Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio today announced that he was “thrilled” to welcome Art Castañares -- a former San Diego County Democratic Party chair -- to his campaign team. The current Democratic chair, Jess Durfee, issued the following statement in response:
“Art Castañares hasn’t been involved with the County Democratic Party for more than a decade, and the last high-profile candidate he worked for as a consultant is a Republican, so I’m not surprised that he signed on to work for a well-financed Republican campaign.
“However, I am surprised that Carl DeMaio is promoting his connection to a downtown lobbyist with an ethically dubious track record. From Art’s ethics breaches to his legal entanglements, he doesn’t exactly embody the ‘reform’ that the DeMaio campaign has been promising. If this is the kind of advisor Carl wants in the mayoral race or potentially in City Hall, I think voters have cause for concern.”
The lobbyist’s name has been in the headlines several times in recent years -- for reasons that might make another candidate pause before retaining him:
• Castañares was fined by the San Diego Ethics Commission in 2007 for failing to file complete and timely disclosures of his lobbying activities as required by law. The Ethics Commission fined him again in 2009 for similar violations.
• Castañares use of his political networks to land consulting contracts with public agencies was highlighted after he signed a $60,000 contract with the San Diego Airport Authority in 2004 to help develop “message points.” He was previously an aide to former state Senator Steve Peace, who wrote the legislation creating the authority.
• A business owned by Castañares is currently suing the cash-strapped San Ysidro School District for alleged "damages" of $17 million.