Richmond pays $43,000 bill to law firm that defended campaign law aimed at soda tax

The city council agreed 4-2 to pay the law firm Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP $43,000 for its work defending the city’s campaign finance law, which was ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

The legal challenge came from the American Beverage Association-funded Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, which sued the city over its campaign disclosure laws requiring large, front page disclosures on all campaign mailers.

City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller said: “During the August recess the city was sued by the CCBT in federal court. We had a week to respond to a highly specialized, cutting edge first amendment campaign election issue. We had an opponent who sued us with a bevy of high-priced Washington DC attorneys to sue the city.”

Goodmiller added, “The firm defended us at a deeply discounted rate.”

Bates called the defense, and Measure N, the penny per ounce tax on sugar sweetened beverages that was defeated by 67 percent of voters on Nov. 6, a “big waste of time and money … totally ridiculous.”

Councilman Corky Booze was more colorful: “I don’t call 43,000 a minimal amount of money. They got beat. They got beat. (CCBT’s lawyers) came in and stomped your face in the ground.”

Councilman Jim Rogers, who wrote the defeated campaign disclosure law, defended the process and the efforts.

“That’s the risk that you take. I will continue to do whatever I can to limit the influence of big money outside interests in Richmond politics.”