Ian Anderson 2:30 p.m., Feb. 18
Manchester and Wal-Mart cash to GOP council races obscured by detour through federal campaign fund
C. Terry Brown, Richard Bartell and host of other special interests provided funding to Republican federal committee transferring $70,000 for Zapf, Cate
Given the shadow-financed Republican-led effort to recall embattled mayor Bob Filner, it's not always easy to track the torrents of cash being pumped into San Diego politics by the town's wealthy special interests.
The latest wrinkle in the art of obscure political funding comes in the form of $5,000 contributions made to the federal campaign account of the local GOP on July 19 by each of C. Terry Brown, owner of Atlas Hotels, and Richard Bartell, general partner of Bartell Hotels.
Another notable donor: U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester's Manchester Financial Group, L.P., with $5000 on July 30. He runs the posh Grand del Mar resort in the northern reaches of the city and his news operation has been a staunch - some say over-the-top - Filner foe.
As previousy reported here, the three local lodging titans, along with lucrative city lease holder and fellow hotelier Bill Evans, got into a nasty spat with Filner earlier this year over a sweetheart city funding deal they thought they'd reached with previous GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, to whom they had made total campaign donations well into six figures.
Using a city of San Diego fee-funded non-profit corporation they controlled, the moguls sued Filner personally, but lost out in court, and reportedly vowed to seek their revenge.
According to city ethics chief Stacey Fulhorst, the current recall campaign against the mayor won't have to report who is footing its bills until that effort is concluded, so the public apparently won't discover who is putting up the cash there until after the Filner fireworks are over.
The Brown and Bartell $5,000 contributions, along with another Brown donation of $2500 on July 26, were made to the federal account of the Republican Party of San Diego County, according to a disclosure report the party must file by law with the Federal Election Commission, somewhat more of a stickler for transparency than San Diego's ethics panel.
During the same period, the report reveals, a host of the magnates' allies and political friends also chipped in, including ex-port commissioner David Malcolm, felled by a conflict of interest scandal ($2500 on July 15); failed La Jolla GOP city council candidate Ray Ellis ($5000 on July 3); ResMed founder Peter Farell, who has threated to leave the state over regulatory issues ($1000 on July 22); and Stuart Posnock, the big developer from New Jersey who financed Filner's mayoral committee before the mayoral scandal broke ($1000 on July 23).
Besides Manchester, corporate money included big-box developer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ($6500 on July 2) and Pardee Homes ($5000 on July 3).
The big cash switch was made on July 30, with a transfer of $70,000 from the county GOP's federal committee where the funds were originally deposited and itemized by contributor, to its state-regulated committee, called the Republican Party of San Diego County, where no itemized donor list was provided, effectively concealing the actual identities of the well-heeled contributors and amount of their donations.
A footnote to the federal filing says:
This transfer from our federal to non-federal account is to fund activities in support of local candidates.
These funds are being used only in support of such candidates and are not being used to influence the election or defeat of any federal candidate.
California disclosure records show that on the very same day, July 30, two San Diego city council campaigns, those of incumbent and special Wal-Mart friend Lorie Zapf, running in the newly re-drawn second district, and Chris Cate, employed by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the downtown lobbying outfit closely linked to Terry Brown, received a total of $70,000.
Zapf picked up $50,000; Cate, who is running for an open seat in the city's newly re-drawn sixth district, got $20,000.