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Roundtable: Money In Politics, Petco Park & Indian Tribes

Michael Smolens, the politics and government editor at U-T San Diego, and Edward Sifuentes, a reporter for North County Times, talk with Joanne Faryon about campaign financing and the Pala Band of Indians' decision to expel 154 of its members.

James Riffel, metro reporter, City News Service

Michael Smolens, politics & government editor, U-T San Diego

Edward Sifuentes, reporter, North County Times


Two of the three things you should never talk about--politics and money--were the focus of the roundtable discussion on KPBS television’s Evening Edition today.

Michael Smolens, the politics and government editor at U-T San Diego, detailed the money raised by the four candidates for mayor of San Diego.

While Councilman Carl DeMaio has reported the most, about $1 million so far, about $400,000 of that is from his own pocket, Smolens said. That means Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has actually raised the most, about $750,000, from outside sources.

Congressman Bob Filner has raised the least, “to everybody’s surprise,” Smolens said.

“There’s a lot of questions about his ability to compete at that level,” he added.

Smolens also said the Supreme Court’s ruling removing most contribution limits in the "Citizens United" case generates much more money for political campaigns. Now independent committees have no limits to the amount they can donate to a candidate.

“They had certain limits about what they could contribute and spend on candidates, and that’s been blown wide open, so we expect to see them, particularly the Republican party, which has the ability to raise more money from their base and their donors, to be a lot more active,” he said.

But, Smolens added, because there are three Republicans running for mayor, he does not expect the Republican party to jump in quickly and support one candidate.

“With some exceptions, in every cycle, you break records, there’s more money, that’s the way politics are,” he said.

Smolens also said that because there is more competition between Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrats Scott Peters and Lori Saldana in the race for the 52nd Congressional seat, he expects to see national political groups contributing.

“We’ll see a lot more of outside interest in this because this has really become a player on the national chessboard,” Smolens said of the district in North County. “It’s a competitive race, one that both parties think they could win, or in the Republicans’ case, lose, so you’ll see some national party money coming into this race.”

Edward Sifuentes, a reporter for North County Times, discussed an issue related to money and politics, but within the Pala Band of Indians.

This week the tribe announced the expulsion of 154 tribal members, all relatives of former Pala Chairman King Freeman. The expelled members were asked to prove they were 1/16th Pala, the "blood quantum" requirement for tribal membership. They lose $150,000 a year, housing and health benefits.

Pala is one of the more successful tribes in the county, and because it has been so successful, there is a lot of money at stake, Sifuentes said.

Details from the tribe on what prompted the latest removals are scant, he said. Because fewer tribe members means the remaining members get a larger stake in income from Pala Casino Resort and Spa, Sifuentes said some question whether the expulsions are motivated by money.

But, he said, tribal officials say their reasons for the expulsions date back to the 1980s, before the casino was built.

Members of the Pala who were expelled can appeal the decision to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the tribe gets final word, Sifuentes said.

On KPBS-FM’s Midday Edition, James Riffel, the metro reporter at City News Service explained a plan coming before the City Council to increase offseason events at Petco Park. The council’s Rules Committee voted unanimously to approve the idea this week.

The committee also proposed changing the way revenues from the park are distributed, so that the lion's share goes directly to the Padres. Under the city's current agreement with the Padres, the team only gets 30 percent of revenue derived from special events held during baseball's off-season.

Before the Roundtable, Mark Sauer offered a tribute to Dolores Thompson, San Diego's "Iron Lady of the Iron Lung," who died last month at 71. Mark knew Thompson, a poet and activist, who was the last person in California in an iron lung.

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