Ian Anderson 1:56 p.m., Jan. 27
GOP fat cats set to party hearty at Manchester resort this weekend
Exclusive California Republican Leadership fund kicks off high-end cash raising event with Friday golf tournament and lavish party closed to media at publishing magnate's Grand del Mar
U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester, known for his extravagant party giving, is playing host to California Republican Party officials, lawmakers, and their monied financial backers this weekend at his sprawling Grand del Mar resort in the northern reaches of San Diego.
The tab to get into the California Republican Leadership Fund's bash isn't cheap. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, it's $15,000 for regular admission all the way to $100,000 for sponsorship bragging rights, but many Sacramento lobbyists say the tony price is more than worth the investment, both for the golf and scrumptious food spread and specialty drinks that Manchester is famous for, as well as the free and easy access to elected officials.
An invitation to 2011's version of the event promised top level sponsors "8 Players in the Golf Tournament on Friday, 8 Deluxe Guest Rooms for Friday and Saturday Night, 16 Tickets to All General Activities and Forums," as well as "Weekend Memorabilia."
Lower end donors got one golf ticket, one room, and party and dinner admissions, along with "Photo Opportunities with Weekend VIPs."
The event is closed to the media, the guest list is secret, and organizers have endeavored to keep the privacy level high, lest dissidents get wind of the goings on and stage unseemly demonstrations. The downtown Hyatt, which Manchester used to own, drew frequent and noisy pickets by bullhorn wielding gay and union protestors until he unloaded it.
As they did during such confrontations at Manchester’s waterfront property, San Diego police and private agents are expected to be close at hand and maintain a low-key cordon of tight security and surveillance at this weekend's event.
This year the stakes for having a private and peaceful big bucks gathering are higher than ever for Manchester and his executive sidekick John Lynch as they and their U-T San Diego mini media empire lead the local GOP's major money charge to obtain the mayorship for city councilman Kevin Faulconer. He's running against, among others, ex-GOP Assemblyman turned Democrat Nathan Fletcher, backed by billionaire Qualcomm founder and Obama Democrat Irwin Jacobs.
San Diego has long been a popular venue for private getaways of the political rich and famous, including well-heeled Democrats and their lobbyist backers.
As Dave Rice reported in March of last year, state Democrats held a "Pro Tem" golf blowout at Torrey Pines, costing only slightly less than the Manchester shindig.
Party contributors looking for access to [Senate President Pro Tem Darrell] Steinberg will fork over up to $60,000, an increase of $10,000 from similar events in 2011 and 2008, the Sacramento Bee reports.
That amount will buy a “Two Day Platinum” package, including two days’ worth of golf for four people, two nights’ lodging, attendance at an awards barbecue with “commemorative gifts,” and an evening with Steinberg.
The event already has attracted title sponsors from the cable television industry, including the California Cable and Telecommunications Association, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable.
The Democrats are justifying the grab for cash as necessary in a quest to win a two-thirds “super majority” in the legislature’s upper chamber, especially given that redistricting has opened up competition for some seats.
The granddaddy of all such secretive hyper-money events held here was the June 2012 "Path to Freedom" conference sponsored by the conservative billionaire Republican Koch Brothers at North County's posh Park Hyatt Aviara. As local NBC affiliate KNSD reported:
A reporter for our media partner, the North County Times and freelancer Eric Wolff breached security and entered the hotel through the golf course. He took photos of the gathering, which was swarming with security guards.
The North County Times was purchased two months later by the GOP's Manchester and folded into his U-T San Diego media operation, which has since partnered on editorial projects with the Koch-linked non-profit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.