I admit it. I’m a bit naïve. I thought that eight state legislators traveling with an influential lobbyist to Cuba was, you know, news.
Not only did the Capitol press corps cover similar trips to Taiwan and Poland, but this story coincided with Beyonce and Jay-Z’s jaunt to the same Caribbean island. The nonprofit that organized the trip claims to provide humanitarian grants to other nonprofits, but, according to its only tax return, has donated $0 to domestic and foreign charities. Plus, at least one legislator, Asm. Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, admits that he first tried to use his campaign funds to pay for the trip. CA Common Cause says that California’s campaign finance laws “allow campaign funds to be spent on almost anything under the sun.”
Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law school professor who specializes in campaign finance issues, also thinks it’s news. “It absolutely raises ethical questions when lobbyists travel with elected officials,” she told me.
The public still doesn’t know the identity of six legislators that participated in the trip. Set aside whether it’s news, aren’t you at least curious who else spent six crazy days in Havana with Achadjian, Darius Anderson and state Senator Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston?
I sure am.
I’m beginning to learn how to get what you want in Sacramento. You have to grease some palms. I want disclosure, and I’m willing to pay for it. I may lack the deep pockets of Platinum Advisors, but I can drop a few bills on salsa lessons, cigars and other cultural activities.
That’s why I am announcing the first annual “Party like Katcho in Cuba” Contest. As the great philosopher Pitbull sings, “Que no pare la fiesta.” The winner gets to spend a night out with yours truly. We will start the evening off with drinks, like Katcho’s rooftop cocktails at the Santa Isabell Hotel. Drinks are your choice, but I’ll be sipping a mojito to stick with the night’s theme. Then, we can strap on our dancing shoes for some salsa dancing, just like Katcho on his third day in Havana. All that dancing will make us hungry, so we’ll have to grab some picadillo à la habanera at a Cuban restaurant. Katcho’s a fool if he left Havana without trying the dish.
I can’t provide you with a Cuban cigar or give you a tour of Hemingway’s Finca Vigía like Katcho. Anderson has me beat there, but I’m willing to bet most Capitol insiders couldn’t take the time off to travel to Cuba anyway. Not to worry: STAYCATION! We can sit quietly by a fire, smoking cigars and reading some classic Hemingway. If you find Hemingway too depressing, like Bradley Cooper’s character in Silver Linings Playbook, we can read through legislators’ FPPC Form 700 filings, or what I call a typical Friday night.
So, what’s the catch? How do you enter?
To enter, simply post the name of a heretofore unknown participant in any spring break legislative junket. That can include Cuba, Taiwan or Poland. Or, any other junkets. The name must not be publicly known as of April 10. You can either post it here, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. For the entry to be considered valid, you must provide some independently verifiable form of proof. By my estimation, there are twelve legislators remaining. (6 from Taiwan; 6 from Cuba) Out of all the entries, one will be randomly selected.
Who are we kidding, “Party like Katcho in Cuba” is a truly priceless experience: You. Me. Hemingway. However, the FPPC might disagree. If you are an elected official or legislative staff member that is bound by state ethics laws, don’t fret. You’re still eligible to enter the contest. Actually, this contest was designed with you in mind. State campaign finance laws have giant loopholes so you can pay for it with campaign funds. I will first donate money to your campaign account. Then, you can reimburse me through your campaign account for all of our expenses. That way we’ll really be just like Katcho.
Spring Break 2013: Legislators on Junkets
Senator Ricardo Lara
Senator Bob Huff
Asm. Travis Allen
Asm. Steven Bradford
Asm. Henry Perea
Asm. Bob Wieckowski
Asm. Susan Bonilla
Asm. Connie Conway
Asm. Das Williams
Senator Cathleen Galgiani
Asm. Katcho Achadjian