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House candidate Carl DeMaio has talked frequently about bringing the pension reforms he spearheaded in San Diego to other cities and counties across California. He helped organize one such effort in Ventura County. And that campaign put his partner on the payroll.

A pension reform initiative in Ventura paid the company of DeMaio’s partner, Johnathan Hale, nearly $20,000 to work on its ballot measure, according to campaign disclosures. The initiative would have given new Ventura County workers 401ks instead of pensions and capped existing workers’ pensionable pay for five years – similar to the successful San Diego pension measure DeMaio co-wrote in 2012.

DeMaio, who is running for Congress, didn’t receive any money for his work on the Ventura initiative. But he served as an adviser for the effort and promoted it. DeMaio also suggested to campaign organizers that Hale could help with their website and online donation system, said David Grau, who led the Ventura campaign.

Hale is the publisher of a number of LGBT-themed websites, including the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, and is active in the Hillcrest business community. But Hale has had little formal experience on pension issues or political campaigns.

The Ventura group had an IT expert vet Hale before hiring him, Grau said.

Hale also organized a February event to mark the beginning of the signature-gathering for the initiative, Grau said. They called it a “Signature Storm,” and it resembled the signature-gathering efforts DeMaio ran in San Diego. Grau said the event didn’t result in many signatures, but did attract lots of media coverage.

Overall, Grau said the campaign was satisfied with Hale’s work.

“He was very responsive,” Grau said.

Campaign disclosures show that Hale’s company, Hale Media Inc., was paid $18,745 for numerous services, including consulting, IT work, literature, phone banks and travel.

At least $1,000 of the money Hale’s company received were reimbursements for things like buying office supplies and hotel stays related to campaign work, according to the disclosures.

Hale’s company designed the initiative campaign’s website:

Hale was paid for work during the first six months of this year, the filings show.

Hale said in an email he gained experience helping on the pension reform initiative DeMaio spearheaded in San Diego in 2012 – though he had no official role with that campaign and wasn’t paid. Hale said his company now consults for initiatives concerned about union efforts to block signature-gathering.

I asked Hale why he would work on a campaign affiliated with DeMaio given the scrutiny relatives and partners of politicians receive when that happens. Hale said his company only takes projects he’s committed to, like pension reform.

“The government union ‘blocking’ tactics were the top concern of the Ventura campaign team, and given my familiarity with the San Diego campaign’s success in overcoming the ‘blocking,’ they specifically sought out our help to deal with it,” Hale said.

DeMaio’s campaign declined to comment on Hale’s work, referring questions to the Ventura organizers.

DeMaio has paid Hale for campaigns before. In 2010, DeMaio’s ultimately failed city of San Diego outsourcing initiative paid Hale’s company $18,750. At the time, a DeMaio spokeswoman said the campaign used Hale’s company as a pass-through service to pay interns for signature-gathering.

The Ventura campaign collected enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November election. But earlier this month, a Ventura County judge threw it off the ballot, saying only the state Legislature could make the changes sought by pension reform advocates. They declined to appeal the ruling and the measure won’t go to voters.

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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