A nexus of hardened political consultants who played a key role in the February victory of Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer is seeking what could be an even bigger payoff in the form of a newly established influence-peddling shop representing two of the best-heeled causes in the business: smoking and billboards.
A June 27 lobbyist disclosure filed with the city shows that the outfit, which calls itself the Presidio Public Affairs Group, represents Lorillard, Inc., "the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States."
The tobacco giant's aim in San Diego, says the document, is to "create a separate ordinance for electrical cigarettes, as they are not the same as tobacco cigarettes. Do not include the same use restrictions as tobacco cigarettes."
Presidio's second client is listed as CBS Outdoor, "an outdoor advertising company that has business throughout San Diego county." The filing says CBS wants to amend the municipal sign ordinance to allow "additional signage in a specific area of downtown."
The president of Presidio, according to the company's website, is Janelle Riella, a decade-long veteran of politics and lobbying who has been variously employed by the San Diego Association of Realtors and the Downtown San Diego Partnership.
As public policy vice president at the downtown lobbying group, Riella reached a settlement regarding violation of city disclosure rules involving multiple meetings with city officials while failing to file a quarterly activity statement.
"According to the disclosure report ultimately filed by [the Downtown Partnership], the organization’s representative had 31 contacts with City Officials during the third quarter of 2011 for the purpose of influencing decisions concerning the redevelopment and construction of a new Civic Center, and the restructuring of redevelopment in San Diego," says a stipulation agreement Riella reached in 2012 with the city ethics commission on behalf of the partnership.
The group received a mitigated fine of $500 because, according to the document, it had "implemented additional procedures and safeguards to ensure that its quarterly disclosure reports are timely filed in the future."
Riella's June lobbying filing for Presidio shows that within the past two years she has raised campaign money for Faulconer and GOP city-council members Lorie Zapf and Scott Sherman.
In the category of "owner, compensated officer, and lobbyist in the firm," Presidio's disclosure lists Duane Dichiara and Jason Roe, longtime principals of political consulting powerhouse Revolvis Consulting.
The filing says they have "provided compensated campaign-related services" to both Faulconer and Sherman. City campaign-finance disclosure records show that Revolvis has worked for a bevy of Republican campaign causes, including those of the current mayor, ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, and former city councilman Carl DeMaio.
As previously reported here, they also have a healthy statewide and national profile.
“Revolvis began in 1995 when Jason Roe and Duane Dichiara were politically active young turks in San Diego Republican politics," the company website noted. "Jason went off to Washington, DC and Duane headed to Sacramento with a plan that one day, they would return and start that dream firm. More than a decade later, Revolvis Consulting opened its doors.”
Last month, Roe, identified as "a Republican political consultant who worked for DeMaio’s and Faulconer’s mayoral campaigns," was quoted by RealClearPolitics.com as saying Faulconer was an attractive candidate because, “Democrats need hate, for lack of a better word, to get the base to turn out. Kevin is not a hateful guy. Even if you’re a Democrat, you don’t hate the guy.”
Whether e-cigarettes will prove to be as lovable remains to be seen. Legislative efforts to regulate the product were "snuffed out," noted a recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee, by a "cowardly handful of…Democrats in the Assembly Appropriations Committee."
"If Big Tobacco can show that states treat e-cigarettes as a separate category of tobacco products, the reasoning goes, then their lawyers can argue for legislative loopholes that exempt them from smoking bans and other tobacco restrictions," said the Bee. "It’s discouraging, and disgusting, to see how easily Big Tobacco has blocked progress on this public health issue.
"Here, there’s little to say about meaningful e-cigarette legislation except R.I.P. until next session."
Reached by phone, Dichiara confirmed that the firm had been established recently and said Roe could later provide further details.