County Once More Extends Contract With Federal Lobbyist Tied To Political Scandal

In compliance with a recommendation by county chief executive officer Gary McBride and Josh Candelaria, the county’s director of governmental and legislative affairs, the board of supervisors has voted to extend its arrangement with Potomac Partners to act as the county’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
The county will pay Potomac Partners $150,000 yearly for its advocacy service.
Potomac Partners is headed by Richard Alcalde, a long-time D.C. lobbyist who created the company in 2005 after he was active in the nation’s capital with Alcalde & Fay.
According to McBride, “Potomac Partners DC is a full service government affairs firm that provides representation with federal agencies, departments and associations critical to ensure the county’s legislative agenda is advanced. In coordination with the county administrative office, Potomac will assist the county in implementing an effective federal advocacy strategy to increase funding opportunities and influence federal laws and policies as they relate to county priorities, programs and operations.”
Others have said that Potomac Partners is effective because it has mastered the art of creative delivery of payola for its clients. For example, Alcalde hired former Congressman Jerry Lewis’ step-daughter Julie Willis-Leon as a consultant and advisor to Potomac Partners, paying her somewhere in the neighborhood of $45,000 in the 2005/2006 time frame, while Jerry Lewis was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. In that timeframe, six of Potomac Partners’ thirteen clients had business before the House Appropriations Committee. Alcalde was able to recognize that ingratiating himself with Willis-Leon might provide him with excellent access to and influence over Congressman Lewis. Willis-Leon, a one-time wedding planner, had previously sought to cash in on her stepfather’s status, founding the Small Biz Tech PAC and taking on a half dozen clients who likewise had business before the House Appropriations Committee.
According to McBride, county officials examined options to having another firm carry out lobbying on behalf of the county at the federal level, and did not simply commit to having Potomac Partners do that work on a continuing and ongoing basis.
“On September 8, 2017, Request for Proposal (RFP) No CAO118-CAO5-2656 was released for federal legislative advocacy services,” McBride said in the report he and Candaleria prepared for the board of supervisors prior to the vote. “The RFP was posted on the county’s electronic procurement network (ePro) and distributed to federal advocacy and public relations firms.
Responses to the RFP were received from: Potomac Partners DC, The Ferguson Group, and Capitol Core Group. A technical evaluation committee consisting of representatives from the county administrative office, public works, City of Ontario, human services, and workforce development department evaluated the proposals based on criteria in the RFP. All three firms would advance to the in-person interviews. An interview committee, which included representatives from the county administrative office, the City of Ontario, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, the sheriff’s department, and Arrowhead Regional Medical Center interviewed the respondents. Potomac received the highest score, has satisfactory references, and significant experience and as such, is recommended for a contract in the amount of $300,000 for a two-year period with two, one-year options to extend the contract term. The unsuccessful Proposers were notified; no appeals were received.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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