Some of the most contentious moments along the campaign trail for mayor have focused on the influence of special interests. Candidates accuse their rivals of being beholden to developers, organized labor or a vague group of political insiders rather than the general public.
So I decided to examine who lobbyists want to be San Diego’s next mayor and how much they’ve pitched into each candidate’s campaign treasury.
Individual contributions from lobbyists don’t encompass all special interests. Political parties and independent committees have dumped more than $1.5 million in the election so far. Lobbyist contributions just provide another glimpse of those trying to influence City Hall.
By law, firms or organizations that contact city officials with the purpose of influencing a decision must register the names of their clients and the employees who will be advocating their interests. The list of employees includes those who have contacted city officials in the past 30 days or who are expected to contact them in the future.
The graphic above illustrates how much people registered to lobby City Hall have contributed to each of the mayoral campaigns. For a full list of the lobbyists and their contributions to the candidates, you can check out this spreadsheet.
I identified contributions from lobbyists by matching people’s last names and first initials from the most recent lists of lobbyists and campaign contributions. Then I checked each person’s listed employer to see if they were at least similar. For example, some identified their employer as a company in one list and then listed a parent company in another.
The list of lobbyists likely represents a conservative estimate of individual contributions. Lobbyists don’t always want their contributions publicized and can put up hurdles to make it harder to find them. Some could try to hide in campaign rolls by misspelling or slightly altering their names.
Though this process churned up 102 lobbyists, I likely missed some contributions if people used different first names (William vs. Bill) or nicknames (such as their middle name). Finding every lobbyist could take days or weeks. I devoted just a couple hours to the project.
Still, the search provided some interesting findings. Here are three takeaways:
— No candidate is immune from lobbyist cash. They all scorn the influence of special interests but then accept thousands of dollars from people registered to sway City Hall.
— Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher reported receiving the most money from lobbyists ($22,500) and Congressman Bob Filner reported getting the least ($7,500).
— Though the amount of lobbyist cash varies by candidate, each reported a similar ratio in the context of fundraising from individual donors. About 2 percent of each candidate’s fundraising from individuals came from City Hall lobbyists.
These figures don’t include all campaign fundraising, such as independent spending done on behalf of a candidate or against a candidate. It focuses on the individual donations given to each candidate, but excludes the money candidates gave themselves. You can find a list of all campaign fundraising here.
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