Republican lieutenant governor candidate Ron Nehring presented proposals Wednesday to remedy what he calls Sacramento's "culture of corruption," including banning gifts to legislators and considering limiting fundraising during legislative sessions.
Nehring also called for prohibiting a legislator from using campaign funds to pay for a legal defense.
"There’s a degree of myopia in how we ensure ethics in California today," Nehring told members of the California Federation of Republican Women in Carlsbad.
"There are rules about fonts and font sizes in campaign literature, and wet versus faxed signatures on documents, while at the same time we have a legislator allegedly selling his office and making deals with an international arms dealer.
"Sacramento has lost sight of priorities. The lack of accountability means it’s taking an outside entity, in this case the FBI, to be the sheriff. Why does it take the federal government to clean up this mess in Sacramento? Because on the state level the system has broken down."
Nehring said the growth of state government is one reason for corruption.
"The bigger the role government plays in people’s lives, the more jobs there are for lobbyists in Sacramento," said Nehring, the best-known of the three Republicans among the eight candidates for lieutenant governor on the June primary ballot.
"Those lobbyists are there to sway and to influence, and unfortunately some of those they’re trying to influence are willing to sell their vote to the highest bidder."
Nehring said the longer legislative term limits adopted by California voters in 2012 under Proposition 28 could worsen Sacramento's problems by further adding to legislative careerism.
"Now, once someone is elected to the Assembly or the Senate, they can be there for 12 straight years and probably not face real competition," Nehring said. "Twelve years isn't a limit, it's a career, and no one games the system on Day 1."
Political ethics moved into the forefront last week when federal corruption and conspiracy to take part in a gun-running operation charges were filed against Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.
Nehring's likely general election opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, on Saturday called for Yee to resign "for the benefit of not only himself to focus on his own problems, but the entire institution."
Newsom told KGO-TV, ABC's owned-and-operated San Francisco station, that Yee's arrest "is an exception. This is not the rule."
Newsom's call for Yee to resign came one day after Gov. Jerry Brown made a plea for Yee and two other senators also facing legal troubles to resign, calling it "the best way to restore public confidence."
The state Senate voted 28-1 Friday to suspend Yee and Sens. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, and Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, with pay.
Wright is scheduled to be sentenced May 16 for his conviction on five counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy.
Calderon is facing federal charges of accepting more than $100,000 in cash bribes, as well as plane trips and dinners, in exchange for supporting legislation.
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, cast the lone no vote, saying the suspensions rewarded bad behavior with a paid holiday.
—City News Service