Chad Deal 8:51 p.m., June 19
Lobbyist White makes hay simultaneously handling city of Malibu and U2's the Edge
Potential conflict of interest involving Pete Wilson’s ex-top political guru and high flying lobbying business detailed in L.A. Times
Today's Los Angeles Times is it out with a report on the rapidly growing amount of cash the state's cities and counties are spending on Sacramento lobbyists. According to the Times, lobbyist spending by local government topped $96 million during the most recent two year legislative cycle, up almost 50 percent from a decade ago.
One star of the story is California Strategies, the lobbying outfit set up by Bob White, the San Diego State University alum and onetime social director of fraternities there who became Republican Pete Wilson's closest confidante and advisor as he rose from mayor of San Diego to the U.S. Senate to governor of California.
The San Diego offices of California Strategies, run by Ben Haddad and Craig Benedetto, have long made hay working for government agencies in San Diego.
As reported here last month, the firm is being paid $12,000 a month by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to help "provide strategic guidance, messages and communications tools for the Authority’s communications and interaction with elected officials and local, state and federal agencies on the Authority planning and initiative process.”
In 2009, the company picked up $280,950 from the city of San Diego's Centre City Development Corporation to act as “community outreach consultant” for a plan desired by GOP then-mayor Jerry Sanders to build a costly new city hall.
All the while, the firm has been busy lobbying the city on behalf of a long roster of private clients, and handing out plenty of campaign cash to local politicos, a situation that some critics say creates plenty of potential conflicts of interest.
Today's L.A. Times reports that White's firm has also been mining some big cash in the super rich beachside haven of Malibu, just north of L.A., by working for both the city government there and a famous denizen who's been fighting city hall:
In Malibu, officials raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest in the way their work was being handled by a firm called California Strategies, which the city has paid $150,000 a year since 2004 for state government advocacy. The firm simultaneously represented U2 guitarist David Evans, better known as the Edge, in his 2009 quest to build five homes on the bluffs overlooking the Malibu coastline — an effort some members of the City Council opposed.
"It made me uneasy, because the lobbying firm [was] representing something the city may not be happy with," said Jefferson Wagner, who sat on the City Council from 2008 until mid-2012. Wagner was opposed to the development and told the city's advocate, California Strategies' Ted Harris, that the firm's work on the project "made it awkward for me."
Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the firm, said its partners determined there was no conflict in accepting Evans as a client because the necessary permits were dispensed by the California Coastal Commission, not the Malibu City Council. The Coastal Commission ultimately rejected the project.