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Ron Kaye: A question of legislative grease

November 16, 2012

There are no angels in politics, at least not for long.

Power corrupts, even a little power, even the illusion of a little power can corrupt. That’s why everyone who gets in the political game becomes tainted to one degree or another or they wouldn’t be a player for very long. It’s only a question of time.

Politics is a dirty business, from the big time in Washington to the medium time in Sacramento and Los Angeles, even in the small time in suburbia. Nothing gets done without the grease that dirties the hands of everyone involved, even the ones who try hard to be honest.

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I bring this up because of an eye-catching assertion Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) made in a debate last month with Republican challenger Greg Krikorian in the heavily Democratic district that includes Glendale, Burbank and surrounding communities.

Gatto was able to raise $998,069.53 this year, well over five times as much as his challenger and was so sure of victory he gave some 25% of his campaign money to the Democratic Party and other candidates — and still kept $600,000 in the bank for future political uses.

According to official records at Cal Access, Gatto spent only $173,929.92 in the campaign — just $224.97 more than Krikorian was able to raise in total.

Money clearly did not make the difference. That’s why it is so hard to understand the statement that Gatto uttered during the League of Women Voters debate barely a week before the election:

“I am the only legislator out of all 120 who has never taken a sponsored piece of legislation. So I hear all this talk about special interests and with all due respect it’s a bit of, a little bit of a whopper. I have never taken a bill from a special interest. I have never taken a sponsored bill. All of my bills tend to be the, dare I say, wonkish, dare I say a little bit, a little bit, you know, they’re not the necessarily sexy ones that garner the headlines.”

The next day Gatto’s staff amended his claim to bring it in line with a December 2010 story in the San Jose Mercury News which reported that “just two members in the 120-seat Legislature did not introduce a single sponsored bill in the session: Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Orange County, and Mike Gatto, a Burbank Democrat. Gatto joined the Assembly after a special election in June, missing the regular deadline for introducing bills.”

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