Flags raised over sponsor of Democratic golf fundraiser

Democratic state senators will gather in La Jolla this weekend to enjoy rounds of golf, lavish hotel accommodations and gourmet meals at a fundraiser bankrolled largely by a group that wants a favor from them.

The 2010 Pro Tem Cup is being sponsored by an association of cable TV companies that routinely lobbies the Legislature. The group includes Internet providers seeking to derail legislation that would toughen Web-related laws on sex offenders and child pornography.

The fundraiser, hosted by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and the California Democratic Party, is a two-day event featuring golf at famous Torrey Pines, dinner and rooms at The Lodge, spa treatments and, for donors who give $50,000, a bonus “evening with Senator Steinberg,” according to the invitation.

The California Cable and Telecommunications Assn. and four member firms -- Comcast Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable -- are giving$150,000 to the Democratic Party to help cover costs for the fundraiser. The money will be given to the party, which in turn will pay for golf fees, rooms and meals, said Chris Lehman, a spokesman for the Democrats.

“It’s just a way that we go about supporting the party,” said Carolyn McIntyre, president of the cable association, which lists the Internet legislation as its top priority this year. “It’s part of our government affairs program.”

Some child-protection advocates say the group aims to sway policy on the putting greens.

“It gives them influence,” said Harriet Salarno, president of Crime Victims United of California. “It’s a very sore subject for us. We do it the right way. We go to the Capitol to talk to legislators. . . .We just want an equal playing field.”

Salarno said the Democrats should not allow the cable group to sponsor golf getaways while they are lobbying on legislation.

Lehman said legislators do not expect to be lobbied between putts.

“We have a strict firewall between any campaign activity and any legislative activity,” Lehman said. “There is absolutely no connection between the two.”

The cable group has opposed a measure that would bar social networking websites from displaying the home address and telephone number of registered users who are minors. The proposal, SB 1361 by Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), would impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations.

McIntyre did not respond to questions about why the cable group is against the bill. She said its positions had not yet been conveyed in letters to lawmakers.

Until The Times’ inquiries, the association’s website showed its position as “oppose.” The next day, that designation was removed from the Corbett bill and from other Internet-related bills. The group’s website had said it opposed “unless amended” a measure that would expand laws against child pornography to include distribution “for access or possession over the Internet.”

McIntyre said her group wants lawmakers to make clear in the bill, SB 203 by Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach), that it applies to “individuals actually distributing the content and not the systems being used.” Steinberg supports Harman’s bill.

The association had also said it opposed “unless amended” a proposal to require convicted sex offenders to register their Internet accounts with law enforcement authorities. McIntyre said her group wants the bill, AB 1850 by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), to clarify how the legislation would apply to Internet service providers.