"Legislators and lobbyists get ready for the fundraising dance" Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2008
"While budget waits, California legislators collect campaign donations" Sacramento Bee, August 12, 2008
"Show me the money: Pro fund-raisers play key Capitol role" Capitol Weekly, August 14, 2008
Bad habits die hard. That's what the headlines over the last two weeks say. The oft-criticized habit of California legislators who jam as many political fundraisers into the final weeks of the work year as possible is repeating at ful tilt this year. The Sacramento Bee reports that over 100 fundraisers are scheduled for this month alone.
It's a habit that continues to erode public confidence in the political process. Most important decisions are made by the legislature during these last few weeks of session - including passage of the budget. Lawmakers leave the Capitol building to beg for money from the very special interests who were lobbying them for support and funding half an hour before. It usually raises eyebrows when politicians claim that they don't let a group's campaign support sway their opinion on policy issues, but it's laughable when the money is pledged at a fundraiser just hours before a critical vote.
There were 5 fundraisers scheduled today for current legislators, and 15 are scheduled for tomorrow. A crowd favorite (it involves black leather and Harleys) is going on right about now. Click here to watch our video of that event last year, and the rest of the fundraisers chronicled by our undercover team at end-of-session events in 2007.
Public financing of elections can free politicians from this fundraising dance - and help start to restore public confidence in the political process. Assemblywoman Loni Hancock's public financing bill (AB 583) is up for a vote in the Senate this week. It would start a public financing program for Secretary of State elections, and lay a foundation to take private money out of all California elections. Anyone who has ever complained about politicians beholden to some special interest should support it. From the results of polls about Sacramento politicians, that's just about everyone.
UPDATE: I just watched that video and realized that it doesn't include any footage of the motorcycle bash. Nevertheless, it's a good illustration of just how disturbing end-of-session fundraising can be