A San Diego State University-affiliated website has weighed into the big-money controversy over North County's proposed Lilac Hills Ranch housing development, going after what it says are undisclosed campaign contributions from an alleged "dark money" nonprofit with ties to SDSU nemesis Cory Briggs, a San Diego plaintiffs’ attorney who has repeatedly found himself on the end of unflattering coverage by the SDSU-backed site, known as inewsource.
Not disclosed in the October 25 story is the role of Lilac Hills developer R. Randy Goodson, a big-money donor to SDSU's posh Parma Payne Goodall alumni center who has maintained a longtime philanthropic relationship with university officials.
Goodson and his wife Maria Mical-Goodson, both SDSU alumni, are on the university’s honors list "for their lifetime contributions of $50,000 to $99,999," per the website of the university’s nonprofit Campanile Foundation, each year a funnel for millions of dollars of cash for the school. Goodson is chief executive officer of Accretive Investments, Inc., promoter of the Lilac Hills project.
"At the heart of the debate over the 1,700-home project in rural Valley Center is money — the amount, source and motives behind it." says the inewsource piece on Lilac Hills, targeting a nonprofit known as California Local Energy — Advancing Renewables (otherwise known as CLEAR), which kicked in $110,000 to another nonprofit, Save Our Forest and Ranchlands (SOFAR for short) to oppose Measure B, the Goodson-guided initiative on next week’s ballot to allow Lilac Hills to proceed.
"CLEAR, which reported revenues of $325,000 last year, doesn’t disclose its donors," the story continued. "Bill Powers, the group’s treasurer, told inewsource that the $110,000 contribution to SOFAR to oppose Measure B isn’t going to change that."
Not mentioned by the account: county campaign filings show that the Yes on B campaign has benefited from at least $3.52 million in campaign cash funneled through an out-of-state limited liability company known as LHR Investment Company, LLC, which has yet to reveal its source of funding or the identities of its members.
Though campaign disclosures filed with the county clerk's office give a San Diego address for LHR Investment Company, LLC, the state has it listed as a foreign entity.
According to records posted online by the California Secretary of State's corporations office, LHR Investment Company, LLC, a Delaware corporation, is based at the same Minnetonka, Minnesota, address as Merced Capital, formerly known as EBF & Associates, an international hedge fund currently enmeshed in a battle over defaulting assets in troubled Puerto Rico, a November 3 Chicago Tribune report says.
A November 2013 news release by the firm says its investors have included "endowments, foundations, state and corporate pension plans, and family offices."
Another Minnetonka-based corporation registered in California, LHR Consolidated, LLC., is a partner in an in an entity called Lilac Creek Estates, part of the Lilac Hills development, county records say. We've left a call for Merced’s Nate Reiske for further details on the firm's involvement with county real estate projects and the money behind them.
Inewsource, originally called the "Watchdog Institute" and started in 2009 by ex–Union-Tribune editor Karin Winner and her close friend and fellow ex-U-T employee Lorie Hearn, has close ties to SDSU-run public broadcaster KPBS, maintaining a so-called news-gathering partnership with the tax-subsidized stations.
The university-controlled broadcast operation frequently airs inewsource stories, including the Lilac Ranch coverage.
“The relationship between the Institute and San Diego State University will be mutually beneficial,” explained a proposal aired at a July 15, 2009, meeting of the SDSU’s Academic Deans’ Council regarding the inewsource arrangement.
“Work produced by the Institute will further the University President’s goal of having the University be a leader in setting the agenda for a regional ‘civic society.' Some of the Institute’s projects, for example, will stimulate dialog, facilitate discussion and broker solutions for major problems facing the San Diego and border region.”
Winner, who is listed as inewsource president, is also a member SDSU's Campanile Foundation board, where she deals with major-money donors to the university such as Goodson regarding operations of KPBS and related SDSU nonprofit media operations.
Other members of the inewsource board include Guylynn Cummins, a media lawyer who is now employed by Sheppard Mullin, one of the county's largest developer law and lobbying law firms, which has had its own issues with timely campaign contribution disclosure.