The Touch and How to Use It

Bob Filner is grinning because he’s making inroads into Carl DeMaio’s real-estate-development fundraising base.
  • Bob Filner is grinning because he’s making inroads into Carl DeMaio’s real-estate-development fundraising base.

Congressman Bob Filner, running for mayor against city councilman Carl DeMaio, is being warily eyed by the ranks of the city’s lobbyists. But after his recent flip-flop in support of Irwin Jacobs’s controversial plan to remake Balboa Park, the South Bay Democrat is expected to claim his share of special interest cash in the days leading to November. Even before the Balboa Park bombshell, Filner had been making inroads into DeMaio’s real-estate-development base, where a big chunk of the city’s campaign cash lies.

A case in point: venerable downtown influence-peddling firm the Clay Company. Founded by now-retired superlobbyist Ben Clay, the outfit is staffed by his wife Nikki, along with Stephanie Saathoff, wife of onetime firefighters-union honcho Ron Saathoff, and Maddy Kilkenny. Stephanie Saathoff gave Filner $250 in April.

During the second quarter of this year, the trio hauled in lucre from a wide array of development interests. The firm got $22,210 from Allied Waste for lobbying on behalf of the Sycamore Landfill expansion. The three women got in touch with an impressive array of city officials, including Democratic city councilman David Alvarez and GOP councilwoman Lorie Zapf, as well as council staffers and Jay Goldstone, chief of operations for lame duck mayor Jerry Sanders. From Daimler/Mercedes-Benz USA came $2663 to grease the wheels for an “on-going pilot program” involving those blue-and-white buglike rental cars. Garden Communities forked over $14,157 to lobby for a big University City land-use change. Gray East Village San Diego, LLC, paid $5720 for something called the “Blue Sky Project” downtown. According to Gray’s website, the project intends to offer “high-end units, designed specifically for the urban California lifestyle, in two towers planned for the block located between A and B Streets, 8th and 9th Avenues.” Kaiser Permanente coughed up $8758 for “new hospital land use approval.” Otay-Tijuana Venture LLC, which is building a cross-border terminal to connect with Tijuana’s airport and is backed by Chicago billionaire and Los Angeles Times owner Sam Zell, paid the Clay Company $28,388.

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Wait a minute, what's wrong with this picture and headline? Why, it's misleading!

Let's not conflate the heavy-duty five-figure lobbying fees for services rendered by "venerable downtown influence-peddling firm the Clay Company" with a measly sub-maximum $250 personal contribution from one Clay Company operative (still a citizen entitled to give) to the mayoral campaign of Bob Filner.

Sam Zell's Equity Residential also owns Vantage Pointe Apartments (the former failed condo development) in East Village.

Zell sold off His REIT, Equity Office Properties, many years ago-suprised he still has RE holdings.

The Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang has dropped DeMaio and is now endorsing Filner. Filner has agreed to don Hells Angels colors and ride a Harley in the next Gay Pride Parade in exchange for the endorsement. Filner has also promised to help the Angels obtain a zoning variance so they can build a new clubhouse in La Jolla. The Angels are also taking care of hecklers at Filner campaign events.

Developers always contribute to both sides. That way, they never lose.

I liked Burwell's contribution. He's a funny guy.

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