How much will Chargers owner Dean Spanos end up spending to place on the ballot his proposed $1.8 billion stadium, subsidized by a tax hike on San Diego hotel rooms?
Likely a number to blow away local records for special-interest spending, judging from the impressive burn rate that has heralded the first stage of the campaign.
The most recent contribution by the mega-millionaire from Stockton, in the form of another $750,000 from the team, arrived May 19, according to a disclosure report filed by the Spanos-run “Citizens for Sports, Entertainment, and Tourism. with Major Funding by the Chargers Football Company.”
That brings the committee's current reported contributions, all from the Chargers, to a stunning $2,572,694 since April 2.
The Spanos cash has reportedly paid for everything from a lavish downtown rally featuring Spanos, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, three congressmen, free food, and the Charger Girls, to hefty per-signature bounties for an army of petition carriers.
If the football mogul keeps spending at the current pace, it could make it difficult for even his deep-pocketed opponents in the GOP Lincoln Club to keep up.
As earlier reported here. a trio of the city's top hotel moguls, all Lincoln Club backers, have been hit with a boycott threat by two Chargers fan groups, alleging the hoteliers are trying to block Spanos from getting his subsidized stadium deal.
The Lincoln Club is currently running a $100,000 anti-stadium campaign on behalf of Republican city councilman Ray Ellis and has previously tapped the treasuries of well-heeled out-of-town interests, including the California Apartment Association PAC and the California Restaurant Association, to fund its San Diego political efforts.
But whether the Lincoln Club and backers can attract similar amounts from state and national political donors to a campaign against the Spanos stadium remains to be seen.
A wealthy Republican himself, Spanos and family members maintain close ties to major party players, including ex–Texas governor Rick Perry, said to be a possible vice-presidential running mate for Donald Trump.
Spanos also benefits from the clout that comes with being an NFL owner, including massive contributions by the league's Gridiron PAC to Congress members and their political parties and fundraising committees.
In one recent high-profile case, reported by the San Jose Mercury News in March, the NFL gave more than $300,000 to "41 of 54 members of a key congressional committee that is reviewing concussion research."
Similarly, San Diego County Republican congressman Darrell Issa, who has been involved in overseeing league regulatory matters, is a major beneficiary of NFL and Spanos campaign dollars.
In addition, the prospect of bucking the powerful football league could deter support of the Lincoln Club’s anti-stadium efforts by major corporate interests that might otherwise be expected to contribute.
That leaves the hotel moguls, including fan-boycott targets Terry Brown, Bill Evans, and Richard Bartell, who may or may not be willing and able to lay out the sizable funds needed to stay in the campaign money game with Spanos.
Though rich, all three are from old-money San Diego families that became wealthy from their fathers' early business and real estate endeavors, including obtaining lucrative hotel leases on city-owned land and cultivating quiet friendships with local politicos, far removed from the NFL's multibillion-dollar fast track.