EDITORIAL: Perez's use of public funds for consultant fails the smell test

FresnoAugust 21, 2013 

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles

RICH PEDRONCELLI — AP

If Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez were a more effective legislative leader, he wouldn't need to use public funds to hire a communications consultant.

His actions would speak for themselves — and California residents would be benefiting from legislation that pumped up our economy, tore out avenues for abuse in the California Environmental Quality Act, further reformed public employee pensions and even ensured that everyone had access to clean, safe and affordable water.

But accomplishments such as these require negotiating skills, acumen and a willingness to put the legitimate needs of the state ahead of the temporal needs of Pérez's political party and his career.

So, to bolster his image, Pérez requires a credentials polisher. As The Sacramento Bee's Laurel Rosenhall reported earlier this month, Pérez has been spending $9,500 a month in public money for the services of Steven Maviglio despite the fact that Pérez already has a large staff.

Worse still, Maviglio is anything but a detached party when it comes to business at the Capitol. He has had numerous clients, ranging from solar firms to clients who want to expand "scope of practice" for nurses, optometrists and pharmacists. It is astounding to us that the speaker would use public money to hire a consultant who has so many conflicts, and potential for conflicts.

Maviglio insists that he doesn't advise the speaker on policy issues: "I'm in sales and marketing."

Perhaps so, but it is hard to imagine that Maviglio doesn't use his unique position and his unparalleled access to the speaker to help his clients and drum up business for himself. If he doesn't, he must be wearing a halo, and so far we haven't noticed one over his head.

The Capitol is a cauldron of incestuous, revolving-door politics, with little buffer between the industry of influence and elected officials supposedly at service to the public.

Rosenhall noted that Jason Kinney, for example, serves as communications consultant to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, paid by the California Democratic Party. Kinney is a partner with the California Strategies public affairs firm, which means he gets unique access to Steinberg for his numerous clients, just as Maviglio does for his.

Yet Pérez has pushed this to a new level by using public funds to hire a consultant with so many clients.

Some good government advocates have suggested a ban on this kind of overlap. There shouldn't need to be a regulation. All that's needed is legislative leaders who aren't so oblivious to the appearances they are creating.

Not that Pérez is oblivious to the appearance created by hiring Maviglio with taxpayer money. It's more likely that he just doesn't much care what people other than campaign donors and lobbyists think.

 

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