Since vacationing in communist Cuba as VIP guests of the repressive, apartheid Castro dictatorship under the guise of “cultural exchange” is already shameful and unethical, doing so with a lobbyist and using political funds to fund the trip is just par for the course.
Six California lawmakers took trip to Cuba with Capitol lobbyist
Six California lawmakers used political funds to take part in a March trip to Cuba with a top Capitol lobbyist, raising eyebrows among state government watchers.
The legislators disclosed the “cultural exchange” trip in campaign finance reports filed this week, visiting the communist country with lobbyist Darius Anderson, who heads a nonprofit group called Californians Building Bridges.
Anderson’s lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, represents clients including AT&T, Anthem Blue Cross, DirecTV Group and Pfizer, some of which have also made political contributions to the lawmakers on the trip.
Those who dipped into campaign funds to pay for their trip included Sens. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and Assembly members Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). Calderon has been in the news because his Capitol office was raided by the FBI in June as part of a corruption probe. Calderon declined to comment.
Achadjian said there was nothing improper about traveling with a lobbyist, especially because the legislators paid their own way with campaign funds. “If a lobbyist pays for it there is an ethical issue,” he said. Otherwise, “the conversation on the trip was about the culture. I don’t see that as a problem.”
Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson, who studies government ethics, said it is a concern when lawmakers “spend a lot of time with a certain lobbyist. It means they may be more educated and attentive to the concerns of the lobbyist.”
Touring Cuba with a lobbyist is different from meeting one between appointments at the Capitol, she said “because there is a concentration of time together.”
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