Orange County’s Connections to Lobbyist’s Record FPPC Fine

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A high-profile Sacramento lobbyist who made headlines this week for a record $133,500 penalty from the California Fair Political Practices Commission has been connected to political players across the state, including several in Orange County.

The targeted lobbyist — Kevin Sloat of Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associates — has represented the city of Anaheim, the county and the Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA.

And according to FPPC warning letters issued to state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and former Assemblyman Jose Solorio, Sloat provided indulgences such as cigars and wine at fundraisers he threw for the politicians.

The FPPC considers the items improper campaign contributions. Rules for lobbyists are particularly strict, with a tight $10 limit on gifts to candidates for state offices in which the lobbyist is registered to advocate. Campaign contributions from the lobbyists are outright prohibited.

Solorio and Correa are among some 40 politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, who received improper contributions from Sloat, according to a Los Angeles Times article. Sloat also arranged for gifts such as sports tickets, the Times reported Monday.

Sloat “admitted to 26 counts of improper campaign contributions and four counts of making illegal gifts to state legislators and another official,” the article states.

The commission is set to ratify the fine at its Feb. 20 meeting.

Correa said that he didn’t know that the goods were provided at the fundraiser Sloat organized for him. He said that he doesn’t drink or smoke and that he only stopped by Sloat’s event to say hello.

Correa also pointed out that the letter acknowledged he didn’t know that it was Sloat who paid for the items.

“That’s the weird part. I guess I should have known this stuff was there,” Correa said. “How do you watch out for something you don’t know about? I guess I’m going to have to from now on.”

Solorio did not return a phone call for comment.

Meanwhile, Sloat’s lobbying contract with the transportation authority is up for review at a board of directors executive committee meeting March 3, according to OCTA spokesman Eric Carpenter. After that, the fate of the contract goes to the full board, he said.

“None of the alleged violations appear to involve the firm’s business on behalf of OCTA,” Carpenter said.

OCTA board director and county Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he is “very upset” about the lobbyist’s conduct.

“Could you imagine if we put out bids for lobbyists, and we put out the question, ‘Hey, could you make sure to entertain legislators with whiskeys and cigars but make sure you don’t declare it?” Spitzer said. “It puts OCTA in a very uncomfortable position.”

Regarding Anaheim’s lobbying contract with Sloat, city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz wrote in an email that Sloat’s firm “remains on contract with the City of Anaheim through the end of 2014” and that the agreement would be reevaluated when it “comes up for renewal,” which is normal practice.

Meanwhile, the county had Sloat as a state lobbyist under its 2007 contract with the firm Platinum Advisors, which shares its Sacramento office with Sloat. It’s unclear whether Sloat is still lobbying for the county.

Back then, Scott Baugh was listed as a lobbyist under the county’s Platinum Advisors contract. However, Baugh — also chair of the Orange County Republican Party — stepped down and was replaced by Sloat.

The county approved at least two amendments and extensions to the contract, but it’s unclear whether those extensions included keeping Sloat on board.

Stevan Allen, who is managing public relations for Sloat, did not provide an answer to a Voice of OC inquiry on the matter by the deadline for this article.

Sloat hasn’t registered the county as one of his lobbying clients, according to an online database kept by the California Secretary of State. But he does list Platinum Advisors as a client.

Sloat also tried to get the county lobbying contract in 2001 in a bid submitted together with former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, according to the Times. But the former Board of Supervisors instead chose a firm that employed Baugh.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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