Nov. 5 2012 12:00 AM

Mayoral candidate preaches austerity, but spends big on paper goods

Carl DeMaio and his Roadmap to Recovery
Illustration by Adam Vierya
In an editorial last year, we wrote about our growing distate for City Councilmember / mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio: "...we don't find obvious scandal or big-headline malfeasance. DeMaio has a large brain and uses it masterfully to tread right up to the line of what is legal or appropriate for a public official without crossing too far over it. What we do see is a growing cache of little things that, in our view, add up to a lot." ---

A big part of those little things was how DeMaio chose to spend his discretionary office budget. Though he'll point out-repeatedly-that he turned down a pension (he's independently wealthy; it wasn't a difficult choice), thereby saving taxpayers' money, he's also far outspent his City Council colleagues on things like outside contracts-he spent more than $37,000 on an actuary to help put together his "Roadmap to Recovery" and more than $20,000 on a smart-phone app-and mailers. A review of public records found that his office asked the city to reimburse it for things like fake plants and teleprompters (for state-of-the-district addresses), tens of thousands of dollars' worth of work at the city's print-services shop, booth rentals at community events outside his district and a special breakfast meeting for developers, lobbyists and GOP leaders for presentation of his Roadmap.

In a story last month, U-T San Diego reporter Jeff McDonald asked DeMaio's office whether he'd sent out any mailers since January 2010. In 2009, U-T San Diego reported that DeMaio sent out 45 times more mailers than the rest of the City Council combined, costing taxpayers almost $32,000. DeMaio's office told McDonald that they didn't think he'd sent out any mailers in the last couple of years, but were "checking to confirm." 

Last year, I requested records on work orders DeMaio's office submitted to the city's Publishing Services Department. They show that he's spent plenty on mailers and handouts since January 2010. The records I have only go up to  January 2012.

* Oct. 11, 2010: $1,923,46 for invites to a "Carmel Mountain Happy Hour" and $1,880.25 for invites to a "Sabre Springs Happy Hour."

* Jan. 20, 2011: $2,987.50 for mailers about his State of the District address.

* Feb. 2, 2011: $1,211.04 for what's described as "Mira Mesa Parks Improvement mailer." 

The cost of meeting handouts trumps mailers.

Aug. 2, 2010: "Mira Mesa Meeting Handouts": $5,896.89 
April 19, 2011: "Scripps Ranch Handouts": $2,474.21
April 21, 2011: "Carmel Mountain Handouts": $1,912.47
Aug. 8, 2011: $1,460 for copies of DeMaio's "Pathway to Prosperity" jobs plan.

Printed copies of the Roadmap to Recovery cost at least $7,346.37

There are other expenses that aren't as clear:

* Aug. 5, 2010: $1,260 for something described as "Open for Business"
* June 1, 2011: $1,691 for "job at you [sic] fingertips"
* June 11, 2011: $2,015.50 on something described as "Save the City"

And, over a period of 18 months, DeMaio spent at least $2,380.25 on posters and banners. 

McDonald's story noted that DeMaio's cut his budget by 21 percent in the last two years. That makes sense: He's now got a mayoral campaign to cover those costs. Using his council office to fund self-promotion until his campaign took over was his plan all along. From our April 25 cover story, "Carl DeMaio A to Z": 

On Dec. 5, 2008, the day he took office, DeMaio issued a press release proclaiming that he'd save taxpayers money by not taking a pension. But, on the same day, he sent a letter to the San Diego Ethics Commission, asking questions about whether he could spend his council-office budget on constituent communications ranging from "telephone town halls" to flyers and mailers. It's all legal, he was told, as long as mailings didn't exceed the limit set by state election laws. Did the letter foretell an elected official angling to spend public money on self-promoting materials? Totally. 


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