A week after winning reelection in a big-money campaign that swamped the opposition with the help of cash from the American Petroleum Institute, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has disclosed that a major player in the downtown Chargers stadium controversy has given $25,000 to the mayor's One San Diego charity.
Rod Dammeyer, 75, a key member of Faulconer's Chargers task force whose recommendation of a new stadium in Mission Valley last year was spurned by the team, made the May 17 contribution through his La Jolla–based Dammeyer Charitable Gift Fund, according to a June 14 disclosure filing by the mayor.
During the June primary, Dammeyer backed the GOP Lincoln Club and its independent expenditure committee, Neighborhoods, Not Stadiums, favoring anti-stadium Republican city-council candidate Ray Ellis, with $20,000.
Over the years, Dammeyer has proven to be a staunch Faulconer financial ally, coming up with $60,000 for a committee run by the Lincoln Club calling itself Working Together for Neighborhood Fairness, in Opposition to David Alvarez for Mayor 2014, which dispatched hit pieces against Democratic city councilman Alvarez, then running against Faulconer.
In all, Dammeyer, his wife, and his firm, CAC Advisory Services, have contributed $99,150 to city candidates and ballot causes since 2011, including $17,100 to Faulconer for Mayor 2016 and $2100 to this year's city attorney campaign of Republican Robert Hickey, according to city disclosure filings.
The Chargers’ effort to persuade San Diego city voters to earmark hotel occupancy taxes to finance a $1.8 billion downtown stadium and meeting complex is seen by many political insiders to be shaping up as a battle of the mega-millionaires.
Team owner Dean Spanos of Stockton has already spent well over $2.5 million to obtain the necessary signatures to place the funding measure on November's ballot, against the wishes of the GOP establishment.
Well-heeled Dammeyer and his fellow 2015 stadium task-force members argued that the stadium should be built on the site of the current Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, to be redeveloped to accommodate not only the sports venue but a lucrative redevelopment project, including commercial space and residential high-rises, favored by development interests.
“We are not, in my view, pushing the Chargers out of San Diego. We are simply pushing them to Mission Valley,” Lincoln Club treasurer April Boling, chairwoman of a new political committee set up to defeat the November Chargers measure, told the Union-Tribune on June 11.
“I am all in favor of a stadium, just not downtown.”
According to the inside line, once the Lincoln Club defeats the downtown-stadium proposal, Spanos could be convinced to accept a direct subsidy worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the city and county general funds to build in Mission Valley.
As a follow-on, according to this scenario, development rights would subsequently be turned over to the GOP faithful, including longtime party donor and Mission Valley mega-developer Tom Sudberry.
In addition to Spanos, the battle pits the Lincoln Club and its allies against ex-Padres owner John Moores, an erstwhile Democrat from Houston, Texas, who has a large stake in the real estate adjacent to the proposed downtown stadium site.
Moores and his JMI development are also behind a move to redevelop the current stadium’s Mission Valley site into an auxiliary campus for San Diego State University.
"Now, as the Chargers work to develop a downtown San Diego football stadium, the JMI team (represented by President John Kratzer and Steve Peace), working in concert with Steve Black of Cisterra Development, another prominent San Diego developer (and SDSU alumni), will unveil their proposal to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site into a civic gem that all SDSU alumni and San Diego County residents will claim proudly," said an April 5 invitation to an event promoting the concept.
In addition to his role in the stadium controversy, Dammeyer has long been an advocate of the charter school movement, and with wife Diane, a major backer of La Jollan Buzz Woolley's Voice of San Diego online news and opinion operation.
In 2011, Dammeyer and Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs, another Woolley ally, teamed up on an unsuccessful effort to change the makeup of the school board by adding non-elected members to it.
In addition, Dammeyer and Woolley put a combined $55,500 into a failed 2012 effort to elect Republican Bill Ponder to the school board against Marne Foster, a teachers’ union–backed candidate. Subsequently elected, she copped a guilty plea to getting gifts in excess of legal limits and resigned from the board this February.
A series on Foster in the Voice of San Diego earned the 2016 Journalist of the Year award from the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists for reporter Mario Koran.
"Last July, a source told Koran that then–San Diego Unified school-board president Marne Foster held a questionable private fundraiser for her sons attended by district officials and even people with business before the district. Koran broke the story and produced a steady stream of revelations over the next six months," according a citation on the journalists' group website.
"Both Foster’s defense attorney and the prosecutor working on the case acknowledged that Koran’s work helped open the door to the plea agreement and resignation."
Besides Dammeyer, other newly revealed donors to One San Diego, the Faulconer nonprofit most famously known for sponsoring the mayor’s free Thanksgiving-turkey giveaways in poorer parts of the city, include $30,000 from retail giant Walmart and $25,000 from San Diego Gas & Electric.