California

Gov. Brown vetoes a package of ethics bills

Nancy McFadden, Jerry Brown
Gov. Jerry Brown discusses a bill while meeting with advisors at his Capitol office in Sacramento. At left is advisor Nancy McFadden.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday vetoed key bills proposed by legislative leaders in response to a series of scandals at the Capitol, saying the measures would further complicate gift and campaign rules without sufficient benefit to the public.

The governor approved a few lower-profile bills, including two barring lobbyists from hosting political fundraisers in their homes and offices after a case yielded record fines this year against a lobbyist who hosted events where he lavished dozens of officials with expensive liquor and cigars. Brown signed the two bills, AB 1673 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and SB 1441 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), without comment.

Brown was more vocal in his vetoes of measures, including one that would have slashed the value of gifts that state lawmakers and others can receive and barred them from continuing to accept free tickets to Dodgers and Lakers games, Beyonce concerts, Disneyland and  green fees at Pebble Beach.

The bill by state Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), Brown wrote in his veto message, would be “adding further complexity without commensurate benefit.”

“Proper disclosure, as already provided by the law, should be sufficient to guard against undue influence,” Brown added.

The governor also vetoed a bill that would have barred elected officials from contributing campaign funds to nonprofit groups owned or operated by their family members or to pay for the official’s mortgage, rent, utility bills, clothing, club memberships, vacations, tuition, vehicles and gifts to family members.

The bill by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), SB 831, also would have required elected officials to disclose the destination of travel and mandates that nonprofits that pay for the trips disclose which entities donated the money.

“The activities that are addressed by this bill are already subject to extensive regulation, including robust disclosure requirements,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “The additional restrictions proposed by this bill would add more complexity to the regulations governing elected officials, without reducing undue influence.”

Another bill rejected by the governor would have required the state to develop a new, publicly accessible Internet campaign reporting system and require that candidates use it to electronically file their campaign finances every calendar quarter, rather than semi-annually. The bill, SB 1442, is by state Sen. Lara.

Brown said the goal of the bill is “laudable,” but added, “Until we have the technology in place, it is premature to make adjustments to the reporting schedule.”

The vetoed bills were introduced as part of an effort by Senate leaders to regain public confidence in the Legislature following the suspension of three Democratic state senators after they were charged with criminal wrongdoing.

State Sen. Roderick Wright has since resigned after a judge sentenced him to 90 days in jail for voter fraud and perjury that involves lying about living in his Inglewood-based district when he ran for office in 2008. State Sens. Ronald S. Calderon and Leland Yee of San Francisco have been indicted by federal grand juries in separate public corruption cases. 

Another bill by Garcia inspired by a recent scandal was vetoed by the governor. That bill would have prohibited water board members throughout the state from accepting campaign donations higher than $250 from individuals who have business pending before the boards.
The measure was prompted by a controversy involving  suspended state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) and his brother Tom Calderon. The two had made large campaign donations to most members of the Central Basin Municipal Water District board before the board approved a consulting contract for Tom Calderon.

Brown said AB 1728 would “add more complexity” by applying only to water boards.

Brown nixed a measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) that would have barred school district administrators from fundraising for the campaigns of school board members that oversee them. Brown, in his veto of AB 1431, said he  did not want to approve rules that only apply to one type of school employee.