– Concert tickets to Billy Joel, a taping of the “The George Lopez
Show,” hotel stays and expensive meals are among the gifts that 31
California lawmakers acknowledged that they received but didn’t report,
and for which will pay a fine.
They fessed up after a review by
staff at the state’s campaign watchdog agency, the Fair Political
Practices Commission, found discrepancies with lobbyist reports.
lawmakers signed stipulations acknowledging failure to report the gifts
and agreed to pay the recommended fines, Roman Porter, the commission’s
executive director, said Monday. The commission will have the final say
at its Feb. 11 meeting.
“The commission has the ability to accept or reject them,” Porter said.
staff proposed a $200 fine for each of the 47 violations, which would
amount to $9,400 collectively in fines that will be deposited in the
state general fund. Failure to disclose gifts can bring fines of up to
$5,000 for each violation.
The commission in December sent
letters to 38 members of the Assembly and Senate for failing to report
gifts totaling thousands of dollars. The records document gifts
received in 2008, the last year for which such information is available.
lawmakers accused of reporting violations have pending cases, although
representatives for Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Mission Viejo, and Patricia
Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, said the FPPC has dropped the violations
against them. Others have challenged the FPPC findings, expect to be fined later, or did not return calls seeking comment.
Porter declined to comment on the outstanding cases.
the gifts lawmakers said they did not report: meals at Ella’s, a
high-end restaurant in Sacramento; tickets to Billy Joel, Keith Urban
and George Strait concerts; a hard-to-get ticket to the 2008 Holiday
Bowl between Oklahoma State and Oregon; a taping of ABC’s “The George
Lopez Show;” and Sacramento Kings basketball games.
Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, agreed she failed to report meals
paid by AT&T, Chevron Corp. and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno
Mission Indians, which operates Pechanga Resort and Casino in Southern
California. Her attorney had previously characterized the mistake as a
bookkeeping error. Commission staff have recommended she pay $600.
Republican Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who failed to list
$101 worth of food and drinks from the California Professional
Firefighters, has agreed to pay $200. He has said his staff filed the
gift under the wrong year.
Representatives for several lawmakers
said violations were dropped after members showed the commission had
erred or lobbyists mistakenly reported a gift.
Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello was initially informed that he should
have reported $1,077 in gifts from the Association of California Life
and Health Insurance Companies to his wife, Ana, including a stay at
Pebble Beach Resorts, known for its stunning oceanfront view and
world-class golf course.
Calderon is chairman of the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee, which oversees the industry.
the elected official somehow enjoys or controls the gift, they’re not
required to report a gift to a family member so the FPPC backed off its
allegation,” said Calderon chief of staff Rocky Rushing.
commission in December said it would consider imposing greater
restrictions on gifts that go to relatives of public officials.
staff also found that Calderon had reported one other gift from the
same Pebble Beach stay and a July dinner from the Association of
California Insurance Companies on July 12, Rushing said. Nevertheless,
Calderon was fined $600 for failing to report a $189 meal from
Medtronic, $250 greens fees paid by the Cable and Telecommunications
Association and concert tickets worth $300 from Verizon. Rushing said
that’s because lobbyists had not provided the senator’s office with a
letter detailing the gifts.
“We’ll be taking independent steps from here on out to keep track of what gifts the senator receives,” Rushing said.