When transparency attacks


It’s always curious what lawmakers think they can get away with. Especially when the very thing they are trying to get away with must be disclosed to the public. Case in point: the California legislature.

Months after waiving environmental laws for a proposed football stadium, some legislators were treated by the venue’s developer to hard-to-get tickets to Lakers playoff games, according to new disclosures filed with the state.

The $1,400 in basketball tickets were among dozens of gifts valued at tens of thousands of dollars that lobbying firms reported giving to state officials in the last three months. The gifts included rounds of golf, Disneyland tickets, expensive meals, movie passes and liquor.

The gifts are legal but raise questions about whether special interests bestow them in an effort to garner favorable treatment from lawmakers, said Derek Cressman, regional director of Common Cause. He noted that a proposal to limit such gifts to $10 a month died in the Legislature earlier this year.

California gift rules are behind the standard set in Washington. Congress has fairly stringent gift rules, created after the Jack Abramoff scandal. Currently, Rep. Charlie Rangel is facing charges of breaking those gift rules, among other things.

As more and more people have grown concerned about certain kinds of casual corruption in Washington, maybe they should also consider looking at what’s going on in their backyards. How many other states have disclosure provisions for lobbyist gifts, but doesn’t have strict rules on how large those gifts can be?