New ethics rules for state politicians

January 18, 2008 6:09:00 PM PST
Politicians in California will need to follow tougher new rules when it comes to campaign contributions and how that money is spent.

New rules that appear to have been triggered by some lavish overseas spending by the democratic speaker of the assembly.

Whether it is gifts from upscale stores, expensive meals or world travel, state and local politicians and candidates may soon have to start proving in detail the campaign funds they're spending have a political or governmental purpose.

"We have never imposed specific rules for the brief description required, other than categorizing some of the most common expenditures," said Brian Lau from the Commission Counsel.

Instead of simply choosing from 27 broad categories, the state's ethics watchdog, The Fair Political Practices Commission, would require specific locations, names of those in attendance, names of gift recipients and whether or not the they personally benefited from the expenditure.

"This is something I've felt strongly about for some time that we should be looking at," said FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson

While the FPPC Chairman says they are not targeting anyone, the new rules tentatively approved today come just weeks after the much-publicized lavish spending of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez during several overseas trips.

The powerful Los Angeles Democrat still insists all monies were spent legally, and he welcomed the new reporting rules.

"Everybody always needs to know what the rules of the game are. Once you know what the rules of engagement are, then you work within the framework of those rules," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D) Los Angeles.

"You're still going to have politicians using campaign funds that they raised from special interests that they use as their own personal slush fund and they don't pay taxes on," said republican strategist Kevin Spillane.

The new reporting rules have to pass muster at one more hearing in February. They could be implemented as early as Spring.

Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party has finally reimbursed Speaker Nunez for about $3,200 worth of French wine it asked him to buy in Bordeaux at the end of July for a fundraiser.

Nunez's office denies it had anything to do with the criticism over the Speaker's expenses, but more to do with the timing of when it showed on his credit card statement.