Jerry Brown's Fletcher endorsement a Prop 30 payoff?

Democratic governor enters San Diego's mayoral fray by backing candidate of his billionaire political angel Irwin Jacobs

Illegal Snapdragon signage at Qualcomm Stadium
  • Illegal Snapdragon signage at Qualcomm Stadium

Last year, New York's mayor Mike Bloomberg reached a supportive hand across the continent to San Diego, endorsing assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a newly independent candidate for mayor who had just quit the Republican Party.

Political observers in the know pointed to a multi-billion dollar deal between Bloomberg and San Diego's richest man, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, to build a huge high-tech campus on New York's Roosevelt Island in partnership with Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Flash forward to this week, and yet another race for San Diego mayor.

This time, it's California's Democratic governor Jerry Brown endorsing Fletcher, now a newly hatched Democrat, for San Diego's top job. Like Bloomberg, Brown, too, has been financially friendly with the La Jolla billionaire, picking up big money over the years for a variety of political causes.

In September of last year, Jacobs and his wife Joan gave more than $100,000 to Brown's successful Proposition 30, the measure that raised state taxes.

Brown and other state Democrats have additional big-money ties to Jacobs, who has customarily used campaign cash to get his way with state and local politicians of both parties.

He was a major backer of GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, who let Qualcomm change the name of the city's professional football venue to "Snapdragon Stadium" as part of a multimillion-dollar marketing gimmick that Republican city attorney Jan Goldsmith said was illegal.

Then there was the case of the threatening letter from lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom to California historic preservation chief Milford Wayne Donaldson, warning him not to get in the way of a radical Balboa Park makeover sponsored by Jacobs.

Said Newsom:

This is a project with broad local political, philanthropic and community support so it may be more productive to work in collaboration with the project development team to achieve your goal of preserving this historical open-space.

As the State Historic Preservation Officer I hope that you will consider these arguments, withdraw your comments, and begin to work in collaboration with the leaders of the Plaza de Panama project.

Should you need help making contact with the project team I stand ready to assist.

Four weeks later, Newsom's reelection campaign reported it had picked up a tidy $12,000 from Jacobs and his wife, in addition to the $5000 they had already contributed to the former San Francisco mayor. A court ruling later killed the park project.

Donaldson is no longer a member of the Brown administration.

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Jerry Brown has proved to be just as big a pain-in-the-ass as Irwin Jacobs. Fletcher will just increase that.

I admire a lot of things Brown has done. This, however, is not one of them.

Very disappointing, but Jerry Brown has always played hardball when it comes to money that can help him get elected. He trashed Democratic City Attorney Mike Aguirre when Aguirre was under siege as City Attorney, to please local big donors and old friends. He chose to fight for his flawed union boondoggle Prop 30 (that has raised K-12 student class size) rather than switch to support Molly Munger's independent better-for-kids public school funding initiative. In these instances, Brown is not unlike ever-mindful Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein who always rewards her really good friends here with strategic endorsements that are unrelated to merit.

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