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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
Since it opened in 1937, the racetrack in Del Mar has been a playground for the rich, famous, and politically well connected.
The most notable habitué is probably the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover, who in the 1950s partied at the track with the wealthy Republican Texas oilmen who controlled it at the time. From his Turf Club perch, it has been recorded, Hoover could see not only the ponies but more than a few of America's most notorious mobsters.
Then there was the late Pat Brown, the Democratic governor who spurned the rich Texans in favor of opening up the lucrative venue for wealthy Californians.
Now Pat's son Jerry, age 74, has returned for yet another round as governor, and is back in charge of the track's patronage, commonly called the Del Mar fair board.
More formally known as the 22nd Agricultural District board of directors, the nine-member panel runs the annual San Diego county fair and leases the track to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. The jobs don't pay a salary, but offer plenty of free food, drink, shows, racing, parties, and shoulder rubs with rock stars.
In the summer of last year, Brown revamped the board, pulling five Republicans and installing three Democrats, along with two appointees registered with no party affiliation.
Among the Democrats is Fred Schenk, brother of ex-Democratic congresswoman Lynn Schenk, Brown's former high ranking aide and a longtime friend of the governor. She is current vice chair of the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Both have given heavily to the governor's cause over the years.
Thus, it's probably no surprise that the two influential siblings, along with another Brown appointee and their friends and relatives, kicked back and watched the horses this summer, courtesy of the track.
According to an October 26 disclosure filed by the agricultural district, on August 19 Lynn Schenk and her husband Hugh Friedman, along with Shari Schenk, Benjamin Schenk, Michaela Schenk, and Sydney Schenk, got free "directors room seating" including Turf Club admission tickets. The document notes that, as a board member, "Fred Schenk has his own credential."
Then, on September 1, according to another filing, Shari Schenk was back at the Turf Club, this time accompanied by Steve and Eileen Geffen, also thanks to Fred Schenk. Each admission was valued at $60.
Republican board member Adam Day, a former staffer for Supervisors Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob who is now assistant tribal manager for the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, a major Brown donor, also got in on the action.
On July 18 Day, who was reappointed to the fair board last month by the governor, was accompanied by Suzi Day. Two tickets each were given to Candace Dobes, Susan Pallinger, James Jack, Shaun Flanigan, and ex-GOP Assemblyman George Plescia, who lost his November state senate race to Democratic Assemblyman Marty Block.
Each of those free passes was worth more than Schenk reported: $200, according to the October 26 filing.
Day also played host to a total of 18 additional turf club visitors on August 19 and September 1. The tab for each was listed at $60.
According to a district ticket policy accompanying the filings, free tickets may be handed out for "Intergovernmental relations purposes, including but not limited to attendance at an event with or by elected or appointed public officials from other jurisdictions, their staff members and their guests."
The freebies can also be used for "promotion and marketing of the District's resources and facilities available for commercial and other uses; increase of ancillary revenue for food, beverage, parking and related items at interim and District-promoted events."