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Post compact passage, tribe says bye to lobbyist Read

Talk about a contract lobbyist.

Only six months after powerhouse lobbying shop Aaron Read & Associates was hired by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the tribe and lobbying firm have ended their relationship.

But that doesn't mean the tribe wasn't satisfied with Read's services.

The Morongo tribe bulked up its Capitol lobbying presence in 2007 to ease passage of its gambling compact, a deal signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which allows Morongo to add up to 5,500 new slot machines to its reservation casino.

So it was no surprise that only two days after the state Assembly approved the compact on June 28, that the tribe let Read go on June 30.

Because the second quarter lobbying reports have yet to be filed, it is impossible to tell exactly how much Read's firm made during the six month stint.

But in the first three months of the year, records show Morongo paid Read & Associates $45,000, making the firm the tribe's highest paid lobbying outfit.

In 2006, Morongo employed three firms - Pane & Pane Associates, Capitol Strategies Group and Steve Carlson & Associates - paying them a combined $256,000 in lobbying fees.

But as the compact fight heated up, the tribe hired Read and Soyla Fernandez, another long-time Capitol figure, in January.

In the first quarter of 2007, Morongo spent $138,000 on lobbying - the tribe's biggest quarterly spending since reports went online in 2000.

The tribe also launched a multi-million dollar media campaign urging passage of the compacts. Among the big names who consulted for the tribe's media campaign were former Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and former Schwarzenegger campaign manager Steve Schmidt.

As for letting go of Read's firm, a Morongo spokesman said the tribe would have no comment. Read did not immediately return a phone call.