Thursday, January 21, 2010

Equal Opportunity Bribes

I must be losing some of my naivete because the revelation that California state legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle have been accepting "gifts" from lobbyists didn't surprise me in the least. From the Los Angeles Times:

At least 26 state legislators are being fined for failing to disclose that they accepted gifts from lobbying groups.

The fines are the first penalties revealed as part of a month-old investigation by the state's political watchdog agency into suspicions that 38 state lawmakers -- including Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) -- and 15 staff members failed to make the required disclosures.

The gifts included sports and concert tickets, meals, spa treatments and hotel rooms. The givers included a casino operator, a horse-racing track, a union, a bank and various interest groups. The investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission takes in much of the leadership of the Legislature, according to state records.

In a state with strict term limits, the only people around with a complete knowledge on how the state legislature actually works are the lobbyists. They make it a point to befriend the newly elected and to show them the ropes. They also apparently make available some great concert tickets and dining experiences. A few state legislators got busted for accepting those gifts (including those who by virtue of their experience in state government should know better) and not reporting them, which is the real no-no. Apparently accepting the gifts in and of itself is not bad.

What I did find surprising, however, is the fact that the stiffest fine that can be imposed for such malfeasance is $5,000. In the grand scheme of things, especially in a big state, that's peanuts. I guess the legislative committee which drafted that law didn't want to go overboard. After all, for many of those in the state legislature, their current jobs are just the training grounds for bigger and better future employment, just like the Washington Big Leagues.


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