By Doug Porter
Starting with a guest editorial in UT-San Diego back on January 8th, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has been at the forefront of a publicity blitz designed to counter community disdain for initiative drives sponsored by monied interests.
Repeated accusations about misrepresentations by paid signature gatherers, combined with a pair of lawsuits filed by the proponents of a new community plan in the Barrio Logan have left a bad taste in the public political palate.
I believe the big business backers of an subsequent initiative (the so-called jobs tax) must have been concerned about the blowback and dispatched their most loyal servant at city hall to do their bidding. But it could be a coincidence, right?
After backing down and repealing legislation in the face of two earlier threats of referendums in 2011, one sponsored by Walmart and the other by the medical marijuana industry, the City Council drew a line in the sand this past year.
In the UT-San Diego, at City Beat and most recently at KPBS, Goldsmith has been beating the drum for what he calls ‘direct democracy’ and wrapping himself in the cloak of the early 20th century Progressive movement. He apparently has ‘no opinion’ or prefers to downplay charges being made that the process is being corrupted.
Here’s the part of the City Beat interview where he shows his true colors:
“The opponents of the referendum, if they wanted the city’s involvement, rather than use all this political pressure, what they should have done, frankly, is come to us, behind closed doors, and provide the evidence to us and say, ‘What do you think?’” he said. “We would have had our lawyers research that and see whether the city should be involved.”
Lawyers with Coast Law Group, who represent the referendum opponents, said they brought concerns to the City Attorney’s office weeks before filing the lawsuit.
Goldsmith responded via email to a follow-up question on the topic: “If they did [contact our office], it was not brought to my attention. But that is not surprising since [Deputy City Attorney] Sharon Spivak advises the city clerk and gets complaints / issues from all sides whenever there is an election. Sharon and her team do a good job and do not get the city embroiled in political issues.”
The KPBS story focuses on questioning whether the referendum process is broken or misused.
Here’s iMayor Gloria’s response:
San Diego’s interim Mayor Todd Gloria said he thinks referendums have become the tool of the wealthy. He believes that money has watered down the process, “where once the less powerful used it to call the powerful to account.” Now, “it really has been turned on its head, with special interests using direct democracy to get outcomes they cant get through the normal democratic process,” he said.
Gloria said to find the answer, look no further than the issues that have been challenged lately.
“When you look at the issues that have received challenges because of the referendum process,” he said, “I think it’s fair to say that each of those issues are relatively progressive issues, that have been challenged by fairly large, fairly well moneyed interest.”
Shipbuilder Campaign is Over Budget
According to a Matt Potter story in the Reader, the Protect Our Jobs Coalition–the formal name for the group fighting the Barrio Logan Community Plan–is $287,000 in the red, having spent $730,000 on the petition drive, legal fees, and consultants.
The debts include over $65,000 on consultants and legal fees; and of the $185,000 spent on the petition drive, nearly $45,000 is listed as unpaid. Costs are likely to skyrocket as the lawsuits over the signature drives makes their way through court…
The Protect Our Jobs Coalition consists of San Diego’s largest shipping companies, including NASSCO, BAE Systems, and Continental Maritime of San Diego. Those three companies have contributed over $255,000 since the coalition was formed last year.
The shipping companies aren’t the only ones ponying up cash to send the issue to voters: the City of San Diego is expected to pay between $600,000 and $1 million for the special election. That’s in addition to the hours deputy city attorneys will need to defend the city in the lawsuit from the locally based Environmental Health Coalition.
Dumanis Opponent Leads in Fundraisng
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, whose name has been mentioned frequently in news accounts about a campaign finance scandal, lagged behind opponent Robert Brewer in fundraising during the second half of 2013.
Brewer collected in $141,065 (plus $60,000 in self funding loans) in the second half of 2013,according campaign disclosure reports, while Dumanis raised $128,000 as she seeks a fourth term in office.
The campaigns reacted to the news in a UT-San Diego article:
“The latest fundraising report makes two things clear,” Dumanis’ campaign said Tuesday in a statement. “First, Bonnie’s supporters are a loyal and diverse group who come from all four corners of the county. Second, our opponent is willing to buy the office with his considerable wealth if he has to. The nearly $100,000 he’s already given his own campaign can pay for a lot of negative ads….”
“…When a first time candidate for a countywide office running against a 12-year incumbent can outraise, it shows at least three things,” Brewer said. “Her campaign is in real trouble, my campaign is gaining momentum and it sends a strong message that it’s time for a new DA.”
And then there’s this, the $200,000 elephant in the room:
It remains to be seen if Dumanis’ fundraising going forward will be affected by her association to Mexican tycoon José Susumo Azano Matsura, the man at the center of the scandal centered on his alleged illegal channeling of foreign money into local campaigns. Dumanis acknowledges meeting with him two years ago but said she knew nothing about the $200,000 he channeled into independent efforts to get her elected mayor.
The reporting period for these campaign disclosures ended on December 31st, prior to the arrests and news accounts about campaign finance malfeasance.
Getting to the Point of the Lincoln Club Protest
A group of protesters, inspired by Courage Campaign’s online petition demanding an apology for campaign mailers they say depicts Latino mayoral candidate David Alvarez as a “money-hungry gang member,” gathered outside what they thought was the headquarters of San Diego’s Lincoln Club yesterday.
It turned out they were kinda wrong about the location. Political campaigns and groups like the Lincoln Club don’t have to give a real address on their disclosure statements. But the miscue turned out to be fortuitous: it’s the address of record used by virtually every right wing/conserv/GOP campaign in town.
The only problem: they got the location wrong, showing up instead outside the offices of Lincoln Club treasurer April Bohling (she is also the treasurer for mayoral candidate City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s political campaign). After a brief skirmish with some other business owners in the building, the police were called and the protesters dispersed.
From 10News, which led with the headline “Group protesting political mailer targets wrong office:”
Minutes later, they moved to the right office, where one protester yelled, “Lincoln Club, come out! Come out and talk to us! Lincoln Club, come out and talk to us!”
Then, someone from that suite came out and said, “Can you quiet down please? We’re trying to work.”
One of the protesters responded with, “Are you making up more racist flyers?”
By then, three police officers had arrived.
Via City Beat, who kept things in perspective:
“I am here with the members of the community in outrage over the Lincoln Club’s recent racist mailers depicting David Alvarez as a menacing gang member,” said Laura Leavitt, a campaign organizer with the Courage Campaign, which organized an online petition shortly after the mailers went out.
The protesters said that roughly 14,000 people signed the petitions, blasting the mailers as racist.
“This type of cowardly and unethical messaging is referred to as dog-whistle racism, planting coded images and themes of racial stereotypes to conjure up fear of minorities, and it has no place in our politics,” Leavitt said.
A Lincoln club spokesman denied the allegations of racism.
Gosh, I wonder where they got that idea…?
Back to KPBS:
It’s not the first time the issue of gangs has come up during an Alvarez campaign. In 2010, when he was running for his city council district 8 seat he faced off against Felipe Heuso, the brother of the former District 8 Councilman Ben Heuso.
In a KPBS debate, Hueso accused Alvarez of being part of a gang element: “It’s a very well known fact the Alvarez family is part of the gang problem, part of the drug problem,” he said.
Alvarez’s life story is of staying clear of the gangs and drugs that cropped up in his home turf of Barrio Logan. His older brothers were involved in that culture, but Alvarez kept his nose clean, becoming the first in his family to graduate high school and then college.
An Archive for Campaign Flyers
If you’re wondering what all the fuss about campaign flyers is about there is now a place on the web where you can go to get your questions answered.
Political junkie Cynara Velazquez has taken it upon herself to create a website documenting the good, the bad and the ugly campaign mailers being used in the current campaign (with others to come).
Visitors are encouraged to rate the mailers, using a five star system. for Accuracy, Persuasiveness and Positivity.
Check it out: http://politicalpropaganda.
On This Day: 1846 – “The Oregon Spectator”, based in Oregon City, became the first newspaper published on the west coast. 1887 – Verdi’s opera “Otello” premiered at La Scala. 1917 – The U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917 (Asiatic Barred Zone Act) with an overwhelming majority. The action overrode President Woodrow Wilson’s December 14, 1916 veto
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dave stutz says
Dumanis’ loyal supporters forgot to vote in her last place finish in the mayors race and she’ll only accept $100,000 if it comes from Mexico. Brewer is the best thing to happen to the DAs’ office since Ed Miller.
Brent Beltran says
There was something good about Miller? Not for folks that live in communities like mine.
Ken Grimes says
Todd Gloria’s right, referendums have become a tool to overturn progressive initiatives. So called “direct democracy” has been turned on its head. Whenever there’s a democratically decided decision that wealthy stakeholders don’t like, apparently with a relatively small expenditure of $200k to buy signatures, and the cost of a few strategically placed contributions and misleading ads to confuse voters, they can save themselves a lot more money than their initial outlay. It’s a very sound business decision – but what has it got to do with democracy?
Lori Saldaña says
Referendums have become A lucrative and largely unregulated industry. They typically favor policies that have not been thoroughly researched but are favorites of conservative think tanks.
Those with deep pockets use them effectively, to create Astroturf faux populist campaigns, and progressive grassroots initiatives have largely disappeared. They are also ways to threaten elected officials, not just with policy initiatives but recalls.
Signature gatherers are not required to have any formal training in ethics or accountability. They are often “imported” from out of the local community and simply tell people what their employers instruct them regardless of facts.
Many are paid on a per signature basis so are quite aggressive to get people to sign their documents.
Efforts to regulate signature gathering are difficult to enact. (One successful state bill did outlaw the situation where gatherers were not paid if a ballot measure failed to qualify.)
In summary: ballot measures are increasingly big Business and conservative, bring out the deep pockets and have overwhelmed their populist, progressive grassroots origins.
Judy Swink says
Why on earth is Matt Potter calling the ship builders & ship repair companies “shipping companies”? If all they were doing was loading, unloading and transporting goods (as shipping companies do), there wouldn’t have been any issues for Barrio Logan over the many decades of pollution!
Even worse, on KPBS Round Table tonight, one of the guests kept referring to “the Port” as promoters of the referendums against the Barrio Logan Community Plan. The Port District is distinctly different from shipping companies, cruise ship lines and – the actual promoters of the two referendums – the ship building/repair companies along the waterfront of Barrio Logan. All of these companies lease State Tidelands from the Port which the Port manages in trust for the State of California.
Brent Beltran says
The Port Tenants Association is the organization that filed the referendum. They are different than the Port itself but can be confused with each other.
Judy Swink says
Thanks for that clarification, Brent. However, a journalist needs to be carefully specific in how they reference something because, as you say, Port District & Port Tenants Association (as representatives of the shipbuilders) can be easily confused by someone unfamiliar with either or both.
Also, apologies to Matt Potter for blaming him for using “shipping”! I accepted Doug Porter’s attribution at face value but have subsequently looked at the Reader byline for the article Doug cites – it’s Dorian Hargrove and not Matt Potter (who, I know, would have known better to use such ‘loose’ language’).