Sunday, October 07, 2007

Properly Disclosed...But Not Necessarily Proper

Observing them in recent weeks, one could be excused for coming to the conclusion that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez are in a contest to see which of their political stars will fall the fastest and furthest.

With the recent publication of Núñez’ expenditure records, I’d have to say that the Speaker has taken a commanding lead. A partial list of the expenditures, outlined in Friday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times, includes the following:

The spending, listed in mandatory filings with the state, includes $47,412 on United, Lufthansa and Air France airlines this year; $8,745 at the exclusive Hotel Arts in Barcelona, Spain; $5,149 for a "meeting" at Cave L'Avant Garde, a wine seller in the Bordeaux region of France; a total of $2,562 for two "office expenses" at Vuitton, two years apart; and $1,795 for a "meeting" at Le Grand Colbert, a venerable Parisian restaurant. Nuñez also spent $2,934 at Colosseum Travel in Rome, and paid $505 to the European airline Spanair. Other expenses are closer to home: a $1,715 meeting at Asia de Cuba restaurant in West Hollywood; a $317 purchase at upscale Pavilion Salon Shoes in Sacramento; a $2,428 meeting at 58 Degrees and Holding, a Sacramento wine bar and bistro; and $800 spent at Dollar Rent a Car in Kihei, Hawaii.

Columnist Steve Lopez of the Times sharpens his rhetorical knives on Núñez today, which is never a good thing if you’re a politician. The money quote:

I suppose it's possible that a Bordeaux wine shop hosted a symposium on California infrastructure bonds, but when I called Nuñez's office for more information I got a stock answer from a spokeswoman:

"The expenditures were properly disclosed and described as required by law."

It's the democracy we've all been waiting for in Sacramento. Gulfstreams, Louis Vuitton office supplies and nose-thumbing responses to inquiring constituents.

The boilerplate response to Lopez’ inquiry is about as bad as it gets, and since it’s the same response given to the L.A. Times reporter who wrote the original article on Friday, it seems clear that Núñez’ staff just doesn’t get it. There is no connection – none – between the proper disclosure of expenditures and their propriety. Until his staff comes up with a better answer than that, expect this controversy to expand, and perhaps cost Núñez his post as Assembly Speaker.

And that term limits initiative on the February ballot? You can kiss that one goodbye.

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