Can Qualcomm buy the GOP?

Ramping up for what’s expected to be an all-out company effort to get former GOP assemblyman Nathan Fletcher elected mayor of San Diego, cell phone giant Qualcomm still had plenty of cash for federal candidates, according to a recent federal disclosure filing. Fletcher, currently employed by the homegrown San Diego political powerhouse, is now a newly minted Democrat vying to replace fallen fellow Democrat Bob Filner.

Company founder Irwin Jacobs, the city’s richest man, is also a Democrat, having given considerably more than $1 million to the party and presidential standard bearer Barack Obama. Jacobs and his wife Joan are currently backing the pre-presidential bid of ex–first lady and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

But Qualcomm doesn’t appear to be quite as choosey as its founder regarding the cash it gives to members of the country’s opposing parties. On July 15, for instance, the company’s employee political action committee gave $2500 to Republican Paul D. Ryan’s congressional fund. For those who might not remember, Ryan was the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, running with part-time La Jolla resident Mitt Romney. Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt’s Rely on Your Beliefs Fund also got $2500, as did GOP House Speaker John Boehner’s campaign committee. The Every Republican Is Crucial PAC, run by Virginia GOP congressman Eric Cantor, got $1500. Yet another Republican, Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, picked up $1000. In fact, the only Democrat on Qualcomm’s July cash giveaway list was California congresswoman Doris Matsui, with $2000.

Insiders say Qualcomm has been on an influence-buying binge with Republicans of late, trying to solidify their so-far reluctant support for an immigration law makeover favoring a torrent of new work visas for foreign engineers, who work cheaper than the local variety. Regular donors to the employees PAC included president Steven Altman, with $2884 to date; executive vice president and chief scientist Franklin Antonio ($2884); company lobbyist in chief William Bold ($1346); and executive vice president Margaret Johnson ($2884).

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Qualcomm's foreign-born engineers working over here on special visas have something in common with fast-food workers who have been in the news lately -- a lower pay scale.

Qualcomm Jacobses claim to be Democrats but strategically send campaign cash to any politician who will support their kind of "immigration reform" -- the kind that loosens restrictions on delivering foreign workers whom Qualcomm can pick up for less money.

It will be interesting to hear Qualcomm employee and mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher on this phenomenon. Maybe he will offer that old trope: what's good for Qualcomm is good for San Diego. Or maybe he will turn it into a hit on the public schools, alleging they aren't turning out sufficiently qualified students.

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