Canceled this year over scandals, Pro Tem Cup is reinstated for 2015

Canceled this year over scandals, Pro Tem Cup is reinstated for 2015
State Assembly members play golf at the 2011 Speaker's Cup fundraiser. The state Senate has its own, separate fundraiser, the Pro Tem Cup, which was canceled in 2014 over scandals but is being reinstated for 2015. (Gina Ferazzi)

State Senate Democrats have decided to resume the annual Pro Tem Cup golf fundraiser in 2015, a year after the event was canceled in the wake of criminal charges filed against three Democratic Senators.

The event at Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego is the Senate Democrats' largest political fundraiser for the state party and has been criticized for allowing special interests to mingle with lawmakers in exchange for tickets costing between $15,000 and $65,000 per person.

The indictment of Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) on public corruption charges a week before this year's event was to be held led Democratic leaders, including Sen. Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles), to cancel the event. De León is now the Senate president pro tem.

At the time, De León and others cited criminal charges against Yee and Sens. Ronald Calderon and Roderick Wright, saying it was time for a "reality check" and adding that lawmakers "bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they [those charged] left behind."

Wright, who was accused of lying about living in his district, resigned in October, and Calderon, who faces an indictment alleging he took bribes in exchange for official action, was, like Yee, forced by term limits to leave office Nov. 30.

The Democrats did not do well in this year's elections, failing to regain supermajorities in both houses. Against that backdrop, an email sent Friday to supporters by Senate Democrats and obtained by The Times said the Pro Tem Cup golfing fundraiser will be held next year on March 20 and 21 at Torrey Pines.

When asked about the email, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats said the fundraiser is an important part of party members being competitive in elections.

"We expect next year's Pro Tem Cup to be a successful signature event," said spokesman Jason Kinney. "Fundraising is an important and unavoidable outgrowth of modern politics, and we cannot afford to unilaterally disarm after an election cycle where political opponents spent more than $12 million against Senate Democrats."

Meanwhile, De León's office also said Friday that he has not renewed the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes created by his predecessor, Sen. Darrell Steinberg, since its three staff members were part of Steinberg's staff and he has left office.

"The Office of Oversight and Outcomes was an extension of the prior pro tem's office, which sunset at the end of the last session," said Anthony Reyes, a spokesman for de Leon. "As is commonplace under term limits, hundreds of staff-persons for termed-out Members were reminded back in September that their current employment was coming to end and these four staff-persons were part of that process."

Reyes said in a statement that the Senate budget and policy committees, as well as the Legislative Analyst's Office and Joint Legislative Audit Committee, would continue to provide oversight.

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