Fate and fortune turn quickly in San Diego politics, for none more so than Kimberly Hale Miller and Phil Rath, influence-peddlers once employed by a lobbying firm owned by Tom Shepard, political consultant to fallen Democratic mayor Bob Filner. Now, in the era of GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer, Miller and Rath are back in business with a lucrative new client list. During Filner’s brief reign, Rath, a former aide to Republicans Jerry Sanders and Bill Horn, was president of Shepard’s Public Policy Strategies. Miller, briefly married to top Sanders flack Darren Pudgil, was vice president. In January of last year, the firm, whose blue-chip clients included San Diego Gas & Electric and Turner Construction, threw a $500-a-head fundraiser for Filner that attracted a raft of the city’s top high-dollar lobbyists, including Marcela Escobar-Eck and Paul Robinson. Then Filner’s fortunes hit the skids in a celebrated sexual harassment scandal, Shepard’s business plummeted, and his employees, including both Rath and Miller, quickly deserted his sinking ship.
In a July resignation notice, Rath wrote: “This note is to inform you that the time has come for me to move on to new opportunities in my career. I have left Public Policy Strategies effective immediately. I am considering my options, but I know that I love this business and enjoy serving my clients. I’m very excited about my future and will announce my plans shortly.” Quickly following Rath out the door were Miller and other staffers, including ex-Sanders media handler Rachel Laing, who went on to work for the Filner recall effort and then the failed mayoral candidacy of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher.
Now that the dust has cleared and the GOP has returned to San Diego ascendance, Rath and Miller are back together again, this time in a new lobbying endeavor called, appropriately enough, Rath Miller, LLC. “We approach public affairs initiatives with campaign tactics, using direct advocacy, situational intelligence and targeted public outreach to influence decision-makers,” according to the company’s website. Judging by the firm’s most recent disclosure report, filed last week with the city clerk, business is booming. Clients include paramedic contract seeker American Medical Response Ambulance Services, real estate development plan hopeful Vulcan Materials, and the American Progressive Bag Alliance of Washington, D.C. That group, the disclosure says, “Represents American plastic bag manufacturers which support a thriving and growing industry employing 30,800 American workers.” Rath Miller’s task is to “monitor” the city’s “plastic bag reduction ordinance.” Yet another client is Xerox Business Services, an “information technology services provider,” that is seeking the city’s approval of a contract for “SMART Parking solutions.” Both Rath and Miller report they have been out beating the bushes for the political mother’s milk of campaign cash on behalf of city officials, in Miller’s case Democratic city councilman Todd Gloria. Rath raised money for Faulconer, and the pair both worked on behalf of La Jolla Democratic councilwoman Sherri Lightner, the report says.
Another Rath role is as an influential board member of the Balboa Park Conservancy, recently put in charge of next year’s controversial park centennial celebration by Faulconer and Gloria. Meanwhile, the Alliance for Responsible Medicinal Access, which says it “advocates for clear, reasonable regulations regarding the dispensing of medicinal cannabis to provide safe access to patients,” reports it has retained the influence-peddling services of ex-Shepard and Sanders staffer Laing.