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Cash for Laws in Sacramento

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Cash for Laws in Sacramento

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It's the kind of money-raising marathon that makes government watchdog groups wince. 

In the closing weeks of the legislative session, when the fate of hundreds of bills are being decided at the state Capitol, lawmakers from both parties are lining up to take checks from special interest groups.

It's been going on this week from morning to night. 

Tuesday alone, there were 16 separate fundraisers, beginning at 8 a.m. and concluding in the evening with three lawmakers hosting bus trips to see the Giants play the Padres at AT&T Park.

"Nothing looks worse than that," Derek Cressman of California Common Cause tells Prop Zero. "Politicians on a bus for hours with lobbyists?"

If a lobbyist's client bought a basic ticket to all of Tuesday's events, it would've added up to more than $20,000.

On Wednesday, the pace is even more intense. 

There are 19 fundraisers scheduled.

A check-writer has the choice of three at 8 a.m., three more during the noon hour, and eight more scheduled at 5:30 pm. 

The events range from a "Rooftop Fiesta" in which Assemblyman Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, will perform as a "mixologist", to a Jimmy Buffet-style "Cheeseburger in Paradise" party hosted by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

Buy a ticket to all of these events?  It would require deep pockets and fast feet. A special interest would have to shell out $23,000.

None of this is illegal. 

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger talked frequently about legislation meant to curb fundraising like this during the end of session, or during the bill signing period.  That legislation never went anywhere.

Lawmakers say raising money now is no different than at other times of the year, and that they're following the rules.

But Cressman, of Common Cause, notes that the timing is dreadful as key votes loom on bills ranging from health care regulation to new workforce rules.  

It's a time when bills can get mysteriously amended during the end-of-session rush, with little to no public review.

"It's a prime opportunity for special interest favors to get tacked on to bills," Cressman said.

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