Costly backstory of a big-money political power couple

New Year’s nuptials may mark beginnings of assault on county board seat

Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez
  • Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez

As a California assemblywoman ties the knot with an ex-member of the state's lower house who is a part-time "professor of practice" at UCSD, the cost to state taxpayers of funding the political power couple has been adding up.

The bride, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, who married Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher over New Year’s weekend, received a total of $101,333 in pay and benefits in 2015, per the website Transparent California.

For his part, Fletcher, an ex-GOP assemblyman who went on to become an executive with cell-phone chip-making giant Qualcomm, pulled down a 2015 salary of $23,058 in his off-hours professorial role at the university, teaching the dark arts of practical politics to undergraduates.

That represented a boost from 2014, when he got $16,821.

Ron Roberts

Ron Roberts

With word spreading that Fletcher may be readying a run for the county board of supervisor’s seat being vacated by termed-out Republican Ron Roberts, the public’s tab could rise further still, thanks to a series of big raises of pay and benefits that supervisors voted to give themselves in the waning days of 2016, boosting their salaries from $153,289 to $172,450.

A final board vote on the controversial increases is set for January 10.

Fletcher’s UCSD gig materialized in the fall of 2012, after he placed third in a bid for San Diego mayor and was about to depart the Assembly, where he was then making $87,444 in pay and benefits, per Transparent California.

“I'm lining up things to do next and have been approached about teaching a class,” Fletcher wrote his friend and UCSD political science professor Thad Kousser.

“State and local government, campaigns and elections, or something along those lines. If I do it, my first choice would be UCSD. I’m not looking for anything full time. Let me know if any possibilities.”

Jeff Elman

Jeff Elman

The school’s then-dean of Social Sciences, Jeff Elman, set about seeking ways to fund the position, including the possibility of tapping Irwin Jacobs, the co-founder of Qualcomm who long has been Fletcher’s political money angel.

“My guess is that there are people like Irwin Jacobs and others who have contributed to Fletcher [redacted] and they might be willing to provide these monies — or even more,” Elman wrote to assistant dean Joanna Mancusi in an October 12, 2012, email.

Irwin Jacobs

Irwin Jacobs

“For example, a gift of $50,000 would allow us to appoint the person at 28% effort with a base of $178,500.”

Added Elman, “He's quite enthusiastic about this and I think would be a very successful teacher. I will talk with him again about tapping possible donors to help fund this.”

Fletcher got the part-time job at UCSD and then on November 15, 2012, was hired full time by Qualcomm as the firm’s senior director of corporate development.

He went on to another quest for mayor again in 2013, in a race during which the take-no-prisoners GOP Lincoln Club questioned his duties and salary at Qualcomm, leading to an angry letter from the company's then-CEO Paul Jacobs, a son of Irwin.

“The allegations about Nathan’s job are completely untrue, from the erroneous salary figure to the outrageous allegation that his is a ‘no-show’ job,” wrote Jacobs. “While we do not disclose salary information, we have previously indicated that the figure reported is grossly exaggerated.”

Fletcher also lost that race, placing third once again. Afterward, UCSD’s Elman quietly announced he would be leaving his post as dean to return to teaching and research.

Mindy Tucker and Nathan Fletcher

Mindy Tucker and Nathan Fletcher

Fletcher divorced from Republican political operative Mindy Tucker in March 2015. One of Fletcher’s earliest public associations with Gonzalez came in the spring of 2013, when he was named chairman of a Qualcomm-backed lobbying group calling itself San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform.

The company was pressing for more so-called H1-B work visas to allow foreign engineers to enter the country.

In addition to Gonzalez, then secretary-treasurer/CEO of the San Diego & Imperial Labor Council, endorsers included Paul and Irwin Jacobs; sheriff Bill Gore; real estate mogul Malin Burnham; and then–San Diego police chief Bill Lansdowne.

Said Fletcher in a statement, “We should build a common sense, streamlined immigration process that upholds the values we share — hard work, taking care of families, and looking out for each other.”

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This story is why we love Matt Potter's reportage for the Reader. Thank you.

I'm just wondering what this guy has really accomplished on his own? Has he really done anything or has been taking credit for the work of others?

I also liked the odd way Jeff Elman, UCSD prof who hired Nathan, calculated his prospective salary: "28% effort with a base of $178,500." Is Fletcher officially still on the payroll up there? Has his "effort" increased?

Well, one thing is clear... we desperately need more government and more noble, selfless servants of the people having more money and power to make sure we do what's best for us and not question our betters!

And isn't it great that selfless and philanthropic Irwin Jacobs is willing to finance those selfless public servants?

The words "noble," "selfless" and "our betters" do not in any way describe Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez. But they are well-suited to each other and I wish them well. Why not, at the dawn of a new year?

Nice catch, Fletch. I like the Assemblywoman but why is she wearing such a short dress UNLIKE in her newsletter???

That short dress is her wedding dress, not something for a night on the town dancing. Another six to eight inches of length would have actually have been more flattering.

Ugh. I think he married her to further his political career. Maybe she can float another bill in Sacramento to not tax the too short wedding dresses of older brides getting married to ambitious politicos who have no shame?

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