Sunday, August 19, 2012

Smith: Where is a scandal when you need one? - Daily Democrat

It was with high hopes I read the story in Friday's Sacramento Bee about gifts given to our state lawmakers.

"Aha," I thought. "Now I'll have something to write about that's more interesting than the Yolo County Fair."

It's not that the fair isn't interesting, you understand, but it's nothing compared to a good political scandal. A good scandal will get people talking, make The Democrat's web reads soar and guarantee to keep me in a job as I moderate Facebook for all those outrageous comments.

So, with great expectations I read through the Bee's list of lawmakers who've taken gifts. But what was this? Nothing out of the ordinary for our locally elected folks. What's happening when local politicians don't accept a little swag every now and then? Honesty is a fine thing as long it's in some other voting district.

The lists go back several years and yet the most interesting things I saw were the following:

Lois Wolk: Snack gift bags from the California Automatic Vendor's Council, valued at $20; a rice gift box from the California Rice Commission worth $32.28, two tickets to the Disney Show on Ice (and parking pass) for $61 from BPAmerica and its Affiliated Entities, and a $16.50 holiday ornament from Edison International & Subsidaries.

Mariko Yamada: An empty can from Del Monte foods, valued at 20 cents, to be used for an invitation to Ag Day, an $8 calendar from the State Building and construction Trades Council of California, snack

bags from the California Automatic Vendor's Council, and giveaway tumblers from the enXco Development Corporation, valued at $5.28.

Jim Nielsen: Snack bags from (you guessed it) the California Automatic Vendor's Council, valued at $20; another empty can invitation from Del Monte, a whole bunch of meals from places like the Barona Resort and Casino ($69.60), California New Car DealersAssociation ($107.52), California Rice Industry Association ($25.07), and the National Federation of Independent Businesses ($67.24).

There was a brief flicker of optimism later Friday when I read the story about how many families save for months or years to go to Disneyland and that a number of state lawmakers go for free, courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.

It seems that since 2000, Disney has given about $125,000 in theme park tickets to legislators and their aides, according to the Bee review of records kept by the state Secretary of State. At current prices, that's about 1,500 free tickets.

Leading the pack was Tom Harman, R-Orange County, who got 11 tickets over the years. But once again I was disappointed in not seeing local Democrats Mariko Yamada or Lois Wolk among the Disneyland ticket holders. Local Republican Jim Nielsen also wasn't on the list.

Come on guys!

Taking a big, hugely expensive freebie every now and then wouldn't cost you anything and generate all sorts of coverage. And you know what they say: There's no bad publicity if it gets people talking about you.

The reason for the Bee story was that a bill -- which would have banned gifts to lawmakers -- died in committee Thursday.

There was a positive side to the free Disneyland tickets: Some lawmakers gave them to their aides or constituents, who otherwise couldn't afford to go. Heck, send a couple of tickets my way. I've never been to Disneyland. No, wait! Skip that. I detest long lines and have no interest in going to Disneyland.

I guess one day I'll have to do some real digging to find out who is paying off who. I don't think I'll turn up anything by looking at who is going to Disneyland and who isn't.

It's really a pity when local politicians -- despite their ideological differences -- do their jobs and are reasonably honest. What's happening to this country anyway?

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