SACRAMENTO -- A state senator wants nonprofit groups that treat lawmakers to trips to disclose the companies and other interests whose donations cover the expenses.
Every year, several legislators travel to Hawaii and other exotic locales for conferences and fact-finding trips with expenses covered by nonprofit groups funded by special interests seeking favorable treatment from lawmakers.
Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has expanded an existing bill of his to require the nonprofits to disclose the names of their donors to the state Fair Political Practices Commission and the public.
The annual trips include one attended last year by 18 lawmakers in Maui for a five-day conference at the Fairmont Kea Lani.
The conference was organized by the California Independent Voter Project, a nonprofit group funded over the years by tobacco giant Altria Group Inc., Southern California Edison, Eli Lilly & Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the California Beer & Beverage Distributors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Assn., Chevron Corp. and the state prison guards union, The Times has reported based on interviews and internal documents.
"Currently, nonprofits do not have to disclose the source of travel funding, preventing the public from knowing who was behind the gift to the elected official," said a statement released by Hill's office.
The requirement was included in SB 831, which also would prohibit elected officials from contributing campaign funds to nonprofits owned or operated by their family members, and create a limit of $5,000 for travel-related gifts to elected officials from nonprofits and other groups.
Because the bill changes the state Political Reform Act, it will require a two-thirds vote for approval, something Democrats have had trouble mustering recently.