Sacramento Lobbyists Distort Casino Oversight Narrative in Three-Pronged Attack

A Sacramento lobbying firm appears to be playing a game of snooker when it comes to misleading San Jose residents about crime and casinos.

Community budget meetings are taking place this month, and a shadow political action committee (PAC) called the “Consumer Alliance for a Strong Economy” has been targeting residents with robocalls and provocative mailers claiming that Mayor Chuck Reed intends to deregulate casino oversight. This, the narrative claims, could lead to crime going up, the economy going down and a gun in the face. (One mailer has readers staring down a handgun’s barrel.)

This, of course, isn’t the case. Mayor Reed and some councilmembers have talked about sending casino oversight up the food chain from the San Jose Police Department to the city manager’s office. Pending lawsuits between the city and Casino M8trix, whose owners claim SJPD’s gaming administrator Richard Teng has a vendetta against them, have only increased City Hall’s interest in changing the role of oversight.

What the mailers don’t note is that the group shares a key executive—Cristina Rivera—with Sactown lobbying firm Gilliard Blanning & Associates, which is known to have close ties with Republicans and tribal casinos. The Alliance PAC has not filed forms with the City Clerk or Secretary of State’s offices, as far as we can tell, but it has paid for robocalls targeting each of San Jose’s 10 City Council districts on the exact day each district has a planned community budget meeting. The robocalls instruct residents to voice their complaints with the mayor and their respective councilmember’s offices. To date, the mayor’s office has received has received calls from residents in councilmembers Pete Constant and Rose Herrera’s districts, and possibly more.

On Monday, Councilman Ash Kalra used opening remarks at his district’s meeting to dispel rumors that that the city wants to drop oversight of its two card clubs, Bay 101 and Casino M8trix. At least six more of these district budget meetings are scheduled, so additional calls could be coming.

But this might all come as news to readers of the San Jose Mercury News, which saw fit to give Rivera space for an op-ed piece last month but made no mention of any conflicts of interest that were noted in a John Wollfolk report late last year.

Calls to Rivera and the Alliance PAC requesting comment were not immediately returned.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

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