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Southern California Tribes’ Lobbyist Slapped with $30,000 Fine

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A lobbyist for a number of successful gaming tribes in Southern California has been fined $30,000 by the state’s ethics commission.

Frank J. Molina of Strategic Solutions Advisors waived his procedural rights, including his right to an administrative hearing, to legal representation, and the right to testify and cross examine witnesses, and instead agreed in a stipulation before the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission that he and his lobbying firm had violated the Political Reform Act of 1974 by failing to file quarterly lobbying firm disclosure reports from January 2007 through December 2009. During that time, the firm received $840,000 in lobbying payments, according to the stipulation.

Strategic Solutions Advisors had several clients, including the hugely successful San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Tule River Indian Tribe and Deloitte Consulting LLP.

The violations carried a maximum penalty of $60,000, but the commission weighed “aggravating factors” against “mitigating factors” to arrive at the $30,000 penalty.

Among the aggravating factors was Molina’s uncooperative attitude with the investigation, which caused “significant delays in obtaining information and compliance with (his) filing obligations,” the stipulation says.

Molina also failed his contractual and oral agreements to file lobbying employer reports for several of his clients, leaving no record of the lobbying.

“Lastly, Respondent Molina worked in the Legislature for nearly nine years, including as the Chief of Staff to a member of the Legislature. Thus, he was not an unsophisticated party,” the stipulation says.

But Molina had no prior history of violating the act and this mitigating factor allowed the commission to set the penalty at $30,000 instead of $60,000.

The stipulation was entered into in late January and is scheduled for review by the full commission on February 10. If the commission declines to accept the stipulated agreement, it becomes null and void and a full evidentiary hearing before the commission will take place.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) was created by the Political Reform Act of 1974 (Act), a ballot initiative passed by California voters in 1974 as Proposition 9.

The Political Reform Act says, in part, that lobbyists’ activities should be regulated and their finances disclosed so that improper influences will not be directed at political officials. The act established a reporting system for lobbying firms and lobbyists, which is designed to accomplish this kind of disclosure.

The commission investigates alleged violations of the Political Reform Act, imposes penalties when appropriate, and assists state and local agencies in the development and enforcement of conflict-of-interest codes.

It also adopts and amends regulations and develops forms, manuals and educational materials, conducts seminars and training sessions and provides written and oral guidance to public agencies and officials.