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Port of San Diego fires lobbyist who boasted of "spoon feeding" commissioner

A lobbyist who boasted in emails about “spoon feeding” a California Coastal Commissioner while attempting to secure his vote on a controversial project has been fired by the Port of San Diego.

In a letter to Coastal Commission members Friday, Robert “Dukie” Valderrama, chair of the Board of Port Commissioners, wrote he was “appalled” by what the port’s hired lobbyist, Susan McCabe, said in her emails. He said she was no longer under contract and was being replaced.

“In her zeal to be a winning advocate, she acted in poor taste, something that the Port of San Diego does not condone,” Valderrama wrote. “For that, we are deeply sorry.”

The apology came after The Times reported on emails between McCabe and port officials detailing efforts to convince Commissioner Patrick Kruer to vote in favor of the multimillion-dollar project to revamp the downtown San Diego waterfront, a proposal ultimately defeated by the divided panel.

The e-mails describe McCabe drafting talking points for Kruer, discussing "spoon feeding" him information and asking port officials to contact officials in Sacramento to get them to sway Kruer. At one point, McCabe wrote Kruer "will recommend a yes vote.” In one email, McCabe referred to the commissioners who voted against the project as  "the toxic five."

The correspondence was obtained by a group of activists fighting the redevelopment of the waterfront in downtown San Diego. Coastal Commission staff recommended rejecting the project because the port had eliminated a public park called for in earlier plans.

Kruer was a vocal proponent of the first phase of the $228-million redevelopment of the waterfront in downtown San Diego, but he abstained from voting on it in April after Coastal Commission staff questioned him about his brother's financial involvement in the project. Kruer's brother Jonathan runs a construction management firm working on the planned revamp of the waterfront.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating Kruer for a potential conflict of interest after receiving a complaint.

Kruer told The Times he was offended by the tone of the emails and that he never told anyone he would recommend a “yes” vote. None of the messages suggest Kruer violated any rules.

With Kruer recusing himself, the panel in April rejected the project on a 5-5 vote.

McCabe is one of the principal lobbyists for developers, landowners and local governments before the Coastal Commission. McCabe & Company’s website lists more than 250 past coastal clients, including developers, oil companies, wealthy beachfront homeowners such as David Geffen and Kevin Costner and the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Newport Beach and San Diego.

Port of San Diego officials said they are searching for someone to take the place of McCabe, who was paid $595 an hour.

“You can be sure that her replacement will work with you,” Valderrama wrote to commissioners, “with the respect and the decorum that all of you deserve.”

--Tony Barboza

Comments () | Archives (4)

Anybody involved in San Diego politics using any permutation of the word "duke" as a nickname might want to seriously consider a new handle.

I would say she did a very good job isn't that what a lobbyist is paid to do grease the palm of these corrupt politicians I mean look at our Mayor does any one think these expensive tickets are free come on people give me a break

If the Port Commission Chair was so "appalled" ~ then why did he not fire the lobbyist months ago when the email messages were sent to his staff?

I think he is sorry they got caught and the story is in the Los Angeles Times.

The lobbyist was doing what lobbyists do in this system. And I've heard people on all sides of Coastal Commission issues speak ill of each other.

The heart of the problem is much deeper. This issue is not about the humans involved, but about whether or not we are serious about protecting our beautiful, irreplaceable coast and the rare flora and fauna which live nowhere else in the world.

Maybe the Times will begin to look at just how many developments and how much coastline the Coastal Commission has approved to be paved over in the past 30 years - "death by a thousand cuts" my friend Mark Massara often said.

Interesting to note how the governor's folks had been involved in trying to influence an objective body; the emails points to how he had selected officials to be on the commission for certain votes; wonder what else the lobbyiest and her friends had done for the purpose and promise of money going into the pockes of special interest groups. She should no longer be speaking with any commrs on any projects and should be banned...wonder what else is in the pot that is boiling with her friends who have the governor's ear....The commission should ban her from meetings; to say things as 'toxic five' 'spoon feeding' and influencing votes for her developers is and should be illegal...there is no open meeting & who is writing these ex partes communications for cmmrs - she is? Wonder what past votes have been with her influence on the commission body???


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