MAY 20, 2008
Taking action against several lawmakers who used tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions to take lavish trips abroad, one state’s ethics commission has banned the controversial and highly questionable practice.
Charged with promoting integrity in state and local government, the California Fair Political Practices Commission voted this week to end the abuse of campaign contributions by many of the state’s politicians. Besides banning the popular globe-trotting, legislators will no longer be allowed to use campaign cash to pay for golf, upscale hotels and fancy meals while traveling in the state. In the last few years alone, California legislators have spent nearly $400,000 in campaign funds for travel within the state.
Additionally, elected officials will be prohibited from having third parties pay for their travel though government agencies. For years this has allowed special interests to finance expensive trips while circumventing disclosure requirements.
The commission was motivated to pass the measures after newspaper reports revealed that the state’s then Assembly Speaker, Democrat Fabian Nunez, and other veteran legislators had spent tens of thousands of campaign dollars to travel through Europe and stay at upscale resorts.
A state consumer watchdog group had long pressured the California ethics commission to force politicians to justify how they spend their campaign cash as well as rein in the kind of extravagant spending that has become routine among lawmakers. The group points out that public officials don’t need five-star hotels, haute cuisine and $100 bottles of wine to effectively govern the state of California.
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