California lawmakers in fundraising frenzy as session winds down
As state lawmakers near the end of the session and decisions loom on dozens of bills affecting special interests, there is a frenzy of campaign fundraising going on in the restaurants and bars surrounding the Capitol.
Lawmakers have scheduled more than 70 political fundraisers in just the first two weeks of August, with the bulk drawing lobbyists and others to eateries and hotels within convenient walking distance of the busy legislative chambers. The crush of fundraising is so intense that on Wednesday there were 11 fundraisers scheduled during the same hour.
Many are for legislators on the November ballot, but others are for campaigns beyond 2012.
Some events are being held outside Sacramento. Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) scheduled "a night at the races" at Los Alamitos Racetrack, while Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale) is raising money for his congressional campaign this weekend with an "exclusive BBQ" in Butte County and featuring House Speaker John Boehner.
The fundraising isn't all for individuals. The California Legislative Black Caucus Policy Institute on Thursday began a three-day "summer policy retreat" at the Ritz Carlton in Lake Tahoe, where $12,000 contributors get a luxurious room and golf at Gray’s Crossing.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials have proposed in past years to ban end-of-session fundraising out of worries it might appear that action on legislation was being tied to political contributions.
"I have a concern that the only reason people contribute is because they feel obligated and are worried that their bills won't get a favorable vote,'' said Bob Stern, former chief counsel to the state ethics agency. "It is a form of blackmail.'' Stern said he would ban end-of-session fundraising in non-election years but not in election years.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento