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A group that includes a prominent Republican business leader has hired investigators to detail mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio’s background.

“I think there’s a lot of questions about Carl’s commitment to the city and his background,” said Fred Maas, the developer of the large Black Mountain Ranch project in the city’s northeast.

Maas revealed few details about the project, but said it could be a documentary about DeMaio’s history. The movie would be similar to the one conservative nonprofit Citizens United made about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign, Maas said.

“There is an idea that there was a potential for a Hillary Clinton, Citizens United-style documentary here,” he said. “We’re exploring it and it’s in its infancy.”

The Clinton movie led to a U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned federal campaign finance laws against corporate spending in elections. Because the DeMaio movie would follow the guidelines in the Citizens United case, Maas added, no one would create a campaign committee to fund the project. Without a committee, the public may never know who funds the endeavor.

Maas and DeMaio are two local Republican heavyweights that have a long history with each other. In a memorable public exchange last November Maas accused DeMaio of being from the comet Hale-Bopp, a reference to one of San Diego’s most notorious cults.

Maas has led the city’s powerful downtown redevelopment agency, spearheaded Mayor Jerry Sanders’ search for a new Chargers stadium and worked for many high-profile Republican campaigns, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid.

DeMaio often has sought the spotlight by aggressively pushing his pension-slashing, pro-outsourcing interests in the public and media. He’s also been hostile to legacy business groups, such as the local Chamber of Commerce.

Maas declined to say how much the effort will cost, who else is involved and the timeframe for the project.

But that a prominent Republican is working against DeMaio broadens the chorus of interests opposed to him. An organized labor umbrella group has set up a campaign committee to combat DeMaio’s mayoral bid.

Maas referred to the effort as a “commercial venture” and “business endeavor,” and added he wasn’t sure anything would come of the effort and it could extend to other candidates later on.

“This is not intended to be political in any way, shape or form,” Maas said.

DeMaio’s campaign spokesman begged to differ. The spokesman, Stephen Puetz, said it isn’t surprising that “big business lobbyists and government employee union bosses” are against his candidacy.

“What is surprising is that they would be so brazen about it, openly bragging about hiring private investigators and planning a sleazy attack campaign,” Puetz said in a statement.

Stacey Fulhorst, who heads the city’s Ethics Commission, said she isn’t aware of any lengthy feature film that’s ever been produced on a candidate. Any communication that advocates for or against a candidate would trigger San Diego’s campaign disclosure rules, she said.

“On the other hand, communications that don’t expressly advocate, but contain content that could be construed as an effort to influence an election have to be analyzed in greater detail to determine if the laws apply,” Fulhorst continued.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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