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Politics

$20,000 buys California laws: Felipe Fuentes, Charles Calderon, dozens of legislators take cash from special interests who ghost-write laws

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Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 12:16 PM

click to enlarge Assembly Felipe Fuentes: is he selling California laws?
  • Assembly Felipe Fuentes: is he selling California laws?
We've already reported that Los Angeles' State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes is "The Worst Legislator in California," putting his name on laws that are actually ghostwritten by corporations, unions -- and anyone else Fuentes thinks he can squeeze for campaign help.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Karen de Sa, who unveiled an explosion in the sleazy Sacramento practice of "sponsored bills," has a new scoop. She reports that Fuentes, State Sen. Assemblyman Charles Calderon and others are essentially selling California laws. They've reaped an average $25,000 $20,000 from firms, unions and others who they allow to write the wording of scads of state laws. Felipe, Calderon & Co. put their names on those laws. More sick facts here:

As de Sa reports (her scoops are being ignored by most of the way-too-entrenched reporters in the Sacramento press corps):

The legislators who introduced the most private-interest-sponsored legislation -- Assembly members who introduced 10 or more bills, senators who introduced seven or more -- received, on average, more than $20,000 from private interest [ghost writers] whose bills they carried.

Did you elect one of these legislators?

click to enlarge ASSEMBLYMAN CHARLES CALDERON IS AMONG THE WORST
  • Assemblyman Charles Calderon is among the worst
The worst, de Sa reports, are Fuentes, Calderon, Ed Hernandez, Leland Yee, Bill Emmerson, Lou Correa, Gloria Negrete-McLeod and Mary Hayashi.

But there are dozens more.

Only two of the 120 California state legislators didn't take the trip down the road of slime this past year, Chuck DeVore and Mike Gatto.

De Sa says legislators openly defend the practice of letting special interest groups write customized laws -- about themselves.

God. Here's the streeeetttttcccccched logic the legislators have mind-numbingly concocted for their sad behavior:

Proposed legislation goes to the Office of Legislative Counsel to be formally "drafted." And sponsors are barred from talking to Legislative Counsel staff, absent a waiver from the legislator introducing the bill. But those protections turned out not to be the safeguard that critics envision.

Waivers are freely granted, and legislative counsel staff tell of many instances in which llobbyists, with legislators' approval, negotiated language directly [with California's Legislative Counsel], leaving legislators and their staff out of the give-and-take.

The slime season of Sacramento bills written by groups who profit from them includes:

click to enlarge California legislator Bill Emmerson, up there with the worst
  • California legislator Bill Emmerson, up there with the worst
-- Bill Emmerson put his name on a law really written by a lobbyist to create a special NASCAR license plate. Some of the money raised from vanity plates, instead of going to devastated state coffers, would funnel to "a charity of NASCAR's choice -- or even to NASCAR drivers."

-- Calderon took $12,000 from the mobile home industry, and introduced a bill -- written by mobile-home park owners -- letting them double fees they charge to new mobile home owners in parks with rent control. Calderon, busted by de Sa, is now saying he wrote the words. The bill was killed by extensive criticism.

And get this: California legislators bend over backward to approve the ghostwritten laws over the laws actually written by their fellow legislators. It's all about the money.

De Sa writes (our own notes are in brackets):

More than half of the sponsored [or ghost-written] bills that were introduced the most recent session became law, compared with 21 percent of non-sponsored bills, the review found.

But that discrepancy reflected the Legislature's preference for [ghost-written] bills -- 69 percent of all sponsored bills made their way to Schwarzenegger's desk in the 2009-10 session, but only 30 percent of all bills [written by legislators themselves].

Is anyone up for cleaning house in Sacramento and just starting over from scratch?

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