California focus: Could 100-day fundraising ban restore trust?

By Thomas D. Elias

With polls showing Californians distrust their legislators more than citizens of almost any other state, Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla, of Los Angeles, now a candidate to become secretary of state, has an idea to help restore public trust.

Even before the corruption indictments of Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, Padilla realized how unseemly it is for lawmakers to raise campaign dollars right when they are deciding how to vote on important bills.

Notwithstanding former Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh’s famous quip – “If you can’t drink their booze, (sleep with) their women, eat their food and then vote against them, you don’t belong in politics.” – decision-time fund-raising still looks bad and erodes public trust.

Especially when legislators then vote precisely the way big-money donors want. It’s often a “chicken or the egg” question when trying to determine whether lawmakers attract special interest support because of their own voting proclivities or vote the way they do because of special interest donations. Either way, the practice looks terrible.

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