The LA Times has decided to expose, not before Election Day but a month after, the juicy little fact that 1/4 of all state lawmakers have outside jobs which can cause direct conflicts of interest with their lawmaking duties, as they often vote on legislation that directly impacts their private income.
There can be a case made, though not a compelling one, that the shortness of legislative terms requires lawmakers to have some backup income in place for the future beyond their $150,000 a year salary. However, when termed-out legislators can grab highly sought and lucrative state board positions, that point becomes fairly moot. Not to mention the fact that political donors can continue to fund termed-out politicians for “strategic purposes,” a perfectly legal enterprise.
Assemblywoman Nicole Parra may have found the perfect antidote to life in the Assembly doghouse – travel to political bashes in Maui, Las Vegas, Chicago and New Orleans, courtesy of political donors […]
Campaign disclosure statements show that Parra, a lame-duck lawmaker who did not seek election to another office, largely emptied her campaign coffers this year – in part by spending thousands of dollars on travel, meals, parties and conferences […] Parra spent more than $150,000 in campaign funds this year, including donations of $30,000 to WEAVE in Sacramento, $15,000 to the California Democratic Party, and $3,600 apiece to about a half-dozen legislative colleagues.
California law allows legislators to spend unlimited campaign sums for a political, legislative or governmental purpose.
My larger beef is with the 38 million who permit this activity through our collective silence, relatively speaking. Without an independent media dedicated to exposing sunlight and ferreting out these ugly deals inside Sacramento, and then without significant follow-up from citizens and groups to force consequences, we basically get the government we deserve. California’s media landscape shrinks almost by the day, as a nation-state of 38 million has a number of political reporters that you may not even have to go into double digits to count. The “watchdog” groups are competent press release factories, but extract little in the way of consequences. And everybody has so internalized the concept that state elections are essentially a formality, including both sides of the political aisle, that the public wastes its own opportunity to have a voice on these matters. The perfect example is AD-30 this year, a hotly contested race with millions of dollars spent on both sides, which attracted an appalling 84,804 voters total at last count, less than half of the number for a similarly contested race in AD-10, and close to 1/3 of eligible voters, registered and unregistered, in the Bakersfield-area district. And this was a Presidential election! If I were elected from there I’d be embarrassed to serve.
This outright apathy allows corruption to slip through the cracks, as an unwatched Sacramento goes about its plunder. The byzantine series of rules have made California ungovernable because so few people show a legitimate interest in changing them. The future of California lies only in finding more people who care about the state than currently exist. Otherwise, a narrow political class will continue to take profits, and nobody will even notice.