Former State Assemblyman Fabian Nunez was cleared of wrongdoing in an ethics investigation that had already damaged the reputation of the Democrat, who is now a prominent public affairs consultant. Apparently spending $155,000 in campaign funds on lavish international travel, wining and dining in destinations such as Bordeaux, France and buying high-end boutique gifts does necessarily qualify as illegal in California.
The state ethics commission found that Nunez's expenditures could be claimed as being “reasonably related to a political, legislative or government purpose,” reports the L.A. Times.
Really? Someone tell the governor, because he'll be on a jet to Barbados for “work-related activities” by nightfall — given his penchant for luxurious, shadily funded travel.
While Nunez admitted relief at being let off the hook, the commission's ruling raises an important question: Isn't there something wrong with California laws, if they allow legislators to spend $2,562 in campaign money on “office expenses” at Louis Vuitton?
You bet there is. And it's not just California. In New York and other cities, voters are getting fed up with lax laws that let lawmakers fund their lavish lifestyles with so-called campaign money.
Perhaps voters will finally demand genuine scrutiny of how legislators spend the money they're given to win elections.
Meanwhile, Nunez continues to wrestle with ethical demands — even after leaving government. The PR firm where he is a partner, Mercury Public Affairs, found itself in a controversy when it was quietly awarded a $9 million contract to handle public relations for California's High Speed Rail Line. After a public outcry prompted the state rail authority to re-bid the contract, Mercury dropped out of the project altogether.
Not to worry. Surely Nunez will benefit from other political ties and vague ethics laws for a while.