Alvarez sees green in pot lobbyists

Cannabis influence-peddlers show up in force to back supervisorial bid

David Alvarez
  • David Alvarez

As a sweeping new marijuana law opposed by departing chief of police Shelly Zimmerman made its way through city hall early this week, one of the biggest winners aside from local pot emporiums was the lobbying firm of Rath Miller LLC.

Tom Shepard

Tom Shepard

Spawned during the troubled final days of fallen Democratic mayor Bob Filner in 2013, when two of its principals fled the lobbying shop of Filner's political guru Tom Shepard, the reconstituted influence-peddling operation has prospered mightily in the new age of legal cannabis.

Using a political cash-on-the-barrelhead model that has long proved fruitful to the real estate lobby here, Rath Miller founders Kimberly Miller, once married to ex-GOP mayor Jerry Sanders spokesman Darren Pudgil, and Phil Rath, former Sanders deputy of policy, have pioneered the local art of the marijuana deal.

Lobbying filings with the city clerk's office show that the firm has been particularly generous to termed-out Democratic city councilman David Alvarez, who this past January began raising campaign cash for a 2020 county supervisorial bid.

During the second quarter of this year, according to a July 31 disclosure, Rath Miller received a total of $10,000 from the United Medical Marijuana Coalition to lobby for "changes to city regulations regarding medicinal and recreational marijuana."

Miller co-chaired a June 29 fundraising reception that came up with $4700 for Alvarez, and Rath and staffer Khoa Nguyen "coordinated contributions" for a June 15 event that raised $7200 for the Democrat, for a grand total of $11,900.

The trio also coordinated an April 20 fundraiser that generated $5205 for next year's reelection campaign of 8th District city councilwoman Myrtle Cole, also a Democrat who voted in favor of Monday’s pot regulations.

Chris Cate

Chris Cate

Chris Cate, a Republican opposed to the measure along with GOP colleagues Lorie Zapf and Scott Sherman, was in third place with $4225 for his reelection fund from an April 4 fundraiser co-chaired by the Rath Miller trio.

Rath Miller has long been a pioneer in the city's pot lobbying industry, retained by client RD Strategies back in 2014 to push for three conditional-use permit approvals for "medical marijuana cooperative" premises located at 3487 Kurtz, 3455 Camino del Rio South, and 3895 Pacific Highway.

In addition to pot, the lobbying firm took in $6000 from land owner Vulcan Materials, $5000 from chemical giant Monsanto, and the same from American Medical Response ambulance services, currently being taken over in a multi-billion-dollar deal backed by the conservative Koch Brothers of Kansas City.

Campaign contribution reports on file with the county registrar of voters show Alvarez's supervisorial fundraising operation has been doing well, collecting a total $108,796 from January through June, and ending the period with $99,959.99 in the bank.

Executives with ColRich, a "private, family run, residential real estate development and investment firm,” run by Danny Gabriel, according to the firm's website, were the biggest single group of employees to give, with a total of $6350, most of which came in on June 26, filings show.

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