Consumer Advocates Call on Politicians to Explain Spending Campaign Funds on Calif. Golf, Casinos & Wineries

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Requirement Should Be Added to Disclosure Rules Proposed by State Ethics Board

Santa Monica, CA — Politicians would not have to explain trips to
golf courses, wineries or casinos in California under new disclosure
rules proposed by the state ethics board, said the Foundation for
Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today. More information on overseas
junkets, meals and gifts is long overdue, but loopholes remain in the
proposal, said FTCR.

The regulations proposed by the Fair Political Practices
Commission (FPPC) should add a "golf" disclosure category, so that
politicians must explain how greens fees and other golfing expenditures
are job-related, said FTCR. They must also require full disclosure of
travel within California, not just out-of-state, and include
itineraries and participants in the trips. The San Francisco Chronicle
reported this week that California lawmakers spent nearly $700,000 on
meals, travel, gifts and entertainment, including $395,000 in
California and $164,000 on golf-related expenses, between 2005 and

"When did fine dining and exclusive golf courses become part
of the package of joining the legislature? Strict new rules will rein
in the excess or force politicians to explain why they need luxury
surroundings to represent the people of California. To do that, the
Commission’s required disclosures must also include expenditures on
travel to California’s vacation destinations," said Carmen Balber of

Read FTCR’s comments to the FPPC.

The regulations proposed by the Fair Political Practices
Commission (FPPC) followed revelations that Speaker of the Assembly
Fabian Núñez used campaign funds to purchase items at luxury boutiques,
stay at high-end hotels, stockpile fine wines and travel around the
world. State law requires expenditures from candidate-controlled
committees to have a legitimate political, legislative or governmental
purpose, but the Speaker has refused to detail how his expenditures met
those requirements.

FTCR called for amendments to the proposal, including:
* A ban on the use of vague or generic phrases to explain the political, legislative or government purpose of the activity;
* Reporting of travel itineraries and participant names;
* New Form 460 codes for "meal", "gift", and "golf" and explanation of the ambiguous "office expense";
* Guidelines for the appropriate use of campaign funds for in-state travel.

"The FPPC’s proposal is a good start to rein in questionable
campaign expenditures, but commissioners should demand more detail to
ensure no politician can hide extravagant and unjustifiable spending
behind a curtain of technical compliance," said Balber.

"We believe that campaign funds should be limited to political
uses, and that foreign relations and travel on the people’s business
are correctly paid for by the state," wrote FTCR. "Campaign committees are meant to help politicians get elected, not sustain an extravagant lifestyle once they are in office… However, until such change is effected in statute, the disclosure within the Commission’s power to demand can be a strong deterrent to abuse."

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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