican who pushed through both Qualcomm's "Snapdragon Stadium" promotional gambit, which the city attorney had declared to be illegal, and Jacobs' controversial Balboa Park traffic and parking makeover that was approved by the city council in a 6-1 vote yesterday.

Lobbyists hired by a consultant to a non-profit foundation set up and funded by Jacobs to advance his Balboa Park plan have also been deployed to influence city officials.

Sacramento observers also point to the recent mayoral candidacy of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a former Republican who proclaimed his independence after the local GOP endorsed his party rival, city councilman Carl DeMaio.

While Jacobs had endorsed GOP District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, his son Paul E. Jacobs, Qualcomm's chairman and CEO, took the lead in backing Fletcher, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the erstwhile Republican.

Irwin Jacobs and his wife later quietly donated to the Fletcher cause, according to campaign filings.

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Hardcover July 10, 2012 @ 2:22 p.m.

Are DeMaio and Zapf still happy with their vote on the Park project?


Visduh July 13, 2012 @ 7:44 a.m.

Money can't buy you love, or so the song lyrics claim, but it can buy almost anything else. Jacobs is entering is dotage handing out buckets of money here, there and everywhere. His legacy will not be a good one, and that's due to his partisanship and his pushing of unpopular moves and causes.


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