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By Laurel Rosenhall and David Siders
lrosenhall@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 – 12:00 am

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is issuing warning letters to as many as 40 state elected officials after reaching a tentative agreement to fine a firm headed by a Sacramento lobbyist who held lavish fundraisers for politicians at his home, sources told The Bee.

Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, a lobbying firm founded by Kevin Sloat, has reached a tentative agreement with FPPC staff to pay fines for violations of state campaign-finance disclosure rules.

The action was prompted by a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court against Sloat and his firm in December by a former employee under investigation for embezzlement.

Rhonda Smira, a former bookkeeper at Sloat’s firm, alleged that his elaborate events amount to nonmonetary campaign contributions that lobbyists are not permitted to give. Her wrongful-termination suit says Sloat fired her for questioning whether his conduct violated California’s lobbying laws.

“At these fundraisers, (Sloat and his firm) made contributions to elected officials by providing catering, expensive wine, decorations, flowers, imported cigars and high-end cognac, scotches and whiskeys,” the lawsuit says.

“Over the course of several years, Smira repeatedly voiced her concerns about the illegal contributions prior to each fundraising event at Sloat’s private residence. On every occasion, she was reprimanded by (Sloat) and was finally directed … to ‘never talk to him again’ about her concerns.”

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