City Attorney Mike Aguirre held a press conference this morning in front of the Sempra Energy building in downtown to claim, not for the first time, that his opponent, Jan Goldsmith, has sold out to special interests.

Aguirre pointed to more than $100,000 that Sempra Energy donated to the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a conservative business group that has endorsed and backed Goldsmith. The Lincoln Club recently sent out a mailer that attacks Aguirre and promotes Goldsmith. Aguirre claimed there is a link between the money Sempra donated and that mailer.

“Although political parties are permitted to communicate with their members, what is not permitted is for sums like $100,000 to be spent, through conduits and surrogates, on candidates who are running for political office,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre is currently pursuing litigation related to last year’s catastrophic wildfires against SDGE, a subsidiary of Sempra. He said at the press conference that he was considering widening the lawsuit to include Sempra. He claimed the energy giant was trying to buy Goldsmith by injecting money into the city attorney’s race via the Lincoln Club.

T.J. Zane, executive director of the Lincoln Club, said Aguirre was being “his usual paranoid-schizophrenic self.”

Zane said the money donated by Sempra was almost entirely spent on a countywide mailer the Lincoln Club sent out in support of Proposition 11 and in opposition to Proposition 7.

“Not a dime of that money was spent on the city attorney’s race,” Zane said. “That would be illegal. Aguirre is being Jekyll and Hyde for Halloween.”

Sempra released a statement addressing Aguirre’s accusation.

Any contributions we make are in accordance with applicable regulations and reporting requirements.  As it relates to this matter, we understood the Lincoln Club shared the same point of view on several of the key ballot initiatives (No on Prop 7 and Yes on Prop 11) and we gave them a contribution in support of their efforts.  We understood they have subsequently produced a mailer specifically focused on propositions 7 and 11 which was sent to the entire San Diego County area.

Aguirre and Sempra already have a contentious relationship. The city attorney has sued Sempra subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric, blaming it for some of the blazes from the 2007 wildfires.

Reached on a street corner in Hillcrest where he was waving campaign signs, Goldsmith said the attack by Aguirre was another example of the incumbent’s penchant for shooting first and asking questions later.

“This is the same thing as calling the mayor corrupt, trying to evacuate the entire city, running to the scene of a landslide and saying the city did it and all the other things that he does,” Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith has been supported by the Police Officers Association, the city’s police union, which has spent the last four years locked in litigation against the city. He also has the backing of the city’s municipal labor unions.

Aguirre’s incessantly attacked Goldsmith’s relationship to the labor unions and other interest groups, including the Lincoln Club. Goldsmith has opined publicly that Aguirre’s flagship pension lawsuit is largely baseless and should probably be dropped, something Aguirre says shows that he has cut a deal with the city’s unions to drop the lawsuit in exchange for their endorsement.

For his part, Goldsmith has denied that he will be influenced by anyone who has contributed to his campaign. He has consistently said that he will be an apolitical city attorney.

Joining Aguirre at the press conference was Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, who praised the incumbent for being “the people’s city attorney” and lambasted Sempra for contributing money to the Lincoln Club.


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