Capitol Alert

Top California lobbying firms bring in big dollars in 2014

Business was good for California lobbying firms during the first half of this year. They brought in $92.6 million between January and June, disclosure reports released Friday show, an uptick of nearly 7 percent over the same period last year.

Fights over legislative proposals to put health warnings on sodas, further regulate ride-sharing companies and allow Californians to play poker online helped drive income for the firms.

KP Public Affairs nabbed the top spot for the first half of the year, benefiting from contracts with the Lyft ride-share company and the Western States Petroleum Association. Capitol Advocacy came in at No. 2, driven in part by contracts with PokerStars and PepsiCo. In his work for Pepsi, partner John Latimer helped kill a bill to require warning labels on sodas during a June hearing in the Assembly health committee when he argued that soda is not the only culprit for poor health by wielding a picture of a slice of chocolate cake.

The Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates firm retained its position as the seventh-highest earning firm for the first half of this year. Partner Kevin Sloat admitted to a high-profile ethics violation in February when he paid a record-setting $133,500 fine to the Fair Political Practices Commission for hosting political fundraisers that amounted to prohibited campaign contributions.

The California Strategies firm jumped from No. 19 on the list last year to No. 13 this year after three partners were fined by the FPPC in the fall for not registering as lobbyists. Now that Rusty Areias, Jason Kinney and Winston Hickox are registered lobbyists, more of the firm’s income should be counted in the lobbying reports.

Other firms that edged up from their positions during the same period last year include Carter Wetch & Associates, Gonzalez Quintana & Hunter, Political Solutions and Mercury Public Affairs, which is representing the plastic bag industry in a fight against a proposal to ban plastic grocery bags in California.

Interest groups spent a total of $141.5 million on lobbying during the first half of this year, an increase of 1 percent over last year.