As Chargers owner Dean Spanos continues his public relations tour of friendly local media, one of his key opposites on the political team of Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer has suddenly turned up on the presidential campaign trail.
As first reported here back in July of 2014, the mayor's longtime political guru Jason Roe set out to become a city hall lobbyist following his boss's mayoral victory that February over Democratic city councilman David Alvarez.
The move raised eyebrows among some city hall power players, who questioned how close to the line of legality Faulconer and Roe dared to stray, with Roe regularly seeking to influence city officials on behalf of a bevy of special interests, including CBS Outdoor, "an outdoor advertising company that has business throughout San Diego county," wanting "additional signage in a specific area of downtown."
Another early client was tobacco giant Lorillard, which sought to "create a separate ordinance for electrical cigarettes, as they are not the same as tobacco cigarettes. Do not include the same use restrictions as tobacco cigarettes," according to a lobbyist disclosure filing for Roe's firm, Presidio Consulting.
Then came word in January of last year that Roe and company were representing national food-service behemoth Delaware North in an attempt to snag a lucrative vendor contract at the city-owned Qualcomm Stadium.
What made the arrangement interesting to many was Roe's participation in a series of closed-door city-hall sessions with the mayor and his backers regarding the future of the San Diego Chargers and their expressed desire for a new stadium.
In a January 16 story that appeared in the Union-Tribune, Roe was quoted as attacking Chargers special counsel and Democrat Mark Fabiani for dragging his heels regarding stadium negotiations.
The next month, Fabiani fired off a letter to the mayor calling out Roe and potential conflicts of interests he had regarding the stadium, given his paid advocacy for Delaware North.
"We write to clarify the legal and practical role that your political advisors are playing in the operations of your new stadium Task Force," wrote Fabiani in his February 17 communication to Faulconer.
He then asked, "What legal and ethical issues are raised by Mr. Roe's dual role as an apparent de facto Task Force member and as a registered lobbyist for the Delaware North company, which is bidding to become the new concessionaire at Qualcomm Stadium and, potentially, at any new stadium in San Diego?"
The letter went on to say, "Putting the legal and ethical issues aside for a moment, what sense does it make to have someone who is your chief advisor on political matters, and who advises a potential stadium vendor on business matters, play any sort of role with the 'independent' Task Force?"
Added Fabiani, "Have you asked the City Attorney for an opinion on the propriety of Mr. Roe's intensive involvement with the Task Force's work? If you have not yet asked for such an opinion from the City Attorney, do you intend to do so?"
No answers were forthcoming, and Roe continued to work for Delaware North, which in April was awarded the stadium contract over the objections of other bidders, who alleged special treatment and hinted at a federal investigation that has yet to see the light of day.
"As you know, during the 90 minutes allotted to Centerplate for its presentation, not one member of the selection committee asked a single question regarding any one of the five different financial proposals put forth by Centerplate in its [request for proposal] response," says the letter from chief legal and talent officer Keith B.W. King for Centerplate, the incumbent vendor who lost out to Delaware North.
Continued King's letter, “Further troubling are the recent allegations raised about [Delaware North's] lobbyist and his apparent connection to the Mayor's office.”
After the controversial Delaware North victory and attendant publicity bestowed by Fabiani, Roe's lobbying firm filed a quarterly disclosure report dated July 23 on which he was no longer listed as a lobbyist for the company.
According to the document, Roe was replaced by ex-Faulconer city-council aide James Lawson. The same report said that Delaware North had paid the company $15,000 during the second quarter of the year.
One published account says the firm has since been sold.
Now Roe has returned to the practice of full-time politics as a senior advisor to the presidential campaign of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been spending a lot of time bashing rival Donald Trump.
"He's entertaining, he's certainly drawing a lot of attention to this nationally, and probably in some ways done the Republican primary process a favor," Roe said of Trump in an MSNBC sound bite.
"And in a lot of ways he has not done us a great service, but in a lot of ways it’s been entertaining."
Added Roe, "In reality, he's an entertainer and he's sucked up a lot of the oxygen around this race. But I also think in some ways he has not necessarily represented who the new modern Republican party is, where as Marco Rubio really does represent what the future of the Republican Party, what the future of conservatism, is."
Not surprisingly, according to those with knowledge of the close bond between Faulconer and Roe, often called the San Diego mayor’s brain, Faulconer endorsed Rubio last month.
In a 2014 interview for the website RealClearPolitics.com, Roe said his old friend had a bright future ahead.
“Democrats need hate, for lack of a better word, to get the base to turn out,” asserted Roe. “Kevin is not a hateful guy. Even if you’re a Democrat, you don’t hate the guy.”
Editor's note: Reader owner and publisher Jim Holman has contributed $1000 to Rubio.