All’s Fair in the Lobbying War

The Del Mar Fair Board has spent nearly $78,000 to defeat Christine Kehoe’s Del Mar takeover bill.
  • The Del Mar Fair Board has spent nearly $78,000 to defeat Christine Kehoe’s Del Mar takeover bill.

A newly formed lobbying outfit in Sacramento has picked up some of San Diego County’s heaviest political hitters as clients, including one very influential public agency. According to state disclosure records, Capitol Strategic Advisors, LLC, which hung out its official lobbying shingle on June 1, now represents the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state agency governed by what is commonly known as the Del Mar Fair Board. Other clients include California Strategies & Advocacy, sister firm of California Strategies, the PR and lobbying outfit started by ex–Pete Wilson honcho Bob White, and the casino-owning Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

During the first quarter of this year, the fair board, which has been fighting the City of Del Mar’s attempts to buy the fairgrounds from the state, spent a total of $77,973 lobbying against Senate Bill 1, introduced by Democrat Christine Kehoe to allow the proposed Del Mar takeover. Forty-five thousand dollars of that went to the Flanigan Law Firm, a well-known Sacramento-based law and lobbying outfit then associated with Shaun T. Flanigan. The fair board paid an additional $31,437 to Southwest Strategies, the San Diego lobbying and public affairs firm founded by ex–Evening Tribune reporter Al Ziegaus. The board spent nothing for lobbying and public relations in the second quarter as legislative prospects for the Kehoe bill and land sale dimmed.

According to state filings, on May 31 the Flanigan Law Firm stopped representing the agricultural district, and on June 1, Shaun Flanigan registered as working for Capitol Strategic Advisors, which took over the fair account the same day. He is partnered in that firm with James C. Jack IV, who in the past has been associated with Political Solutions LLC and the Jack Advocacy Group.

In November 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported that Jack, who was then chief of staff to GOP state senator Bruce McPherson of Santa Cruz, and Flanigan, then chief of staff to Republican assemblyman George Plescia, had each accepted more than $600 in free tickets from special interests, including $200 in Kings basketball tickets from BP. Jack, who has been a buddy of Flanigan since their college years, told the paper that the free admissions to games and receptions assisted the men in their jobs. “It helps you get to know people on a more personal level, and that helps in your judgment of whether information they’re sharing with you is credible, if they’re being forthright…or if they have other issues or motivations.… Information is an important thing. The increased access or increased time together provides more information, but it doesn’t automatically make you more favorably disposed.” Other Capitol Strategic Advisors clients include the Cigar Association of America, lottery operator GTech Corporation, and the Emissions Control Technology Association.

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