Irwin Jacobs Goes Republican Hunting

Irwin Jacobs has donated $2.1 million to super PACs set on defeating Republicans in the November election.
  • Irwin Jacobs has donated $2.1 million to super PACs set on defeating Republicans in the November election.

Irwin Jacobs goes Republican hunting Who are San Diego’s heaviest super PAC hitters this election season? Of course, first place must go to Qualcomm founder and La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs, with his cool $2 million contribution on June 11 to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing the reelection of President Barack Obama. The principal proponent of the controversial top-down Balboa Park road and traffic makeover, the liberal Jacobs has also kicked in $100,000 to American Bridge 21st Century, which bills itself as “a progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions and helping you ascertain when Republican candidates are pretending to be something they’re not.”

Regarding GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, American Bridge recently opined: “Despite Boston’s best etch-a-sketching efforts to distance Mitt Romney from the extremely unpopular views of his running mate, the truth remains that on everything from ending Medicare as it’s always been to banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest, Romney and Ryan are one and the same.”

Major local donors at the other end of the political spectrum from Jacobs include his fellow La Jollan Anne Phillips, whose occupation is listed as “mom” and her employer “kids.” She gave $70,000 to the conservative Club for Growth Action PAC on June 21; retired Point Loma physician Phillips L. Gausewitz contributed $5000 to the group in April. Last week the club announced it was spending $800,000 on a TV campaign against Democratic congressman Joe Donnelly’s U.S. Senate bid in Indiana. “Joe Donnelly supports the Obama agenda wholeheartedly — he voted for ObamaCare, the Obama stimulus, and the Wall Street bailout. Since Joe Donnelly went to Congress, the national debt is up seven trillion dollars. It’s not surprising considering that Donnelly is a Washington liberal who supported Nancy Pelosi for speaker.”

The Jacobs-backed American Bridge PAC has similarly attacked Donnelly’s GOP opponent: “Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s new ad laughably states that if elected ‘he’ll work with Republicans and Democrats,’” says American Bridge. “Nice try, but we’re not buying it. There are countless instances of Mourdock decrying bipartisanship in Washington throughout this very campaign. He even said flat out ‘we don’t need bipartisanship.’”

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It's a puzzlement. How is it possible for rich "liberal" Irwin Jacobs to bankroll a "progressive research and communications organization" to de-bunk Republican exaggeration and/or outright lies in the Presidential campaign to also financially support an online journal like Voice of San Diego that routinely misuses its "news" reporting to attack and lie about San Diego's liberal and progressive candidate for Mayor, Congressman Bob Filner?

VOSD "reporter" Liam Dillon has become a discredited hack for his biased coverage of the San Diego Mayor's race. But if you're mega-rich like Irwin Jacobs, consistency is a hobgoblin of little minds, and you get to do whatever you want without suffering any loss of reputation. As I said, it's a puzzlement.

I'm a freelance contributor to VOSD. It appears that you haven't been reading the publication closely.

Dillon has frequently written critical reports about DeMaio. There's this from a story published just this month: "DeMaio has often displayed what we called a "personal blind spot" in turning off potential friends and making potential foes dislike him more. Notable examples include falling outs with the former head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. DeMaio's dysfunctional relationship with city workers took a hit after he was seen fiddling with his cell phone during a police officer's funeral two years ago."

And there's this from an earlier story: "This is a core tension in DeMaio's life as a politician. He's shown himself able to harness your anger. He's got work to do to show he can feel your pain. … He can come across as being aloof, unconcerned or, worse, concerned only with his own advancement."

There are many similar examples of negative stories about DeMaio. Dillon is a fine reporter who is equal opportunity when it comes to aggressive coverage of candidates.

I've heard directly from readers about VOSD's Filner coverage. The message is: Stop it with the opinionated coverage of Filner and start writing about how DeMaio is terrible!

San Diego's black helicopter crowd is full of delicious ironies.


Of the many ironies, Jacobs snuggled up to the mostly-GOP local establishment with his Balboa Park makeover. But he's backing the Dems heavily. What will this do to his standing as a local pillar and lover of old SD institutions, such as the symphony. And how will those opponents of the park makeover like knowing that he's a Dem (as I assume most of them are also) yet he's shoving that deal down the city's and especially their collective throat? Yep, consistency isn't showing up here, and small minds want to know why. But as to whether his reputation is surviving his partisan and selfish involvement in politics isn't clear. I think he could be doing irreparable harm to it right now.

Randy Dotinga seems to be a nice friend and colleague of discredited Voice of San Diego "reporter" Liam Dillon. But to anyone who's looked at the way Democratic Congressman Bob Filner is portrayed in that on-line journal, you realize that if Filner were not a public figure, he could sue the Voice's ass for libel and win. Too bad, too, since the Voice has all those string-pulling backers with deep pockets.

I appreciate the pat on the head for being a nice boy. And I appreciate your valiant effort to ignore negative coverage of DeMaio in order to make your case about negative coverage of Filner.

If there's veritably incorrect information that's been published about either candidate, perhaps you could request a correction.

So let me get this straight about those "string-pulling backers." VOSD is under the sway of the liberal Democrat Irwin Jacobs BUT also controlled by the "establishment" (Republicans, of course), YET was founded by Neil Morgan, a noted liberal type, BUT is supported by board member Buzz Woolley, who doesn't like the influence of labor unions, YET gets money from a foundation of the liberal George Soros...

OMG! It's a liberal-conservative conspiracy! Please draw me a helpful flow chart of the lines of supremacy so I can keep track of who's controlling whom and, of course, who controls me and how. I need to get with the program!

The reality is that those who are not rich face an uphill battle toward influencing the press or the public. The gullible public tends to think that money equals intelligence equals "looking out for the public's best interests." The skeptic public thinks that the rich are out to make more money and/or influence that achieves the rich person's best interests. "Greed is Good" - and the motives of everyone involved in the Mayor's and other political races are open to question. What should not be open to question is that Jacobs plan to build a bridge, valet parking lot, new road, and paid parking garage within the heart of the National Historic Landmark District in Balboa Park to meet an artificial deadline is like the Titanic's captain endangering his ship by trying to make an artificial deadline. The Master Plan was supposed to be updated every 5 years and only had a 20 year life. It is obsolete. The Mayoral candidates support the Jacobs plan. There is no plan to open up the Master Plan and build an internal and external transportation system that supports San Diego's future. That future should be built around the idea that the preferred method of transportation works better than the private automobile. Is the press influenced by money? Ask the UTSanDiego staffers, where they are owned lock, stock, and paycheck by Papa Doug. Then ask the VOSD staffers, where they hope every day that a new member will step up and support them. It is only when you walk in the shoes of the unemployed, as well as the employed, that you can understand their fears. It is only when you learn that fear is the enemy, that you can conquer your own fear. Vote based upon actions, not based upon words.

I'd like to rebut Mr. Dotinga's empty assertions about the impartiality of Voice of San Diego's coverage of the mayoral race and the allegedly moderate/liberal persuasions of its big-daddy backers.

First of all, Irwin Jacobs, Neil Morgan and Buzz Woolley are peas in a pod, wrapped in a cocoon of status and privilege and blind as bats to the realities of life for ordinary citizens in this city. (Excuse the mixed metaphors.)They are rich old guys, gentlemen-who-lunch at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, where they discuss ways to make our community more "civil" before going home to nap. Ditto for George Soros, though he's not a local, as far as I know.

Probably these are nice people, much like Mr.Dotinga, their impecunious defender. But they are part and parcel of the establishment of San Diego who run things to benefit their own kind -- business, real estate and development interests. They are less flamboyant than Doug Manchester, but like him, they know what is best for us.

These Influentials teamed up to back the fledgling online Voice of San Diego, a journal that had promise at its outset back when, but has steadily gone downhill to its present nadir. Now the Voice does cultural "events" and recycles its stories among different media -- online, radio, TV and a monthly shrink-wrapped members-only magazine without a single reader comment. VOSD ignores genuine fact-checks when convenient and apologizes for frequent errors. VOSD recently pirated the Poway school bond story without attribution to its original source. Original new work is thin. Excellent education reporter Emily Alpert was fired last December; veteran journalist Rob Davis is leaving shortly; editor Andrew Donohue recently split for a gig in academia.

VOSD reportorial and editorial function has been scandalously conflated in Liam Dillon's "reporting" of the city's mayoral race where it seems Anyone But Bob Filner is the mantra, dating from the Primary when VOSD was enamored with Nathan Fletcher. While VOSD may not embrace draconian GOP privatizer Carl DeMaio, it has been unrelenting in allowing Dillon to smear the reputation of a 20-year liberal Democratic Congressman who has a local record of public service on the school board and city council. Incredible? No: it's just business as usual in San Diego.

You continue to ignore the inconvenient fact that VOSD has published plenty of negative coverage about DeMaio. It doesn't fit your narrative. (You also ignore the tremendous flak that VOSD threw at Fletcher over that ridiculous secret midnight deal "porkfest" in Sacramento.)

And again, the message I hear from you is this: Stop being so biased about Filner and start talking about how wonderful he is!

Politicians are welcome to talk about how wonderful they are; journalists don't need to take dictation. You seem to want aggressive coverage of everything except your candidate.

As for VOSD's news being spread around different media: I'm not sure why this is a sin in principle. VOSD is not a plant that survives on air. It employs professional journalists who need to be paid professional salaries. By spreading news through a variety of platforms, it increases its audience and the awareness that it exists, potentially leading to more financial support.

I didn't and don't agree with the decision to lay off Emily. That was a bad call and a blot on VOSD's record. As for Rob and Andy, they're leaving after long tenures at VOSD. Andy IS VOSD; it certainly didn't drive him away. He has a fellowship allowing him to study ways to preserve non-profit journalism and he'll still play a role at VOSD; saying he split for academia makes it sound like he will become a professor.

p.s. Why am I an impecunious (poor/penniless) defender? That's an intriguing assumption. I did mention once that I don't get paid for writing these responses, making this a hobby instead of a moneymaker. Coin collecting would be more fun. Heck, dust collecting would be more fun than dealing with the black-helicopter crowd.

But I do just fine financially, thanks, and have been self-employed for 14 years, never making a dime for anything other than writing. The Randy Rule is that you need talent, persistence and/or luck to make it as a freelance writer. I have at least one of those.


  1. Please, VOSD managed to miss the story of the unfolding "porkfest" in Sacto where Nathan Fletcher undercut San Diego city officials on pushing redevelopment funding, so you were a little embarrassed and had to slap his wrist.

  2. Don't flak for any mayoral candidate, but don't slam the best one in the field.

  3. It IS a sin that VOSD doesn't generate any accurate original stories worth reading.

  4. It is UNFORGIVEABLE that VOSD fills its dance card with "a variety of platforms." They are junk, even if it does increase "audience" and bring in more money.

  5. Sorry for equating "freelance" with impecunious. You are rich as Croesus, just like the boss.

  1. It was a secret deal until the late-night vote. Everyone missed that story.

  2. How do you not flak for any candidate yet not slam them (well, at least one of them) either? Sounds like you want straight dictation. That's called a press release.

3/4 You complain that VOSD tries to expand its reach so it can afford to pay staff, and then you complain that smaller staff -- due to lack of money, hence the need for expanded reach -- doesn't create good journalism.

Outreach via TV/magazine/radio allows VOSD to broaden its membership base and, hopefully, not rely as much on the guys you think are a bunch of clueless La Jolla dilettantes.

VOSD needs to have a diverse group of supporters so no rich folks can use their financial influence to run the show and get the coverage they want. I believe one million people giving $1 is better than some zillionaire giving $1 million.

How would you fund non-profit journalism? If not the rich, if not smaller donors, if not corporate underwriting, then what? Advertising and paid-for content hasn't been feasible. Any other ideas?

  1. If only. You said I am poor. I am not.

This little playpen argument sorely needs, cries out for, substance. Some links to back up assertions would help, and so would sticking to the issues and ignoring the personal stuff. Grow up?

I guess the Reader has done away with its admonishment about sticking to the issues. Well, maybe, just maybe, they could have made the statement a little less condescending, but then it might have lost its punch. Tossed out the baby with the bathwater?

"Twister" must be the dean of the San Diego School of Civility, also known as Can't-We-All-Get-Along-By-Doing-It-My-Way Academy. Playpen argument? No substance? Grow up?Just what is it you're managing not to understand, Twister, that you need "links?"

We're talking about longstanding business interests' dominance of the politics and journalism of this city, about who are the puppets, about who are the puppeteers and how, if ever, citizens can break free into small-d democratic life.

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