A former pillar of San Diego's Republican media establishment has wound up as a key figure in the nation's sprawling college admission scam in which wealthy parents allegedly forked over big money to bribe their children's way into college.
Until little more than a year ago, La Jolla's Elisabeth Kimmel, was part-owner of Midwest Television, holder of the lucrative federal broadcast licenses of the KFMB TV and radio stations acquired by her grandfather August C. Meyer, Sr. back in 1964. For decades Meyer was one of San Diego's most politically powerful men. He died at 91 in December 1991.
By 2012, Kimmel was billed as president of Midwest. "She went to work for the company in 1993 as general counsel and 'became third generation owner in 2007," per a profile posted online by the Harvard Business School Club of San Diego.
Kimmel, the writeup added, “received a BA in History with Distinction and Departmental Honors, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford, where she currently serves on the Task Force for Undergraduate Education. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School.”
Amongst Kimmel's extensive local political involvements, she and husband Gregory Kimmel, a former San Diego Deputy District Attorney with a law degree from the University of Southern California, funneled $2000 to the ultimately-doomed 2012 mayoral campaign of then-San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio.
During DeMaio's try for the House of Representatives in 2014, Kimmel had to contend with critics who called her out for what they said was illegal electioneering and fundraising by KFMB's then-radio talk show host and fallen San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock on DeMaio's behalf.
"I would like to have a complaint put [into] KFMB's Public File. I would like to complain about Roger Hedgecock and the blatant campaigning he is doing for Carl DeMaio," wrote Brian Kyd, a supporter of another GOP candidate in the race. I think this clearly violates the journalistic and ethical standards KFMB holds."
DeMaio won a spot in the June primary but was subsequently defeated in the November general election by incumbent Democrat Scott Peters. In December 2017, the KFMB stations were sold for $325 million to Tegna, Inc.
The charges by federal prosecutors against Kimmel involve her efforts to get her daughter into Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown University by way of $275,000 obtained from the Meyer Charitable Foundation, her family-run tax-exempt non-profit that has favored causes linked to the Koch brothers.
$244,000 of the foundation’s cash, according to the allegation, was allegedly paid to Georgetown tennis coach Gordie Ernst to misrepresent her daughter’s playing record and potential to school admission officials.
"Kimmel's daughter matriculated at Georgetown in the fall of 2013 and graduated in or about May 2017," says the document. "She was not a member of the tennis team during her four years at Georgetown."
In 2017, the feds charge, Kimmel's foundation slipped $250,000 into an account run by William Rick Singer, the cheating case’s alleged mastermind who has turned cooperating witness. The money went to induce officials at the University of Southern California to admit Kimmel’s son, a recent Bishops graduate, by falsely claiming he was a champion pole-vaulter.
That resulted in at least one uncomfortable moment picked up by the feds in a wiretapped July 26, 2018, phone call between Kimmel and her husband and an unnamed participant in the conversation, per court documents.
"The only kind of glitch was, and I-- he didn't-- [my son] didn't tell me this at the time-- but yesterday when he went to meet with his advisor, he stayed after a little bit, and the-- apparently the advisor said something to the effect of, "Oh, so you're a track athlete?" And [my son] said, "No." 'Cause, so [my son] has no idea, and that's what-- the way we want to keep it."