In November of last year, the Village Voice Media-owned L.A. Weekly ran a piece titled “The Worst Legislator in California.” It drew from a series of reports by the San Jose Mercury News’s Karen de Sa about the prevalence of ghost-written “sponsored bills” in the California legislature. De Sa explained the process of a sponsored bill, writing, “The lobbyist writes the bill, shops for a willing lawmaker to introduce it, and lines up the support. The legislator? He has to do little more than show up and vote.” (CJR took a look at both stories.)
De Sa’s series came with a searchable database—bill, author, sponsor, party etc.—that the Weekly mined to name San Fernando Valley state assemblyman Felipe Fuentes California’s “worst legislator.” Now the Weekly has a follow-up. In “Worst Legislator in California, Part II,” reporter David Futch follows the standard sequel rules, going bigger this time with a pair of legislating brothers: State Sen. Ron Calderon and Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon. Why are they the new worst?
Not only are the two brothers willing to “author” laws they don’t write a word of, but Charles and Ron both hold seats on so-called “juice committees”—the legislative bodies that consider bills that directly affect the bottom lines of the most powerful special-interest groups.
Committees associated with the term juice include those that oversee gambling—“always No. 1,” Ellis says, “followed by insurance, banking and finance and any committee dealing with gun control.”
Futch’s piece is full of anger and attitude—that Charles Calderon has pushed for measures raising lending limits for payday lenders draws particular ire. And he details with a sure hand and solid research a disturbing proximity between certain votes and certain special interest donations to the Calderons. While nothing here feels particularly shocking or new and there is less emphasis on the aspect of bills being ghostwritten by sponsors—the emphasis here is following the money—this sequel is worth a read. Yet another worthy entry into the canon of reports showing just how screwed this government business really is.Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: database, LA Weekly, San Jose Mercury News, sponsored bills