Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) reported on Wednesday that he collected more than $100,000 in speaking fees, gifts and travel expenses last year, largely from special-interest groups pushing bills in the Legislature.
Brown’s report of outside income--far short of his record-setting total of $161,000 in 1987--was part of an avalanche of financial disclosure statements filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission before a Wednesday midnight postmark deadline.
The reports, which will continue to arrive over the next few days, illustrated anew the common practice among legislators of accepting fees, gifts and foreign trips from many organizations that seek to influence legislation.
Among others filing Wednesday was Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), who reported a total of $66,178 in gifts and honorariums in 1988, including $49,578 in speaking fees and $12,081 for trips to Taiwan, Germany and Italy.
Last January, Roberti received $3,000 for a speech from the California Retailers Assn., a group that successfully pushed for passage of a controversial bill that lifted the limit on interest rates that department stores are allowed to charge their credit card customers. The organization paid $16,000 to key lawmakers for speeches in 1988.
Gov. George Deukmejian reported receiving gifts totaling $7,459 and said he had no income from speeches. The governor received $2,500 in gold medallions from Armenian supporters, three Super Bowl tickets worth $450 from Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, and a painting of a Chinese dragon valued at $1,000 from the Charity Cultural Services Center of San Francisco.
Brown, talking to reporters, said his speaking fees declined in 1988 because of time spent on a yearlong fight with the dissident Democratic “Gang of Five,” who unsuccessfully tried to oust him as Speaker.
He said he continues to support a proposal to ban outside income for legislators, but only if their pay is raised from $40,816 a year to a Superior Court judge’s salary of $84,765.
In addition to the $89,600 he received last year for 49 speeches and $10,698 in gifts and travel expenses, Brown reported income of more than $10,000 from his law practice. (Under state law, lawmakers must report exact amounts of gifts and honorariums, but other sources of outside income need only be revealed by monetary category, with “over $10,000" the highest amount.)
“I don’t have any problems at all giving up outside income totally,” Brown said, “but there has to be an adequate salary.”
Brown also defended public officials who accept speaking fees and travel expenses from special-interest groups that lobby for legislation. “It may look like vote-buying, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with vote-buying,” he said.
As for lawmakers who accept fees without giving speeches--for simply attending a reception or seminar, for example--Brown said, “It’s a dumb thing to do, real dumb. There’s no accounting for the fact that some of us are dumb. Some of us permanently.”
Brown complained that a $1,000-a-year limitation on gifts and speaking fees that went into effect in January, after passage of last year’s Proposition 73, will have a dramatic effect on his speech-making. “It’s burdensome in that I’ll end up making three to four times the number of speeches,” he said, “and that’s time-consuming.”
A number of legislative leaders appeared to be in high demand as public speakers in 1988, including Assemblyman Pat Nolan of Glendale, who stepped down from his post as Assembly Republican leader in December. He was one of four lawmakers whose offices were searched by the FBI as part of its undercover Capitol corruption probe.
Nolan reported receiving $24,750 for delivering speeches and serving as a panelist at conventions. His largest speaking fee--$3,000--came from the California Retailers.
Senate Republican Leader Ken Maddy of Fresno reported a $2,000 speaking fee from the retailers group among $12,250 in honorariums he received in 1988.
Several elected state officials reported receiving foreign trips, including Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, who was given a $13,372 trip to Japan to visit educational institutions. The trip was paid for by the Japanese government.
Brown was given $2,000 for delivering a speech to the Italian parliament.
State Board of Equalization member Paul B. Carpenter, one of the subjects of the FBI investigation into Capitol political corruption, reported a $9,116 trip to Europe in February, 1988, during which he also received $3,311 for delivering speeches in Dublin, London and Madrid.
Another target of the FBI sting, Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), for the first time officially reported receiving $3,000 on June 29 of last year from Peachstate Capital, a phony company set up by FBI agents as part of their undercover investigation. The money was delivered at a breakfast meeting in a restaurant a block from the Capitol.
Montoya’s financial disclosure statement showed that he collected $36,550 in honorariums during 1988, the largest being $5,000 from the California Medical Assn.
The senator has also disclosed that he failed to report an $8,000 personal consulting fee he received in 1987 from Tony Olguin, a City of Industry builder and developer. The amount should have been included on the financial statement Montoya filed a year ago, but he said in a letter to the FPPC in December that the omission was “inadvertent and certainly unintentional.”
Times staff writer Douglas Shuit contributed to this story.