Politicians must disclose free tickets, state regulators say
Amid an outcry over elected officials not reporting tickets to concerts and sporting events that they get as gifts, the state’s ethics watchdog agency acted Friday to require such gifts to be disclosed on the Internet when the politician attends to perform ceremonial duties.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission approved the new rule for elected officials when they are attending events to hand out a proclamation or represent City Hall. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently cited his performance of ceremonial duties as the reason he had not disclosed tickets to dozens of concerts, awards shows and ballgames.
The new rule is meant to shed light on who might be trying to gain the favor of an elected official by giving them tickets to the Oscars, a Dodgers game or a Lady Gaga concert.
"The value is to provide additional information to the public as to potential sources of undue influence on elected officials," said Roman Porter, executive director of the state ethics agency.
The disclosure will also allow the public to determine whether politicians are excessively taking advantage of their position to enjoy perks not affordable or as easily accessible to the average voter, according to Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles group that advocates openness in government.
"It’s important to know what events an elected official goes to, the number of events and their cost," Stern said. The argument that an official is there as part of his ceremonial duty, Stern added, "oftentimes is an excuse for the official to go to an event all of us would like to attend."
Friday’s action comes just months after Villaraigosa confirmed that he had attended dozens of events for free without reporting them as gifts because he believed state law did not require such reporting when he attended as part of his ceremonial duty.
The FPPC said in June it was investigating whether Villaraigosa was engaged in his ceremonial role when he accepted the thousands of dollars worth of tickets.
Under the rules adopted Friday, tickets must be disclosed, within 30 days of being received, on the Internet site of the elected official’s agency. The official would fill out a standard form disclosing the name of the official receiving the ticket, a description of the event, the date, the face value of the ticket, who provided the gift, the number of tickets received and a description of the "public purpose" under which the pass was provided.
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted to recommend that high-level city officials be prohibited from accepting free entry to concerts and athletic events if the donor of the free ticket has business pending before the city.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento