Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bonta, Wieckowski said aloha to notorious special interests junket

Twenty-five state lawmakers, including Bonta
and Wieckowski, attended the expense-paid junket
in Maui last November.
LEGISLATURE | Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta and East Bay State Sen. Bob Wieckowski both received a special interests-funded junket in Maui last November totaling around $2,000 each, according to statement of economic interest disclosures released Tuesday.

The trip were paid by the Independent Voter Project, a non-profit which sponsored the conference in Hawaii and is funded by numerous petroleum, pharmaceutical and telecom companies, in addition to the California prison guards union.

Twenty-five members of the State Legislature, including Wieckowski and Bonta, attended the conference derided by open government advocates as a lavish expenditure meant to entice or reward the support of legislators. The names of attendees was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Bonta's statement of economic interest (Form 700) listed the Maui junket as a $2,290 expense for giving a speech and participating on a panel. Wieckowski's trip cost $1,925, according to his Form 700 with same description of services. Wieckowski's disclosures came as Assemblymember for the 25th District.

State law prohibits legislators from accepting gifts that exceed $460 from any given group within a calendar year. Travel expenses, however, from non-profits and 501(c)(3) exempt groups can exceed the $460 maximum limit, according to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Similar to two years ago, Bonta received tickets to numerous concerts and sporting events, according to records. They included 3 Warriors games totaling $765, in addition, to $250 for a message on the Oracle Arena Jumbotron; 2 A's games worth $620; and a 49ers game for $350 from United Airlines.

Bonta also rocked out at three concerts last year. Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan plunked down a $315 gift for two tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert last February and Alameda County Supervisor added another ticket worth $150 to the same event. Later, Bonta attended concerts for Elton John and Bruno Mars worth $600 combined.

Wieckowski also accepted gifts to numerous sporting events, including the opening of Levi's Stadium, which is located in his state senate district, along with a lengthy list of complimentary dinners. Wieckowski also received a $150 firefighters helmet from the California Professional Firefighters

Berkeley State Sen. Loni Hancock also attended an expense-paid conference last year. Records show Hancock disclosed travel expenses of $1,636 from a Spanish public corporation that seeks to promote foreign investment in that country. Hancock and other legislators visited Madrid last September.

Last year, Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk also caught flak for attending the same Maui junket in 2013 that Bonta and Wieckowski recently attended. However, Quirk's statement of economic interests were far less interesting this time around. He received nearly $1,000 for three speeches last year and a majority of his disclosure was related to meals. In addition, Quirk received a $25 cowboy hat from the California Cattlemen's Association.

Despite the number of gifts local legislators accepted last year, the overall total continues to dip following changes that removed some of the perks available to lawmakers, in addition, to a spate of ethics scandal recently in the State Senate.


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