- Associated Press - Thursday, May 8, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Lawmakers on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would ban lobbyists from hosting fundraisers at their homes and offices after a scandal that embroiled some of the state’s top political leaders.

AB1673 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, heads to the Senate after passing the Assembly on a 68-0 vote. The bill comes after a prominent lobbying firm was slapped with a record fine in February for holding high-end political fundraisers.

Under existing law, lobbyists cannot contribute to the campaigns of politicians whose agencies they lobby. But fundraisers, if their expenses do not exceed $500, are not considered contributions. The state’s campaign watchdog agency found that lobbyist Kevin Sloat hosted fundraisers at his home for dozens of politicians, including Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Democrat, and Republican Assembly leader Connie Conway, that exceeded the limit.

The Fair Political Practices Commission fined Sloat’s firm $133,500 after investigating the fundraisers. According to the commission’s summary of its investigation, Sloat said he believed he was following the law by keeping his own share of expenses below $500.

The commission sent letters about the illegal contributions to Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The commission found no evidence the politicians were aware the fundraisers were illegal.

Garcia’s bill classifies all such fundraisers, regardless of their budget, as illegal campaign contributions if they are hosted by lobbyists or lobbying firms. She is behind several other bills designed to strengthen ethics laws in the wake of the lobbying scandal and various legal cases involving state senators.

A similar bill - SB1441 by a Senate ethics task force led by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens - is also headed to a floor vote in the Senate.

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