By Doug Porter
Representative Scott Peters’ fight to keep his seat in the 52nd Congressional District continues to make the news. The National Journal and other media outlets ran stories yesterday about fake news sites being funded by the National Republican Congressional Committee; a quick search confirmed Peters was among their targets.
Climate Progress ran an article touting both Peters and opponent Carl DeMaio as unusual because both candidates agree that climate change is real- except that they couldn’t find a environmental activist willing to endorse DeMaio’s record.
Finally, former assemblyman Nathan Fletcher came out of his self-imposed political exile this morning to endorse Peters, joining Jack Harkin (former chair of the local United Veterans Council) and other veterans at a press conference in Balboa Park.
The Faux News Site
Earlier this year the GOP stalwarts at the NRCC came under fire for creating a deceptive websites about Democratic candidates.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The National Republican Congressional Committee bought up hundreds of URLs ahead of the 2014 election cycle and has created nearly 20 websites appearing to support Democratic candidates in all but the small print, a spokesman for the campaign confirmed Thursday.
The websites include donation forms that accept credit cards and encourage viewers to contribute up to $500, but instead of money going to the Democratic candidates, it goes to the NRCC.
After news stories about people being duped by the donations ploy appeared, these fake sites were changed to re-direct potential donors to a page identifying the NRCC as the recipient of contributions.
Now, according to the National Journal, about two dozen sites that appear to feature local news are up and running. Both challengers and incumbent Democrats are targeted by this scheme, which is being promoted via Google search ads.
The NRCC’s single-page sites are designed to appear to be a local news portal, with logos like “North County Update” or “Central Valley Update.” The articles begin in the impartial voice of a political fact-checking site, hoping to lure in readers. “We’ll take a look at her record and let you decide,” starts one. Then they gradually morph into more biting language. At the very bottom, in a box, is the disclaimer that the NRCC paid for the site.
“This is a new and effective way to disseminate information to voters who are interested in learning the truth about these Democratic candidates,” said Andrea Bozek, communications director for the NRCC.
Political strategists on both sides of the aisle say voters have generally grown weary and dubious of political attacks that are accompanied by dark clouds and ominous music. Wrapping an attack in the innocuous language of fact-checking, then, makes it more likely to sink in.
Although the fake news sites do not contain the NRCC’s URL, the National Journal concluded they were generally with legal limits of campaign rules.
Here’s the link to the fake NRCC site for Scott Peters: .
Carl DeMaio’s Faux Environmental Views
Over at Climate Progress they were trying to talk up Carl DeMaio’s environmental credibility.
DeMaio has branded himself as a socially-progressive Republican. He’s openly gay and pro-choice, and has run on a campaign that includes promises to make it easier for homeowners to install solar panels. He’s also said that while he believes climate change is happening and that humans have an impact, he thinks more research needs to be done to “determine what is happening, why, and what we can do to mitigate it.”
Once you get down into the meat of the story readers find out DeMaio’s record isn’t so hot.
Despite these efforts, however, the San Diego League of Conservation Voters says DeMaio has a “terrible record on environmental issues.” From 2008 to 2012, he served on the San Diego City Council and in that time, earned grades of F, F, D+, and F on the organization’s environmental report card.
“By a significant margin, his cumulative score was the worst of any councilmember during that time, and he has managed to be a reliable opponent of responsible environmental policy across the board,” LCV said in a statement.
Nicole Capretz, Director of Policy for the San Diego City Council’s second district and 15-year resident of the city, said based on what she’s seen of DeMaio during his time in the city council and his run for mayor, she doesn’t think he’s serious about his concerns for the environment.
“Environment, public health, clean air — those kind of issues are not really his top priorities,” she said. “Giving lip service to an issue is way different than actually doing something about it.”
Campaign Scandal: Mr. A Meets Betty Boo
The feds consolidated their cases yesterday with a revised indictment naming Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura and alleged co-conspirators Ravneet Singh, his D.C.-based campaign services company ElectionMall Inc. and lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes.
From the Times of San Diego:
The 26-count indictment details about $600,000 in allegedly illegal donations. According to federal law, it is illegal for a foreign national to donate to political campaigns in the United States.
The indictment lists 20 instances in which various defendants allegedly falsified campaign finance records with the San Diego City Clerk, the Federal Election Commission or the California Secretary of State.
The defendants on multiple occasions failed to identify Azano as the true source of campaign donations or concealed the donation altogether, the government alleges.
Some interesting nicknames were revealed in the indictment: the Mexican businessman is referred to as “Mr. A” and “Mr. Lambo,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was “Betty Boo.”
From UT-San Diego:
The revised indictment says Azano — who is also listed by the aliases of “Mr. A” and “Mr. Lambo” in the indictment — and the others would survey candidates running for various offices then decide which were the best to support. Azano would then seek private meetings with the candidates, prosecutors allege.
The indictment specifies three such meetings: A late 2011 or early 2012 meeting with Dumanis at Azano’s Coronado Cays home; an Aug. 17, 2012, meeting with Filner at Azano’s home; and a Sept. 17, 2012, dinner with Vargas in downtown San Diego.
After the private meetings, prosecutors allege Azano, Cortes and Singh would map out a plan on how to best fund and support the candidate secretly, with Cortes and Singh acting as the go-betweens.
Need A Scorecard?
With all these news stories, aliases and indictments (Wherein the politicians are referred to as Candidate 1, Candidate 2, etc) it can be difficult to keep track of who said what to whom when.
Fortunately, Voice of San Diego has created a “Who’s Who in the Campaign Finance Schedule,” complete with an animated Betty Boop giving her famous wink.
A Sempra Connection?
The indictment built a much stronger case again Azano, who last month went public with the assertion that his troubles stemmed from a revenge plot coming out of an earlier run-in he had with Sempra Energy. And it is likely true that Azano came to the government’s attention as a result of that deal gone bad.
From the San Diego Reader:
Every time local media report that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis got $200,000 in subterranean money, plus gifts, from Mexican tycoon José Susumo Azano Matsura, Dumanis’s election opponent, local attorney Robert Brewer, steps up his attacks on her.
But very few San Diegans know that it was Brewer who suggested, three years ago, that the United States government pursue Azano. Brewer was representing Sempra Energy, the parent of San Diego Gas & Electric. In early 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that there was sufficient evidence that “Sempra and its business executives may have engaged in criminal activity so as to justify the opening of a full investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” according to documents that San Diego attorney Gary Aguirre got from the federal government through the Freedom of Information Act.
Former Sempra accountant Rodolfo Michelon had filed a whistle-blower complaint. Among many things, he charged that Sempra had set up a multimillion-dollar trust in Ensenada, built an expensive fire station in Tijuana that was quickly abandoned, and passed $100 bills to the governor of Baja California — all for the purpose of greasing the skids to build a liquefied natural gas plant near Ensenada. After complaining internally about these practices, Michelon had been fired. So he filed whistle-blower complaints with the federal government. Ultimately, he was rebuffed. Now, Aguirre and attorney Dan Gilleon represent him as he tries again.
There are a few new and interesting items revealed in this revised indictment.
From Voice of San Diego:
• Azano got dinner in September 2012 with [Juan] Vargas. This is the first direct tie reported between Azano and Vargas, who benefited from donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A week after the dinner, Chase wrote a check to the DCCC, which was supporting Vargas. This was a month after the indictment says a Vargas representative sent Encinas an email with a link to the specific Federal Election Commission’s prohibition against foreign involvement in elections.
• The new indictment alleges Singh gave a “public official” $1,000 in exchange for classified and confidential information.
• The indictment also charges Azano for carrying an unlicensed firearm. Federal law says foreign nationals admitted to the country under a nonimmigrant visa cannot possess firearms.
While the indictment and this reporting on the scandal makes for fun reading, I have to wonder if Azano’s real crime was in trying to make an end run around the usual downtown crowd.
City Hall’s Revolving Door
Developer Sunroad Centrum’s attempt at securing an easement for its Kearny Mesa development is back in the news. The Reader reports that San Diego Superior Court judge Timothy Taylor issued a temporary restraining order on August 1st, preventing the developer from obtaining a certificate of occupancy.
From Dorian Hargrove’s story in the Reader:
Sunroad is in a legal fight to keep the land the city council gave it. If they lose the case, the developer will most likely be forced to pay a large amount of cash to address the fire hazards and other environmental impacts caused by reducing the easements.
Looking for an advantage, after April of this year, Sunroad hired new in-house counsel, an expert on the case, former deputy city attorney Andrea Contreras. Before moving on to Sunroad, Contreras represented the city in defending its role in the parkland giveaway.
The lawsuit, filed late last year, stems from Sunroad’s attempt to boost profits on its Kearny Mesa development by asking the city council to give away two nine-foot easements. Emails obtained by the Reader revealed the developer would lose $8,600 a month in revenue without the extra land. But it was the method the developer used in getting those easements that got them and then-mayor Bob Filner in trouble. Disagreeing with the city council’s decision, Filner vetoed the giveaway. Following the veto, Sunroad executive Tom Story got to work, agreeing to donate $100,000 to two of Filner’s pet projects, a bicycle advocacy program and a veterans’ memorial plaza in Ocean Beach.
City attorney Jan Goldsmith and city councilmember Scott Sherman soon questioned the donation. After several media reports, Filner was forced to return the donation. In the end, Sunroad took the easements free and clear…that is, until the lawsuit filed by attorney Cory Briggs on behalf of CREED 21.
On This Day: 1792 – French revolutionaries took the entire French royal family and imprisoned them. 1892 – Striking miners at Tracy City, Tenn., siezed the mines and freed 300 state convict strikebreakers. The convicts had been “leased” to mineowners by officials in an effort to make prisons self-supporting and make a few bucks for the state. The practice started in 1866 and lasted for 30 years 1967 – The Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Joan Baez to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. because of her opposition to the Vietnam War.
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