SACRAMENTO (KCBS) — Even seasoned lawmakers will admit it: campaign finance reform can be a tricky issue for legislators and constituents to tackle. But with the recent indictment of state Sen. Leland Yee, the topic is again circulating in Sacramento and beyond.
Yee took contributions given to him by undercover FBI agents in exchange for favors and meetings with organized crime members. These are headlines screaming for action. It’s the sort of thing that lawmakers feel they have to respond to, especially since he is the third state senator to recently face charges. But for all the talk that may we hear, we will need to see a walk because it’s mostly business as usual in Sacramento.
On the day the criminal complaints were released and Yee’s office was raided, many lawmakers were walking right out the capitol building and right into fundraisers to raise more money for themselves and their friends.
The movement of money in Sacramento is nonstop, just as it is in Washington. For instance, in the past week, State Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), who is in the race for state controller, has received $5,800 from the electrical workers of Pasadena, $6,100 from the electrical workers in Los Angeles, $3,000 from PepsiCo and $3,800 from the California Optometric Political Action Committee. The money is flowing in and that’s happening everyday.
In Yee’s case, it stands out because of its tawdry nature. Rather than coming from some organization that has the blessing of a group behind it, he was taking in single donations. But the bottom line is that money keeps flowing in because the lawmakers have made it into what they do.
Sure, they do pass laws along the way, but when you listen to them, most of the time, they talk about what office they will run for next or what friend they will help with raising more money so they can get a good committee assignment for helping out their party.
The current state of politics now is that we essentially elect the best fundraisers.
Before you can make policy, you have to get elected—whether it’s for the city council, Sacramento or Washington. To do so, you have to be able to raise money and win popularity contests.
Everything else just happens after you get in.