Donors lavish gifts on key aides in CA Legislature

Donors lavish gifts on key aides in CA Legislature

payola_reservoir.Par.22439.Image.300.225.1.gifApril 14, 2013

By Chris Reed

The term limits that shuffle lawmakers in and out of office in Sacramento vest considerable power in the staff members who remain in powerful posts, whether working for individual lawmakers or in key assignments at the most important committees.

Guess who’s figured this out? Of course, it’s the special interests who have the most to gain from currying favor with the people, elected and otherwise, who write state laws.

This is from U-T San Diego’s Chris Cadelago’s excellent weekend report:

“Groups that spent the most on lobbying last year provided legislative aides with about $69,500 in gifts. A U-T Watchdog review showed that the same groups — from companies to associations and unions — bestowed roughly $70,500 in gifts to lawmakers.

“Many of the presents went to staffers standing in for their bosses at customary banquets or at meetings over breakfast, lunch or dinner. Many aides also received tickets to places such as Disneyland, the U.S. Open Championship and San Francisco Giants and Sacramento Kings games. They took in college bowl games, horse races at Del Mar and Professional Bull Riders.

“Others were afforded meals, parking passes and entry to a range of shows and concerts, from Cirque du Soleil and Sesame Street Live to the Black Keys, Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum. Staffers were also given craft beer valued at $5 and ice cream sundaes listed at $1.

“’Corporations don’t waste their money. They obviously think that they are getting something in return by doing this,’ said Bob Stern, a campaign finance expert who authored the state’s political reform laws. ‘They are not going to spend it on the employee who is giving tours of the Capitol.’”

20120314_GoodtobeKingAnd lookie here, surprise, surprise, there is something of a code of silence among the aides who benefit. They’ll give vague details but nothing juicy as to how the gifts benefit the donors:

U-T Watchdog approached several current and former legislative aides who received gifts and none agreed to speak on the record.

“Gifts from registered lobbyists are tightly controlled. Most legislative staffers were subject to a $420 limit from a single entity last year.

“One veteran staffer said it was well known among his colleagues that they could request tickets from representatives of lobbying firms who themselves are not registered lobbyists. Other times the nonlobbyists will call staff and ask them if they want to attend an event in their luxury box.”

In ancient times, it was good to be the king. Now it’s good to be the well-connected Sacramento staffer.

More juicy copy from Cadelago here.

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