Will the fall of Jacobs starve Faulconer?

End of era as top Qualcomm political fixer steps aside

Irwin Jacobs
  • Irwin Jacobs

The finale may finally be coming into view for cell phone chip making giant Qualcomm, currently the target of a hostile takeover campaign. Echoes of the company's outsized influence on San Diego politics are likely to resonate for years.

Officials of both parties have stuffed their portfolios with Qualcomm stock, at least some allegedly purchased based on insider tips, keeping their hands out for political gifts and gratuities that the company has donated.

News that Paul Jacobs, a son of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, is stepping down as chairman of the board won't necessarily spell the end of his family's power plays here, although tapping the company treasury could be a thing of the past.

It's been five years since New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, acting on behalf of the state employee pension fund, sued Qualcomm, demanding "to inspect the company’s books and records to determine how shareholder funds are being spent for political purposes."

The suit charged that the younger Jacobs, then chairman and chief executive of Qualcomm, was less than transparent about how shareholders' political money was deployed.

"Senior figures associated with Qualcomm, including the Company’s current CEO as well as his father, the Company’s founder and a Qualcomm director until 2012 are widely reported to be politically active and in recent years have donated more than $2 million of their personal funds in furtherance of political purposes," the allegation said.

DiNapoli dropped the case in February 2013 after Jacobs agreed to post semi-annual disclosures of Qualcomm's payments to influence on its website.

“While Qualcomm has been developing a new policy on disclosure of political expenditures for some time, engaging with the Common Retirement Fund has been helpful," the younger Jacobs said in a statement.

The list of San Diego politically-related causes benefiting handsomely from Jacobs-steered Qualcomm largesse has run the gamut from San Diego State's public broadcasting operation KPBS and the non-profit Voice of San Diego website to Nathan Fletcher.

The onetime Republican Assemblyman left the party during a self-styled independent race for mayor, and turned Democrat, the party of the Jacobs family, before another failed try for the same office in the fall of 2013.

During that campaign, the GOP Lincoln Club attacked Fletcher for accepting what the Republicans alleged to be a do-nothing job at Qualcomm, drawing a sharp denial from Paul Jacobs.

"I was outraged to learn that the Lincoln Club of San Diego – a supposedly pro-business political group – would fund a political hit piece that unfairly and incorrectly attacks one of San Diego’s largest employers," said the then-CEO in an October 2013 statement on company letterhead.

"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," asserted Jacobs.

“While we do not disclose salary information, we have previously indicated that the figure reported is grossly exaggerated. Nathan’s salary is commensurate with other employees at his level. We do not hire “no show” employees. Our employees have always been the hardest working in the industry and our success reflects that culture.”

After Fletcher's defeat, father and son Jacobs, as well as a bevy of Qualcomm employees, embraced Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer, who paid back a series of suspiciously-timed political contributions by reviving Irwin's controversial Balboa Park traffic and parking makeover plan.

During the weeks following arrangement of a secret meeting between the GOP mayor and Irwin Jacobs in March 2016 regarding the Balboa Park project, campaign filings later revealed, $6150 materialized in Faulconer's campaign fund from no less than ten high-ranking Qualcomm executives, including Paul Jacobs, who kicked in $1000.

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This change at Qualcomm is is most significant. It should and probably does represent the final break with Jacobs family dominance of the corporation. Paul Jacobs just never had the presence or persona of his dad.

But as to the effect it will have on that family and its meddling in local politics is less clear. In fact, Paul Jacobs, no longer distracted by his duties at Qualcomm, could get even more active in buying cooperative politicians. The family wealth will not be diminished because of his departure. In fact if the Broadcom deal goes though, it will add to their fortune, at least in the short term.

Until now, it was not clear where the corporation ended and the family started when it came to political favors. Now it will be crystal clear if it is the business or the Jacobs family. What happens with Faulconer and Fletcher and others may change, or not. And how about granddaughter Sarah, and her congressional ambitions? If the family tries to buy the election for her, in the guise that she can use her own funds freely, it can spend far more than any other candidate, and scarcely feel it.

Things will change, but just how they will change is open to speculation.

Some would say Papa Kennedy bought the election for JFK (with help from the Chicago mob). Did that make him a bad president? I don't think so. Nothing is simply black or white; it's all shades of gray.

True but follow the money and you will find who operates the politician. Especially the local bozos.

Many DO say Joe Kennedy bought the election for JFK because he did. But Jack turned out to have been trending toward being a bad president all on his own. And he set the pattern for the next 57 years.

Jack Kennedy showed much promise and leadership as president according to much research and reading. He had successes and failures like all Presidents...Kennedy was instrumental in the NASA Moon Landing program, the Civil Rights Acts that were passed by LBJ on Kennedy's death, a booming economy and much more...

JFK also set a new tone with a strong feeling of optimism. It was quite different from "Grandpa" Eisenhower's White House. And Jackie sure added class and improved look to the dated rooms.

Don't muchly care much for or about Faulconer...but can we dare to hope the Plan to destroy Balboa Park is on the outs as well?

Don't expect much to change on that front. The Jacobs clan is rejoicing that the Prez has scuttled the Broadcom takeover. And that rejoicing may just energize them to get even more meddlesome in local politics and local matters like the Park. Actually the recent events will leave the Jacobs familia more time, energy and ego drive to get into things they never bothered with before. You have not seen, heard, or read the last of them.

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