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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Ex-Employee Sues Big-Time Lobbyist

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A former employee sued political lobbyist Kevin Sloat and his firm Sloat Higgens Jensen & Associates, in a tale alleging unreported campaign donations, lavish gifts and accounting fraud.

Rhonda Smira sued Sloat and his company on Jan. 9 in Superior Court, claiming they violated the Political Reform Act through fund raisers and expensive gifts to politicians, including thousands of dollars in wine.

Sloat's clients include giants Anthem Blue Cross, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., according to its website. Sloat started the lobbying firm in 1997 - Smira claims it has been making illegal campaign donations since 2000.

Sloat hosted fundraisers and dinner parties for elected officials at his mansion in Sacramento, where "defendants as well as defendants' clients would make a contribution to the elected official" Smira says in the lawsuit. "A typical evening at defendant's mansion would result in between $10,000 and $50,000 for an elected official."

Smira filed a wrongful termination complaint against Sloat in December 2013, which is pending in Sacramento County Court. That complaint alleges similar tales of illegal campaign contributions and accounting fraud.

In February 2014, Sloat admitted that his firm paid more than 40 elected officials improper contributions and gifts, and paid a $133,500 fine for violations of the Political Reform Act, according to contemporary news reports.

"Throughout this process, we have cooperated fully with the FPPC to address these mistakes," Sloat said then. "We take this matter seriously and have already put in place enhanced internal measures designed to prevent any future administrative violations."

Smira claims that she was responsible for coordinating the fund raisers and contacting the guests and politicians attending the events when she worked for Sloat.

"Once the attending clients were determined, Smira would then reach out to the elected official's representative to provide a list of all clients who would be attending the event as well as how much each client would be contributing," according to the complaint.

Smira says she complained repeatedly about the illegal contributions but was ignored. She claims she filed complaints with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and Sacramento City Attorney's Office but both declined to investigate.

Smira also accuses the defendants of accounting fraud, and says she was "directed by defendant to make illegal or purposefully neglectful entries into the SHJ books on hundreds of occasions."

She claims that the illegal gifts and contributions Sloat gave his guests were reported to the IRS as business expenses.

Sloat also paid for tickets to professional sporting events, Smira says. She claims that state senators, Assembly members, legislative staff and administrative staff were given tickets to Sacramento Kings games and San Francisco Giants playoff games. She said she coordinated the ticket exchanges and accompanied the guests.

She seeks treble damages and 50 percent of the state's recovery, if anything.

Jesse Ortiz, Smira's attorney in both cases, could not be reached for comment Monday.

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