Price of influence

Though it says it is hard up for money to fund the daily workings of government, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is looking for a new lobbyist to influence affairs in the murky halls of Washington, D.C. According to a recent request for proposal, the representative would “foster strong bipartisan working relationships with officials in DC, provide advice and assistance on federal issues, and/or advocate County positions on legislative/regulatory matters.” The proposed contract, for a one-year term beginning next January, with four two-year extension options, is worth between $250,000 and $500,000 a year. Bids were due September 18, with the lucky lobbyist set to be selected by the board of supervisors on November 3.

According to an attendance record for a “pre RFP conference” with county staff on September 1, at least three groups have displayed an interest: Dutko Worldwide/NSI, American Capitol Group, and Van Scoyoc Associates. The latter bills itself as the “largest independent lobbying firm” in the capital and does work for SAIC, the local defense contractor that just announced it is moving its headquarters out of town.

Van Scoyoc is noted for its success in getting members of Congress to earmark federal dollars for the firm’s clients. According to a recent report by the D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity, in 2008 SAIC got two earmarks worth $4.4 million for “battlefield sensor netting and bioterrorism detection systems,” thanks to GOP congressman C.W. “Bill” Young of Florida. Former Young legislative aide Bryan Blom is now a government relations manager for Van Scoyoc, and SAIC’s PAC gave Young’s campaign $20,500, with another $2250 contributed by company executives. Van Scoyoc told the center that Blom never lobbied Young.

This June, USA Today reported that Van Scoyoc had contributed $2500 to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society for purchase of portraits of San Bernardino representative Jerry Lewis and two other GOP members of Congress. Lewis is a longtime friend of former San Diego congressman Bill Lowery, who was also involved in controversial earmarks. An aide told the paper Lewis had not solicited the contribution. “No one who has met with Congressman Lewis with business before Congress or the appropriations committee has mentioned the portrait or any donations that have been made,” he said in an email. A county spokeswoman says the process is on schedule, but she couldn’t provide details.

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