The political fallout from the record-breaking fine of lobbyist Kevin Sloat has begun, with a candidate for Secretary of State calling on an opponent to return money he has raised from clients of the embattled lobbyist.
Sloat reached a settlement with the Fair Political Practices Commission to pay a $133,500 fine for contributing liquor, cigar and other items toward lavish political fundraisers in his home. The hospitality amounted to non-monetary campaign contributions beyond what the law allows lobbyists to give.
Sen. Alex Padilla, who is running for Secretary of State, was one of 37 politicians who received warning letters from the FPPC for holding political fundraisers at Sloat's home that included non-monetary contributions from Sloat that they were unaware of. The fine against Sloat and the list of politicians who benefited from his hospitality were made public by the FPPC on Monday in a document that says Sloat hosted a fundraiser for Padilla and then-Sen. Michael Rubio in June 2011.
One of Padilla's opponents, fellow Democrat Derek Cressman, seized on Monday's news by sending a letter to Padilla asking him to give back the money related to Sloat.
"I am writing to ask that you return any campaign contributions you have received from events at Mr. Sloat's home or from any of the clients of Sloat Higgens Jensen & Associates," Cressman's letter to Padilla says.
Sloat's firm is a big player in Capitol politics, with a long list of clients. A press release from Cressman's campaign notes that Padilla has received contributions from some of Sloat's clients, including PG&E and Verizon.
Padilla's campaign for Secretary of State has accepted $16,500 from Verizon, and another $7,000 from Verizon employees since 2011, according to campaign finance reports. PG&E has given $9,000 in that time period, with PG&E employees giving another $21,500, filings show.
Cressman, who said he is not accepting any corporate contributions, is trailing in the fundraising race. Padilla's campaign had $785,651 in cash on hand at the end of 2013, compared with Cressman's $196,640.
Padilla's campaign issued a statement saying he would not return any of the contributions.
"We take campaign finance laws very seriously and make it a practice to comply fully with both the letter and the spirit of the law," says the statement from Rose Kapolczynski, Padilla's campaign consultant.
"As the FPPC has determined, we had no knowledge of any unreimbursed fundraising expenses, there is no indication that any contributions received were improper, and none were related to the Secretary of State campaign."
Other candidates in the race for Secretary of State include Democrat state Sen. Leland Yee, Republican Pete Peterson, Green Party candidate David Curtis, and Dan Schnur, a former Republican who is running with no party affiliation.
Schnur recently used another political scandal to target both Padilla and Yee, when he called on them to lead an effort to oust their Democratic Senate colleague Rod Wright after a jury found him guilty of eight felonies for lying about where he lives.
On Tuesday, Schnur used the Sloat news to advance the central message of his campaign: that fundraising should be banned during the legislative session. Schnur said:
"What should be much more interesting than whether or not Alex Padilla returns this money is whether he thinks it's appropriate to drink wine and smoke cigars with special interests the night before he votes on their bills."
PHOTO: Sen. Alex Padilla during debate over the budget, shown in February 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer
Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:42 p.m. with responses from Alex Padilla and Dan Schnur.