Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Part of the Problem - Shady Deals in the City of Angels

As Matea Gold reports in the Los Angeles Times, a strange confluence of labor and corporations have come together to fund a nonprofit organization known as Voter Improvement Program (VIP).

Heading VIP is Miguel Contreras, the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. VIP holds fundraisers whose donors include the L.A. Department of Water and Power, oil companies, and local labor groups.

VIP has given back to the community too. Since 2002, the year that now-Speaker Fabian Nuñez was elected to the California Assembly, VIP has paid him around $35,000 a year for political advice.

It's bad enough when elected officials have a second job that may conflict with their duty to the public, but when that second job is getting paid $35,000 a year to provide political advice to a group whose backers have issues before you as an officeholder all the year 'round - it stinks. I imagine a lot of the folks that labor says it represents wouldn't mind a 10-15 hour a week job that pays $35k a year.

Many Democrats in California have been lambasting the Governor for skirting California's campaign finance laws. But when they accept free trips to Hawaii from big corporations and take in consulting fees that look lik contributions, they undermine their credibility. Speaker Nuñez would do well to focus on the people of California, not his political consulting practice, which will no doubt be very successful upon his retirement from the public sphere.

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