A Phoblog Favorite: a scare-article about the scourge of lobbyist money in Sacramento.
Keep in mind while reading the article that the only reason it could be written is that current law requires extensive reporting on lobbyist spending when it comes to legislators and staff.
My favorite part is when the Chron says that law "allows" staffs to file separately. Doesn't it make them? And having been a staffer, those forms are no picnic. Oh, and don't get married while you're working in the Capitol either - you'll have to report ALL your gifts. Those are fun phone calls ("Thanks for that coffee pot Aunt Mae, how much was it again?").
I have met few staffers or legislators who have much trouble taking a groups money and voting against them later that same day. Not to mention the "perks" that remain available to legislators pale in comparison to private sector bonuses and fringe benefits.
And then there's the public policy prof spouting the old chestnut about our overpaid legislators - they shouldn't take a thing at $110k/year. If you want to clamp down on per diem gaming, fine, but for most areas of California, $110k is about what you need to be a citizen legislator (maintaining two households, hell, affording ONE household, etc).
There are, of course, many legislators that don't take gifts - or at least don't take most bigger ticket gifts. Staffers, of course, hate zero-gift tolerance offices because it means no goody-boxes from the chocolate lobby or whatever (and hey, those food treats keep us at our desks longer so we can work for you, the taxpayer).
At any rate - unethical behavior should not be tolerated. But dollar figures aren't conclusive proof of inappropriate action by elected officials.