By Doug Porter
There were new developments in San Diego’s latest round of political malfeasance, bringing drama but not answers to questions about how deep this scandal goes.
Lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes was arrested at his Little Italy residence on Tuesday, following an hour long standoff ending with a FBI Swat team and negotiator being called to the scene. The Coronado Cays residence of Mexican moneyman Susamo Azano, aka Jose Susamo Azano Matsura, was searched by FBI agents on Wednesday. Authorities believe Azano illegally donated a half-million dollars to local political campaigns over the past two years.
Local politicians lined up to return contributions, including Congressman Juan Vargas, iMayor Todd Gloria, former City Councilman Carl DeMaio and others. The returned monies appear to have been legally donated and reported. Every politician involved was just trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the names already associated with the scandal.
The arrest of Cortes vastly expanded the potential connections for the feds investigation, since his meetings with various elected and administrative officials encompassed a who’s who at city hall on behalf of an interesting variety of clients. They included food trucks, pedicabs, a towing company, several restaurants seeking licenses, a consortium of check cashing/payday loan outfits, and the San Diego Hospitality and Entertainment Coalition, representing adult entertainment venues.
The complaint filed in connection with his apprehension is much the same as the one filed in connection with Ernesto Encinas. It just puts Cortes in the room when some of the alleged acts took place.
Marco Polo Cortez was a fixture in South Bay politics for years, knocking on doors for Juan Vargas, working as an staffer for Supervisor Greg Cox and named in a Reader article back in 2004 as a being close to the extended Inzunza clan. He was president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and made an unsuccessful run for the Chula Vista city council in 2000.
In 2006, he went full time as lobbyist, quitting his position with the Chula Vista planning commission. A Reader article from June 2013 dubbed Cortez as a “nude entertainment lobbyist.”
A Lobbying Duo
The motivating factor for Marco Polo Cortez and Ernesto Encinas appears to connected with their hospitality clients. Cortez lobbied City Hall. Encinas handed security for restaurants and nightclubs. Their common adversary was often the San Diego Police Department.
A Voice of San Diego wrap-up on the case thus far says:
Cortes and Encinas were something of a lobbying duo on “vice” and “entertainment” enforcement policies of the San Diego Police Department.
A story in UT-San Diego talks about the former SDPD detective’s role:
He is accused of agreeing to take part in the campaign activities if he was guaranteed that the new San Diego mayor would fire Police Chief Bill Lansdowne. Multiple sources said it appears Encinas wanted a new chief who would be more likely to help night life businesses with alcohol licenses and other issues, thus helping his own consulting business.
Lansdowne has a history of being tough on liquor licenses. In 2007, his department blocked nearly 50 licenses, saying the agency lacked the staffing to handle alcohol-related incidents the new licenses might bring. The Police Department weighs in on every license for public safety reasons, while the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control issues the licenses.
The Political Fallout
US Attorney Laura Duffy has recused herself from the investigation, saying that she wanted to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has not been charged with any wrongdoing (and based on what I’ve seen it’s unlike she will) but could ultimately pay a political price.
Her history of campaigning as being ‘tough on corruption’ and the virtually complete collapse of law enforcement support for her upcoming re-election effort doesn’t mesh well with her admitted ties to the players in this case.
Voice of San Diego talked with Dumanis yesterday and she was quoted in the resulting article saying she’s met three of the indictees (Azano, Encinas and Singh) over the years. That’s no big deal, as the $100,000 in cash and a promised $100,000 in social media marketing were pledged to a PAC not officially affiliated with her campaign.
Now, it is true that her current re-election campaign did use Singh’s ElectionMall.com for services. There’s nothing illegal about that. It was reported and recorded by the proper authorities. Encinas’ family and company have also donated (legally) to her campaigns.
But the question posed at the end of the VOSD story bothers me. And it should be an issue in her 2014 campaign.
Azano’s support for Dumanis came very late in the campaign. She was far behind in the polls, why did he want to make such a major investment in her efforts?
Meanwhile, there’s other news to report even as this scandal unfolds.
You Think the Chargers’ Have It Rough?
Our hometown football team may have only made it one game into the playoffs, but they’re certainly doing better than the Oakland Raiders.
According to San Jose Mercury News current and former cheerleaders for the team filed suit yesterday in Alameda County Superior Court accusing the team of wage theft and unfair labor practices.
Specifically, the suit charges that the team withholds all pay from the Raiderettes until after the season is completed, does not pay for all hours worked and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses.
“It’s as if the Raiders’ owners believe that the laws that protect all workers in California just don’t apply to them,” attorney Sharon Vinick said.
According to Vinick, the Raiders cheerleaders are contracted for an annual salary of $1,250, which amounts to an hourly wage of less than $5 per hour. The lawsuit also claims that the Raiderettes incur other costs, including fines levied for infractions such as bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice, wearing the wrong workout clothing to rehearsals, failing to bring a yoga mat to practice, or not turning in written biographies on time.
Nothing was said about the difficulties involved in cheering on a team that really, really sucks.
GOP Follies, Featuring Carl DeMaio
If Republicans started acting sanely, I’d have to give up writing this column. But I don’t need to worry about that happening anytime soon, as today’s news clips clearly indicate.
USA Today gave a shout out on Tuesday to everybody’s favorite retired City Councilman as he campaigns for Congress. He’s all about showing his “new Republicaness” with this nifty internet campaign video, featuring cockroaches, Lindsay Lohan, zombies and frequent joint appearances by his opponent Scott Peters and ex-Mayor Bob Filner.
And since Carl’s okay with showing Peters and Filner on the same screen, we’re sure he won’t mind the joint videos soon to be made featuring photoshopped images of him, Ted Nugent and a driving montage with Justin Bieber at the wheel.
Expanding the GOP Base
Having failed at attracting women, minorities and younger people into the Republican Party, they’re now hard at work attracting a new demographic: tax cheats.
The Republican Party is expected to approve a resolution this week, calling for repeal of an Obama administration law that is designed to crack down on offshore tax dodging.
In what would be the party’s first appeal to scrap the law -the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) – a panel was slated to vote at the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) winter meetings in Washington, likely approving the resolution on Friday, according to party members driving the repeal effort.
Over at Think Progress we learn about the thinking behind this move:
The purpose of [RNC Official Soloman]Yue’s resolution to undermine the tax cheat crackdown appears to be more cynical than policy-based. The move is intended to help the party’s fundraising, Reuters reports, quoting multiple sources, including Yue and Cato Institute Senior Fellow Dan Mitchell. An RNC spokeswoman declined to comment because the resolution has not yet been adopted by the party, and referred ThinkProgress to Yue himself. “I see FATCA just like Obamacare,” Yue told Reuters, in that “It will attract American overseas donors.”
What Could Go Wrong?
Following bi-partisan approval of a $1.012 trillion spending bill last week, House Republicans are having second thoughts about raising the debt ceiling to pay for the budget they voted for.
From Talking Points Memo:
Republicans are gearing up to pick yet another fight on the debt ceiling.
Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office on Wednesday signaled another standoff after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote a letter saying Congress will have to act by “late February” — sooner than expected — to raise the borrowing limit in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic default on U.S. debt.
“The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a ‘clean’ debt limit increase simply won’t pass in the House,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told TPM in an email. “We hope and expect the White House will work with us on a timely, fiscally-responsible solution.”
The remarks echo those made recently by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that congressional Republicans won’t agree to a “clean” debt limit increase without policy add-ons or strings attached. It’s unclear what they’ll demand in return, though.
On This Day: 1907 – Charles Curtis, of Kansas, began serving in the United States Senate. He was the first Native American to become a U.S. Senator. He resigned in March of 1929 to become President Herbert Hoover’s Vice President. 1973 – President Nixon announced that an accord had been reached to end the Vietnam War. 1989 – Singer James Brown was sentenced in Georgia to 6 years in jail in connection with a police chase through two states.
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