Two California daily newspapers (not the one in San Diego) are reporting that Kevin Sloat of the Sacramento-based Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates lobbying firm is about to cut a deal with the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding lavish parties and fancy gifts he handed out to legislators and state and local officials.
"As a result," reports SFGate.com, "as many as 50 lawmakers, state office holders and local government employees may receive warning letters as early as Monday from the commission indicating that they may have improperly reported donations, sources said.
The Sacramento Bee says Sloat is on the verge of agreeing to a deal with the state's political watchdog commission to "pay fines involving violations of state political disclosure rules."
Rhonda Smira, a former bookkeeper at Sloat's firm, alleged that his elaborate events amount to non-monetary campaign contributions that lobbyists are not permitted to give. Her wrongful-termination suit says Sloat fired her for questioning whether his conduct violated California's lobbying laws.
"At these fundraisers, (Sloat) made contributions to elected officials by providing catering, expensive wine, decorations, flowers, imported cigars and high-end cognac, scotches and whiskeys," the lawsuit says.
In the lawsuit, Smira said she was in charge of coordinating logistics — including purchasing expensive wine — and arranging elected officials' schedules for events, as well as establishing "an understanding as to how much the elected official could expect to receive by attending the fundraiser."
A "typical" evening would result in a $10,000 to $50,000 donation for the beneficiaries of a fundraiser, and often came with the promise of "exclusive access" to the governor, legislators and candidates, the suit said.
The Bee identified Democratic state senator Marty Block of San Diego as one of the lawmakers who will get a warning letter.
Sloat, a former staffer to GOP governor and onetime San Diego mayor Pete Wilson, founded Sloat, Higgins in 1997. Last year it was the sixth-largest influence-peddling shop in California's capital, grossing $4.7 million from an array of clients, including the San Francisco 49ers and Verizon, the paper reported.
As previously reported here, Sloat also works for the City of San Diego, after being re-hired by interim mayor Todd Gloria following the resignation of Bob Filner in last summer's mayoral sexual harassment scandal.
Upon taking office early last year, Filner had fired the city's then-lobbyist Sloat along with the Washington DC–based lobbying shop of Patton Boggs. That move drew adverse news stories and editorial condemnation from U-T San Diego, whose publisher, La Jolla real estate and hotel magnate Douglas Manchester, has long been seeking to develop a downtown office and commercial complex on Navy-owned land.
Patton Boggs was lobbying the federal government about the project on behalf of the city, then led by GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, federal disclosure statements show.
Following Filner's fall, his fellow Democrat Gloria announced that the two lobbying firms had been rehired, saying in a September 29 statement, "We have signed contracts with the firm of Patton Boggs to lobby in D.C. and the firm of Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associations to lobby in Sacramento.
"These contracts will run until the end of the current fiscal year or until we complete the RFP process for bidding out these contracts, whichever comes first. As you know, we haven’t had representation in either D.C. or Sacramento since the previous mayor terminated the lobbying contracts at the end of December without giving a reason.
"The contract for Patton Boggs is capped at $135,000 and the Sloat Higgins contract is capped at $126,000."
According to the City of San Diego's lobbyist disclosure report for the final quarter of 2013, filed with the California secretary of state's office January 30, Sloat Higgins was paid $59,161 during 2013, with $14,000 coming in the last three months of the year.
The firm lobbied regarding "Drinking Water program (Department of Public Health),” "Integrated Regional Water Management Program (Department of Water Resources),” and "High Cost Bridge Program (Caltrans)," the disclosure says.