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Pirates of Sacramento

August 19, 1986

Strike when the iron is hot, the saying goes. Thus members of the California Legislature have scheduled 44 election-campaign fund-raising events during the final days of the current session, scheduled to adjourn Aug. 29. One Sacramento lobbyist estimated that it would cost his clients nearly $24,000 if he bought a ticket to each fundraiser. Attending them all would be another matter. As many as 11 events were scheduled for a single night.

Now is a logical time to raise money, of course, with the home stretch of the election campaign just ahead. But the lobbyists, the major targets of these affairs, are not ignorant of the fact that the Legislature has about 1,500 bills to act on before adjournment. The unspoken rule of thumb is assumed to be this: If you want your bills acted on (or not acted on, as is often the case), you might consider a contribution.

Legislators resent the suggestion that these fund-raisers are scheduled now in hopes of shaking the last plums from the tree, with all those pending bills as bait. Perhaps. But lobbyists can't afford to be so trusting. This is do-or-die time, one advocate commented, and "if you don't participate, it's bound to affect your client's interest."

The mere fact that the lobbyists are forced to think that way is reason enough to reform the present campaign fund-raising system. One of those 1,500 bills would do just that. If all the lawmakers who have complained about how much they dislike having to ask people for money would vote for the bill, California would have the reform that it needs.

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