The Sacramento Bee has posted online the financial disclosure forms for all 120 legislators, the governor and the rest of our statewide elected officials. Saves us lowly nonprofits the copying fees for hundreds of pages of documents that tell us, among other things, who lavished gifts on politicians last year. Thanks Bee!
I haven’t taken a good look at them all yet, but a few things jump out from the news reports this weekend:
From the Fresno Bee: Assembly GOP Leader Mike Villines apparently thinks that, when special interests offer him free tickets and meals, it’d be rude?! to refuse.
Gifts to Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines of Clovis included $115 for tickets to a Sacramento Kings game, paid for by AT&T, $345 for tickets to Disney on Ice, picked up by Disney, and $162 for dinner in Washington, D.C., paid for by cigarette-maker Altria.
Villines said he sometimes lets companies pick up the tab in order to be polite.
"You just want to make sure you report it," he said.
The Sacramento Bee reports at least three lawmakers – Assemblymembers Parra and Price, and Senator Machado — took a tour in South Africa on the dime of the supposedly educational California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy (CFEE). Another, Senator Dutton, visited Japan. CFEE sends politicians on luxury junkets around the world, and invites its corporate donors along for the ride. (Like this stay at the Copacabana, Brazil, shared by Speaker Nunez, Schwarzenegger chief of staff Susan Kennedy, Chevron and Southern California Edison, among others.)
How tight a competition do you think there was between CFEE’s energy, utility, and telecom company sponsors to accompany Dutton, vice-chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Commerce committee, on the 12-hour flight to Japan?
Bob Stern (President of our neighbor LA-based good government group, Center for Governmental Studies) was right on the money when he told both Bees that legitimate trips – trips that really benefit California by giving our lawmakers a greater understanding of the issues they face – should be paid for by the taxpayers, not special interests. Otherwise, private interests are paying to govern the state of California – or at least the people who do the governing.
Check out the filings. Tell us what you see. I’ll circle back around with my thoughts too.