By The Bakersfield Californian
If politicians are convinced that they are in no way swayed by gifts of tickets, travel and swag bestowed by lobbyists in a never-ending Christmas morning of influence-peddling, good for them. We aren't.
Neither is a San Luis Obispo Republican, state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, who has introduced a bill to prohibit state officials from accepting freebies such as greens fees at swanky golf resorts, tickets for overseas trips, fine cigars and expensive gourmet meals -- all luxurious perks of Sacramento lawmakers' jobs that substantiate voters' perception of corruption in the halls of government.
Human nature being what it is, legislators can't help but feel a tug of obligation when the legal graft comes knocking. The evidence suggests that, despite lawmakers' assurances to the contrary, they tend to get things done for special interests that cough up the goods.
Elected state officials took $637,000 in gifts last year, according to CALPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group.
Ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger alone received $125,000 in goodies, much of it in travel to Britain, Russia and Asia. Former Kern legislators got theirs, too, led by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra's 2007 take of more than $20,000. Roy Ashburn, assemblyman and state senator, was a regular in Maui thanks to one lobby group's fat checkbook.
Many other states forbid this form of political bribery. So should California. Lawmakers with a conscience will vote for Blakeslee's bill.