California lawmakers, their reputation tarnished by fraud and corruption scandals, on Wednesday took a break from normal business to attend ethics training, the latest step by the state Senate to repair its image as elections loom.
The all-day, mandatory sessions, held behind closed doors away from the Capitol in Sacramento, were scheduled after three Democratic senators faced criminal charges in a spate of embarrassments for their party, which dominates the state’s Legislature.
“When it comes to mixing campaigning and public policy making, everybody should know when to have that gut reaction that ‘Nope, we cannot have this conversation,’” Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg said. “That’s what I want to come out of this day.”
The training is focused on the ethical and legal issues faced by lawmakers and their aides in a state where it can cost millions of dollars just to mount a campaign for city council.
Last month, Democratic state Senator Leland Yee was arrested on charges that included accepting bribes in the form of campaign contributions. In February, a lobbyist was fined by regulators for hosting costly fundraisers for officials at his home in what many said was a new interpretation of campaign finance rules.
“Money and politics is a reality,” said Steinberg, who called for the ethics training. “But when it comes to campaign fundraising, we need to ask questions about how and when we do it.”
Sure, it’s the money that is the problem, not that we’re dealing with scumbags who find voter fraud and gun running to be in some sort of ethical grey area that clouds their thinking. Leland Yee (who still has a job, by the way, he’s merely suspended) didn’t get tripped up by some misinterpretations of murky campaign finance rules, he knew exactly what he was doing. Democrats have held sway in California so long that they were under the impression that could get away with anything. This little bit of grandstanding isn’t going to change that.