Union Leader Urged the San Diego City Council to Select Midway Rising But Failed to Disclose Her Husband Was Its Paid Consultant

by on February 27, 2023 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Brigette Browning

Last week, La Prensa San Diego published an amazing story of how while testifying before the City Council Land Use Committee last September, Brigette Browning, the head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, urged the Council to pick the Midway Rising redevelopment team, but failed to disclose that her husband, political consultant Daniel Rottenstreich, was being paid over $200,000 to promote the Midway Rising project.

Browning, as reported by Arturo Castañares, Editor-at-Large of La Prensa, “also directly lobbied City officials specifically in support of the project…”

During the meeting on September 8, 2022, Browning stated:

“I would really like to acknowledge that all of the projects have signed agreements with organized labor, and they’re all good projects, but we believe that because Midway Rising has the highest number of affordable housing units and it will create the most number of permanent union jobs, it is absolutely the best project to go forward.”

Daniel Rottenstreich

Browning, who has also been the long-time leader of the UNITE HERE Local 30 union of hotel and restaurant workers, is considered the most powerful union leader in San Diego.

And Castañares calls Rottenstreich “arguably the most connected political consultant in San Diego” as he ran the following campaigns:

  • the 2020 re-election of San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott
  • and District Attorney Summer Stephan’s re-election last year,
  • a 2020 campaign committee supporting Todd Gloria’s campaign for Mayor that took in $100,000 in political contributions from Brad Termini, and his wife.

We might add that he also ran Jen Campbell’s anti-recall campaign. Castañares reports:

During the 2020 elections, Rottenstreich was the political consultant for an independent expenditure campaign committee called “San Diegans from Every Community in Support of Todd Gloria” created by the Laborers’ International Union, Local 89, solely to support Todd Gloria’s mayoral election.

The largest personal contributions received by the Laborers’ Union committee were two $50,000 checks from Brad Termini and his wife, with the next largest personal contribution being only $15,000.

Termini’s contributions to the Laborers’ Union not only raised concerns of a “pay-to-play” arrangement where his contributions seem to have bought him preferential consideration for the Sports Arena deal, but also exposed Termini’s family history of involvement with the same controversial union.

We don’t know at this point whether Rottenstreich was involved in the campaign by the Gloria-Campbell team to smear District 2 Democratic Party Primary candidate Lori Saldana.

Part of the whole context of these recent disclosures is that the San Diego Ethics Commission fined Midway Rising for filing the required documents late, real late.

Castañares explained that, “even the group’s late disclosures did not name Rottenstreich directly, only listing payment amounts of $48,000, $36,000, and $34,000, respectively. Two subsequent filings included payments of $49,000 and $36,000 for a total of $203,000 paid to Rottenstreich.”

He continues:

It was not until the San Diego Ethics Commission investigated the group’s late filings that the payments to Rottenstreich were discovered, but even then, the Ethics Commission’s settlement agreement that outlined a $5,000 fine for the group only referred to payments to a “consultant” without naming Rottenstreich directly.

Although Midway Rising’s late filings failed to disclose payments to Rottenstreich totaling $203,000, the Ethics Commission chose to only levy a $5,000 fine to the group even though it could have fined them $5,000 per late filing, totaling $15,000.

For her part, Browning not only spoke in favor of the Midway Rising project before the Council’s Land Use Committee, but she also directly lobbied City officials specifically in support of the project, according to her own disclosures filed on October 19, 2022.

Much like Midway Rising’s late filings which concealed Rottenstreich’s payments, Brigette Browning only reported her direct lobbying for the project nearly a month after the group had been selected by the City Council.

Browning, coastal critics of Campbell may recall, was the union leader who signed off and legitimized Campbell’s “Compromise” on short term vacation rentals with a billionaire dollar home-sharing corporation.

Yet, several other local unions were “opposed to the City selecting Midway Rising, including local carpenters’ and drywall workers’ unions who detailed past workplace violations and abusive practices of Chelsea Investment Corporation, Zephyr’s affordable housing partner on the project.”

But in the end, the full City Council neglected all the controversial backgrounds of the redevelopment team and how the team got there, and jumped on Mayor Gloria’s recommendation to approve Midway Rising’s exclusive negotiating agreement.

As Michael Smollens told us in his Sunday column, this kind of barely-hidden corruption was heavily criticized by San Diego Democrats when they were out of power, but now that they have the full City Council, this is not how the people’s business is supposed to be run.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

FrankF February 28, 2023 at 7:21 am

I never understood the Labor Council’s support of Campbell’s short term vacation rental plan unless there was funny business behind the scenes.

STVRs don’t benefit union workers, but union hotels do. Room nights in STVRs take away room nights from hotels! So why would the Labor Council support a plan that will negatively affect their union member’s jobs????

Follow da money!

This Midway Rising project smells to high heaven!


Robert Davis March 2, 2023 at 6:21 pm

Where is the DA’s Public Corruption Unit? Oh, never mind, this couple ran the DA’s reelection campaign so they are above the law.


kh March 9, 2023 at 3:17 pm

Quite a Rottenstench this is.

I’m most insulted these politicos don’t even give us the common courtesy of hiding their corruption better.


Scott Mac Laggan March 16, 2023 at 7:38 am

“Whenever a man casts his eye longingly on public office, a rottenness appears in his conduct.” Thomas Jefferson


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