When it comes to favors done for members of the California legislature, those free and walkable parking spaces quietly maintained by the San Diego Regional Airport Authority for politicos are regarded as among the best perks in the state.
Last year, Assembly speaker Toni Atkins valued her use of the gift at $602, and fellow Democrat Lorena Gonzalez used the service three times last December for a total value of $300, according to their most recent annual financial disclosure reports, covering 2014.
Republican assemblyman Rocky Chavez, campaigning for U.S. Senate to replace Democrat Barbara Boxer, ran up an airport parking tab worth $4723 for "travel to/from Floor Session in Sacramento," his filing says.
Thus the small world of lobbyists connected to the airport authority is famous for having a head start over those legislative influence-seekers with mere drinks, meals, flowers, and similar amenities to proffer.
For years, the airport's Sacramento lobbyist has been the big Los Angeles–based law firm of Manatt Phelps, which since the beginning of the year has received $58,500, according to the airport's disclosure.
Gonzalez date-rape bill favored
So far this year, the filings say, Manatt has lobbied regarding one piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 46, which records show is an anti–date rape bill co-sponsored by Gonzalez that died in committee.
Manatt is a big donor to state politicos, in March giving $5000 to the California Democratic Party and $1000 to San Diego assemblywoman Shirley Weber. In all, the lobbyists gave $40,670 during the first half of this year, according to state disclosure reports.
Now the airport authority is seeking proposals for a new three-year "State Legislative Consulting Services" contract, with two one-year renewal options.
According to the airport document, the successful influence peddler "will assist by advising and advocating on public policy issues under consideration by State elected officials and State agencies."
The lobbyists will also "pro-actively promote the Authority's position on policy matters to elected officials, their staffs, and other decision makers through personal contact, written correspondence, and/or testimony,” as well as "proactively identify opportunities and assist the Authority in obtaining grants for capital projects, environmental initiatives and other airport-related programs."
In addition, the "contractor will monitor and advocate on legislative and regulatory proposals of interest to the Authority and provide the Authority with frequent updates on these activities," as well as "coordinate meetings and establish ongoing relationships with key State officials and decision makers.” Final proposals are due September 2.
Millions paid to influence
As previously reported, the airport has awarded big cash to a crowded cast of local opinion-shapers, including the public relations firm of Porter Novelli, paid $1.55 million over two years beginning in July 2011.
"Contractor shall 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,” said an airport document retrieved under the California Public Records Act.
Subcontractor California Strategies, the big Sacramento outfit founded by ex–Pete Wilson honcho Bob White, handled the lobbying chores.
White's firm continues work for the airport authority. Filings show the company was paid $30,000 in last year's fourth quarter to lobby regarding "both long-term and short-term improvements to Lindbergh Field, [and] address adjacency issues with City. No municipal decision in 4Q, meetings were for information."
And at least one member of the airport's board of directors knows something about selling influence himself.
Paul Robinson, a major local lobbyist and longtime power player in the GOP Lincoln Club, was first appointed by Republican then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and reappointed by the county board of supervisors in 2011.
In 2011, Robinson's firm was retained by Solar International, across the street from the airport, to successfully kill the Fat City Lofts, a neighboring development project.
Solar's other lobbyist against the project was White's California Strategies.