Darius Anderson and Kevin Faulconer
At first glance, stranger bedfellows couldn’t be had than ex-San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, the voluble Democratic ex-Assembly speaker, and Kevin Faulconer, the former public relations diva who is San Diego's GOP mayor.
But in California politics, all’s fair in lobbying and its mother’s milk called money, judging from Faulconer's pick to peddle influence for San Diego in the state capital of Sacramento.
Finally out of his San Diego lobbying gig is GOP ex-Pete Wilson aide Kevin Sloat, proprietor of Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associates, who earlier this year agreed to pay a record $133,500 fine to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission for handing out a slew of illegal gifts to state lawmakers.
Originally retained by Republican mayor Jerry Sanders, later fired by Democrat Bob Filner, and restored last year by Democratic councilman and interim mayor Todd Gloria, the tarnished Sloat was kept on by Faulconer until well after the gifting scandal, after which the GOP mayor advertised for new help.
Enter the politically ambitious mayor's new lobbyist, who happens to be a well-connected Democrat and a self-styled "huge sports nut," with a past scandal of his own.
Darius Anderson, onetime fundraiser for Democratic ex-governor Gray Davis and associate of supermarket billionaire Democratic financier Ron Burkle (who owns a giant La Jolla estate overlooking the Pacific), runs Platinum Advisors, Faulconer's newly chosen lobbying outfit.
Whether by coincidence or not, Anderson was an early player in the ultimate deal by the wealthy sons of La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs, among others, to buy the Sacramento Kings and build a downtown arena on the site of an old shopping mall with backing from the city.
A March 2013 account in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that Anderson was "part of the investment group that last year bought Sacramento's aging Downtown Plaza mall with an eye toward making it the Kings' new home.
"Anderson said his role has been to pull together the team of investors hoping to purchase the team, build the sports and entertainment complex and revitalize downtown Sacramento in the process.
"Major investors include supermarket tycoon Burkle, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive and the Jacobs Family of San Diego, founders of Qualcomm."
The lobbyist told the newspaper, which he owns: "Like every little kid, growing up I always dreamed about being a sports owner and being involved in professional sports."
In response to critics of the deal, Anderson told his paper: "Often times government has to invest in a public-private partnership to help stimulate the economy."
Anderson's field of operations extends far beyond Sacramento. This past July, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Anderson and Platinum co-owner Chris Gruwell arranged for ex-mayor Willie Brown to lobby against a billion-dollar assessment intended to pay for parks and public amenities around the city's new Transbay Transit Center.
Platinum's client on that project is mega-developer Boston Properties, according to the Chronicle. Gruwell is a longtime political associate of Democratic lieutenant governor and ex-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, having been his first mayoral finance director and chairman of his reelection committee.
Qualcomm billionaire Jacobs is also a Newsom fan, having given his campaign for reelection as lieutenant governor $12,000. The money came in March 2012, exactly a month after Newsom blasted the state's historic preservation officer for criticizing a controversial Jacobs-backed Balboa makeover plan.
Word of Faulconer's lobbying pick comes on the heels of efforts by Jacobs ally Malin Burnham to organize a nonprofit corporation to take over U-T San Diego, currently owned by Republican Douglas Manchester, widely credited with giving a crucial assist to Faulconer's successful mayoral bid against Jacobs-favored Nathan Fletcher and Democratic city councilman David Alvarez.
As a result, inside observers note, the mayor, known for harboring political ambitions beyond San Diego, may ultimately face the need to curry favor with a new media regime.
According to the terms of deal reached by the mayor with Platinum, the firm will provide lobbying services "in an amount not to exceed $312,000." The deal covers the current fiscal year and next.
But the ghost of Republican Sloat still haunts. Topp Strategies, a '"sub consultant" run by Moira Topp, will receive $124,800 of the money, according to the August document, for which she will handle "water issues and state budget issues." According to the Sloat, Higgins website, Topp, a former aide to GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a veteran of that firm.
And Anderson, who has a rising profile as a newspaper owner as well as a lobbyist, hasn't been scandal-free. As reported by his Press Democrat:
"Anderson paid $500,000 in 2010 to settle claims by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that he had acted as an unlicensed broker to win investments for a Los Angeles private equity fund.
"The case was part of a year-long investigation into pay-to-play practices in public pension fund investment partnerships.
"Neither Anderson nor his lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, admitted any wrongdoing. He said Thursday he was not connected to the ‘improprieties’ that were the target of the inquiry."
Anderson’s lobbying deal with the mayor was heard Monday, September 22, by the council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations committee, where chairwoman Sherri Lightner asked to see more information from the mayor’s office regarding the competitors for the contract before final adoption.
“I would suggest moving this forward to council with no recommendation, but the request to provide the additional information when it comes to council for a final vote. I see no problem with the contracts.”
The committee made no mention of Anderson or Sloat before its unanimous vote on the motion.