A high-profile sheriff in California is being investigated by Santa Clara County law enforcement for what appears to be a pay-to-play system in which concealed carry permits were issued to those who contributed to the sheriff’s campaign.
The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office last month raided the San Jose headquarters of Sheriff Laurie Smith, California’s first female sheriff who was first elected in 1998. According to a recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle, investigators also served search warrants on two of the sheriff’s higher-ranking supervisors.
“I know people do approach her for favors, for special privileges, especially during campaigns,” a veteran county law enforcement official told San Jose Inside, whose reporters first broke the story. “But she always had a protector. You know what I mean? She’d have someone else do these things for her.”
That protection appears to be falling apart as law enforcement and the media zero in on the firms and individuals who may have received coveted California concealed-carry permits in exchange for campaign contributions.
At the top of the list is security company AS Solution. The firm protects high-level executives from Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google, and public records show that a company manager made a $45,000 donation to Smith’s campaign in 2018. The manager has no prior history of campaign donations in the county. The Chronicle reports that the company has been contacted by investigators.
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The Chronicle also cross-referenced campaign contribution records with an older list of Santa Clara County gun-permit holders. The newspaper found the names of more than two dozen people who have supported Smith’s personal campaign committees or the Public Safety Alliance committee with donations between $100 and $8,000 over the past decade.
Smith has not responded to media requests for comment, but her personal attorney, Rich Robinson, called the accusations “absurd” considering the “stinginess in which the sheriff gives out” the permits.
AS Solution told the Chronicle that it is “cooperating fully with the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office, and we have launched our own internal investigation into this matter.”
“AS Solution employees are required to obey the laws, rules and regulations of all countries where we conduct business, and any allegations of improper conduct by employees are treated very seriously,” the statement said. “We will take appropriate action based on the outcome of our investigation.”
Santa Clara County has refused to provide information on applicants for concealed carry licenses, so it is impossible to know how many AS Solution employees, if any, received them in that county.
California’s “good cause” requirement makes obtaining a concealed carry permit almost impossible in some counties. Local law enforcement has broad discretion on what constitutes a “good cause,” so some sheriffs issue thousands of permits while others issue virtually none. For a private security company to operate in Smith’s county, it would need to ensure the smooth issuance of permits from Smith’s office.