Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

June 6, 2014
Patrick Johnston retiring from health plans association


Lobbyist Charles Bacchi will take over as president of the California Association of Health Plans when its current leader, former state Sen. Patrick Johnston, retires at the end of this year, the organization announced Friday.

Bacchi has worked for the group that advocates for health insurers for the last eight years, first as vice president of government relations and more recently as executive vice president. He has lobbied for insurance plans as California implemented the federal Affordable Care Act and expanded Medi-Cal.

"I am excited to work with California's health plan leaders on improving our health care system, delivering affordable coverage, and bolstering our partnership with the state of California," Bacchi said in a statement.

Johnston, who served in the Legislature from 1981 to 2000, is retiring after five years at the helm of the association. In a statement, he said:

"I have been fortunate to have had a fulfilling and enriching career engaged in public policy issues confronting California."

PHOTO: Former state Sen. Patrick Johnston is president of the California Association of Health Plans.

May 12, 2014
California Senate passes bill banning fundraisers at lobbyist homes


California lawmakers would be forbidden from holding campaign fundraisers at the homes of registered lobbyists under a bill the state Senate passed today.

Senate Bill 1441 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, seeks to eliminate a loophole in California's campaign finance laws that allows lobbyists to host campaign fundraisers at their homes and offices if the cost of the event is less than $500, even though lobbyists may not otherwise contribute to a political campaign. A prominent Sacramento lobbyist and nearly 40 politicians got in trouble earlier this year with the Fair Political Practices Commission for home-based fundraising events that went past the $500 limit.

In February, lobbyist Kevin Sloat admitted in a settlement with the FPPC that he had hosted luxurious fundraising events at his Sacramento home that exceeded the $500 threshold, including expensive liquors and cigars. Sloat paid a fine of $133,500 for hosting the events, setting a new record for the highest fine ever paid in California for violating the state's lobbying laws. Nearly 40 politicians -- including legislative leaders from both houses as well as Gov. Jerry Brown -- received FPPC warning letters for benefiting from the fundraisers at Sloat's home.

SB 1441 passed the Senate without a single vote in opposition; it now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, talks in March 2014 about his bill to ban fundraisers at lobbyists' homes, part of a package of legislation dubbed the "California Accountability in Public Service Act." The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

March 5, 2014
Verizon, Accenture drop Kevin Sloat's lobbying firm


Sacramento's Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates lobbying firm lost three prominent clients last month as revelations surfaced that founder Kevin Sloat would pay a record-breaking fine for giving prohibited campaign contributions to California officials.

Sloat lost contracts with Accenture, the San Francisco 49ers and Verizon, according to the latest filings with the Secretary of State's Office. Verizon was Sloat's most lucrative client last year, paying his firm $352,000 in 2013. Accenture paid the firm $179,000 last year and the 49ers paid it $105,000.

A fourth client — the Orange County Transportation Agency — publicly discussed this week whether to drop Sloat's firm, according to a report in the Voice of OC. The agency paid Sloat Higgins $258,000 last year.

The report quotes Jeff Lalloway, an Irvine councilman, and Todd Spitzer, an Orange County supervisor, saying they want the agency to cut ties with Sloat because of his violations of state lobbying ethics laws. Spitzer said he hopes lobbyist Moira Topp will continue to represent the transportation agency by leaving Sloat's firm, the Voice of OC reported.

Sloat paid a $133,500 fine to the Fair Political Practices Commission last month for hosting dozens of lavish campaign fundraisers at his home that included pricey wine, cigars and liquor in excess of what California law allows lobbyists to give state officials. Nearly 40 politicians — including Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders in both houses — received warning letters for participating in the events. Sloat's fine set the record as the largest a lobbyist has paid the state for violating political ethics laws.


Sacramento lobbying firm fined for lavish fundraisers with lawmakers

Sacramento lobbyists can make politicians feel at home - for $500

Record-setting fine hits Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat

PHOTO: Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills offers 17 wines and champagne by the glass on January 21, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

February 12, 2014
California bill would ban lobbyists from hosting fundraisers


Reacting to this week's announcement that a Sacramento lobbyist is paying a six-figure fine for making illegal campaign contributions by hosting lavish political fundraisers at his home, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia introduced a bill Wednesday to ban the practice.

Assembly Bill 1673 would prohibit lobbyists from hosting fundraising parties at their homes and offices. Under current law, lobbyists may host fundraisers that cost up to $500 -- even though they are prohibited from making monetary campaign contributions of any amount to candidates for offices they are registered to lobby.

"It really makes no sense that a lobbyist can't buy lunch for a legislator for over $10, but can provide elaborate, exclusive dinner parties simply by stating that it is under the $500 limit," Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat, said in a prepared statement.

"As we've seen, these in-home lobbyist events fly under the legal radar and I think that they should be banned."

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with lobbyist Kevin Sloat -- and his firm Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates -- to pay a record-setting fine of $133,500 for hosting numerous political fundraisers that exceeded the limits placed on lobbyists. Sloat acknowledged providing liquor, cigars and other hospitality to 37 public officials and candidates, who all received warning letters from the FPPC for accepting Sloat's non-monetary contributions.

Garcia's bill is part of a package of legislation she is promoting as the "Political Conduct, Ethics and Public Trust Acts of 2014."

Other elements include measures to limit how officials can spend their campaign funds; expand the information governments provide about employee salaries; restrict some water board members from making decisions that affect their political donors; and change the way vote-by-mail applications are processed.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia in the Assembly chambers in March 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 11, 2014
Kevin Sloat fallout hits California Secretary of State race


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.

February 10, 2014
Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat faces $133,500 FPPC fine


Lobbyist Kevin Sloat has set a new record in California, agreeing to pay the state a fine of $133,500 -- the largest ever for violating state laws that regulate lobbyists.

Sloat's agreement with staff of the Fair Political Practices Commission says he acknowledges hosting numerous political fundraisers that counted as prohibited campaign contributions, and arranging and giving gifts to California lawmakers in violation of state law. The state's Political Reform Act prohibits lobbyists from giving campaign contributions to officials they are registered to lobby, and limits gifts they can give to $10 a month.

"Contributions and gifts from lobbyists may influence an official to make decisions based on the interest of the lobbyist's clients, instead of, and potentially in conflict with, the interests of the public whom the official represents," says the negotiated settlement between Sloat and the FPPC, which became public today.

Sloat, who lobbies for the San Francisco 49ers among other clients, arranged more than $600 worth of 49er tickets for former Republican Assemblyman Jeff Miller of Corona and for Debra Gravert, chief of staff to Democratic Assemblyman Jim Frazier of Oakley, according to the agreement.

He also arranged for Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, to receive $420 worth of tickets to an NBA basketball game featuring the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, the agreement says. Sloat acknowledged that his firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, bought a $52.36 lunch at the Esquire Grill for Joe Coto when he was a Democratic member of the state Assembly from San Jose.

The settlement lists 26 fundraising parties Sloat held for California candidates at his home in Sacramento between 2009 and 2012. The events benefited 37 current and former elected officials and political candidates, including the most powerful in California: Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez; and Republican leaders Sen. Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Connie Conway. He also held fundraisers for Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, the agreement says.

While state law allows lobbyists to host political fundraisers at their homes and offices, it limits the total cost of permissible events to $500. Sloat's settlement with the FPPC says he thought he was following the law by limiting his own expenditures for wine, liquor and cigars to $500. But the rule concerns the total cost of the event -- not only what the lobbyist spent -- and with catering, floral arrangements and other expenses, the events at Sloat's house exceeded the $500 limit.

Sloat issued a prepared statement on behalf of his firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, saying it had "failed in our obligations to be as vigilant as possible in complying with state political reform laws."

"We take this matter seriously and have already put in place enhanced internal measures designed to prevent any future administrative violations. We regret these mistakes and look forward to developing the best compliance standards in the business," Sloat's statement says.

The Fair Political Practices Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed fine at its meeting on Feb. 20.

February 3, 2014
California lobbying firms made more money in 2013

StatueCrownCoins.jpgLast year proved to be a good one for California firms lobbying state government - their collective income grew by nearly 3 percent over 2012.

Registered lobbying firms in the Golden State brought in $177,359,844 in 2013, according to the latest filings at the Secretary of State's office. That compares with a haul of $172,620,708 the year before.

KP Public Affairs resumed its spot at the top in 2013 after dropping to second-place in 2012. KP's oil industry client -- the Western States Petroleum Association -- spent $4,670,010 on lobbying last year, more than any other interest group registered to lobby California state government. The group worked hard to influence Senate Bill 4 last year, which set new regulations for extracting oil through hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

Sacramento lobbying firms also benefited last year from expensive fights over changing workers compensation benefits for professional athletes; a push by the North Fork Rancheria to open a casino in Madera; and a proposal to regulate a new kind of drugs called biosimilars, among other industry turf wars.

Here's a look at how much money California lobbying firms have made over the last decade.

And here's a look at the 20 firms that brought in the most money in 2013.

Below are the 20 interest groups that spent the most money on lobbying in 2013:

PHOTO: Coins sit inside the crown of a statue of Queen Isabella in the rotunda of the State Capitol on May 17, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

January 21, 2014
Former California Sierra Club lobbyist John Zierold dies at 88


John Zierold, who ran legislative strategy in Sacramento for the Sierra Club during the 1970s and 1980s, as environmentalism became a powerful social and political movement, has died.

Former colleagues in Sacramento learned over the weekend that Zierold, who had retired to Kentucky, had died on Dec. 26 in Louisville at age 88. He had been preceded in death by his wife, Mary.

Zierold, who had worked in Europe as a U.S. intelligence operative during the immediate post-World War II era, began representing the Sierra Club at the Capitol in 1969, during the infancy of the environmental movement.

Zierold played pivotal roles in legislative battles for almost two decades over such issues as coastal protection, the California Environmental Quality Act, creation of the state Energy Commission, regulation of logging, and legislation designating "wild and scenic rivers" on which dams would be prohibited.

He also clashed with Jerry Brown during his first stint as governor over Brown's advocacy of a liquefied natural has terminal near Santa Barbara and a "peripheral canal" to carry Sacramento River water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — battles that Brown lost.

"He saved the Coastal Commission from defeat," Norbert Dall, a Sacramento environmental consultant who worked for Zierold during the period, said Tuesday, recounting Zierold's skills at working the legislative system. Dall also said that Zierold played a major role in rounding up key votes to elect Leo McCarthy as speaker of the state Assembly in 1974.

Zierold's survivors include a stepson, Marc Allaman, in Folsom.

PHOTO: Protesters hold signs during a July 19, 2012 rally sponsored by the Sierra Club to make their point regarding limits on levels of deadly soot pollution. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

December 27, 2013
Lawsuit: Sacramento lobbying firm sent illegal gifts to lawmakers

RB_Capitol_Dome.JPGA powerful Sacramento lobbying firm illegally directed campaign contributions and unreported gifts to dozens of California lawmakers, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Sacramento Superior Court.

The lawsuit, filed by former Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates employee Rhonda Smira, alleges that owner Kevin Sloat and his firm knowingly and regularly skirted lobbying and campaign finance rules.

A representative of Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Smira was terminated in 2012, a firing the lawsuit attributes to Smira refusing to carry out duties she believed to be illegal. She is seeking unspecified compensation for lost wages, as well as court orders requiring the lobbying firm to refund its profits, halt campaign fundraisers and cease giving gifts to elected officials. She wants the firm to pay damages related to the total value of undisclosed gifts given.

Lobbyists cannot, under California law, give gifts to lawmakers worth more than $10.

Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates nevertheless conferred gifts upon legislators and staff and then failed to disclose it, the lawsuit alleges, even though Sloat "understood the illegality of his action because he attended regular Ethics Training courses where the laws regarding gifts from lobbyists or lobbying firms were thoroughly explained."

Smira's lawsuit also alleges:

* -- The firm regularly gave tickets to see the Sacramento Kings, San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants to elected officials and their staff. The practice was so routine that some lawmakers and staff members began calling the firm to request tickets.

* -- Legislators and staff were treated to complementary rounds of golf, some at a course owned by an unnamed Indian tribe for which the firm lobbies. Among the firm's clients is Yocha Dehe Wintun nation, operator of the Cache Creek Casino Resort and an attached golf course. The firm also provided officials with free tickets to concerts at the resort.

* -- After traveling to Cuba, Sloat brought Cuban artists to the United States and sold one of their pieces to an Assembly member at a "deep discount" that "was not available to any member of the general public."

The lawsuit also contends that lobbyists for Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates channeled undisclosed "in-kind" campaign support to candidates. If true, that could violate a rule barring lobbyists from contributing to candidates.

That ban does not apply to the interest groups on whose behalf Sloat's firm lobbied, and there is nothing exceptional about interest groups giving money to politicians. Smira's lawsuit contends, however, that Sloat hosted "elaborate" fundraisers at his Crocker Road "mansion" in Sacramento to bring together lawmakers with authority over key legislation and clients, informing legislative offices which clients would attend.

The head of the state's political ethics agency said the activity is common and not necessarily a rules violation.

"The law currently allows lobbyists to connect people to other people," said Gary Winuk, chief of enforcement for the California Fair Political Practices Commission. "It happens every day."

But Smira's lawsuit charges that Sloat neglected to follow reporting rules for the events, furnishing lawmakers with "thousands of dollars" worth of cigars and scotch and an event venue - Sloat's house - that all represent non-monetary campaign contributions.

"Neither Defendants, nor the elected officials, would declare the nonmonetary contributions to the (California Fair Political Practices Commission) and/or the Secretary of State," the complaint reads. It also charges that "of the hundreds of invitations sent to candidates since early 2000, none met the current disclosure and notification laws set forth by the Fair Political Practices Commission."

According to the lawsuit, those unreported fundraisers cumulatively sent "hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of elected officials, including but not limited to, 11 Senators, 26 Assembly men/women, and various other high ranking public officials and representatives." None of the alleged recipients are named in the suit.

Smira v Sloat lawsuit

December 9, 2013
Bill Emmerson to oversee hospital association lobbying


A month after announcing plans to step down in the middle of his term as state senator, Bill Emmerson has been named a senior vice president of the California Hospital Association.

State law forbids lawmakers from lobbying the Legislature for a year after leaving office. But it doesn't stop them from directing an organization's lobbying operation, which is what Emmerson will do for the hospital association based in Sacramento.

"In his new role, Emmerson will oversee CHA's state-level legislative advocacy efforts," says an announcement from the group.

The statement says Emmerson will supervise the hospital association's lobbyists and provide the group with "political analysis and strategic guidance."

The hospital association has been a consistent donor to Emmerson's campaigns in recent years. The Republican from the San Bernardino County city of Redlands was an orthodontist for many years before being elected to the Assembly in 2004.

He was re-elected to the Senate last year, and was one year into a four-year term when he announced last month that he would step down Dec. 1. At the time, Emmerson said his passion for legislating had waned.

Duane Dauner, president of the hospital association, described Emmerson as "a person of high integrity."

"His knowledge of health care and the political process will be invaluable to California's hospitals," Dauner said in a statement.

Emmerson fills the position left open in July when Marty Gallegos moved from the California Hospital Association to the Hospital Association of Southern California. He begins his new job on January 1.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, listens to discussion on the main budget bill as senators prepared to vote on the state budget in June 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 16, 2013
New nonprofit foundation to advocate for California courts

20130311_HA_JUDICIARY512.JPGSeveral prominent lawyers and civic leaders have banded together to form a new group to advocate on behalf of California's courts.

The private nonprofit Foundation for Democracy and Justice "seeks to increase awareness about the relationship between adequate state funding for the administration of justice - at the state and local level - and the ability to deliver equal access to justice for all," said a news release that the group sent out Wednesday.

The organization plans to educate the public about the branches of government, with a focus on the role of the judiciary. Its formation comes after years of cuts to court funding and an ongoing division among judges about how to manage the courts under a more austere budget.

The founders of the group include:

  • Carlos Moreno, retired state Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff
  • Frank C. Damrell, retired U.S. District Court Judge in Sacramento
  • Joseph Dunn, chief executive officer of the State Bar of California and retired state senator
  • Arturo González, partner in the Morrison Foerster law firm
  • Larry Kramer, president of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Edith R. Matthai, partner in the Robie & Matthai law firm
  • Mark P. Robinson, Jr., partner in the Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc. law firm
  • Mark Yudof, professor at UC Berkeley Law School and former president of the University of California
  • Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive officer of the California Chamber of Commerce

In addition, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Attorney General Kamala Harris serve as honorary directors of the group.

"I'm thrilled to be part of the foundation as an honorary director," Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. "It fits in with my own efforts to promote civics education in this state, as well as what former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is doing nationally with her iCivics initiative."

PHOTO: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 15, 2013
Willie Brown representing new cardroom group


Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has a new gig. He recently signed a one-year contract to represent an association of cardrooms, said the group's executive director Jarhett Blonien.

Blonien, a Sacramento lobbyist, is the son of the late Rodney Blonien, who lobbied on behalf of cardrooms for 25 years before he passed away in 2012. Jarhett Blonien took over his dad's business and formed Communities for California Cardrooms earlier this year.

Blonien said he retained Brown to help the cardroom group build up its membership and salve tensions among frequently sparring gambling interests.

"That's what he does," Blonien said. "He's the ultimate peace broker."

Blonien said his relationship with Brown goes back to childhood, when he made the rounds at political fundraisers with his dad. Blonien and Brown traveled to China together earlier this year, he said, to visit gambling operations in Macau.

Last year, Brown represented a different group that was pushing for a bill to allow internet poker in California. It has since disbanded.

Brown will serve as a behind-the-scenes consultant to the cardroom group, Blonien said. The former speaker is not a registered lobbyist so his work on behalf of the cardrooms will not be evident in the public record. Unlike lobbyists, consultants do not have to publicly report who pays them or how much.

An investigation by The Bee this year documented a severe lack of detail in California's lobbying reports. Interest groups that spend the most money to influence policy in the Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret, The Bee found, including hiring former politicians as consultants and launching ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure.

Brown is among a cadre of former government officials -- including former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez -- who represent private sector clients without registering as lobbyists. The Fair Political Practices Commission recently fined three highly-connected consultants for engaging in lobbying without registering.

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 19, 2013
FPPC approves new rules for political bloggers

MaviglioFPPC.jpgBloggers and others who are paid to post political messages online are subject to new disclosure rules under regulations the Fair Political Practices Commission approved Thursday.

Campaign committees will now have to report who they pay to post "favorable or unfavorable" content on blogs, social media or online videos on their campaign finance statements, and report the name of the website where the content appears.

"The purpose overall is to let the public know that they can go compare what the campaign is paying for to what is showing up online," said FPPC attorney Heather Rowan.

"I think that's going to help people see through a lot of these names and/or alert them that there's maybe something they should look at, or take with a grain of salt," she said.

Another FPPC lawyer, Zackery Morazzini, said the new reports would help the public discern between genuine opinions and campaign material.

"What the commission's concern is, is people thinking they're reading a neutral posting when in fact it's the furthest thing from it -- the individual is getting paid to sway a voter one way or another," Morazzini said.

Democratic campaign consultant Steven Maviglio, who writes for the California Majority Report blog and has been working with the FPPC on the regulations for more than a year, said he was unhappy with the final product.

"The goal has always been righteous. Implementation is going to be an avalanche of paperwork that is unenforceable," he said.

"Technology is going to leave this regulation behind before the next election season begins."

GOP consultant Rob Stutzman saw it the same way.

"If that's distasteful to people that a blogger is paid to opine in a certain way, this regulation is not going to stop that," he said. "It just creates this ridiculous regulatory road block for basic communication like tweeting."

PHOTO: Steve Maviglio, a political consultant and co-publisher of a Democratic blog, speaks at the Fair Political Practices Commission meeting on Sept. 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 19, 2013
FPPC approves $40,500 fine for California Strategies firm

hickox.jpgThe California Strategies public affairs firm and three of its partners will pay a combined $40,500 fine for breaking the state's political ethics laws under a settlement the Fair Political Practices Commission approved today.

The commission voted 4-0 to approve the agreement made public last week that requires Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox to pay the fine, register as lobbyists and disclose their clients. In the agreement, the three well-connected Democrats admit they lobbied the Legislature and the Air Resources Board without disclosing themselves as lobbyists and filing disclosure documents, as state law requires.

"This is the first time that the commission has ever dealt with an issue like this, of shadow lobbying," said FPPC chair Ann Ravel.

"It's something that is very significant, and is part of our emphasis now on looking at more significant matters that impact the public trust. This is exactly that kind of a case."

The commission voted to approve the settlement over objections from environmental activists who said it doesn't go far enough in requiring California Strategies to disclose all its clients.

"We are particularly concerned that the failure by Mr. Hickox and California Strategies to disclose apparent lobbying on behalf of the Boeing company is not addressed in the decision," said Daniel Palay of Consumer Watchdog.

He alleged that Hickox, a former secretary of the state Environmental Protection Agency, used his influence at the agency to help Boeing get out of cleaning up a toxic site near Los Angeles called Santa Susana.

California Strategies declined to respond to the allegation or answer The Bee's question about whether the firm represents Boeing.

Boeing is not listed as a California Strategies lobbying client but the aviation company could hire the firm without publicly disclosing it for consulting work that does not meet the legal definition of lobbying.

Lobbying is defined by California's Political Reform Act, which says lobbyists must register with the secretary of state if they spend more than a third of their time or are paid at least $2,000 a month to influence state government decisions on behalf of a client. Once registered, lobbyists must disclose who's paying them to lobby - and how much.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, said he had reviewed California Strategies' work for Boeing as part of his review of the firm.

"In our estimation, from what we were able to determine, there was not lobbying happening on that specific issue," Winuk said.

The FPPC's settlement with California Strategies requires Kinney to register as a lobbyist for real estate developer Focil-MB, which is managed by the Mission Bay Development Group in San Francisco; Areias to register as a lobbyist for Kaiser Ventures, a mining company trying to sell its land at Eagle Mountain in Riverside County; and Hickox to register as a lobbyist for investment company CE2 Carbon Capital.

PHOTO: Winston H. Hickox, former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, is a principal with the consulting firm California Strategies.

September 9, 2013
FPPC fines Kinney, Areias and Hickox for covert lobbying

RCB_20100324_BROWN_ 060_b.JPG

Three well-connected partners in the prominent California Strategies public affairs firm have agreed to pay fines to California's political watchdog agency for trying to influence state government decisions without registering as lobbyists.

Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox violated state law when they "crossed over the line which separates policy consultants from lobbyists," says a proposed settlement the Fair Political Practices Commission released today.

It's just the second time in recent history that the FPPC has prosecuted anyone for failing to register as a lobbyist, the settlement says. But it reveals a practice many Sacramento lobbyists say has become pervasive at the Capitol: "shadow lobbying" by former politicians and high-level staff members who leave government to consult for private industry without disclosing themselves as lobbyists.

California Strategies released a statement saying the business "has already put stronger internal reporting controls in place."

"The firm takes full responsibility for this matter and all of our principals are committed
to ensuring it never happens again," said a prepared statement emailed by managing partner Camden S. McEfee.

The settlement follows an investigation by The Bee earlier this year that documented a severe lack of detail in California's lobbying reports. Interest groups that spend the most money to influence policy in the Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret, The Bee found, including hiring former politicians as consultants and launching ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure.

Areias was a state legislator for 12 years who then headed the state Parks Department; Hickox was an adviser during Gov. Jerry Brown's prior administration and secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under Gov. Gray Davis; Kinney was communications director for Senate leader Don Perata, then Davis' speechwriter and is now a political consultant to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

In settling with the FPPC, the three acknowledge that over the last two years they lobbied the Legislature and Air Resources Board without publicly reporting their clients and income, as state law requires of lobbyists.

"This activity violates one of the (Political Reform) Act's central purposes - the activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed in order that improper influences will not be directed at public officials," the FPPC settlement says.

"The public harm inherent in these violations is that the public is deprived of important and timely information... such as the identity of the person ultimately seeking to influence legislative or administrative action and the amount of money expended by that person to influence such action."

Kinney, Areias and Hickox will register as lobbyists and pay a combined fine of $40,500, according to the proposed settlement, which is scheduled for a vote by the Commission on Sept. 19.

May 1, 2013
Bill Moyers documentary examines 'United States of ALEC'

RB_Capitol_Dome.JPGEver wonder how it is that the same bill pops up simultaneously in statehouses across the country? One way is through the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that promotes business-friendly model legislation for state lawmakers to introduce in their respective Capitols.

The organization known as ALEC gets the Bill Moyers treatment tonight during a free screening in Sacramento of the documentarian's investigation called "The United States of ALEC." The film illustrates how the group brings together corporate executives and state lawmakers to craft policies that benefit business.

"Politicians and lobbyists at the core of this clever enterprise figured out how to pull it off in an organized, camouflaged way -- covering their tracks while they put one over on an unsuspecting public," Moyers says in opening his piece.

He illustrates why ALEC has become a bogeyman for the left -- through its efforts to encourage free markets and limited government, while curbing collective bargaining.

The free screening is being put on by Common Cause, which has filed a federal complaint over ALEC's nonprofit status, alleging that it unfairly allows ALEC to avoid lobbying registration requirements. The movie shows at 7 p.m. at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento. A shorter version of the documentary is available online at this link.

April 25, 2013
Bowen rebuffs call for direct Web access to campaign database

DEBRABOWEN.JPGSecretary of State Debra Bowen has rebuffed a request from advocacy and news organizations to allow direct, daily Internet access to her office's campaign finance database, citing legal hurdles that would make it prohibitively expensive.

Data on the flow of political money is readily available on the secretary of state's website, but it is broken up into discrete forms for different transactions. There is no comprehensive document or file online that includes all the information -- the full database is available only on a CD-ROM that costs $5.

Several organizations pushing for more transparency in politics, including MapLight and California Common Cause, sent Bowen a letter asking that Bowen's office upload a single copy of the database online every day. The Sacramento Bee, the Los Angeles Times and the California Newspaper Publishers Association also signed the letter, as did Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

April 1, 2013
Lobbyist and Capitol chief of staff to join Mercury Public Affairs

RB Capitol Dome.JPG Mercury Public Affairs' Sacramento team is set to grow, with a well-known state lobbyist and a state Senate chief of staff joining the staff roster.

The public and governmental affairs firm is announcing this week the hiring of lobbyist Duncan McFetridge and Adam Keigwin, chief of staff and political consultant to state Sen. Leland Yee.

McFetridge, who will serve as managing director alongside Mercury lobbyist Paul Bauer, previously worked as an attorney and contract lobbyist for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP. He has also worked in the state Capitol and for former state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

Keigwin, a 10-year veteran of the Capitol, will join the firm as a senior vice president. He will focus on providing strategic advice and public affairs work for clients and will not be a registered lobbyist.

Mercury, led by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Deputy Chief of Staff Adam Mendelsohn, has offices in California and throughout the East Coast.

PHOTO CREDIT: The State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday December 11, 2006.
Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

March 27, 2013
Willie Washington, longtime manufacturers' lobbyist, dies

williewashington.jpegFuneral services for Willie Washington, a lobbyist for California manufacturers for more than a quarter century, will be held Friday.

Washington, who retired from the California Manufacturers and Technology Association in 2006, died March 19. He was 77.

Washington, a native of North Carolina, served 22 years in the Air Force , much of that time in Sacramento, before joining Lockheed Aircraft Service Co. in 1977, working for the company in Iran and experiencing the country's bloody revolution in 1979. He returned to the United States that year and moved back to Sacramento as a lobbyist for Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel.

Eight years later, he joined the manufacturers' association and represented its 400 members in the Capitol for the next 19 years. He once told an interviewer for the Sacramento Business Journal that his pet peeve was encountering "preconceived assumptions of my views on social issues" because he was black.

"People look at me and if they are blacks or liberals, assume that I have the same views on issues that they do," Washington told the Journal in 2001. "Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't."

December 27, 2012
Sacramento filmmaker lobbies for cash to back 'The Lobbyist'

MAJ STATE CAPITOL.JPGSacramento filmmaker John Kenneth Wagner didn't have to look far to find the subject for his next project.

As a 57-year resident of California's capital, Wagner has heard plenty of stories about the role of lobbyists.

He decided to shine a spotlight on Sacramento's influence peddlers in a new fictional Web series he's calling "The Lobbyist."

Wagner plans to produce and post 13 episodes, each 10 minutes long, for the first season of the show, which chronicles the professional and personal dealings of the fictional Elliot Richards.

But as with politics, money is the mother's milk of the movie business. So Wagner put three of his actors' lobbying skills to work during a six-minute video seeking cash for the project.

Elevator jazz accompanies their pitch on a crowd-funding website called IndieGoGo, which you can watch here.

Actor Brian Jagger, who plays Richards, describes the series as a " 'West Wing' meets 'Dallas' take on the California political structure."

In what could be seen as method acting, the three spend much of the video embracing the talents of the locally sourced cast, mainly themselves.

"Yeah, they're fantastic actors, but damn it if they don't look good, too," Jagger says.

As it turns out, Jagger has experienced the rougher side of the rough and tumble of politics first hand.

The former aide to Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler pleaded guilty in 2011 to scheming to steal more than $20,000 from campaign accounts of Uhler and two other candidates running for local office.

Jagger's defense attorney said at the time that he had suffered from personality changes after experiencing substantial weight loss and sustaining a concussion in a fall, according to a report in The Auburn Journal. He was ordered to pay a restitution and a fine and was sentenced to 36 months' probation, including six months of home monitoring with a GPS ankle bracelet.

Jagger said in an interview that dealing with medical issues he says contributed to his behavior in the wake of his arrest has allowed him to pursue his passion for acting.

"A project that happens to combine politics, a world I was very intimately familiar with, and acting was a great avenue and I'm excited to bring my experience -- both good and bad -- to the project," he said.

Wagner said he was aware of his run-in with the law, but has had nothing but positive interactions with the actor since they began working together last summer.

While Wagner hopes the show focuses more on the personal relationships behind lawmaking than political corruption, he said Jagger's past could make the character even better.

"Every actor draws on his or her experiences in life and work and business and that sort of thing," he said. "I think it's a tool that he's going to use."

EDITOR'S NOTE, 5:45 p.m.: This post has been updated with information about Brian Jagger's court case and adds both his and John Kenneth Wagner's comments about it.

PHOTO CREDIT: The California state Capitol in Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Michael Allen Jones / Sacramento Bee file photo

November 23, 2012
Lobbyist Mike Kahl remembered as 'principled, strategic and tenacious'

Longtime California lobbyist Mike Kahl, who founded the firm that became Sacramento powerhouse KP Public Affairs, died Sunday of Parkinson's disease. He was 71.

Journalist Greg Lucas chronicled Kahl's career in an obituary posted to his California's Capitol blog:

Principled, strategic and tenacious, Kahl and his partner Fred Pownall, built one of the most respected and one of the biggest grossing lobbying firms in Sacramento, representing the oil industry, water districts, and timber concerns, among many other clients.

Kahl pioneered a lobbying style grounded more in the policy of an issue than in political contacts. He was successful at it because, in most cases, he had studied the homework twice while his opponents were skimming the Cliff Notes.

"He preached to all of us that you had to deal with good public policy. This wasn't going to be about whether you were a good guy or if people liked you," said K.C. Bishop, a long-time Chevron lobbyist who worked closely with Kahl. "Good, solid public policy would win in the end but you needed to do the work to get there."

Services will be held Saturday in El Cajon, where he lived at the time of his death with his wife Judy, according to Capitol Morning Report. Click here to read Lucas' full obituary.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:30 a.m. with Kahl's age.

November 1, 2012
Darius Anderson, Doug Bosco purchase Santa Rosa newspaper

Two California political power brokers are expanding their stake in the North Bay newspaper market.

Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson and former Democratic Rep. Doug Bosco are reportedly part of a group of investors purchasing the Santa Rosa Press Democrat from its current owner, Halifax Media Group.

The Press Democrat reports:

The same group, called Sonoma Media Investments LLC, earlier this year bought the Sonoma Index-Tribune, the Sonoma-based newspaper that publishes twice a week.

The sale by Halifax Media Group includes the weekly Petaluma Argus-Courier and North Bay Business Journal in Santa Rosa and affiliated websites for The Press Democrat and the two weeklies.

The terms of the deal were not announced. The purchase is expected to close early this month.

The full Press Democrat piece is posted at this link.

October 25, 2012
California group pushing online poker falls apart

An organization of tribes and card rooms formed two years ago to lobby for legal Internet poker in California has disbanded after spending more than a million dollars on the unsuccessful effort.

The California Online Poker Association announced today that it dissolved, a day after rumors began flying that it was disintegrating because of infighting among members.

"The decision was based upon insufficient progress within the Legislature toward the passage of an online poker bill," Ryan Hightower, the group's spokesman, said in a statement.

A handful of bills over the last three years have proposed regulating and taxing online gambling within California. But they collapsed after the state's gambling interests fought over who would profit from the new business.

September 24, 2012
Former lawmaker/lobbyist arrested on suspicion of DUI

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Robinson Image.JPG
Those special license plates for retired lawmakers might spark some nice treatment from a restaurant valet. But they didn't come in too handy last week when former lobbyist and Assemblyman Richard Robinson crashed his BMW in Sacramento and was later booked on suspicion of drunk driving.

Robinson, a Democrat who represented the Garden Grove area in the Assembly from 1975 to 1986 and then worked as a lobbyist for many years, was driving an SUV with special plates indicating he's the retired District 72 assemblyman when he crashed Wednesday night. Fox 40 TV news caught the aftermath on tape.

August 24, 2012
Opponents say CA tribal casino would hurt public worker pension funds

With just a week left for Gov. Jerry Brown to decide the fate of two off-reservation casino proposals, opponents are arguing that approval of one of them could hurt public employee investment funds.

Brown has until Aug. 31 to decide the fate of casinos proposed by the Enterprise Rancheria near Marysville and the North Fork Rancheria near Fresno. Members of both tribes have property in the mountains but want to build casinos miles away, along freeways on the valley floor. Opponents call it reservation shopping, while the tribes say they have historic connections to the valley locations. The federal government has OK'ed the projects and sent them to the governor for final approval.

Last week, 17 state senators sent Brown a letter urging him to reject the North Fork proposal. The senators -- including Democrats Kevin de Leon, Lou Correa and Juan Vargas, as well as Republican Tony Strickland -- said a North Fork casino on Highway 99 near Madera would threaten the viability of the nearby Chukchansi Gold casino in the foothills east of Madera. That, they argued, puts the retirement funds that have invested in the project at risk. Their letter says:

"We recently learned of another major concern about this proposed off-reservation approval, which is that publicly-issued California bonds, which represent major investment in the Chukchansi Gold casino, would be at risk if the Chukchansi Gold casino were to default. The investment firms which invest these bonds include those who manage assets for the benefit of university endowments, pension plans and retirement funds, including those organized for the benefit of public employees in California and other states... Our retired employees and educators cannot afford to have their hard-earned funds put at risk, and no actions should be taken by our State which could create such risks."

Casino opponents would not say which public employee funds are at risk or how much money is at stake.

"I can't quantify it but it's substantial," said lobbyist David Quintana, who represents the tribe that runs the Chukchansi casino as well as others opposing the projects.

The lobbyist for the North Fork tribe called the investment fund argument a red herring and said opponents are grasping at straws. Rick Lehman, a former congressman who is now North Fork's lobbyist, said the federal government spent eight years studying the North Fork proposal.

"They vetted all the impacts on Chukchansi and concluded they were not significant enough to deny the project," Lehman said.

August 8, 2012
California unions pushing end-of-session workers comp bill

California labor unions and a few employers are pushing for an end-of-session bill that would change the workers compensation system by increasing payments to permanently injured workers and limiting the fees that can be charged in processing claims.

"A group of representatives from labor and management are negotiating a deal to bring better efficiencies and benefit delivery to the workers comp system," said Angie Wei, a lobbyist with the California Labor Federation.

"We're going to find cost savings in the system by establishing fee schedules where they didn't have them before."

The bill is not yet in print, but Wei said she expects one to be introduced shortly. She said her group has been in talks with the chairs of the Senate Labor and Assembly Insurance committees. Unions and employers had been negotiating over the issue for months, Wei said, though just three and a half weeks remain in the legislative session.

California has overhauled its workers compensation system about once a decade for the last 30 years. The last time was in 2004 under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Injured workers have suffered under the deep cuts in benefits that were never expected and never intended under the Arnold Schwarzenegger reform," she said. "The time is long overdue to rectify the injustice for these injured workers."

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed several workers comp bills last year, writing messages that wanted to see comprehensive changes to the system, not a piecemeal approach. In vetoing Assembly Bill 947 he wrote:

"Workers compensation reforms ... need to be addressed on a broad and balanced scale -- ensuring workers receive adequate and timely benefits and treatment, while also ensuring that the costs of the system are sustainable."

August 7, 2012
Coalition of California tribes gearing up for online poker fight

A coalition of California Indian tribes is asking the Legislature not to rush an Internet gambling bill through in the final weeks of session.

"Last minute, back-room brokered deals on an issue that is vital to our tribal governments is the type of action that we must, and will, oppose until the final minute of this legislative session," the California Tribal Business Alliance wrote in a letter sent to lawmakers today.

The group supports legalizing Internet gambling but opposes the most recent bill on the issue -- Sen. Rod Wright's Senate Bill 1463, which hasn't made it out of its policy committee.

The Legislature has been batting around online poker proposals for three years. Gambling tribes -- who are big political donors -- are divided on the details, but they all want to profit from a new form of legal gambling. Tribal leaders from around the state are meeting today at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento to discuss the issue.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Monday that division among tribes is the main logjam in moving forward with an Internet poker bill. He said it was unlikely -- but still possible -- that a bill would come together this month.

August 1, 2012
See which Sacramento lobby firms are getting the most money

Lobby firm revenue for the first half of the year is down ever so slightly compared to the same period last year, with Sacramento firms taking in $85.5 million so far this year.

The firm bringing in the most money during the first half of 2012 is Lang Hansen O'Malley Miller, according to the latest reports from the Secretary of State's Office.

Joseph Lang's company picked up several new clients in recent months, including the American Council of Life Insurers, Pacific Ag Management and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (part of the AFL-CIO).

Filings show the firm earned substantial fees and retainers during the second quarter from horse racing tracks, a group that promotes the use of flame retardants, the Altria cigarette company and Education Management Corp., which runs several for-profit colleges.

Here's a look at revenues from the 20 lobbying firms that have brought in the most money so far this year. Click on the blue bars for details:

And here's a look at total lobby firm revenues for the first two quarters over the last eight years. Click on the red dots for details:

Editor's note: This post was updated on Friday Aug. 3, 2012, with data for individual firms from the first half of 2012.

July 25, 2012
West Sacramento firm tracks California Capitol fundraisers

The final weeks of this year's legislative session are almost upon us, and for influence peddlers in California's Capitol, that means a calendar full of fundraising events.

During the week of Aug. 6 alone, legislative candidates have scheduled four fundraisers on Monday, 10 on Tuesday and five on Wednesday.

Enter a website aimed at lobbyists.

Wavelength Automation Inc., the West Sacramento company behind the site, is marketing a new version that allows customers to see fundraising event fliers, add events to their personal calendars, suggest where their clients direct campaign contributions and manage how close those donations are getting to FPPC limits.

"ContributionTrack was designed for California's Third House," an ad says. A subscription costs $159 a month.

A sales team is pitching the product during two sessions Aug. 2, just before the Legislature returns from its summer recess. Click here for more information.

The firm also runs the website

May 2, 2012
Western States Petroleum tops money list for lobbying in 2012

Western States Petroleum Association topped the list of big spenders for lobbying in the first three months of this year, forking out $948,840, according to newly released state records.

The petroleum association had its hand in numerous issues, ranging from a low-carbon fuel standard to waste discharge requirements and implementation of a landmark state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially. It also lobbied for or against more than a dozen bills, records show.

Since the two-year legislative session began in January 2011, however, the California Teachers Association has spent the most money for lobbying, $7.1 million, state records show. The California Council of Service Employees is second, $5.6 million; and the petroleum association is third, $5.2 million.

Cumulatively, Capitol interests have doled out $66.9 million for lobbying in the first quarter, California Common Cause concluded Wednesday after analyzing disclosure statements. The total is a near-record for the first three months of a year, topped only by $68 million in 2008, said Phillip Ung, the group's policy advocate.

Ung said that interest groups lobby in good times to expand benefits they receive in state tax breaks or other assistance, and they lobby in bad times to protect such benefits.

"Our experience is that the influence industry seems to be recession proof," Ung said.

The first quarter's $66.9 million in cumulative spending compares to $66.7 million in the first three months of 2011, Ung said.

As the Legislature moved into high gear last year, so did lobbying expenditures: $76.4 million in the second quarter, then $73.3 million in the third quarter before the total dropped slightly to $70.0 million in the fourth quarter, Ung said.

In addition to the Western States Petroleum Association, The Bee has compiled the following list of the biggest spenders for lobbying in the first three months of 2012, based on state records:

February 15, 2012
Ex-Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness to lobby for CPOA

PK_MCGINNESS_0287.JPGFormer Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness has agreed to work with the California Peace Officers' Association as a lobbyist, according to a statement on the organization's website.

McGinness retired from his sheriff's post in 2010 after a 31-year career in the department. He currently hosts his own talk radio show on KFBK and teaches as an adjunct professor at California State University.

The association, which represents law enforcement in state, local and federal government, said in a statement on its website that he "will bring great depth of knowledge to the role of advocating for CPOA on public safety issue."

McGinness, who has not yet registered as a lobbyist according to records on the Secretary of State website, told The Bee that he is still working out the details of whether he will work in-house with the association or help them on a contract basis. But he said whatever the role, he is excited to help promote the work and mission of the association.

"I'm certainly very enthusiastic about stepping in and helping," he said, noting that he is a past president and longtime member of CPOA.

He said he expects to formally start working with the group March 1. He plans to continue to teach and host his radio show in the near future.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:57 p.m. with quotes from McGinness.

PHOTO CREDIT: File photo of former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness. Paul Kitagaki Jr., Sacramento Bee.

January 4, 2012
Ex-Assemblyman Alberto Torrico joins lobbying firm as counsel

Alberto Torrico.jpgA former Assembly majority leader has joined one of Sacramento's top lobbying shops.

Former Democratic Assemblyman Alberto Torrico is working as an "of-counsel" attorney for Capitol Advocacy, the firm confirmed today. It said in a statement that Torrico, who is not a registered lobbyist, will "provide Capitol Advocacy and its clients with strategic advice on political and policy issues."

The Sacramento-based firm, which represents major Capitol players such as the California Retailers Association, the California Hospital Association and Chevron, ranked No. 5 in California lobbying firm revenues in the first three quarters of 2011.

Torrico, who left the lower house due to term limits in 2010, will retain his private law practice. The Newark Democrat, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Democratic primary for state attorney general, also serves on the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. He was appointed to a six-figure post on the panel by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in early 2011.

Torrico joins a group of roughly 50 former legislators working to shape California policy either as registered lobbyists or general policy consultants, according to a 2011 Bee analysis.

Ex-Assemblyman Torrico appointed to unemployment board
KP no longer tops in California lobby earnings
California lawmakers-turned-lobbyists cultivate relationships under the dome

PHOTO CREDIT: Alberto Torrico campaigns for attorney general. Associated Press file photo, 2010.

December 6, 2011
Yolo County's Mike McGowan to head California counties' lobby

Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan.JPGYolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan has been elected to a one-year term as president of the California State Association of Counties, moving up the ladder from first vice president.

CSAC, based in Sacramento, is the chief lobbying arm for the state's 58 counties, and has been deeply involved in the realignment of some state services to counties, particularly incarceration and parole for low-level felons who had previously been sent to state prison.

Counties are receiving several billion dollars from the state this year to pay for the realaigned functions, which also include some health and welfare programs, but they are demanding that financing be guaranteed by a constitutional amendment.

Separately, the California School Boards Association announced that Jill Wynns, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District board, has been elected president of that organization, which is based in West Sacramento and is a major component of the Education Coalition that lobbies the Capitol on school finance issues.

Schools are targeted for major cuts if the triggers in the current state budget are pulled because revenues fall short of the budget's estimates. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a tax increase for next November's ballot that would restore some funding to the schools.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Mike McGowan, Bee file 2009.

November 4, 2011
Carrie Underwood show boosts tribe's lobbying expenses

CMA Awards.jpgLook at how much interest groups spent on lobbying during the third quarter of the year, and it appears the San Manuel Band of Indians was a big player. The tribe was the fourth-biggest spender among more than 2,000 groups that employed lobbyists in California between June and September, declaring $1,008,620 in lobbying expenditures on disclosure forms released this week.

But the vast majority of that money -- a cool $1 million -- went toward throwing a private party at the tribe's San Bernardino County casino featuring a performance by country-music star Carrie Underwood. Three assemblymen -- Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, Curt Hagman of Chino Hills and Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga -- and a legislative staff member were among the aproximately 1,000 invited guests who attended the July 14 party. Each one enjoyed $300 worth of entertainment, food and drinks, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State.

It would appear, then, that the tribe spent $1,200 on entertaining politicians and their staff. But San Manuel was correct to report the entire $1 million event as a lobbying expense, said Lynda Cassady, chief of technical advice at the Fair Political Practices Commission -- even though doing so catapults the tribe from its place near the middle of the pack on lobby spending in the past two quarters to almost the top this quarter.

"That number sort of skews it because it really wasn't used for lobbying, but the way the law reads is you have to provide the full cost of the event and (the government official's) pro rata share," she said.

The full amount must be disclosed, Cassady said, because the party was an invitation-only event. If Underwood's concert had been open to the public and San Manuel gave tickets to a few lawmakers, only the cost of the tickets would have to be disclosed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Carrie Underwood performs at an outdoor show in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. Associated Press/ Mark Humphrey

November 2, 2011
KP no longer tops in California lobby earnings

KP Public Affairs has slipped from its long-held position as Sacramento's top-earning lobby firm, disclosure forms released this week show. That title now goes to the Nielsen, Merksamer firm, which brought in the most money -- $4,957,730 -- during the first three quarters of the year.

KP came in second, raking in $4,626,826 between January and September, according to lobby disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of State.

Nielsen Merksamer appears to have benefited from its contract with the City of Vernon, which was the top spender among lobbyist employers during the third quarter. Vernon spent $1.6 million on lobbying during that time, while the Western States Petroleum Association, which employs KP, spent just over $1 million.

Nielsen's new position as the top earning firm for the first nine months of the year reverses a trend of at least 10 years, when KP brought in the most money among California lobby firms.

The top 10 earners from the first three quarters of 2011 are:

Lobbying Firm Name Total Payment
KP PUBLIC AFFAIRS - $4,626,826
THE GUALCO GROUP, INC. - $2,058,653

September 29, 2011
Lobbying firm office manager sentenced in embezzlement case

A former employee of Norwood and Associates charged with stealing from the lobbying firm has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Bee colleague Cathy Locke reports:

Linda Marie Wells, 50, was sentenced Wednesday by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gary Ransom.

Wells was employed as an office manager by Norwood and Associates, a lobbying firm. From 2004 through August 2010, she increased her salary by more than $95,000, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

Officials said Wells used the company credit to make nearly $40,000 in personal charges, and transferred close to $75,000 from Norwood and Associates bank accounts into her own account and to a friend's account. Wells took a total of $219,771.

Wells had pleaded no contest to grand theft charges.

The Sacramento-based firm represents Comcast Cable and many large insurance companies and groups, including Liberty Mutual Insurance Group and Pacific Life Insurance Co.

Read the full post at Bee crime blog Sacto 9-1-1.


Capitol Alert Staff

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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