Consumer group asks governor to fire consultant over no-bid deal

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Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — A consumer advocacy group called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fire his chief fund-raiser and campaign consultant Wednesday after learning he helped win a no-bid contract for one of his firms to promote the governor’s trip to Japan last year.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said Marty Wilson should be fired for irreconcilable conflicts of interest because companies he represents could benefit from decisions by Schwarzenegger, who also pays him for advice.

Documents disclosed to the foundation through a public records request revealed that Wilson helped one of his firms win a $212,000 contract for the main promotional event of the November trip, said Carmen Balber, a consumer advocate for the foundation.

“This goes to the question of where Wilson’s loyalties lie,” Balber said. “If the governor wants to hold up his pledge to clean up politics as usual in Sacramento, he needs to get rid of Wilson.”

Wilson did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The contract for the California Festival in Japan went to Manning Selvage & Lee, which employs Wilson as managing director for West Coast public affairs. Wilson is also a partner at Wilson-Miller Communications and he represents several companies with business before the state.

Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, said the foundation’s complaint was silly and there was no conflict of interest.

“These are people who every day their sole existence is to be opponents of the governor,” Stutzman said about the foundation. “There is no substance to their complaint.”

He said Wilson’s work resulted in a very successful trade mission to promote California farm products. The public relations firm was hired by the California Department of Food and Agriculture through federal grant money and the contract was not subject to competitive bidding rules.

Larry Kamer, a senior vice president for Manning Selvage & Lee, said Wilson lined up the contract through his connections in state government.

“Marty is, as you know, a close adviser to Governor Schwarzenegger,” Kamer said. “I believe the question came to him as to who the logical firm or firm would be.”

Wilson recommended Manning Selvage & Lee and Dentsu, its partner in Japan, Kamer said.

Kamer said the firm considered the complaint irrelevant and said it was purely partisan and political.

The foundation, however, said the Japan contract first reported Monday by KPIX-TV was just the latest example of companies that have benefited from Wilson’s ties to the governor.

One of his clients is Virginia-based CGI-AMS, which won a contract to help the state trim its purchasing costs, but has failed to deliver the savings it promised. The company donated $25,000 to one of the governor’s campaign committees.

Another Wilson client, ChevronTexaco, is seeking to import liquefied natural gas, which needs the governor’s approval or permission from the Public Utilities Commission. Members of the commission are appointed by the governor.

ChevronTexaco has given the governor and his various political funds $221,200.

Consumer Watchdog
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