Friday, April 6, 2012

Peters Campaign Calls on Saldaña to Explain $39,000 in Gifts/Trips from Special Interests

From the Peters campaign:

San Diego, CA – Today the Scott Peters for Congress campaign called on candidate Lori Saldaña to release her expense reports, receipts, itineraries, agendas, correspondence and all other information pertaining to the more than $39,000 in gifts and trips she received from well-funded special interests from 2005-2009 while serving as a member of the California State Legislature.

Saldaña accepted the majority of the $39,000 in the form of lavish trips to exotic destinations. She traveled to places such as Vietnam, China, Venezuela and Chile where she stayed at posh hotels, enjoyed expensive meals and even had her own personal wait service during a stay in Argentina.  These luxurious junkets were funded by oil, gas and utility companies such as Chevron, Pacific Gas and Electric, AT&T and Sempra Energy.  All of these corporations wanted her support for legislation that affected their bottom lines. And, she voted in their favor, both before and after the opulent travel.

“Lori Saldaña accepted luxurious junkets funded by big corporations who had legislation before her that affected their bottom line. She accepted the trips and the corporations received the support from her they were seeking,” said Peters’ Campaign Manager Robert Dempsey.

 “If Lori Saldaña is for transparency, as she claims, she should release all documentation related to these expenses and explain to the voters how this isn’t a blatant conflict of interest,” he added. “The taxpayers deserve to know where she went, who went with her, who paid her way and what they got in return for their generosity.”

From 2005 through 2009, Saldaña reported receiving $22,058 in travel as gifts, including a 2006 trip to South America. During the trip she stayed at exclusive hotels such as the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, and the five-star Ritz-Carlton in Santiago Chile. While staying at the spectacular Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires, she even had her own personal butler to attend to her.

 The 2006 South America trip was paid for by an organization funded by Chevron, AT&T, Sempra Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Comcast and Northern Star Natural Gas. She was joined on the trip by representatives from oil, gas and electricity companies and others.

“Why would any legitimate fact-finding trip require such luxurious accommodations and a private butler?” questioned Dempsey. “Compare Saldaña’s record on this to Scott Peters who was recently highlighted in a U-T San Diego article because he pays all his own travel and meal expenses at the Port. The voters want a representative who isn’t beholden to special interests bearing gifts.”

Saldaña’s fondness for expensive gifts from special interests caught the attention of the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2010 when it fined her for failing to report meals, as required by law. They included meals paid for by the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the Pechanga Band of Indians, and a $110.00 lunch from Bank of America. There was no record that these expenses ever were reimbursed.

In August 2006, Saldaña voted for AB 2987 which allowed telephone companies to compete and offer cable television services without signing cable franchise agreements for the cities or counties in which they operated.  News accounts reported that AT&T was in support of the bill. The City of San Diego registered its opposition to this bill. In a June 19, 2006 vote the San Diego City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the state to amend the bill.

In June 2009, Saldaña voted for AB 413, which would have eliminated rate freezes for residential customers of electric utilities, a bill supported by PG&E, Sempra Energy and Southern California Edison.  The bill would have lifted some measures enacted in 2001 during the state’s energy crisis that capped and restricted the energy rates paid by customers.  The bill later died in the Senate Rules Committee.


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