The end of the state's regular legislative year is fast approaching, and in Sacramento, that can mean only one thing: political fundraisers, from dawn until dusk, hosted by the lawmakers who in coming weeks will cast decisive votes on many matters affecting their contributors.
The check-collecting soared Wednesday, when at least 18 sitting legislators had fundraisers scheduled, mostly at Capitol-area watering holes. All told, lawmakers will hold more than 40 fundraising events this week and 30 next week.
The parade will continue until Sept. 11, the final deadline for legislation to pass.
It's "a feeding frenzy," said Ross Johnson, head of the state's campaign watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The price of admission for almost every fundraiser is at least $1,000. Many lawmakers who are running for reelection ask donors for the legal maximum: $3,900. Those running for statewide office can solicit more.
"I think that the average person is concerned when they see the amount of money," Johnson said. "You as a citizen ought not to have to worry about that. You ought to have confidence that your elected representatives are going to do what's right for you rather than [for whomever] is going to provide the most campaign support."
Most legislators hold their events at downtown steakhouses, art galleries or upscale restaurants -- convenient for lobbyists working the circuit with multiple stops per day. A couple of lawmakers, Democratic Assemblymen John Perez of Los Angeles and Anthony Portantino of La Canada Flintridge, are organizing outings to a San Francisco Giants baseball game.
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, an Alameda Democrat, has perhaps the most ambitious fundraiser in the coming weeks: two days of golf at the Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas.
Earlier this month, the Fair Political Practices Commission reported that state officials had raised more than $60 million in the first half of 2009 -- a non-election year.