Investigating the investigator

Anyone who wants to know how the well-connected world of San Diego’s power brokers works need look no further than Mary Lindenstein Walshok, associate vice chancellor for public programs and dean of Extension at UCSD. She’s in charge of the university’s public television station, UCSD-TV, and runs UCSD’s “outreach activities.” In addition to her duties at the university, Walshok has found time to sit on the boards of a host of influential local nonprofits, including the San Diego Public Library Foundation, which is lobbying for a new taxpayer-funded downtown library, and Buzz Woolley’s Girard Foundation, which backs the charter school movement and other privatization causes and paid Walshok $5000 last year for her services. It was recently revealed that Walshok is also on the board of the new “Watchdog Institute,” the nonprofit group formed by ex–Union-Tribune editor Lorie Hearn, based at San Diego State University and commissioned to do investigative reporting for the U-T. So maybe Walshok can be forgiven some downtime in the form of an August 16 ticket to San Diego Symphony’s Summer Pops, worth $154.70 including food and beverages, courtesy of Sempra Energy, according to the company’s recent lobbying disclosure report.

Other Sempra beneficiaries last quarter included now-former GOP assemblyman Mike Duvall, treated to food and drink worth $51.23 at Sacramento’s Chops restaurant on July 8, the very day he was caught on a legislative hearing video bragging about having sex with Heidi DeJong Barsuglia, a Sempra lobbyist. Duvall subsequently resigned, but Barsuglia, who works under the title “government affairs manager,” denied involvement with Duvall and has since returned to action for the utility giant.

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Matt Potter's trio of stories today is a perfect closeup of how sausage is made in San Diego politics. UCSD's Mary Walshok is involved in the SD Library Foundation that has squandered City-provided seed money and outrageously wangled public school bond funds to pay part of the tariff for a new Central Library that its fundraisers can't find private money for. She's also taking money from edu-conservative Buzz Woolley's Girard Foundation and has a finger in the new U-T/old U-T investigative journalism venture. And she accepts gifts from SDGE parent SEMPRA Energy. Sacramento-bound City Councilman Ben Hueso, who represents development-beleaguered Barrio Logan (where he owns rental properties) is taking campaign contributions from every developers' friend Jim (Sunroad) Waring. And the lobbying firm of a protege of ex-Mayor, ex-Legislator, ex-Governor Pete Wilson is raking in taxpayer dollars from City and County agencies who hire its "consultants" to angle for public acceptance of expensive unnecessary redos of the Airport and the "Civic Center" and, who knows, maybe even a downtown Chargers' stadium. Message here? You decide.

The whole world of San Diego nonprofits is like a Mobius strip highway for the connected "owners" of the town. Even the new media nonprofits are incestuous pools in which old powerbrokers swim silently, managing news stories for public consumption to optimize their Repub agenda. The young turk nonprofit news newbie reporters, posing as progressive types, malign The Reader because they hate the political and personal beliefs of the Reader's owner. But posing it is: they seem OK with Voice of San Diego's president, RB Wooley, who is a huge donor to the Cali Repub Party and Repub candidates. The VoSD secretary (Neil Morgan) is another Repub from the U-T, and Gail Stoorza-Gill, the asst sec and who is on the Board of the Convention Center, has given liberally to Issa, the Lincoln Club, Pete Wilson, and Schenk. Stoorza-Gill chimes in with comments over at SDNN to her amiga Barbara Bry, who used to be a VoSD officer before starting SDNN. Knowing who controls the VoSD, it's easy to understand why none of the "investigative" work ever really finds the dirt on the City or its Republican admin. Unless they aren't Repub and are named Aguirre or Frye...

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