State Officials Received $200,000 in Gifts, Millions in Behests California Common Cause Report Highlights How Officials Benefit from Loopholes

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  • Kathay Feng
California Common Cause Report Highlights How Officials Benefit from Loopholes

SACRAMENTO — A report released by California Common Cause examines personal finance statements submitted by California officials and highlights the extent to which gifts are used by interest groups and campaign slush funds to personally benefit policymakers.

The report analyzes statements covering 2012 and finds that over $200,000 in gifts and travel payments were received by California legislators. This includes $41,000 for hotel and lodging accommodations, $30,000 for tickets to concerts and sporting events, and over $100,000 in free meals. The analysis also finds that legislators and statewide officers directed or requested $6.7 million in “behested payments” from interest groups to charities and other pet causes.

“At a time when federal investigators are looking for potential illegal actions by California legislators, this report shows that many legal activities also raise suspicions about the influence of special interest in the State Capitol,” said Kathay Feng, executive director for California Common Cause.

“As families across California exchange gifts and holiday greetings, its timely for voters to know Christmas comes early for many of the Capitol’s most powerful,” said Phillip Ung, author of the report and outgoing policy advocate for California Common Cause. “When gifts are exchanged, a feeling of gratitude is natural, but voters are concerned how policymakers show their gratitude towards powerful interest groups.”

The report concludes with recommendations on how to close ethics loopholes to prevent future abuses that the Legislature and the Fair Political Practices Commission should adopt.

2013 personal finance statements will become available in spring 2014.

Download the report here.