By Laurel Rosenhall and Torey Van Oot
The Fair Political Practices Commission decided today to levy a $30,000 fine against lobbyist Frank Molina , scrapping an earlier proposal to increase his penalty to $50,000.
Molina, a former legislative staffer who opened his own lobbying firm in 2007, is being punished for failing to report $840,000 in lobbying income between 2007 and 2009 when he was representing several Indian tribes and the Deloitte Consulting firm. State law requires that lobbyists file quarterly reports disclosing their clients, income and issues lobbied.
FPPC staff originally recommended that the commission fine Molina $30,000 -- or $2,500 for each of the 12 quarterly reports he failed to file as the sole lobbyist at Strategic Solutions Advisors. But at the watchdog agency's meeting in February, commissioners rejected the $30,000 fine and instead said Molina deserved a stiffer penalty of $50,000.
At today's re-hearing of the case, commissioners didn't say much about why they dropped that idea and went with the original proposal. Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, said staff members consulted past precedent when recommending the original fine.
Winuk said the average fine for Molina's offense is $1,000 per report not filed. So, he added, the commission had "in essence, doubled and a half the sort of baseline" fine in Molina's case.
Molina's attorney Lance Olson argued that the original fine was consistent with those issued in similar cases in the past. He also said Molina has already spent more than $70,000 to right his wrong, paying the original $30,000 fine as well as penalties issued against his clients in the case, and spending $10,000 on legal fees to reconstruct the lobbying records he failed to file.
"I sense that you want the appropriate level of fine to be done here to send a message," Olson said. "I think Mr. Molina has got the message."