Integrity SLO

Integrity SLO’s Kevin P. Rice has a controversial record including several tax liens and extensive harassment of his adversaries. 

Kevin Rice (Source: Joe Johnston - The Tribune)
Kevin Rice (Source: Joe Johnston – The Tribune)

Integrity SLO is an independent expenditure committee operated by Kevin P. Rice, a Los Angeles-Canyon Country firefighter who lives in San Luis Obispo. Rice describes himself as an activist who started as a vocal opponent of Oceano Dunes regulations. Rice is also a contributor to CalCoastNews. He is backed by local conservative leaders, including San Luis Obispo city councilman Dan Carpenter, Pismo Beach city councilman Ed Waage and District 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton. Rice has a long and storied history of stalking, harassment and threats toward environmentalists, critics and local leaders, though his antics are largely ignored by those who support him.

Rice’s Assault on Oceano Dunes Activist

An avid supporter of off-roading at the Oceano Dunes, Rice relentlessly attacked Oceano resident Nell Langford, a vocal opponent of off-roading. In 2010, Rice reported Langford’s beachfront properties to county Code Enforcement. But officials at the county’s Planning & Building Department found no merit in his allegations.

In addition to alleging code violations, Rice created a website specifically designed to disparage Langford and her rental properties. According to The Tribune, Rice also posted ads on Craigslist that were critical of Langford and her properties.

Rice reportedly contacted the employers of Langford’s friends to complain about them. Rice strongly insinuated that one of Langford’s friends, a well-respected environmental activist, was a pedophile. In another case, Rice hand-delivered faux legal threats to a friend of Langford’s who criticized Rice online. He placed the man’s Social Security number on the documents as a way of saying, “I know who you are.” In 2007, Rice traveled to Blairsden, California — 400 miles north of his hometown — to confront and intimidate an elderly friend of Langford’s who used to live in San Luis Obispo. After intimidating Langford’s friends, Rice was taken to court over his attempt to steal her trademark for her organization “Safe Beach Now.” Rice ultimately lost the case and the presiding judge called his actions a “sham” (Nell E. Langford v. Kevin P. Rice, CV-10-3258-JST).

A Failed City Council Bid

Rice, also a frequent critic of the San Luis Obispo City Council, ran for a seat in 2012 only to drop out suddenly a year later. At the time, Rice told the media that he didn’t want to take votes away from conservative candidate Paul Brown, who he endorsed immediately after stepping down. But Rice’s departure from the race came after residents questioned his past and financial records.

Rice has had several tax liens. In 2003, Rice had a federal tax lien for $74,664.45. In 2004, Rice had another tax lien for $3,184.06. In 2008, Rice had a tax lien for $77,848.00 and another in 2011 for $44,458.00. To date, Rice had over $200,000 in federal tax liens. According to the Internal Revenue Service, Rice currently owes more than that amount (as of July 2016), but they declined to state how much. The various tax liens stood in sharp contrast to Rice’s criticism of the council over their fiscal mismanagement.

Residents also shared concern about his job and whether he was taking advantage of the state government. According to his resume that he submitted into the record during his council bid, Rice is a full-time employee of the Los Angeles County Fire Department stationed in the Canyon County division. Transparency California revealed that in 2012, Rice earned $159,805.83 in total pay and benefits for a job that required 56 hours in labor and located three hours away from his only listed address. At the time, Rice frequently appeared at meetings throughout San Luis Obispo County including the SLO City Council, Grover Beach City Council, Arroyo Grande City Council, Oceano Community Services District and the County Board of Supervisors. Rice also frequently contributed editorials and commentary for several outlets, including the San Luis Obispo Tribune, New Times and CalCoastNews. Residents were understandably concerned about Rice, who was running for a full-time political position hundreds of miles away from he was stationed full-time. To date, Rice has failed to explain the nature of his employment.

An Obsession with Adam Hill

Rice has also targeted local leaders, including District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill. Rice once described Hill as a “raging lying substance abusing corporate out of state developer money grubbing dick.”

Rice has mostly focused on Hill, a supervisor who supported dust control regulations for the Oceano Dunes. For Hill’s 2012 re-election bid, Rice distributed robocalls about him that contained false claims. In the robocall, Rice encouraged voters to visit a website that sounded like the official website for Hill (adamhill.us), but wasn’t (adamhillsupervisor.com). The website contained information that disparaged the supervisor, accusing him of being “a Democrat opposing Democrats.” Rice falsely accused Hill of paying for ads promoting then-congressional candidate Abel Maldonado over Lois Capps.

Rice also produced a newsletter that was mailed to Hill’s constituency. The newsletter mentioned his organization, Integrity SLO, but it did not disclose whether the group was authorized or controlled by a candidate. The Fair Political Practices Commission issued him a warning for failing to make that disclosure.

After Hill criticized him for his antics, Rice hand-delivered a demand to “cure and correct libel” to Hill’s home. In 2013, Rice followed Hill to a coffee shop in town where he snapped photos of the supervisor meeting with then-Arroyo Grande city councilwoman Caren Ray.

By the time Hill announced his second re-election bid in 2016, Rice was up to his old tricks. In January, Rice organized a District 3 candidates forum in Avila Beach. In radio ads, Rice claimed Hill was invited to participate at the debates, though his mailers prominently featured the supervisor’s likeness, leaving many to assume Hill was confirmed to attend. However, the New Times revealed that Hill declined to participate in the “farce,” making his intentions clear. Regardless, Rice continued to promote the candidate’s forum as if Hill was attending and dismissed Hill’s declination as a “false rumor.” The New Times shot back at Rice, stating Rice was falsely advertising Hill’s appearance. This didn’t deter Rice, who set up an empty chair at the table where Hill’s opponents sat and left a name card. Rice created the impression among attendees that Hill chickened out of attending the debate at the last minute. None of Hill’s opponents — Dan Carpenter and former Grover Beach mayor Debbie Peterson — condemned Rice’s actions. Though Rice claimed on the Dave Congalton Show that he was politically neutral, campaign forms revealed that Rice personally donated $100 to both Carpenter and Peterson.

Kevin “Robocall” Rice: A Brief History of Propaganda

Rice has a long and storied history of distributing incendiary, automated calls throughout the county as “Integrity SLO.” His robocalls are part of a propaganda campaign, which sometimes includes 920 KVEC radio ads, glossy flyers, newsletters and postcards. According to his political committee filings, Rice has spent thousands in propaganda campaigns throughout SLO County, most notably in the District 3 supervisor races. Rice was also involved in the 2014 Arroyo Grande mayoral race by distributing material that supported then-mayoral candidate Jim Hill and vehemently opposed incumbent Tony Ferrara. In 2016, Arroyo Grande city council candidate LeAnn Akins enlisted Rice’s services for propaganda, according to campaign filings.

In 2016, Rice continued that legacy with robocalls aimed at promoting San Luis Obispo mayoral candidate Heidi Harmon and attacking Supervisor Hill. In mid-2016, Rice launched his propaganda campaign in support of Harmon (Rice has staunchly opposed her opponent and incumbent Jan Marx) with a KVEC radio ad, falsely claiming that Harmon and Hill’s opponent Dan Carpenter were running on a slate against establishment politics. After being informed about the misleading ad, Harmon contacted the station and asked for the ad to be removed, but was unsuccessful.

Since then, the Libertarian, self-styled “activist” continued to support Harmon — a progressive and Bernie Sanders delegate — with a series of robocalls and a donation to her campaign. After learning of Rice’s donation to Harmon, Marx chastised her opponent in her campaign newsletter for accepting it. Marx linked to SLO Truth as a source that described Rice’s past conduct. Rice responded to Marx’s criticism by claiming she lacked ethics and said he would support Harmon as Integrity SLO “whether she likes it or not.” As an example of “advocat[ing] for honest and ethical candidates,” Rice referred to his District 3 candidates forum from earlier this year, but refused to acknowledge the controversy behind it. Rice claimed Marx was “intentionally propagating manufactured and unquestionable lies which are readily controverted by documented facts and/or completely without substance.”

After the mayoral race ended, Rice filed a retaliatory complaint against Marx, claiming she skirted local campaign finance laws by accepting donations from political consultant Cory Black, which reportedly exceeded $600 in individual campaign donation limits. According to Rice’s complaint, had Marx beaten Harmon, “no remedy would be available to reverse an illicit election win.” The irony was not lost on Harmon supporters and other Democrats, who readily pointed to Rice’s deceptive robocalls.

Later in 2016, Rice was involved in controversial robocalls that opposed Hill. According to former District 3 supervisor candidate Debbie Peterson, Rice assisted her with an anti-Hill robocall. The call featured Peterson, who accused the supervisor of locking her in “county hall” and claimed he had a permit to carry a gun. Peterson claimed she “felt threatened” by Hill, who allegedly showed her stacks of paper and computer records about a political opponent that she acknowledged later was Kevin P. Rice. There was no evidence to substantiate her claims and no records showed that Hill had or applied for a concealed carry permit. Hill acknowledged a meeting took place on the day in question, but he refuted Peterson’s allegations.

Rice was involved in a second anti-Hill robocall. This time, Rice added the “Integrity SLO” disclaimer at the end of the call. The robocall featured local businesswoman Julie Tizzano, co-owner of SLOCO Data and Printing in Grover Beach. According to Tizzano, Rice is one of her business clients. Tizzano claimed that Hill threatened to stop county funding for the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County — a non-profit organization she volunteered for — because she supported his opponent Dan Carpenter. Tizzano added that Hill was “willing to hurt senior citizens, the poor and the homeless.” Like the Peterson robocall, there was no evidence to back the accusation. Hill claimed he had not spoken to Tizzano for 10 years. As supervisor, Hill doesn’t not have the power to unilaterally cut county funding to any non-profit organization.

Angered that his robocalls were fact-checked, Rice claimed the Tribune reporter fact-checking them was manipulated and bullied by Hill. Tribune executive editor Sandra Duerr rebutted his baseless allegations.

The Curious Case of Patrick Rich: Rice’s Online Trolling

Rice is known for making inflammatory and defamatory comments as himself and an anonymous pseudonym known as “Patrick Rich.” Since the SLO Progressives movement rose to prominence in early 2017, Rice has sought to undermine their messaging on social media, including The Tribune website, by falsely claiming he works for the group as part of their “Troll Troop.” Using this pseudonym, Rice has made a series of allegations about his adversaries while parroting talking points unique to him.

As “Rich,” Rice often targets District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill in his commentary. For example, in a comment he made on March 12, 2017, Rice claimed the supervisor “takes money from big oil.” Last year, Rice submitted a complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission, claiming without evidence that the SLO County Democratic Party was funneling money they received from multinational oil company Phillips 66 to Hill’s 2016 re-election campaign. The FPPC found no merit to his allegation. The allegation also received a rebuke from the Democratic Party.

Among other allegations, Rice has also accused Hill of being a substance abuser who’s also “in bed” with The Tribune.

As “Rich,” Rice has also targeted local environmentalist Bill Denneen, one of his long-time adversaries. Denneen opposes off-road vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes and Rice supports it. After Denneen submitted a letter to the editor on March 5, Rice accused the respected environmentalist of violating environmental laws, including “illegally collecting marine mammal parts” and “led hundreds of people on illegal hikes through closed snowy plover breeding units with dogs frequently in tow.” According to the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Rice submitted complaints to the agency regarding Denneen and these specific allegations; they found the claims to be baseless.

“Rich” has targeted progressives and accused them of being fascists and “mentally degenerate.” “Rich” often repeats the slogan “LEFT=HATE,” which Rice also used as himself.

It’s unclear why Rice has made the effort to publish comments on a website — that he regularly claims he despises — using an anonymous account. As himself, Rice has disavowed anonymous blogging.