Meet Brett Malec.
Nine months ago, the svelte, young, gay man was a senior at USC, studying on a scholarship for outstanding achievement from Lambda, the school's LGBT Alumni Association.
He was also a contributor to Bill Horn's re-election campaign, at least according to records on file with San Diego County Registrar of Voters.
Horn's critics accuse the county supervisor of being bought and paid for by development interests. A look at his campaign-finance reports indicates, indeed, that his political machine would run out of steam if it weren't for donors engaged in land-use issues. Of the $183,000 he's raised in the lead-up to the June election, a conservative estimate would put roughly 45 percent of his money coming from developers, contractors, environmental analysts, realtors, architects, planners, real-estate investors and land-use lawyers.
So, when CityBeat saw that a student, Malec, had donated $500, the maximum contribution under the county's limits, it immediately sparked our curiosity. So we Googled him and discovered that Malec is strident enough about LGBT rights that he appeared on the cover of a student newspaper kissing another man in front of anti-gay protesters. Meanwhile, Horn is well-known for his strong opposition to marriage equality, and his anti-gay rhetoric has been well-documented by the media.
“I never got any gays in my unit, ever,” Horn, a retired Marine commander, said in a 2000 Los Angeles Times story. “I want the people defending me to be the best there is. I don't want any other ancillary kind of problems, whether or not they use their pinky finger.”
We sent Malec a note on Facebook to find out why he'd contradict his politics to support Horn.
“Where did you see that I donated $500, because I did no such thing,” Malec responded. “Please let me know so I can clear up the situation.”
CityBeat forwarded Malec copies of the campaign-finance report, and that was the last we heard from him.
Horn's written response to CityBeat dodged the question: “All donations from September 14, 2009 were disclosed in the campaign disclosure form 460 on December 31, 2009, on file at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.”
That, of course, is the same document that started our inquiry.
So, if Malec didn't donate the money, who did? CityBeat can't say anything for certain, but we have identified a developer connection.
On the same day Malec supposedly donated the money—Sept. 14, 2009—his mother, Lisa Malec, also donated $500 to Horn. On the form, Lisa Malec's occupation is listed as a controller for ENV Development, which CityBeat determined was an abbreviation for Environmental Development LLC, a big player in San Diego County land use.
The company's Montecito Ranch Project, a 417-home development planned for Ramona, is expected to come before the Board of Supervisors on June 23. The Building Industry Association of San Diego County is recruiting supporters to speak in favor of the project through its Project Greenlight program, “a collaborative, member-driven effort to get development projects approved regionally.”
CityBeat asked Lisa Malec if she could explain her son's contribution; she did not call us back with a response and so, we asked her boss.
Environmental Development is run by Bruce Tabb, a developer who sits on the Building Industry Association's board and whose name turns up time and again when one researches Horn's land-use deals. Tabb also donated $500 to Horn's campaign in 2008, but the connection goes back many years before that.
In 2002, for example, Horn's land-use aide, Chris Brown, left the county to work for Tabb in the developer's office. In a deposition solicited by attorney Mike Aguirre during litigation of an alleged redistricting conspiracy, Brown described a “bull session” he attended in a conference room at Tabb's office. Horn was there, as was Randy Goodson, developer of the controversial “Hornsville” project in Valley Center, as they discussed political strategy.
In 2006, Tabb also contributed $10,000 to pay for a deceptive mailer sent out to support Horn in the last days of the election. The mailer claimed that it was paid for by people who supported a slate of candidates, when, really, as the California Fair Political Practices Commission found, the donations were to support Horn. The FPPC also named Tabb in its findings that were released in March 2010: The committee failed to disclose who Tabb worked for in violation of state law.
CityBeat e-mailed Tabb to see if he could explain his employee's son's contribution. He did not respond.
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