Duty-free border barons fund political interests

Falics of Florida give to Fletcher and Alvarez-backing Democrats

Mayoral candidates David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher
  • Mayoral candidates David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher

A little over a year ago — a week before mayoral election day in San Diego — a cool $10,000 from an outfit called Meuchadim of California, L.P., based in Hollywood, Florida, rolled into an independent campaign fund backing Democrat Bob Filner.

State records show the outfit is connected to Jerome, Leon, and Simon Falic, the three Florida brothers behind Duty Free Americas, the giant duty-free shops operator that blankets the U.S.-Mexican border from San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico.

Filner went on to become mayor, but before long fell from political grace and left office due to sexual harassment allegations, triggering yet another scramble for campaign cash this fall by a varied cast of would-be successors.

And so yesterday the Falic family was once again back at it, this time forking over its money to not one but two campaign causes: those of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher and the San Diego county Democratic Party, which is backing Fletcher rival David Alvarez for mayor.

Records filed with the city clerk show the three Falic brothers of gave a total of $3000 to Fletcher's campaign committee yesterday. The same day, according to a disclosure filed with the California Secretary of State's Office, Duty Free Americas came up with $5000 for the county Democratic Party.

As reported here last year, Duty Free — one of Filner's biggest backers when he was in Congress — has long spent major money to keep local politicos of both parties — including Filner's GOP mayoral predecessor Jerry Sanders — happy.

In the case of Sanders, that meant funding an August 2012 "Binational Summit" that garnered plenty of publicity and good cheer but little or no real achievement.

The August meeting was ostensibly sponsored by the City of San Diego through Sanders’s office. But documents the City provided, following a public records request, show that the event was in large part financed by Duty Free Americas.

The company, the largest duty-free operator in North America, is run by Miami-based mega-millionaire Simon Falic, who acquired the operation with his brothers in 2001. Falic is also a principal in and president of UETA, Inc., a Panamanian wholesale distributor of luxury goods.

An invoice for the conference issued by the Hyatt dated August 24 listed total costs, including parking, coffee breaks, and a “plated luncheon” for 170 attendees, as $17,215.

In addition, the mayor’s office was billed $4767 by PSAV Presentation Services for various audio-video and staging costs associated with the event. Trans Lang, Inc., of San Diego submitted a $2100 bill for translation services, providing Sanders with a “municipal government discount” of $110.

This summer the three Falics each gave $2600 to freshman House Democrat Juan Vargas, who took over Filner's congressional seat after he became mayor.

The Falics aren't the only ones hedging their political bets in this year's mayor’s race. A disclosure statement filed yesterday with the city clerk by downtown developers Morgan Dene and Elizabeth Hamman Oliver and their partner James McMillan shows that they gave GOP mayoral hopeful Kevin Faulconer a total of $2000 on November 13.

Fletcher received the same.

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