Reports show that California Lawmakers Accepted over $810,000 in Gifts and Overseas Trips last year
According to the annual economic disclosure reports, California legislators accepted over $810,000 in gifts in 2018. Many of these gifts such as tickets to concerts and professional sporting events came from powerful interest groups lobbying the state. Some of the legislators reported accepting travel expenses for trips to countries such as China, Chile, India, Israel, Japan, and Poland, among other countries. Several of the trips were reported as study or trade missions, while others were reported as speeches and panel discussions. Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of a government watchdog organization called California Common Cause, stated the follow regarding the reports,
The truth is the vast majority of gifts and trips are given because the gift givers want something in return. It’s not just a question of the gift giver wanting something in return, but that the public could infer that even if it’s not true. There is potential for the public’s faith in government to be undermined.
Which lawmakers received the most gifts last year? That distinction goes to state Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Mike Gipson. Senator Wiener accepted $59,000 in travel, meals and other gifts last year, while Assemblyman Gipson accepted $41,400 in travel, meals and other gifts. The trip with the most number of lawmakers attending was to an annual conference at Maui sponsored by the Independent Voter Project, which was attended by 14 legislators. The 14 legislators that attended that conference received about $2,600 each for expenses and stayed at a luxury resort. There have been previous legislative attempts to restrict many gifts such as tickets to concerts, but many have failed. Unfortunately, the last bill to attempt restrictions on gifts was vetoed in 2014 by then Governor Jerry Brown, who said disclosure is sufficient. Hopefully there will be restrictions placed on gifts in the future to avoid the possibility of the public losing faith in the government.