Dark Money Hit Piece vs. Saldaña in San Diego District 2 City Council Race – “A Pack of Lies”

Shadowy ‘New San Diego’ group backed by Republicans, Developers and some Labor accuses Saldaña of being in the pocket of big oil companies

By Geoff Page

The black money in the San Diego District 2 City Council race appeared in this writer’s mailbox on Monday, May 9. It appeared as a best-selling article about District 2 City Council candidate Lori Saldaña.

The only clue to who posted it was at the bottom of the second page where it said:

“Advertising paid by New San Diego – Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.

It took some effort to find out more about this group, but first the flyer.

The front page of the mailer has, in large print, “Lori Saldaña Showered By Big Oil”.

Below were three complaints. The first said:

“Big oil companies like Chevron presented Lori Saldaña with lavish gifts worth $84,634.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Lobbyist Gifts: Lavish but Legal.”

The choice of words is important, “like Chevron” immediately shows that this is not a fact. No link was provided. An article with this title was located on April 30, 2006. The article stated this about Saldaña:

Congresswoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, accepted $4,811, including a $346 concert ticket paid for by Amylin Pharmaceuticals; $235 in meals from the San Diego Association of Realtors; a $200 ticket to a holiday event hosted by Biocom, a biotech trade organization.

There was no mention of $84,634 or oil companies in what was listed for Saldaña.

The second claim on the flyer was:

They took her around the world and put her up in five-star hotels in Brazil, Venezuela and Chile. Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, “Official foreign travel raises eyebrows.”

Again, no link to this story and no search could find the article.

The third claim on the sender was:

“She had a private butler. Source: Sacramento Bee. “Energy companies help pay for state regulators’ far-flung trips”

Again, no connection to the story. This article was found dated July 25, 2009. It lists 24 politicians who received funded trips from 2006 to 2008. Saldaña is not on this list of 24 people.

So the front page is full of lies. The second page was an even bigger lie.

The second page says:

“Lori Saldaña Opposes Renewables – After traveling the world with Big Oil, is it any surprise that Lori Saldaña tried to block renewables for our region?”

It really is a despicable lie. The flyer goes on to say that Saldaña led the charge to stop construction of a solar project in Jacumba. He quoted a Union-Tribune story from August 2017. Here is what the article says:

Gathering outside the San Diego County Administrative Center, the Protect Our Communities Foundation joined about 30 city residents in a protest Tuesday. The foundation has long advocated for renewable energy projects, but its leaders object at the scale of JVR Energy Park.

“Not all solar projects are environmental justice projects,” said Lori Saldaña, board member of Protect Our Communities and former president pro tem of the California Assembly. “This one does not meet the needs of this community. None of the energy from these 600 acres of solar power will even go to the people of Jacumba.

The key words were: “The foundation has long advocated for renewable energy projects,” contrary to the sender’s assertion.

The protest concerned a 604-acre solar farm being developed by a Munich-based company called BayWa RE. The project is called JVR Energy Park. The company has already signed an agreement with the new organization San Diego Community Power.

Saldaña and the people of Jacumba weren’t trying to stop the project, they just wanted it to be scaled down, hopefully to around 300 acres. As we know today, they were ignored.

A comment from a Jacumba resident said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are not against clean energy, but believe the project is too big and the county should prioritize other renewable efforts, such as distributed solar power on rooftops instead of utility scale solar power.

That’s the crux of the matter, rooftop solar versus utility-scale solar. This battle is currently taking place at the state level.

The final thing on this hit piece was a quote from Jared Quient, identified as former president of the League of Conservation Voters.

“Politicians like Lori Saldaña who oppose renewable energy are directly contributing to the climate change crisis. Action speaks louder than words.”

It’s almost impossible to tell how hypocritical that last part was. The League of Conservation Voters is a respected organization, hence the misleading association of Quient. What the flyer didn’t say is that Quient is the chief compliance officer and executive vice president, general counsel, BayWa RE Solar Projects, LLC., the company building the solar farm.

There is no doubt that the sender was a pack of lies. So who is New San Diego?

The only identifier on the sender was an address on Meade Avenue in San Diego that turned out to be Christ Methodist Church. The church rents office space in the church building. This writer visited the office and found a person there who was a treasurer who managed money for several groups, including New San Diego. It wasn’t the PAC’s address.

The search uncovered a number of interesting pieces of information. The first item of interest involved documents in five repositories with the city. The first was a simple Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC, Form 410 – FPPC 410, Statement of Organization, Year: 2021.

The form has a section where the entity identifies the type of committee it is. There are four categories and New San Diego has checked a box labeled “City Committee” under category number four:

General Purpose Committee – Not formed to support or oppose specific candidates or actions in a single election.

The description is prominent, “not shaped to support or oppose specific candidates.” This did not match the sender and ultimately another form filed by New San Diego.

Form 496 – FPPC 496, 24/10 Independent Expense Report, Year: 2022

The form states that the purpose of the group is specifically to oppose Saldaña. This contradicts what the 410 form stated.

The deposits with the city are as follows:

8-9-21 – First filing of Form 410, no financial information

11/29/21 – Second filing, Form 410 – qualification date and bank account added, no financial information

1-25-22- Annual Report for 2021, Form 496 contains a list of donations and donors. Total donations $105,850.

5-6-22 – Form 496 asks for the name of the candidate supported or opposed and it indicates that New San Diego opposed Saldaña. It lists all expenses for a courier totaling $17,857.62, all dated 5-5-22.

$7,605.10 – shipper: postage

$1,583.68 – sender: data

$950.00 – mail: design

$7,718.84 – mail: printing and processing

5-9-22 – Three days later, another Form 496 with the same cost list minus the “sender:data” item for $1,583.68. No explanation why.

Contributions and Contributors

It was not possible to find out who the people behind New San Diego are but it was possible to get a full list of contributors, as shown in the table below:

What is immediately remarkable is that a contributor, Badiee Development, Inc. donated nearly half of the total funds received by New San Diego, or $50,000. Someone really doesn’t want Saldaña elected.

The second largest donation was $10,000 from a company with an unintelligible name NUWI 2 CMR LLC. Curiously, this company is listed as a “foreign” company incorporated only four years ago. He has an address in Los Angeles. One wonders what the rules are regarding donations from a foreign company to political campaigns in this country.

One name was very recognizable: Ben Hadad, former Republican Mayor Golding Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff/Cabinet Secretary under Republican Mayor Pete Wilson. Haddad is a government affairs consultant at California Strategies, LLC. Haddad donated $1,250.00.

Another name of California Strategies, LLC has been listed –Craig Benedetto, who was on the LLC’s list of directors. Benedetto also donated $1,250.00.

Rachel Laingthe mayor’s director of communications Todd Gloria, was also a contributor – $500.

Additionally, there was labor support in New San Diego. the United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund donated $7,500 and the South West Regional Joiners Council The Political Action Fund donated $5,000.

The other donors will be sought but it was clear that the Republicans, the promoters, some unions and certainly the mayor do not want to see Campbell defeated and certainly not by Saldaña.

the San Diego Reader had an article dated March 2, 2022 that had this:

“In addition to these donations, on December 20, 2021, sempra donated $2,500 to the New San Diego PAC, a political action committee registered with the city clerk’s office on August 21 of last year. His cause, according to the filing, is “to support initiatives and candidates that will make San Diego and the region better for all of us.”

The timing of New San Diego is interesting. It only started in August 2021. No financial information was presented until January 2022. All contributions took place from November 29, 2021 to December 27, 2021. No money was spent until the week last, May 5.

There’s about $90,000 left to spend between now and the primary and election. And that doesn’t take into account future donations.

If this letter is any indication of what is to come, dirty politics and black money have invaded city council politics. If it can be determined which candidate this PAC favors, that information will certainly follow.

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