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Legislators' Extra Income Up : Local Lawmakers Take In $227,000 in Gifts and Fees

May 24, 1987|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

State legislators representing the San Gabriel Valley received more than $227,000 in gifts and speech fees last year--double the amount they collected two years ago--according to statements they have filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The leading recipients were Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who reported $19,000 in speech income and more than $25,000 worth of gifts, and Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier), who received more than $47,000 for speeches and $10,000 in gifts.

Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) and Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier) each earned about $20,000 for speeches. Sen. Art Torres (D-South Pasadena) picked up more than $18,000 in gifts, mostly foundation-paid trips abroad.

By contrast, some legislators accepted almost nothing. Assemblyman Bill Lancaster (R-Covina) said his only outside income was $500 for participating in a panel discussion sponsored by an insurance group.

Assemblyman Richard Mountjoy (R-Monrovia) gave no paid speeches and accepted a comparatively minuscule $466 in gifts, consisting of a parking pass at Burbank Airport, tickets from the Tournament of Roses and a trophy from the California Wildlife Federation. Others reporting no income from speeches were Sen. Don Rogers (R-Bakersfield), whose district includes part of Pasadena, and Assemblyman Richard Polonco (D-Los Angeles). Rogers reported $1,340 in gifts and Polonco $1,647, with the largest item in both cases being memberships in the Capitol Athletic Club, valued at $1,070.

Other legislators reported gifts ranging from free contact lenses to limousine service and trips abroad. Legislators earn $37,105 a year in salary, plus a tax-free allowance of $75 a day when the Legislature is in session. Some legislators say they cannot meet expenses, including the cost of maintaining residences both in Sacramento and in their districts, without taking fees for speeches or having other outside income.

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), who received at least $124,000 in income and gifts last year from special interests having business before the Legislature, has proposed a ban on outside income as part of a plan to raise the salary of legislators to $85,000 a year.

But Sen. H. L. (Bill) Richardson (R-Glendora) said the Legislature could reduce the influence of special interests by making service in the Senate and Assembly a part-time job. If legislators had other full-time occupations, he said, they wouldn't chase after lecture fees from special interests.

Richardson said the Legislature does most of its work in the last three months of a session anyway, so it might as well meet for just three or four months a year. Then legislators could spend the rest of the year working, paying taxes and living normal lives in their own communities, he said.

As it is now, Richardson said, legislators come to Sacramento and lose touch with the voters who elected them as they develop friendships with another constituency--the lobbyists who bestow gifts and honorariums.

Richardson said that he seldom gives paid speeches himself, but that many others find honorariums hard to resist. Richardson reported that last year he received $1,000 from the American Bureau of Economic Research for conducting an economic seminar in Anaheim and just two gifts: $198 worth of football tickets from UCLA and a $200 stuffed deer head from a taxidermy company.

Idea Endorsed

The idea of a part-time Legislature also has been endorsed by Assemblyman Nolan, but Nolan last year was one of the Legislature's leading recipients of gifts and speech fees.

The rise in Nolan's outside income has paralleled his rise to a leadership position. In 1984, before becoming Republican leader, Nolan received $10,000 in gifts and speech fees, or less than one-fourth of what he received in 1986.

Most gifts reported by Nolan last year were connected to his marriage in March and included donations for wedding reception and honeymoon expenses. Ralphs Grocery Co. and a San Diego seafood wholesaler contributed $6,500 worth of food. Friends donated $500 for wedding invitations and supplied free use of a condominium in Hawaii for a week.

'A Little Embarrassing'

Anne Richards, the assemblyman's press secretary, said that to comply with the state's political reporting requirements, Nolan had to ask friends to assign a dollar value to their wedding gifts even though "it's a little embarrassing."

Thus, one can read Nolan's Statement of Economic Interests for 1986 filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission and Secretary of State and find that the assemblyman and his bride received an abundance of china and crystal, including a $125 water pitcher from Speaker Brown and a $240 candy jar from President Reagan's daughter, Maureen. Perhaps the most unusual wedding gift was a shotgun and a pistol, valued at $538, from a couple in Davis.

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