Chargers owners get cash back from California Assembly speaker

South Bay war of the Democrats could set new political spending record

Biotechs threw this hefty fundraiser for Toni Atkins
  • Biotechs threw this hefty fundraiser for Toni Atkins

With rumors abounding of a possible blockbuster intramural Democratic primary in San Diego County's South Bay state-senate District 39, both candidates in the putative contest have been raising plenty of special-interest money for what could be a politically ugly showdown next year.

Incumbent Marty Block’s 2016 reelection committee has hauled in a total of $359,798 through the end of June, according to data supplied by the California secretary of state's newly unveiled Power Search online campaign lookup tool, designed by nonprofit MapLight.org.

Meanwhile, Block’s talked-of foe, Assembly speaker Toni Atkins, who has yet to acknowledge she may make the potential challenge, appears to be letting her even bigger money do the talking, with $735,553 raised through June by her Atkins for Senate 2020 committee.

Mirroring the pay to play field of California politics, both Democrats are champion career fundraisers, according to the secretary of state's data, with Atkins piling up $4,446,533 since 2012 and Block exceeding that, with $6,136,781 since 2009.

Empowered by the speakership, Atkins has of late vacuumed up cash from an ever-growing array of sources, including the casino-owning Pechanga Indian band ($8400), health insurer Blue Shield of California ($8499), and power company Edison International ($4200).

She even picked up $1500 from A.G. Spanos Companies, the Stockton-based apartment development outfit whose owning family of Republicans also runs the San Diego Chargers.

The campaign returned the money on June 30, the records show. It was the only contribution refund listed for the period.

The team's efforts to leave town for Los Angeles have been controversial, with establishment Republicans portraying Atkins as a savior of GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer's costly Mission Valley stadium quest.

"We want the Chargers to stay in San Diego if the right agreement can be reached," the Democrat was quoted as saying in a July 28 news release put out by the mayor.

"As I have said before, if an agreement is reached, I am committed to making sure San Diego can benefit from state legislation that is consistent with what other cities have received for their sports facilities."

Steve Westly

Steve Westly

Carl Guardino

Carl Guardino

Heavier donors to the Atkins senatorial election fund included the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, a labor-union group that kicked in $17,000.

Even before becoming Assembly speaker, Atkins was known for heavily working the Sacramento lobbyist contingent, often called the Third House for its powerful role in the halls of the state capitol, to collect political cash.

Past Atkins party venues have included the Del Mar racetrack, where lobbyists for biotech interests, including the Biocom and Bay Bio PACs threw a "Day at the Races” $4100 a person reception for her in July of last year, according to an invitation to the event.

Tricia Hunter

Tricia Hunter

That February, ex–state controller, wealthy venture capitalist, and gubernatorial hopeful Steve Westly, along with Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, hosted a $1000-a-head reception at the Westly Group's offices on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park.

The invitation reads, "To ensure an intimate discussion, the lunch is limited to 12 people."

Earlier, an Atkins fundraiser was held at the home of Tricia Hunter in Pacific Beach on behalf of a group called Californians Allied for Patient Protection, a major player in the healthcare industry. A Republican, former assemblywoman and ex–Pete Wilson appointee, Hunter is currently a principal in a firm called the Government Relations Group of Sacramento, which also employs Jeff Marston, another GOP ex-Assembly member from San Diego.

In January 2013, an Atkins fundraiser at Gallagher's Irish Pub in Sacramento drew the attention of California politics writer Greg Lucas, who observed, "Atkins generously notes on the invitation below that under the terms of Proposition 35, approved by voters in 2000, 'an individual, union, (Political Action Committee) and other entities may contribute a maximum of $4,100 to (her) committee per election, primary and general. A registered Small Contributor Committee may contribute a maximum of $8,200 per election.'”

Continued Lucas, "When passed, the proposition restricted those contributions to $3,000 and $6,000, respectively. But it also included a provision that in January of every odd-numbered year those limits would be revised based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.”

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


At least Marty Block is not married to an affordable housing honcho. It is depressing to witness your Assembly speaker pushing positions that will benefit her spouse, in this case Jenniifer LeSar. Toni even managed to corral iconic tough-guy LA Times columnist Steve Lopez this summer. He actually took the train down here to get a tour and meet Jennifer.

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader