As a wave of populist anger sweeps the nation, the latest investigation by California's Fair Political Practices Commission is sure to ignite further grassroots discontent. As a result of the exhaustive investigation, at least twenty-six legislators from both parties, have admitted to failing to disclose lucrative gifts from lobbying groups, and will pay fines for violating financial disclosure laws.
The $200-$1,000 fines are the initial penalties imposed by the state agency's investigation into potential improprieties by thirty-eight lawmakers and fifteen staff members. Legislators who have agreed to pay fines include Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, Senate Minority Leader-elect Bob Dutton, and Assembly Majority Whip Fiona Ma. Undisclosed gifts included sports and concert tickets, meals, spa treatments, and hotel rooms.
While legislators and staff members may attempt to claim ignorance of specific, financial guidelines pertaining to political gifts, Bob Stern, President of the LA based Center for Governmental Studies, stated, "They absolutely should know better." He went on to say, "Those in power get more goodies than those not in power. The wealthy get wealthier."
If Californians needed any more evidence that Sacramento is largely a bastion of special interests and self-serving politicians, this report should prove quite convincing. While Californians suffer 12% unemployment, $20 billion budget deficits, and high inflation in the educational & healthcare sectors, lobbyists and state legislators are living the high life. Much like the deepening disconnect between Wall St and Main St, Sacramento continues to engage in behavior that severely disconnects it from Main St. California.
Fortunately, greater transparency uncovered the indiscretions. Moving forward, perhaps Californians will refuse to accept special interest domination and aristocratic-type leadership in their state capital. If golden state citizens are serious about cleaning the slate and instituting legitimate political reform, then they will have to put their money where their mouth is come election time later this year. And if they needed any additional motivation to mobilize a powerful grassroots movement, this latest finance report should do the trick.