Carl DeMaio: Pathway to Prosperity or Highway to Hell?

by on August 9, 2011 · 7 comments

in Election, Popular, San Diego

OB Rag 2012 Primary Election Coverage Starts Now!

 The race for the top spot in San Diego is underway, with three big name Republicans and one high profile Democrat vying for 51% of the votes in the June 2012 Mayoral Primary election.  Odds are that no one candidate will pull off a majority, so the chances are very good that a November 2012 runoff will ensue. Since the Mayor’s race is technically non-partisan any two candidates could be in the run-off. And then there’s always the possibility that Donna Frye will belatedly throw her hat into the race.

 Since the candidates have all now filed their first financial reports with the City Clerk’s office, it seems to us like this is as good as any time to get to digging up the dirt and trying to shed some light on just what it is each of these wannabe Mayors are planning for our fair city. It now appears that the primary alone will attract over $1.5 million in contributions.

 We’re starting off this week with Carl DeMaio. He’s raised the most cash (by matching all contributions with his personal fortune) and has the highest media profile…

KUSI BREAKING NEWS: Carl DeMaio Eats Cheeseburger, Calls Other Candidates Job Killers…  Film at 11….     

Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at the other candidates, their contributors, their backgrounds and their positions on issues. Will it be fair and balanced? Nope. But it will be honest, which is more than we can say for most of what passes for journalism around San Diego.  


Parody designed by Dave Maass and Megan O'Connor @ CityBeat.

It has been a extraordinary decade for Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio.  The one-time Jesuit protégé is living proof that miracles do indeed happen.  Despite a long series of gaffes and setbacks, his stock has continued to rise in San Diego. His campaign for Jerry Sanders’ termed-out seat at City Hall has more cash and more flash than any of his three high profile opponents.

Money Talks, and What Financial Disclosures Don’t Tell Us

The law concerning local Mayoral races sets a start date of one year prior to the election for fundraising efforts, thus all the reported contributions were made after June 5th, 2011. This report covers the period ending June 30th, 2011, so, technically speaking; we’re only looking at 25 days of campaign activity.  The reality is that candidates do solicit contributions all the time; the checks just need to be post-dated to meet the requirements of the law.

The first campaign contributions disclosure is critical for any candidate with intra-party competitors. A strong showing indicates a better organized campaign and, as is true anywhere in life, mo’ money attracts even mo’ money. (Unless you’re Bonnie Dumanis, who apparently believes that her “courthouse gravitas” and high name recognition are the same as cash in the bank.)

Carl DeMaio, leading the pack with $545,030.71 in contributions, is on track to raise over a million dollars during the next year.  Anyway you slice it, that’s a lotta dough for the job of running a City that’s so broke it can’t fix potholes. (Now that figure is slightly deceptive: he’s actually raised just over a quarter million dollars from the public, the rest has come in the form of a matching contribution from DeMaio’s personal funds. Still, it’s plenty of money for a race that is many months away.)

So the question becomes: Just who’s investing all this money and why? Or: Why would over one thousand people send an average of just over $250 to a candidate with just three years of experience? I’ve spent the last week going through all 258 pages –in PDF format– of Carl DeMaio’s disclosures looking for answers.  If you’d like a peek, here’s the link (link is no longer valid).

If you ever seen pictures of a DeMaio event, the most obvious thing you’ll notice is that there are plenty of old white people in attendance. Not that there’s anything wrong with being old and white—some of my best friends are that way. But it would be safe to assume from these pictures that many of contributors might be listed as “retired”. And, by golly, according to his campaign disclosure statement, just over 21% of his contributors described themselves that way.

The largest groups of contributors (42%) in terms of both numbers and contribution amount, however, are people involved in real estate, construction and contracting industries. I guess we’re looking at boom times for these folks if Carl goes the distance.

Then there are the “others” (38%) who contributed to the DeMaio campaign. This is where I had to lump in all the groups of people that, by themselves, didn’t constitute a significant or definable electoral faction. This is where a lot of the interesting stuff pops up. Lots of “others” are self-described in ways that tend to mask their connections/interests.  There are consultants.  There are lawyers. And then there are the relatives.

For instance, contributor Russell Thurman, owner of Gould Electric, pretty much fits the description of somebody in the contracting/construction industry. On the same day, one Cynthia Thurman with the same zip code, gave the same amount ($500) as Russell. She listed herself as a homemaker, which, while technically true doesn’t really address the question of any vested economic interest involved with the contribution.

And then there is the family (I think they’re related, they all have the same last name) that coughed up a total of $9000 to the DeMaio campaign, listing a wide variety of small businesses scattered throughout the region.  Nothing illegal there, really… but that was one sweet deal for the candidate.

I would be remiss if I failed to note the large number of restaurant owners who’ve donated to the cause, including the proprietors of: Vin De Syrah, Firehouse, Analog, Bourbon Street, the Family Taverns, Athens Market, Baci Ristorante, Bread & Cie, Georges, Cafe Merlot, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, the Crest Cafe, The Brigantine, El Indio and Fiddler on the Green.

Most interestingly was the absence of many “name” Republicans, including some who have associated themselves with DeMaio in the past. In fact, the only “other” that jumped out at me as a GOP stalwart was Jerome Navarro, better known to you as Jerry, the guy who hawks furniture during the evening news. And he didn’t actually give any money. DeMaio owes him $1877.04 for hosting a fundraiser.

A Thumbnail History: Carl Comes To San Diego

Not long after moving here, he appeared before the City Council to congratulate San Diego for having the most efficient government in California. Two years later he ate those words, telling USA Today, “Just like Enron, we found out the emperor had no clothes. It’s a wake-up call to city and county leaders across the nation.”

San Diego seemed like a safe and wise choice for young Carl DeMaio, who’d parlayed a degree from Georgetown and training at assorted right-wing think tanks into a privately owned management consulting business just in time for the newly elected Bush administration to outsource millions of taxpayer dollars to the politically connected and ideologically corrected.  And the City’s reputation for fiscal prudence was legendary. Why, hadn’t tax cutting advocate Howard Jarvis even remarked that Proposition 13 wouldn’t have been necessary if all governments were run like San Diego’s?

So young DeMaio was shocked, mind you, shocked to discover waste, fraud, and pension scams galore in America’s Finest City. Even more shocking was the fact that Democrats had somehow managed to gain control of the City Council (for the first time in the city history). With his Performance Institute/American Strategic Management Institute issuing reports like “The Citizen’s Budget” and “The Citizen’s Budget Plan”, he swung into action, proposing radical reorganization and downsizing of city services like libraries, environmental services, the traffic division, and outsourcing of many other city services. (This being the ‘CliffNotes’ version, readers looking for more details should visit Jim Miller’s excellent reportage here.)

The reports and remedies the Performance Institute proposed were hardly original materials. It didn’t take a building full of consultants to cut and paste notions that had been passed down from the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council or The Reason Foundation. So when Thompson Publishing—looking to flesh out its ‘education’ capabilities– came looking to buy his Institutes, DeMaio swallowed his pride and pocketed the millions. Now the stage was set for his entrance into the electoral arena.

DeMaio’s penchant for brash behavior and his status as an outsider (who happened to be gay) with the local republican establishment didn’t prove to be an obstacle to his ambitions.  Starting with ballot measures in 2006, his deep pockets gained him access to voters who were expressing dissatisfaction with government.  By 2008 this sentiment became organized (thanks to covert corporate funding) and recognized (by the mainstream media) as the Tea Party. Although he’s repeatedly burned his bridges with  GOP bigwigs, there can be no doubt that Carl has the attention, if not the loyalty, of many disaffected middle class voters.

As with the Tea Party’s agenda, it hasn’t really mattered to DeMaio whether or not his ballot initiatives were constitutional, good law or would even make the ballot. The point has been to get his name in the news media and harvest names for use in future campaigns.  He’s build a solid brand using a skillful combination of urban legend, data taken out of context and outright misrepresentations that cater to the fears of a certain class of voters. Best of all, he usually finds a way to have the taxpayers foot the bill: Councilman DeMaio sent forty five times as many taxpayer-funded invitations last year as all the city’s other elected officials combined, according to records obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune under the California Public Records Act.

The Path to Prosperity

Although DeMaio knows that his biggest political success was in leading the charge against Proposition D (Sales Tax Increase), he’s realized that getting past the suspicious nature of local voters (that he’s against too many things) will require some seemingly positive program.  Ever the master of cut, paste and repackaging, he’s has gone all out over the past several weeks to publicize his “Pathway to Prosperity”. If the term sounds vaguely familiar that’s because Carl’s program shares most of its title with Congressman Paul Ryan’s all cuts approach to the Federal Budget… or perhaps you have a relative who lost money in the Canadian Ponzi scheme of the same name that promised investors 160% return on investment in a mere 60 days.

Since “Pathway to Prosperity” is a program of Councilman DeMaio (as opposed to candidate DeMaio) he’s been able to use the City’s web presence and resources to publicize the effort.  Here’s an excellent example of what passes for reporting on this program on KUSI—we hope the “reporter” for this story had a napkin or a towel to wipe the drool of his chin when he was finished with this unchallenged fluffery.

The crux of the DeMaio Pathway:

  1. Shuffle the deck. Change the job descriptions and titles at the Office of Small Business.
  2. Allow “self policing” for developers. Cut fees, staffing and permit requirements. If the “marketplace” thinks that building a 20 story high rise at end of a runway at Lindbergh Field is a good idea, so be it.
  3. Use the words “Clean Tech” and “Incubator”. It so nice to use those green words, especially when there’s no “green” to pay for it.
  4. Create unfunded programs that infer job creation while driving base wages down.  There’s nothing like adding 4000 extra minimum wage “Hire a Youth” positions to make older unemployed workers despair.
  5. Screw the Coastal Commission. San Diego needs a new Naval Headquarters before the Feds run out of money.
  6. Build it and they will come. Who needs schools anyway? Let’s get down to business and build a bigger Convention Center and a Disney Park in Mission Bay. Tout Tourism. With all dem tourist dollars raining down on the City like manna from heaven, it’s gonna be so great in live in San Diego. Here’s the new promotional tourism video: Regulation Vacation Celebration.
  7. Bring on the boogie man.  That’s right, f.e.a.r.  And today’s flavor is… Project Labor Agreements. Which were created by Unions (with a capital U) in league with Satan to keep God fearing Americans unemployed.  Never mind that the City of San Diego has no existing or planned Project Labor Agreements.

Although he’s made plenty of enemies along the way over the past decade, mostly that’s a badge of honor for Candidate DeMaio. He’s got money and a dedicated cadre of Tea Party followers determined to blow up the system regardless of the consequences (See: Boehner, John—Stock Market Crash of 2011).

He strikes me as the kind of candidate who will lie, cheat, steal and do whatever it takes to seize the throne. I mean, anybody who’ll take the time to fluff up their own Wikipedia page has got to be a complete loser, right? Forget his politics if you dare, the actions of his egoism should be a BIG warning sign.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh August 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

First, watch the videos embedded in the story. What a hoot!
Secondly, I am reminded of quote from Declaration of Independence signer and former President John Adams: “The clock would be simple if you destroyed all the wheels…but it would not tell the time of day”


Gordon Wagner August 9, 2011 at 9:45 am

After Babs Warden and Mainschein, I was expecting more of the same from DeMaio. I’ve been happily surprised at most everything he’s done aside from being anti-medical-marijuana-outlet. I’m predisposed to view every politician as greedy, duplicitous scum, but as I’ve said, I’ve been happily surprised with DeMaio.


sdarchi August 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

God help anyone out there who isn’t upper-middle class if this nut job gets elected. Everyone else will suffer and the rich will only prosper. All hail Emperor Carl! He’s not a breath of “fresh air: but he does remind me of a bunch of old Tea leaves in the bottom of a dirty cup.


Big Al August 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Great article Doug Porter. Keep up the good work.

If anyone thinks De Maio is a powder keg now, just wait until his Mayoral term is over. He’ll be so intoxicated with his council seat and his Mayoral office term he’ll be running for a State Assembly seat or possibly the State Senate. And after that, who knows how far he may go. The sky’s the limit. My belief is you ‘scratch’ the fleas of a politician you’ll find someone seeking a higher office; you know lying down with dogs. Reminds me of Juan Vargas. Now there’s a politician that fits right into what I’m saying. He’s hardly warmed up his Assembly seat and he’s venturing a run for Filner’s Congressional seat. They never stop, just like the Everready energizer bunny.


The Gunny August 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm

It’s a who’s who of the real power brokers in San Diego who are cheering this guy on. Leading the pack is ‘ol “Hate all who think different” Dick Rider who has nothing good to say to anyone, let alone hold any civil discord with those who differ. Just the kind of cheerleader King Carl needs, but hey every king needs a fool, right?
Beware San Diego, this guy is more slick and slippery than the I-8 after a good rain.


Margaret August 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Great article!
Too bad the SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE will NOT print an article like this. Carl has them in his pocket.
What a nightmare for San Diego if this guy gets elected


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