California Watch, which was founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting, is a site that prides itself on exposing the discrepancies shown by some politicians and their claims of properly serving the citizenry. And the focus of their attention on January 5th was none other than our own State Senator, Bob Huff. Bob was recently chosen the new State Senate Republican leader (over all 15 of them), and California Watch (click here) figured it should share some of the things it knows about the influential Bob Huff with its readers. Here is some of what they had to say:
Special interests gave money, gifts to new Senate GOP leader - Behind the legislative record of newly chosen Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff is a host of special interests that have funded his campaigns and given him expensive gifts.
Last year, for example, the California Dental Association spent $124 to send Huff to a Josh Groban concert, the day after giving him a $1,700 donation. AT&T, meanwhile, gave Huff a ticket to see Eric Clapton last March, and PG&E spent $146 on dinner for him at Morton's Steakhouse in Sacramento, according to lobbying records. Huff attended these events with other legislators.
Huff, who represents parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, served in the State Assembly from 2004 to 2008, when he was elected to the Senate. Along the way, his biggest campaign contributors were a developer for whom his wife has worked, a casino-owning Indian tribe and the tobacco company formerly known as Philip Morris, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
California Watch then went on to list Senator Huff's Top 10 political contributors. A couple of them having some significance here in Sierra Madre. AT&T, noted for its exceptionally lousy cell phone service, is certainly one. But also the California Building Industry Association, which once featured Bart Doyle as its head legal beagle and tried to almost single handedly buy the referendum on Measure V, is another. Fortunately we weren't for sale. Also there is Majestic Realty, of which we will have more to say in a moment. Here is that Top 10:
1) Majestic Realty --- $67,850
2) Altria --- $21,600
3) Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians --- $21,600
4) Farmers Insurance Group --- $16,740
5) Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians --- $15,580
6) AT&T --- $15,500
7) California Building Industry Association --- $15,500
8) Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers --- $14,550
9) Eli Lilly & Co. --- $14,350
10) California Dental Association --- $14,300
As interesting as their insights into Bob Huff's political money-line might be, California Watch may have missed the boat on one important item in their report. Here is what they had to say:
Huff was named a 2011 Legislator of the Year by the League of California Cities for his fight to save local redevelopment agencies, which were abolished by the Legislature. Huff, however, came under criticism because his wife simultaneously worked for a big developer benefiting from redevelopment funding.
The developer, Majestic Realty, led by billionaire Ed Roski, is Huff's biggest campaign contributor, giving $67,850 since 2004. Huff abstained from voting on a 2009 bill that waived environmental review requirements for a Majestic project to build a football stadium in the City of Industry.
What is unfortunate about this is while Sen. Huff did abstain on that particular vote, he did cast one on a procedural item that was essential in getting Big Ed Roski's NFL stadium CEQA exemption moved onto the Senate floor for a vote. Had the helpful Senator Huff not intervened as he did this matter would have died in committee.
Back in October of 2009 a related piece was posted on the sgvtribune.com site, "Leftovers from City Hall." This article (click here), along with a comment attached to it, sheds some light on our observations above.
Huff defends Senate procedural vote - I spoke with State Sen. Bob Huff Wednesday, who was less than pleased over the allegations he had a conflict of interest when casting a vote in the Senate last week. The vote in question was a procedural one to help move an environmental bill to the Senate floor. Problem is, that environmental bill --which passed -- will exempt a proposed NFL stadium in Industry from state environmental laws.
Members of the Citizens for Community Preservation, Inc., which had a lawsuit filed against the stadium, said the vote was unethical because of Huff and his wife's involvement with Industry and the stadium's developer, Majestic Realty.
Huff called the allegations "about as bogus as the lawsuit," and said he had consulted with legal counsel, who told him there was, in fact, no conflict. Huff said he originally was not going to participate in the vote at all. But then he was asked to step in, and even the Senate President -- along with others -- told him there was no legal conflict.
Back in the day sgvtribune.com used to attract some pretty lively on-line commenting. But for whatever reason that site turned over its commenting function to cyber-dustbin liner Facebook, which then completely killed off any conversation there, whatsoever. That said, here is what a commenter in 2009 by the name of James I. Flourney had to say about Sen. Huff's complaints:
Legally Huff may get a pass. I understand that the Citizens have filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). But ethically Huff failed to live up to community standards. Huff's wife works for Pacific Palms Resort which is owned by Majestic and Roski. California is a "Community Property State."
Huff had said he was conflicted but when faced with the choice of following the rules or suspending the rules, Huff voted to suspend the rules thus bypassing sending the bill to committee which would have given it the hearing it deserved.
Huff said he originally was not going to participate in the vote at all. That was the correct choice. But then he was asked to step in. By whom, Steinberg? Romero? And why? Because if he had not fallen on his sword for Majestic the vote would have failed. Whose legal counsel did he consult? Majestic's? Getting political cover does not make his vote ethical.
Bob Huff must resign.
Of course, resigning because of some ethical disgrace is not how things work in California right now. Today if you abuse the trust voters gave you when they sent you to Sacramento, the powers that be make you a Senate Leader. Which then, of course, results in making the likes of Sen. Huff eligible for even more money from the special interests whose needs he puts first.
The rot is everywhere. And so are the consequences.