POLITICS: Report/analysis, California Strategies, lobbying or public affairs?: "California Strategies walks fine line between lobbying and public affairs"....
* Sacramento Bee: "California Strategies walks fine line between lobbying and public affairs" - From the Bee:
Devon Ford, an associate in the influential public affairs firm California Strategies, sounded enthusiastic about an event his company was hosting at the Auto Club Speedway, a Southern California racetrack in Fontana that is one of its clients. The excursion was billed as an educational opportunity for legislators and their staff to learn about what he called “the excitement of IndyCar racing,” and included a tour of the garage, face time with Speedway’s president and dinner in the private skybox during the race.
But because the firm was inviting government officials, Ford issued a warning in an email to colleagues. “Our legal counsel reminds us that registered state lobbyists are prohibited from ‘arranging’ for the giving of a gift to a public official,” Ford wrote in a September 2012 email obtained by The Sacramento Bee. “If you are a registered state lobbyist and would like to recommend a specific public official receive an invitation from California Strategies to attend this event, please make your recommendation to me as soon as possible.”
In other words: The firm’s lobbyists, who operate under strict disclosure rules and are prohibited from giving politicians gifts worth more than $10, couldn’t legally invite government officials to the race. But they could make sure key politicians were invited by having their non-lobbyist colleagues make the invitation.
A California Strategies spokesman said the language on the invitation had been vetted by legal counsel and was deemed appropriate. The speedway events were not mentioned in the final settlement that California’s Fair Political Practices Commission reached last month with the firm. But it was a similar incident that led the state’s political watchdog agency to audit California Strategies, said enforcement chief Gary Winuk.
“It made us think about how a firm that both lobbies and does governmental strategies could be giving gifts over the lobbying limit to legislators,” he said. “It’s very tempting to use your non-lobbyists, when you’re so close, to do the things lobbyists can’t. The potential for skirting the rules is the reason we pursued the case so aggressively.”
California Strategies is not the only firm in Sacramento that offers clients a variety of services requiring a careful dance along the line that separates lobbying from less regulated forms of advocacy. But it has been a target of competitors who say the firm’s approach creates an uneven playing field.......................
* Sacramento Bee: "Two California Strategies partners fined by the FPPC owe back taxes"