The Deputy Sheriff’s Association has become a money laundering PAC for developers.
This is how developers buy a City Council. Beware any candidate endorsed by this organization.

One might wonder why the San Diego Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA), the union representing the county’s 2,500 Deputy Sheriffs and other sworn officers, might care so much about building luxury housing developments.

In the last decade, the DSA has backed several major housing projects around the county, most recently the proposed 2,100 home development of Newland Sierra in San Marcos that was the subject of Proposition B and defeated by voters last March.  It turns out the DSA has maintained a close political affiliation with the Building Industry Association of San Diego and other housing developers in support of pro-development candidates.

There are now several documented instances of the building industry contributing large sums of money to the Deputy Sheriff’s political action committee (PAC), who in turn send political mail in support of their preferred candidates, nearly always Republicans. These mailers don’t mention that they are paid for by developer money, of course, and often present the candidate as “Law Enforcement’s Choice.” 

In 2014, several housing developers, including Newland Sierra, gave over $100,000 to the Deputy Sheriff’s PAC at the same time the PAC was supporting pro-development supervisorial candidate Bill Horn.   In 2018, the DSA used developer money to influence the San Marcos mayoral and city council race. In its effort to elect Rebecca Jones mayor and Mike Sannella to the city council, the BIA and other developers pumped thousands of dollars into the DSA who produced multiple mailers and campaign signs in support of Jones and Sannella, and against mayoral candidate Chris Orlando and city council candidate Randy Walton. 

“It’s an outright effort to deceive voters,” Walton told the Coast News in 2018. “By putting out mailers saying that something is ‘law enforcement’s choice,’ when in reality, it’s thousands of dollars from developers and the building industry.” 

It’s happening again in 2020, as the DSA and an independent expenditure campaign committee called “Public Safety Advocates” is accepting tens-of-thousands of dollars from developer interests. The practice is perfectly legal as PACs can accept money from any source.  

SDSU professor Brian Adams told KPBS he thinks is a smart strategy. 

“Developers aren’t necessarily the most trusted group within the community, and I could see why they wouldn’t necessarily want voters to know they were the ones funding this.” The DSA, Adams said, “is using their good name for the benefit of developers, basically.” 

It may be a good strategy, and it may be legal, but it is certainly questionable. It is fine if home builders and other developers want to spend money on their preferred political candidates, but they should do so in their own name, and in the light of day.  We now have to wonder if the political mail we receive from the San Diego Deputy Sheriffs’ Association or other “public safety” groups are really law enforcements’ choice, or are they just doing the bidding of other special interests.

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