SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Willie Brown on Tuesday vigorously defended his receipt of more than $250,000 in outside income, including $150,000 from his law practice, $90,250 in speaking fees and $36,261 in gifts.
At an unusual press conference called to discuss his 1986 financial disclosure statement, the San Francisco Democrat insisted that his law clients have no business before the Legislature and that he refuses to make paid speeches before groups that he suspects are trying to influence him in his powerful role.
However, several of the groups that paid him fees of up to $5,000 for speeches, including the California Apartment Assn., National Medical Enterprises and the California Public Securities Assn., maintain lobbyists to represent their continuing interests in pending legislation.
Brown promised that next week he will unveil legislation that would subject legislators and other state elected officials to the same penalties as local government officials when they violate the state's conflict-of-interest law.
Under existing law, state officials are barred from acting when they have a financial conflict of interest, but they are exempt from penalties that now apply to such local officials as city council members and county supervisors.
Brown has also proposed raising legislative salaries to $75,000 or $85,000 a year--the same as now paid to judges--while banning all outside income. State lawmakers, including the Speaker, now make $37,105 a year, plus a $75-per-day tax-free living allowance while the Legislature is in session.
Brown has always been among the top money-makers in speaking fees in the Legislature.
The Speaker also disclosed at the press conference that one of his law clients owns property that is part of the site of a proposed Los Angeles prison. Brown said that in a meeting with Senate leaders last week he was "shocked" to learn that subsidiaries of the Santa Fe-Southern Pacific Corp. owned part of the controversial Eastside prison site sought by Gov. George Deukmejian. His client, the Southern Pacific Development Co., has been part of the same corporation since 1983, according to a Southern Pacific spokeswoman.
Brown said that he would disqualify himself from voting on a prison site bill if it included the Eastside site. He noted that the property owners oppose the sale of the property to the state for a prison.
He also defended accepting sizable speaking fees, saying that he may be a "far more interesting speaker" than many other public officials who accept payment for speeches.
"I certainly work harder at it," Brown said. "I'm certainly more competitive in that regard than most people. I really love some of my public presentations."
Others paying $5,000 to hear Brown speak were the Mission Viejo Co. and American Totalisator Co.-General Instrument Corp. of Maryland. Brown also reported receiving $14,296 in travel expenses for trips he made to England, Italy and Austria last year. He went to London at the expense of Assn. of California Insurance Companies, which paid $4,796 for the trip. An Italian labor union paid $3,300 for Brown's travel to Italy, and the government of Austria and Austrian business groups paid $6,200 for a trip to that country.
Among the other gifts that Brown reported were a $5,000 pocket watch from entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and a $5,000 birthday dinner thrown for him by actor George Hamilton.
Brown's financial statement was one of a large number released Tuesday by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The filing deadline was Monday midnight.
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) reported receiving $45,850 in speaking fees and $16,754 in gifts last year, but no other outside income.
Visitor to Europe
Roberti received $5,000 from the California Trucking Assn. for a speech, $3,000 from Philip Morris Inc. and $5,000 for two speeches before the California Applicant Attorneys Assn.
Like Brown and a number of other lawmakers, Roberti traveled to Europe last year. He visited Spain and Italy on a $10,018 tour paid for by an Italian business-industrial group.
At least one senator, Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) earned even more for his speech making than the powerful Senate president pro tem. Collecting as little as $100 per speech, Montoya managed to accumulate $47,364 in honorariums last year.
Treasurer Jesse Unruh, who earlier this year confirmed that he was still undergoing treatment for cancer, nonetheless was able to bring in $39,000 in speaking fees in 1986, including $10,000 from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All of Unruh's speeches were delivered in the first seven months of the year. Unruh and his staff asked Speaker Brown to fill in for the ailing treasurer on three occasions last year, Brown said.
Busy on Campaign
Newly elected state Controller Gray Davis reported only $1,400 in speaking fees in 1986, a year in which the former Los Angeles assemblyman was devoting much of his energy to the hotly contested race for statewide office against Republican Sen. William Campbell.
Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp received no honorariums last year and only a smattering of gifts, including $600 for the use of a flat in London from AMI Inc. of Beverly Hills, a health care company.
On her economic disclosure statement, Secretary of State March Fong Eu reported receiving payment for two $100 speeches, one to a Southland women's club and one delivered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.