California lawmakers reported Tuesday that they accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts last year, including concert and sports tickets, golf games, expensive dinners and overseas trips.
State officials reported trips paid for by others to Spain, Portugal, Israel, China, El Salvador, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Canada.
Legislators could legally accept gifts of up to $440 last year from special interest groups seeking their favors, and more for travel as long as they gave a speech as part of the trip. A bill to cut the gift limit to $200 and prohibit certain gifts, including sports and concert tickets, was approved by the Legislature last year but vetoed by the governor.
The four current legislative leaders accepted a combined $48,000 in gifts last year. Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who authored last year's bill limiting gifts, accepted the most: $15,597 in 2014.
The biggest gift received by De Leon was $9,758 in airfare and other travel expenses paid for by a nonprofit group called the Climate Registry so he could attend a United Nations conference on climate change in Peru in December. The Climate Registry is a partnership between states and provinces that sets standards for calculating greenhouse gas emissions.
De Leon also accepted $440 in tickets, parking and refreshments from UCLA for one of its football games, a $243 tie and cuff from Planned Parenthood and a $137 meal from the Barona Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino.
Assembly Republican leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto reported $13,577 in gifts, led by $5,723 in travel expenses paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy for a study trip to Canada, and a $2,914 trip to Hawaii for a conference paid for by the nonprofit Independent Voter Project.
Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar reported accepting $8,933 in gifts, including $3,131 in travel expenses to the Hawaii conference paid for by the Independent Voter Project, which gets its money from interests including utilities, unions and industry groups.