The Chargers have contributed more money to a political campaign than anyone else in the city of San Diego in the last year as the team tries to persuade voters to support the ballot measure that would allow construction of a downtown stadium.
Since November 2015, the football team has spent more than $7.6 million in support of Measure C, which would allow the so-called convadium. That’s more than double the combined amount from the next nine biggest political donors this year.
Despite the hefty backing, a recent Union-Tribune/10News poll showed the measure losing support as Tuesday’s election approaches.
“Money is an important element, it’s helpful to get your message out,” said political scientist Carl Luna. “But you can’t sell it if they’re not buying.”
The Chargers gave almost $4 out of every $10 donated to committees supporting ballot measures and candidates in the last 12 months.
An inewsource analysis of the 10 most generous San Diego donors includes well-known political advocacy organizations and local movers and shakers.
A second stadium-related proposal, Measure D, has its own significant support. The measure also would guide the redevelopment of the existing Qualcomm stadium site in Mission Valley.
John Moores, the owner of JMI Realty and a former Padres owner, has given $245,000 to the campaign. Ballpark Village LLC, owned by JMI Realty and Lennar Homes, contributed almost $939,000 to the effort. Measure D’s author, attorney Cory Briggs, contributed just under $201,000.
It’s not all stadium battles
Other top contributors this election cycle include traditional Republican operations. The Chamber of Commerce has given almost $610,000 and the Lincoln Club almost $501,000. Both supported Ray Ellis for San Diego City Council and Robert Hickey for city attorney.
Ellis has since withdrawn from the campaign for the District 1 seat after narrowly surviving a primary battle against Barbara Bry. The two organizations contributed more than $570,000 to pro-Hickey committees.
The two groups also focused on two ballot measures. Together they spent $52,000 to support the Measure H campaign, which would amend the process for awarding city contracts. They also spent $200,000 to oppose Measure K. That controversial charter amendment would force a runoff on all city elections.
Well known backers like the Chamber of Commerce can mean a lot of money for campaigns. Their name recognition can also be a double-edged sword for candidates.
“Informed voters will be looking at who supports whom and simply based on associations like that they can make their choice who they’re going to vote for,” Luna said.
Measure K supporters drew their own big pocketed backer. The Open Society Policy Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, donated $200,000 to support K and L. Measure L would move votes on referendums and citizens’ initiatives from the primary to the general election.
There’s only one political party among the top contributors: The San Diego County Democratic Party distributed just under $284,000 among 10 local candidates, including about $46,000 for city attorney candidate Mara Elliot.
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From one committee to another
Labor organizations tend to be big players in San Diego politics. Some local unions have given tens of thousands of dollars to candidates and ballot measures this year. However, the only group to crack the top 10 biggest donors was the San Diego Municipal Employees Association. It contributed just under $274,000 to the Protect Neighborhood Services Now political advocacy organization.
That group in turn contributed $75,000 to support measures K and L.
The real estate investment firm Donahue Schriber rounds out the top 10 political donors in the city of San Diego during the last 12 months. The firm gave more than $186,000 to Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods, a political advocacy organization.
That group was formed in 2015 to oppose the One Paseo housing development referendum. It has not contributed to any committees in the city of San Diego so far this year.
Overall, traditionally conservative donors outspent liberal ones among the largest contributors. Republicans have an advantage among political donors that actually want to spend their money in town, Luna said.
“Democratic donors, for example, tend to give most of their big money out of the county of San Diego, they like national and state,” he said. “On the Republican side, you’ve got the Lincoln Club, there’s no real Democratic alternative.”