State Officials Report Thousands In Gifts

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SACRAMENTO, CA — A $151 hotel room in Lodi, $81 dinner, $10 chocolate
computer and a $2 flashlight — these are just some of the gifts that
state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley and Sen. Fran Pavley have received
in the past year.

according to an online database compiled by the Sacramento Bee earlier
this month, detailing the gifts that state officials, their staff and
family received from January 2008 to June 2009, which altogether amount
to 12,000 items totaling approximately $833,000.

California Fair Political Practices Commission requires that state
officials publicly disclose any gifts valued at more than $50. Gifts
from a single source may not exceed $420 in a calendar year.

are a several exceptions concerning public reporting and gift limits,
including items that are returned, donated to a nonprofit organization,
or received from family members.

Officials who break the rules
could face an administrative fine of up to $5,000 per violation, Roman
Porter, the executive director of the Fair Political Practices
Commission, said.

Topping the list of officials who have
received the most gifts — excluding travel — is Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger with $21,377, followed by former state Assemblyman
Fabian Nunez, who reported $14,626 and current Speaker of the Assembly,
Karen Bass, who got about $13,671.

The gifts received for the two local representatives is minimal by comparison — Pavley reported $2,112 and Brownley $839.

elected officials have few big ticket items. For Pavley, the largest
gifts came from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council in
December 2008 for $159 worth of food and drinks, followed by the
Consumer Attorneys of California, which paid for a $151 hotel room at
Wine & Roses in Lodi. She also received a dinner at the Citizen
Hotel in April from the California Correctional Peace Officers
Association, valued at $150.

The big gifts are even fewer for
Brownley, who received $150 worth of free parking at LAX in January and
an $89 dinner at Mason’s courtesy of the California Tribal Business

Brownley said that LAX makes parking available for elected officials which she chooses to utilize.

don’t accept gifts like tickets to basketball games and football
games,” Brownley said. “Obviously I am conscientious about reporting
every gift, but the gifts that I do accept are usually very minimal,
$10 or less.”

Some of the gifts were extended to staff
members, including a $14 lunch at Griselda’s Ventures for Brownley’s
office paid by the Personal Care Products Council in April. Other gifts
total in the single figure range, including $2 for turkey jerky and $6
for oranges, both of which went to Brownley.

Pavley also
reported smaller gifts that fall below the disclosure threshold,
including $8 for snacks, $14 for dinner at Claim Jumper, and a $31 rice
gift box.

“Brownley and Pavley’s gifts were small, and they
were actually very transparent and thorough on documenting even tiny
gifts they received, like a $2 flashlight, contrary to other
legislators like (Sen.) Rod Wright, who listed many more expensive
gifts, like a $15,000+ junket, and tickets to a Yanni concert and (Los
Angeles) Kings games, which don’t really have much relevance to doing
the job he was elected to do,” Mark Reback, consumer advocate for
Consumer Watchdog, said.

Wright’s staff is listed as using the Yanni concert and hockey game tickets.

Both Brownley and Pavley said that their decisions in Sacramento are not swayed by the gifts.

“I would never accept a gift that would compromise me that way,” Brownley said.

Pavley said that she is careful about accepting any kind of gift, whether it’s a meal or magazine subscription.

added that many of the reported expenses were from a trip of a large
group of officials to better understand the state’s water facilities. A
member of her staff attended the trip.

“I have never been
influenced by any of the small gifts that have been given to me or my
staff,” Pavley said. “My voting record speaks for itself.”

Email the author at: [email protected]

Consumer Watchdog
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