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Lust and the legislator

The downfall of Assemblyman Michael Duvall says much about a lack of ethics among some in Sacramento.

September 11, 2009

We've known for a long time that many members of the Legislature were in bed with electric utilities. But until the lurid crowing of Assemblyman Michael Duvall (R-Yorba Linda), we thought the expression was only figurative.

Duvall resigned Wednesday after a videotape surfaced in which he boasted to an Assembly colleague in graphic detail about two sexual affairs. Duvall, who is married, apparently was unaware that a microphone in front of him was still turned on during a break in a committee meeting in July. Neither of the women with whom Duvall claimed to be cavorting has been positively identified, but he made very specific statements about the date of birth of one of them. And that matches the birth date of a lobbyist for San Diego-based Sempra Energy, which has frequent business before the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, of which Duvall was vice chairman.

Naturally, the liberal blogosphere is atwitter over the spectacle of another family-values Republican caught with his pants down. The irony is richer when it's discovered that those who preach about moral rectitude don't practice it, but conservative politicians aren't really any more hanky-panky-prone than liberal ones, and the hypocrisy of a few individuals doesn't de- legitimize an ideology. We're more bothered by the casual ethical lapses of a lawmaker who may have been having sex with an industry representative at the same time that he repeatedly voted down measures opposed by Sempra and other utilities. Equally troublesome is the reaction -- or lack of one -- by the lawmaker to whom Duvall was boasting.

Duvall told his tale of bedroom spankings and "eye-patch" underwear to Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona), who at the time sat on the Assembly's Legislative Ethics Committee. Miller saw nothing worth bringing to the attention of his committee in Duvall's tale of a tawdry relationship with a woman The Times and other media have identified as working for a company that wanted his vote.

Miller told reporters this week that he wasn't paying attention to what Duvall was saying, even though he can be heard on the tape querying his colleague about whether his paramour enjoyed being spanked. Miller was rightly stripped of his committee post Thursday by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).

Utilities have among the most powerful lobbies in Sacramento, spending tens of millions of dollars annually on campaign contributions. That doesn't mean they commonly hire lobbyists to trade sexual favors for votes -- there's no evidence that Sempra was aware of any real or alleged extracurricular activity by its representative or that it encouraged any. Money is at least as powerful a motivator as sex, though. Someone frequently gets screwed as a result; all too often, it's the people of California.

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