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Schnur: Secretary of state should be 'reformer-in-chief'

SACRAMENTO--Secretary of State candidate Dan Schnur, denouncing lawmakers' response to the recent series of ethics scandals in the state Senate as "diffident and lackadaisical," cast his bid to be the state's top elections official as a campaign to be "California's reformer-in-chief." 

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Schnur said "there has been almost no meaningful effort on the part of the state's political leaders to clean up the Capitol's culture of corruption."

"If you add up all the reforms that have been proposed over the last several weeks, they end up comprising almost a complete fig leaf," he added.

His comments came days after the state Senate suspended with pay three lawmakers-- Democrats Leland Yee Ron Calderon Rod Wright -- who have in the last several weeks have been charged or convicted in separate criminal cases.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has called for mandatory ethics training for each Senate office. Other anti-corruption proposals have been floated in recent days, including a suggestion by Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) for a Senate ethics ombudsman.

Earlier this year, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), also a candidate for secretary of state, proposed a blackout on fundraising for more than three months during the end of each legislative session.

Schnur, a no-party-preference candidate who changed his party affiliation from Republican several years ago, has called for banning fundraising for the entirety of the legislative session.

Yee had also been vying for the secretary of state post; he dropped out of the race after his arrest last week.

Schnur said the rash of ethics troubles will be a focal point for the race.

"The people in this state are going to elect a person who is going to clean up a corrupt Capitol culture once and for all," Schnur said. "California's secretary of state is going to be the person to make those changes." 

Also weighing in Tuesday was Derek Cressman, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state, who called for a permanent independent ethics commission to be established in the wake of the corruption scandals.

"It makes no more sense to have the Senate oversee its own members’ ethics than it does to have Lance Armstrong oversee steroids screening in cycling,” said Cressman, formerly of the watchdog group Common Cause.  “It’s time to drain the swamp in Sacramento, and we need an agency that can operate independently of the Senate, with full subpoena power, to get the job done.”

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melanie.mason@latimes.com

@melmason

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