Bill Would Ban Legislators From Accepting Lavish Trips From Lobbyists

For average Californians, the news out of Sacramento is seldom good.

Finding ways to increase the tax burden, eliminate the taxpayer protections in Proposition 13 and increasing the cost of living seem to be the preoccupation of most members of the Legislature. The majority of bills that are introduced are designed to give special interests an advantage over their competitors and/or taxpayers.

To illustrate how this can work, let’s look at an issue state regulators faced some years ago. The burning public policy question was whether or not dog groomers should be allowed to clean dogs’ teeth. No, seriously. Veterinarians argued that this should be their exclusive purview because they can perform this procedure more “safely.” Dog groomers claimed this was just an attempt by animal doctors to eliminate competition so they could increase the cost to consumers, who, because of higher prices, might be less attentive to their pets’ needs.

Perhaps only the dogs know who was right, but the point is that much of what passes for activity in our state capitol is in the picking between winners and losers, whether it’s insurance companies versus trial lawyers, school choice advocates versus unions, doctors versus chiropractic providers, etc., ad nauseam. More often than not, the winners are not those with the best argument but, instead, are those with the most political clout. And of course having clout includes the ability to provide generous campaign contributions, turn out voters and hire the most persuasive lobbyists.  This helps explain why the losers are usually average folks.

ShakingHandsWithMoneyStill, there are some regulations over lobbying activity that are designed to give the illusion of fairness. For example, there are limitations on gifts that lawmakers can accept from lobbyists. However, there remains a huge loophole that allows special interests to dominate individual lawmaker’s attention for days at a time. This loophole is free luxury vacations provided to legislators, that are disguised as seminars or conferences.

Every year members of the Legislature are whisked off to exotic locales – Hawaii is a favorite — where they enjoy complimentary luxury lodging and dining, often overlaid by activities like golfing, tennis and snorkeling. In return, the lawmakers are expected to attend brief meetings. Sponsors assure the public that these trips are opportunities for lawmakers to learn more about important issues.

Others call these junkets a form of legalized bribery. They are designed to allow special interest lobbyists to have exclusive call on lawmakers’ attention, against which the officials’ small fry constituents cannot afford to compete.

Enter Assemblywoman Patty Lopez who would ban legislative junkets funded by interest groups. Her Assembly Bill 2840 would prohibit non-profit organizations (set up by lobbying interests) from providing lawmakers with free transportation, lodging and food.

Assemblywoman Lopez summarized the issue by saying “They’re not going to learn anything by golfing with lobbyists in Maui.”

Will Lopez’s colleagues approve her reform legislation intended to reduce the influence of special interest lobbyists by forcing lawmakers to give up junkets? You’d be better off betting on the snowball.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

And The Political Oscar Goes To …

Oscar Sunday has arrived, and while the celebrities are preening for their 30-seconds on screen, we thought at F&H we should put out Oscars for California political performances so far this year.

Best Actor: Neel Kashkari, on the streets of Fresno (albeit a performance that the locals didn’t vote for)

Best Subtle Performance: Jerry Brown at his budget press conference assuring reporters Prop 30 taxes are temporary … or are they? See Joel’s column here and Dan Walters here both picking up the same thing, maybe there is some flexibility in the word “temporary.”

Best Imitation of Hamlet: Antonio Villaraigosa – Will he or won’t he run for the U.S. Senate?

Best Special Effects: Kevin de Leon’s swearing in as Pro Tem

Best Original Song: Kim Alexander and California Voter Foundation 2014 Proposition Song

Best Director: Ace Smith, making all the political actors move as he wishes

Best Editing: Nathan Fletcher, turning his war hero Republican movie into an independent film, then a mainstream Democratic one

Best Adapted Screenplay: Prop. 2, with spare parts from previous rainy day fund attempts

Best Supporting Actor: Sutter Brown

Best Costume (to Prove this is Not 1980 California): Proposed ballot measures to reverse English Only, require condoms in porn films, and legalize marijuana

Surprise Newcomer of the Year: Assemblywoman Patty Lopez

Most Surprising Performance: Leland Yee, really was there any doubt?

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square, and Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University.

Will Dems Try to Recall One of Their Own?

Time doesn’t heal all intra-party wounds.

Last November, unknown community activist Patty Lopez defeated a fellow Democrat, incumbent Raul Bocanegra, in the 39th Assembly District. It is — without a doubt — the biggest upset in the history of California’s Top Two primary, which was enacted by voters with Proposition 14 in 2010.

Political professionals were left stumped at how Lopez won. In the June 3 primary, Bocanegra beat Lopez by nearly 40 points, the largest margin of any Democrat vs. Democrat primary in Los Angeles County. In advance of the November election, Lopez didn’t report any expenditures or obtain a candidate statement.

It hasn’t taken long for those unresolved questions to turn into vicious smears and an organized effort to unseat Lopez.


Before the first-term state lawmaker could introduce her first bill, angry self-described “progressives” were talking of a recall attempt.

“We cannot wait two years down the line for a chance to rectify the results of misplaced trust and uninformed voting,” Rosemary Jenkins, a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance, wrote at “By and large, worthy office-holders must pay their dues first, gaining experience through working their way up the ladder. She has not done that.”

Democrats fighting logoJenkins even branded Lopez as “functionally illiterate. … As a Progressive, I firmly believe in diversity with all its ramifications, but to be an effective legislator at any level requires fluency in the English language and the ability to communicate well.” (boldface in original)

Jenkins offered as grounds for a recall: Lopez has failed to use her taxpayer-funded office to support patronage jobs for Democratic activists.

“Speaking of the Democratic Party, she, as an elected Democrat, is obligated to hire Democrats as her staff members,” Jenkins wrote. “She has been in violation of this regulation.”

Of course, no such regulation exists and likely would be illegal. Although it’s rare, numerous California politicians have hired staffers of the opposing political party for key positions. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously hired Democrat Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff. In 2013, then-State Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat, hired longtime GOP staffer Damon Conklin to serve as a top adviser and lead his communications outreach.

Lopez’s chief of staff is a longtime Democratic staff member, Lourdes Jimenez, who recently worked for Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego. What’s Lopez’s big staffing crime? She hired Ricardo Benitez, a Republican, to a field representative position.

“What Sacramento is finding out about the newly elected Assemblywoman is troubling, to say the least,” Mario Solis-Marich, another blogger angry with Benitez’s hiring, wrote at

‘Smear campaign’

The pettiness and persistence of the attacks has some constituents questioning whether it’s part of a larger smear campaign.

“It appears that a very well-orchestrated smear campaign has been launched against Assemblywoman Patty Lopez disparaging her ethnic origins, gender, and abilities, while insulting the intelligence of the voters of the 39th Assembly District,” Michael Moncreiff, who lives in Rancho Tujunga, recently wrote at “All these disrespectful remarks are being callously disseminated one month after the Assemblywoman took office and well before she has commenced her legislative work.”

capitolFrontAs recently as mid-January, an attack website accused Lopez of “deceiving voters.” However, the website has recently been taken down and no archived copy was available.

The attacks, to a degree, have galvanized support for Lopez.

“She listens to us and is working for our communities instead of the pocketbooks of a few,” Nina Royal, who is active in several community organizations in the district, recently posted on Facebook. “I am confident that she will work hard to make a difference in our District.”

Another community activist in the largely Spanish-speaking district told Hoy Los Angeles, “Ella representa lo que la gente quiere, es la voz de ellos.” In English, “She represents what people want, (she) is the voice of them.”

‘I will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard’

Lopez, who declined’s request for comment on the recall attempt, has said she’s interested in representing all people in her district, not just politically connected party loyalists.

“I am no different from many of my colleagues in the Assembly because I ran for this office to improve the lives of people in my district and in California,” Lopez recently wrote. “And as the new representative of the 39th District in the California Assembly, I will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.”

She added, “I am still learning how everything works in the Legislature.”