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Roundtable: Campaign Finance Scandal, PACs In Mayor’s Race, Draining Lake Morena

KPBS Roundtable

Roundtable: Campaign Finance Scandal, PACs In Mayor's Race, Draining Lake Morena

Audio

Aired 1/24/14

HOST:

Alison St. John

GUESTS:

Amita Sharma, KPBS News

Joe Yerardi, inewsource

Claire Trageser, KPBS News

Transcript

Feds Allege Campaign Fund Conspiracy

Federal complaints filed in San Diego this week alleges that three men, retired San Diego detective Ernesto Encinas; local lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes; and Ravneet Singh, the CEO of a Washington D.C.-based campaign firm, engineered a complex conspiracy to fund the mayoral campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis, Bob Filner and Nathan Fletcher and the congressional campaign of Juan Vargas with money from a foreign national, alleged to be Jose Azano Matsura, a Mexican citizen.

Foreign nationals are not allowed to contribute to American election campaigns at any level.

The contributions, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly came from a wealthy Mexican businessman and were channeled into a political action committee. The PAC tried, but was mostly unsuccessful in getting candidates to accept the illegal funds.

The story first surfaced in May, 2012 through reporting by Dave Maas in San Diego CityBeat. His story revealed that the largest contributor to a PAC called "San Diegans for Bonnie Dumanis for Mayor 2012" was a Mexican businessman. It triggered an investigation by the FBI, IRS and SDPD, conducted with two confidential informants as well as audio and video surveillance. It resulted in this week’s complaint and scrambling by several local politicians to return even small amounts of money donated by the alleged conspirators.

PACS Mean Big Money For Mayoral Hopefuls

Thirty-six political action committees have donated $1.6 million to candidates for San Diego mayor. So far.

We know which PACs gave what amount to which candidates. But the mystery is who’s giving what to which candidates? In fact, we have no idea at the moment.

We do know that City Councilman David Alvarez has received $880,000 from 19 PACs, mostly sponsored by unions, and that Kevin Faulconer got $600,000 from eight mainly business-related PACs. But we don't know who put up this money since the last reporting period, which was in July. That’s because unlike the candidates’ support committees, PACs are required to disclose donors just twice a year.

Some believe the inherent secrecy of this system, the lack of limits on contributions to PACs, and the general Wild-West atmosphere of the American election system may have helped to foster the current San Diego campaign-funding scandal.

City Taking Water From Lake Morena

Because Lake Morena Reservoir is located between I-8 and the border -- just north of Campo, many might be surprised to learn it is owned by the City of San Diego.

The lake is next to Lake Morena County Park, used by many East County residents for boating, camping and fishing, all of which bring in revenue to the county. But the city is in the process of siphoning water from the lake for San Diego residents to drink in an effort to mitigate rising water rates. And San Diego County is mad as a wet hen.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob says draining the lake will result in public safety being jeopardized because Cal Fire uses Lake Morena water to fight fires. She also worries about a massive fish die-off, no income from campground and boat rentals and economic damage to Lake Morena Village.

The city says the county can have the water. All it has to do is pay for it.

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