DeMaio gets campaign fund payback

Congressional hopeful cashes out of his Reform San Diego movement

Douglas Manchester, Carl DeMaio, April Boling
  • Douglas Manchester, Carl DeMaio, April Boling
  • (Boling screenshot from KUSI)

There's an old saying among longtime political insiders: campaign committees can be a lot kinder than slot machines.

They sometimes pay off as hoped for.

So it is now for Carl DeMaio, the ex–San Diego city councilman and failed mayoral candidate currently running against freshman Democratic congressman Scott Peters in the generally well-heeled 52nd District.

A year ago, as the brief mayoral tenure of Democrat Bob Filner began falling apart in a sexual harassment scandal, the ambitious Republican turned to a committee he called “Reform San Diego with Carl DeMaio.”

The fund had been set up previously by DeMaio to pursue his political causes, mainly funded by real-estate developers and other special interests having high-stakes business at city hall.

Last July, with a Filner recall in progress, DeMaio committee treasurer April Boling asked Stacey Fulhorst, chief executive of the San Diego ethics commission, about whether it was legal to use Reform San Diego as a source of funds for a poll to ascertain DeMaio's chances in a second try for mayor.

"Reform San Diego may pay for a purely exploratory poll," Fulhorst responded, according to a July 30, 2013 email retrieved from the city under the California Public Records Act.

"In the event that Carl became a candidate in the recall, his mayoral committee would have to reimburse Reform San Diego for all the costs associated with the poll. (Because Carl is the principal of Reform San Diego, he clearly has access to the polling data.)

"Reform San Diego may not pay for a poll that contains any type of advocacy, including listing Carl's qualifications for office. Such expenditures would essentially constitute an unlawful in-kind contribution from a committee/organization to a City candidate."

DeMaio went ahead with the poll, but, as it turned out, a group of San Diego GOP bigwigs preempted his desire by anointing then–city councilman Kevin Faulconer as the party's mayoral hopeful, and DeMaio, who had already declared for Congress against Peters, remained in that race.

To pay off the bills left over from his mayoral opinion survey, DeMaio set up a separate committee he called the “Carl DeMaio for Mayor Research Expense Settlement Fund,” to which he personally loaned $23,000 last September 6, its disclosure shows. The committee paid Tarrance Group Inc. of Alexandria, Virginia, $22,341, according to an October 9 filing with the city clerk's office.

To reimburse himself for the cost of funding the poll, the former councilman subsequently hit up a variety of old political friends, including real-estate developer, GOP kingpin, and U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester, who came up with $990 on September 16.

Contributions made during March and April of this year to the “research settlement fund” included $1000 each from Corky Mizer of Corky's Pest Control, Stuart Posnock of apartment giant Garden Communities, Mission Valley real-estate magnate Tom Suberry, and Michael Schlesinger, the Stuck in the Rough principal who has been warring with neighbors of his proposed Escondido residential development. Jane Sudberry gave $1000.

Meanwhile, DeMaio has also been collecting personal funds from his earlier political committee, Reform San Diego.

According to a July 8 filing, Reform San Diego repaid DeMaio $18,107.06, bringing to zero the balance on a $50,000 loan he had personally made to the committee back in March 2011. Other final expenses of the fund included $1005 paid to political technology vendor Aristotle International and $250 to the ubiquitous Boling.

Cash to make the payouts came from the contributions of DeMaio backers, including those this year of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, with $1500, and Carlsbad marketing guru Kelly Mikules, with $3400.

On December 27 of last year, Reform San Diego picked up $10,000 from Chris Allen and India Rowe, listed on the disclosure as owners of Escondido's Echo Pacific Construction.

This April, Echo Pacific was among a group of contractors and architects that agreed to repay $642,000 related to a "pay-to-play" scandal at the Southwestern Community College District.

"The action is settled without an admission of fault,” Jeff Baird, identified as an attorney for Echo Pacific Construction, was quoted as saying about the deal with the college. A citizens group is still suing.

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I wouldn't say it's his ONLY intent! He has an illustrious history of questionable fabrication. Let's not forget his Performance Institute. In 2002 he recognized the City for its efficiency and effective leadership. Trouble was the city was drowning in red ink...Even poor April knew it. Then there the campaign dirty tricks running for the 5th Council District...read all about it at www.dirtydemaio.com

Let's go right to the French of it: the byzantine legerdemain described here boggles the mind.

I'm sure neither GOP accountant April Boling nor flexible-ethics doyenne Stacey Fulhorst really understands what went on or who got what or whether any of it was legitimate. But hey, that's the way the game is played. Just today a former disgraced head of the gigantic CALPERS fund admitted to getting a $200,000 cash kickback delivered to a room in the Sacramento Hyatt. Good for DeMaio for not taking his money in cash in a shoebox.

The question in my mind is why any of these politicians CHOOSE to act this way? Seems to me our culture and the ethics of those who want to represent us has declined to such a point where the "game" is more important than doing what's right for the country.

It is a rare instance where one of our elected representatives wants to serve "our country" as our founders intended. Today they rather they serve to enrich themselves in any way they can and at any cost. The ridiculous rules and regulations only facilitate the ongoing fraud against the people of what was once a great nation.

I don't know about the "what was once a great nation" part given our treatment of Native Americans and slaves and the progeny of slaves, but today ego, power, and special interest money are so intertwined that it only is the rare politician who steps away from the mechanics of getting ahead to do "what's right for the country."

As I think about it and looking for a bright side, I'd say we have been pretty fortunate in our California Senate delegation of Boxer and Feinstein -- one more liberal than the other but each one devoted to the job, hardworking and essentially honest (enough.)

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