Mad About Power
“There’s no such thing as too much power.”
That’s the word from Democrat Herb Wesson, former Speaker of the California Assembly. Wesson was defending the Speaker’s awesome control over the purse strings.
In a story headlined, “The power of one: Perez controls Assembly with money,” the Sacramento Bee reports: “Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez single-handedly doles out millions in public funds each year to his 80 members: No vote, no committee, no debate.”
The article was vague on details, because the Speaker refused open records requests from the Bee and the Los Angeles Times. In August, the newspapers filed suit to see the legislative records.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino charges that Speaker Pérez cut his staff as retribution for voting against this year’s state budget — although the state constitution makes it a crime to coerce a member’s vote. Assemblyman Tony Mendoza admitted that his office budget was slashed by $80,000 when the Speaker demoted him from the Rules Committee, but he wouldn’t discuss it with reporters.
Were a special interest group to similarly bribe legislators, Californians would be up in arms. But a politician? We’ll see how this plays out.
“It’s a very difficult house to run,” argues Mr. Wesson, “and you have to have the leverage that the speaker has.” Steve Maviglio, former spokesperson for two Assembly Speakers, echoes that sentiment, claiming that without a healthy bribery power, the legislative chamber would descend into “absolute chaos.”
Extreme. But some “chaos” must be better than the current all-too-orderly system of corruption.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.