Last week, Santa Clara County finally released a current list of people who received permission from Sheriff Laurie Smith to carry concealed guns. At the time, we reported that two of them worked for AS Solutions, an executive protection firm linked to DA Jeff Rosen’s inquiry into whether anyone illicitly paid their way to an approved permit.
We’re now told that at least four of the people on that roster worked for AS Solution.
One of the names didn’t surprise us. Martin Nielsen, an AS Solution account manager assigned to its Facebook contract, won a scarce-to-come-by permit no more than six months after donating $45,000 to an independent political action committee supporting Smith’s 2018 re-election. Also on the list: his former colleague Rachael Paskvan, who jumped ship from AS Solution earlier this month for a better-paying executive security gig at Facebook.
But at least two other people who nabbed a permit in 2019 worked with Nielsen at some point. On March 26, the same day Nielsen and Paskvan got the green light to secretly pack heat, AS Solution bodyguard Jonathan Taunton did, too. A few months later, so did another Nielsen executive protector, Leonard Lawrence.
Sources inside AS Solution say Nielsen’s the handler for the company’s contract to guard Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, among others, and Taunton, Lawrence and Paskvan were part of a team he assembled.
But those same sources say that, to their knowledge, there was no professional need for those gun permits. Facebook has been a client for years, “so there couldn’t have been any pressure on that end, either,” a security veteran remarked in a recent phone chat.
Whatever the case, it’s unlikely Nielsen acted alone.
Someone else deposited $70,000 into his Citibank account just before he cut that $45,000 personal check to the pro-Smith Santa Clara County Public Safety Alliance committee—a sequence of events that seems to violate laws against donation laundering.
If the money that dropped into Nielsen’s account came from anyone associated with Facebook, it didn’t necessarily work out badly for the social media giant.
The Santa Clara County Public Safety Alliance spent either $67,500 or $50,904 on Facebook ads, depending on whether you believe the committee’s Oct. 30, 2018, filing (the larger figure) or Facebook’s new political ads database.