Party before the storm
Utility giant Sempra Energy and its subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric, enmeshed in a bevy of California controversies — including an ongoing effort to resist so-called Community Choice Aggregation in San Diego — have been plying elected officials with an array of goodies. Sempra’s most recent lobbyist disclosure filing with the state Secretary of State’s office for the third quarter of this year, reveals that Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, who earlier this month beat Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner to become the state’s next insurance commissioner, picked up a free admission valued at $80 to the September 27 JAY-Z and Beyoncé concert at SDCCU Stadium, formerly known as Qualcomm. A free meal worth $25.81 at Karl Strauss Brewing Company in Costa Mesa was had August 27 by Scott Carpenter, district director for Republican state Sen. John Moorlach, thanks to Sempra.
Another generous special interest was the Barona gambling tribe, which hosted a $220.64 meal for Assembly Republican Melissa Melendez and husband Nico on September 6 in the private dining room of the tribe’s East County resort. Other legislators and their spouses tucking into free meals at the casino the same day included Republican senators Scott Wilk, Mike Morrell, Ted Gaines, and Patricia Bates. GOP Assembly members and their spouses who were there included Frank Bigelow, Brian Dahle, and Dante Acosta. Republicans going stag included termed-out GOP Senator Joel Anderson, who subsequently lost his bid for election to the state board of equalization to perennial candidate and ex-San Diego city councilman Mike Schaeffer.
Other Republicans who got their dinner free thanks to Barona included Assembly members Vince Fong, Steve Choi, Matthew Harper, Tom Lackey, Chad Mayes, Jim Patterson, Randy Voepel, and Brian Maienschein. GOP senators present were Janet Nguyen, Ling Ling Chang, Jeff Stone, and Jim Nielsen. David Reade, chief of staff to Nielsen, also got the free food. Wilk and Acosta each picked up a free overnight stay and another meal from Barona worth an additional $144. Madera County supervisor Rob Poythress, who lost his state senate bid this month, also joined the festivities, as did senate hopeful Brian Jones, who won. Jones attended with his wife Heather. Another dinner recipient was GOP Ex-Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, who won her state senate election battle. Reelection races still to be called include those of Maienschein, Harper, and Nguyen. Acosta lost his Los Angeles area Assembly seat to Democrat Christy Smith. Not to be outdone by the Republicans, five days later, on September 11, Assembly Democrat Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and her husband Nathan Fletcher, elected this month to the county board of supervisors, shared a free meal from Barona worth $76.50, per the filing.
No free rides
The latest big-money player in the battle for San Diego streets and sidewalks is electronic ride-hailing giant Uber, which is letting loose a fleet of 300 electric bikes loose in the city, mostly at beaches and downtown, where fast-moving legions of scooter riders and hourly rental bikes already crowd public spaces. “JUMP bikes are pedal-assist electric bikes, so the harder you pedal the faster you’ll go,” says the company’s website. “An integrated GPS and lock means that you can find a bike near you and go for a ride.”
And where e-bikes go, city hall’s corps of contract lobbyists — intent on jumping onto the influence peddling gravy train — are never far behind. In Uber’s case, it’s Republican ex-city councilman Jim Madaffer, whose Madaffer Enterprises registered on October 29 to lobby regarding “development of regulations for dock-less vehicles and other micro-mobility options.” Notes Madaffer’s website: “Our firm offers first-rate strategic planning services and an ability to impeccably execute those plans alongside access to an unrivaled network of relationships.”
After months of foot-dragging amidst a small epidemic of broken bones, GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed a regulatory scheme that critics say is half-baked and ripe for manipulation by the city’s league of e-transit companies, which in addition to Uber include Bird, Lime, and Ofo. Since 2007, disclosure filings show, Madaffer and his wife Robin, an attorney and lobbyist, have given a total of $33,336 to city campaigns, including $4100 to Faulconer and $3300 to Republican Chris Cate. Chris Ward got $1100 as did fellow Democrat Barbara Bry. Uber competitor Lime Bike has been using the services of influence peddler Rath Miller, whose co-founder Phil Rath was fined $5000 by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission this month for conflict of interest violations. Bird has hired Falcon Strategies.