The rise, fall, and re-rise of Nathan Fletcher

Flurry of public appearances coincides with Broad U-T takeover talk

Nathan Fletcher
  • Nathan Fletcher

The layoffs have begun at Qualcomm, once cited as the future hope for San Diego's industrial and commercial independence from Los Angeles, and now but a flickering beacon in a murky morass of California media and politics.

A reported 1314 full-time jobs have been slashed in San Diego and thousands more are set to go across the mobile-phone technology company's mini-empire.

So far, though, Qualcomm's legions of lobbyists and other highly paid influence-peddling players have yet to take a similarly sized hit, with the reason said to be a continuing push to increase the issuance of visas to foreign workers.

According to numbers compiled by OpenSecrets.org, the high-tech firm has thus far this year spent a total of $4,560,000 on lobbying, compared with the $5,610,000 it paid influence peddlers in all of 2014.

Paul Jacobs

Paul Jacobs

Irwin Jacobs

Irwin Jacobs

Fletcher ad

Qualcomm's all-time lobbying expense record, $7,090,000, came in 2013, when the company — run by then-CEO Paul Jacobs, son of cofounder Irwin Jacobs — was seeking to change U.S. immigration laws to boost the issuance of so-called H-1B visas, allowing more foreign engineers to work in this country.

As part of its 2013 push, Qualcomm set up a group calling itself San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform, headed by Nathan Fletcher. The ex-Republican assemblyman had left the party in March 2012 after the GOP failed to endorse his run for San Diego mayor.

Despite hefty financial backing from the Jacobs clan and their allies, Fletcher lost the mayoral contest. He was subsequently hired by Qualcomm to oversee the company’s "Global Strategic Initiatives and Military/Veteran Affairs," according to his LinkedIn profile.

Turning Democrat in May 2013, Fletcher was still a self-proclaimed independent when he fronted the Qualcomm immigration group earlier that spring. (A 2012 TV spot touting Fletcher said, “He’s not a Democrat, he’s not a Republican, he’s an American.”)

"We have good paying, local jobs that are open today, and there are American educated workers who are qualified to fill those jobs, but each year, almost 20,000 American-educated degree holders are forced to leave our country to take jobs elsewhere,” Fletcher said at a March 13, 2013, news conference at Qualcomm headquarters.

Lorena Gonzalez

Lorena Gonzalez

The immigration group's members included Irwin and Paul Jacobs, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and Lorena Gonzalez, the future state Assembly Democrat who was then secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Labor Council.

2013's H-1B bill passed the Senate but got hung up in the House, leading to introduction of an even more controversial measure this year and the expenditure of millions more in Qualcomm lobbying dollars.

In addition to the company’s influence-peddling payments, Qualcomm employees have continued to give heavily to politicos from both parties in Washington and Sacramento. Since 2004, Jacobs family members alone have anted up more than $872,000 for federal races, including those of president Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Though Fletcher placed third in his second San Diego mayoral try in November 2013, with continued backing from Qualcomm and the Jacobs clan, his profile has again been on the rise as next year's municipal races ramp up.

Barbara Bry

Barbara Bry

from LinkedIn

San Diego City Council candidate Barbra Bry of La Jolla, whose campaign has already received a total of $1100 from Jacobs and his wife Joan, along with $550 from Qualcomm government affairs vice president Shawn Covell, according to city records, is staging an October 21 fundraiser hosted by Fletcher called "High Tech and Biotech Leaders 2.0 for Barbara Bry."

"District 1 needs someone with Barbara Bry's background at City Hall, since it is the center of our region’s thriving high tech and biotech sectors," Fletcher says in an endorsement emailed by the Bry campaign.

Mindy Tucker and Nathan Fletcher

Mindy Tucker and Nathan Fletcher

Divorced earlier this year from Mindy Tucker, a Republican operative and former media aide to Republican president George W. Bush, Fletcher made TV news this week when NBC affiliate KNSD ran a Facebook photo of him with Lorena Gonzalez, his 2013 Qualcomm immigration task-force member.

Lorena Gonzalez and Nathan Fletcher

Lorena Gonzalez and Nathan Fletcher

"I'm happy to say this was a fabulous birthday!" Gonzalez said in the caption, according to the station's report.

"Thank you to all the wonderful wishes from family and friends.... And for my perfect dinner date Nathan Fletcher! Life is very good."

Eli Broad

Eli Broad

Mounting turmoil at the San Diego Union-Tribune in the wake of thus-far failed efforts by L.A. Democratic billionaire Eli Broad to grab control of the paper and its sister Los Angles Times from Chicago-based Tribune Publishing has caused speculation that Fletcher could ultimately be put up by the Jacobs family a third time for San Diego mayor.

The bid would come against GOP incumbent Kevin Faulconer, until recently regarded as a virtual shoo-in.

If Broad, a longtime friend and political ally of Irwin Jacobs, ultimately takes over the San Diego paper, this line of reasoning goes, he could drill down hard on the faults and foibles of Republican Faulconer, who has largely gotten a pass from present U-T management.

A big-money backer of nonprofit news operations here, Jacobs is seen as helping Broad orchestrate a new San Diego political order, favoring establishment Democrats backed by major real estate and high-tech money, including Fletcher and another Jacobs favorite, Democratic congressman Scott Peters

Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan

So far, though, Tribune is fighting the putative Broad buy-out, saying in a statement late Thursday that it won't part with the papers, as demanded by a growing chorus of L.A. critics.

"Our California News Group, which includes the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune, is a cornerstone of our Company’s portfolio and a key component to our success in the future," according to the Tribune release.

"We affirm our confidence in the ability of Jack Griffin, Chief Executive Officer; Tim Ryan, Publisher & CEO of the California News Group; and the entire management team to execute our strategy, drive great journalism and create engaging and rewarding experiences for readers and marketing partners.”

As in the case of Qualcomm, layoffs are said to be on the way for the troubled company and its West Coast branch.

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Qualcomm will be mostly all gone soon (the Democrats in Sacramento are working hard to make that happen). So what will be left? Todd Gloria and David Alvarez are working hard to kill the Convention Center and Chargers stadium. Prepare for a long declining SD economy.

If the Chargers do indeed leave, it's not going to hurt the SD economy. Tourism, healthcare, biotech, military/defense contractors and construction are doing fine. The sky is not falling here.

The re-rise is is evident. But strange. The ties to Jacobs are pretty tight. Fletcher has been somewhat quiet for a while, traveling the world, but suddenly he is showing up everywhere, at the White House preaching peace, on social media with Lorena Gonzalez, promoting his new foundation, endorsing candidates. He must have plenty of time or plenty of help cuz it's all a little too smooth. Is he part of the Qualcomm layoffs? Might be a good place to start since I don't think he's helping their bottom line. There must be a next move for him.

That Nathan Fletcher, he's like mushrooms that pop up on the lawn on mornings after a humid spell -- unbidden, unwanted, but mysteriously everywhere. It must be the fertilizer.

Nathan's now a registered Democrat, has a secure Qualcomm job and an appointment as "professor" of government at UCSD -- all likely arranged by his billionaire Big Daddy Big Democrat Irwin Jacobs who founded Qualcomm and gave a fortune to UCSD to build its theatre district and the school of engineering.

Having recently shed his very political Republican wife, neo-Dem Nathan's got a tweety romance going with highly-effective Labor Democrat and Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez who is also divorced. Their relationship was coyly endorsed yesterday by LGBT arbiter Nicole Ramirez Murray, also on twitter.

Nathan was on KPBS' "Midday Edition" earlier this week with the father of murdered teenager Chelsea King, commemorating the fifth anniversary of her death, discussing the family foundation and touting Nathan's own "Chelsea's Law," crafted back when he was an ambitious first-term GOP Assemblyman. (Chelsea King's parents are notable themselves for having done TV spots for Fletcher when he ran for mayor, citing their dead child.)

If there can be a sequel to this, last week Fletcher, the former chief of staff to disgraced GOP Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham who was jailed for selling votes for bribes, showed up at the Obama White House, to be photographed sitting at the President's right hand, as a (Marine Reserves) veteran in support of the controversial Iranian nuclear deal. Obama was flanked on the left by Secretary of State John Kerry.

From this evidence, I'd say smooth GOP Mayor Sunny may finally get the slickster opponent he deserves. And maybe Irwin Jacobs will help fellow-Dem billionaire Angeleno Eli Broad wrest control of the LA Times and SD Union-Tribune from Chicago, to establish their own new world order here in SoCal.

Any employer who hires any H1b employees should loose all employee related tax benefits. America first Americans first. Anyone who hires illegal aliens or imports cheap labor are economic terrorists.

Actually, you mean lose (not "loose"). ;-)

Yup I hit the "o" a little too hard and didn't catch it in time.

You are whistling Dixie, AlexClarke. There are laws that enshrine companies' rights to grant H1B visas and, according to a recent Don Bauder post, Qualcomm spent a bundle more this year than last on expensive lobbying to broaden their leeway to hire "essential" foreign workers. Anyway, try to focus: we're talking about the players here, not whether these legal practices are right.

Ok I'll try to keep my focus. You are correct re: Don's post I just think that H1b workers is a classic example of how business interests trump (no pun intended) the interests of America and American workers.

And "business interests" means the shareholders.

They created Q-PAC for citizen employees to contribute to their own demise. The letter that requested donations mentioned it was for supporting candidates who back the Q's interests, one of which was "...immigration reform, to attract talent..."

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