During the Golden Globes on Sunday, an attack ad began rolling against City Councilman Kevin Faulconer.

Basically, the message was that a bevy of “corporate CEOs” were supporting Faulconer in his bid for mayor.

Scott Lewis on Politics LogoThat’s it. That was the gist of the attack. The screen scrolled through a long list of companies that these CEOs led. It was too fast to read. You were just supposed to get the impression that companies are bad, they support Faulconer, thus Faulconer is bad. Also, look at how long this list is.

Apparently, the best attack on Faulconer the Labor Council could come up with is that people who lead companies in San Diego support him for mayor.

Here is one screen shot of the list of companies.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Alvarez is the alternative, the ad said. He’s beholden to the people. And he drove the message home in his initial swipes at Faulconer and his supporters as the two candidates started their live debate series.

“These are the same people that have driven the city into the ground,” Alvarez said at a debate Wednesday. “The developers, the big corporations — those who have enough money to have lobbyists, who have high-paid consultants.”

There are a few problems with this.

Note the list above of the corporate CEOs, who support Faulconer. It includes Southwest Strategies. Southwest Strategies is the lobbying and public relations firm that has led the opposition to the Barrio Logan community plan, which is Alvarez’s most important legislative achievement and the most controversial.

Southwest Strategies’ chairman is Alan Ziegaus.

If getting support from someone like Ziegaus is a sign you are bad, then Alvarez himself does not want to be good. Ziegaus has given Alvarez’s campaign $1,500, according to this fine application from inewsource, in addition to the $2,000 he gave Faulconer’s campaign. (Southwest Strategies’ CEO, Jennifer Ziegaus, also donated $2,000 to Faulconer and none to Alvarez.)

In fact, the list of “corporate CEOs” who support Alvarez is actually quite lengthy.

It includes thousands in donations from folks like Aaron Feldman and his family members. Feldman, of course, is the leader of Sunroad Enterprises, the developer and car dealer that always seems to be on the edge of our ugliest civic controversies. If you were making a list of “big developers, who have enough money to have lobbyists and high-paid consultants,” well, you’d put Feldman at the top.

There’s even $750 from Joe Terzi, CEO of the Tourism Authority and the exact type of “downtown insider” Alvarez leads his stump speech with.

You can scan through the whole list. Just type in “CEO” or “president” and you can see all the company leaders who have given Alvarez money.

I asked Alvarez’s campaign what he thought of the Labor Council’s ad and what his problem was with these companies and their leaders. Would he not accept their money?

All I got was this mushy statement:

David has established a Business Advisory Council to coordinate efforts of San Diego’s business leaders to grow our economy. This campaign is about each candidate’s record. David’s record includes creating middle-class jobs and investing in our neighborhoods. He believes that is a contrast to Republican Kevin Faulconer’s record of putting downtown special interests and his developer friends first.

I asked a Labor Council representative what the group’s specific problem with those companies was. Are companies just evil? Should Alvarez avoid them too?

Kirsten Clemons, the group’s political director, declined to comment.

To boil this choice down for the public, the candidates and their allies appear to be trying to do two things: Identify an enormous blob of people to hate — “unions” and “downtown insiders” and “corporate CEOs” — and then tie their rivals to them.

As they throw the mud, however, they are spilling it on themselves.

    This article relates to: Business, David Alvarez, Government, Kevin Faulconer, Mayoral Candidates 2014, Mayoral Election Issues 2014, News, Politics, Scott Lewis on Politics, Share, Special Mayoral Election 2014

    Written by Scott Lewis

    Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently breaks news and goes back and forth with local political figures. Contact Scott at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527, and follow him on Twitter at @vosdscott.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    I think it’s obvious that unions, both private and public sector unions, are more focused and pragmatic in their support than corporations. They provide not only a lot of cash exclusively to one candidate, they provide “troops on the ground” to get out the vote and send out independent flyers supporting their guy, usually the Democrat.

    Nothing illegal or improper in any of this, but it does reflect the specificity of the benefits they expect to get for their efforts. There’s a big difference between a “favorable business climate” or a “streamlined permitting process” and project labor agreements, pension sweeteners, minimum wage increases, across-the-board pay increases, additional paid time off and the like.

    I believe that, in this election, every union except the Police Officers Association, is supporting David Alvarez, and his votes and proposals clearly reflect their agenda. Falconer’s positions and actions are a somewhat more mixed bag. Again, nothing illegal or improper in any of this. Money is, as Jesse Unruh so clearly put it over 50 years ago, “the mother’s milk of politics”.


    A pretty naive analysis, exactly what we expect to get from the UT but we've come to count on something better from VOSD. It is suicidal for corporations not to donate to both campaigns, it happens all the time. And taking the high road in politics today is akin to conceding defeat, this too is common knowledge. The real issue is which candidate will be truly supportive of the residents in our declining older neighborhoods? The candidate who supports the megabond for our crumbling infrastructure, the workforce housing offset for affordable housing, a living wage for low income families, locally determined community plans, or the candidate who opposes a genuinely progressive agenda? Let's talk about the issues VOSD, not the game playing which unfortunately is what most political campaigns have been reduced to.


    Have we, the Citizens of San Diego, determined that we want a "genuinely progressive agenda"?
    Have we been shown how this will be paid?

    Scott Lewis
    Scott Lewis administrator

    I realize corporate leaders feel obligated to donate to both campaigns sometimes. My point was that the Labor Council feels those donations are indicative of something nefarious and I wanted to put perspective on it. We've done a lot of work on the other issues you mention -- infrastructure, affordable housing, etc.


    I appreciate all the work you and others at VOSD have done on the important issues facing the City. It's important for VOSD to sustain that focus and avoid contributing to the kerfuffle, intentionally generated by both sides in any election, which inevitably diverts the attention of voters away from the tough issues that need to be addressed.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    Alvarez = Welfare good, success bad

    Is that really the city we want?

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    “These are the same people that have driven the city into the ground,” Alvarez said
    Determination: Misleading
    What drove this city into the ground was the “downtown insiders” , unions, a union friendly pension board and self serving bi=partisan city leaders getting together to make a deal where they all had a place at the feast and left the taxpayer holding the bag.
    Like I said if you see all the parties pushing for a big bond watch your wallet. None of these groups have the taxpayers interests as their motivation.

    Pat Seaborg
    Pat Seaborg subscribermember

    Years ago, I was on the Board of Directors for a statewide organization. Our lobbyists told us that it was organizational suicide if we did not contribute to the campaigns of both parties' candidates. Even though one candidate for a statewide office was against everything we believed in. "Contributions equal access. "

    I have to assume that our lobbyists knew something that was a standard practice. Therefore, I would not assume that anyone contributing to both mayoral campaigns supported both candidates.

    Scott Lewis
    Scott Lewis administrator

    I'm not really assuming the corporate donors support Alvarez as much as that the attack that Faulconer is beholden to them simply based on the evidence they donated to him deserves context.

    James Weber
    James Weber subscriber

    Alvarez is a liar to the people.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    Taking their money makes them poorer. Is that not a good strategy?

    Scott Lewis
    Scott Lewis administrator

    Lot's of these comments are pointing out that this is strategy that is used. OK, I realize that. I still think the rhetoric was important to put perspective on.

    Carrie Schneider
    Carrie Schneider subscribermember

    Given that negative advertising sways a certain percentage of the voters, campaigns must engage in it to be viable. Taking the high road is akin to conceding defeat. If you agree, tell me who are these people who make decisions about who should represent them based on such information? And how can they get better information to make this important decision?

    Scott Lewis
    Scott Lewis administrator

    Just because it works doesn't mean I have to like it or that it serves our civic discourse in a positive way.