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August 9, 2013
Editorial: Speaker Pérez seems oblivious to conflicts

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(Aug. 9 -- By the Editorial Board)

If Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez were a more effective legislative leader, he wouldn't need to use public funds to hire a communications consultant.

His actions would speak for themselves.

Yet as The Sacramento Bee's Laurel Rosenhall reported Thursday, Pérez this year has been spending $9,500 a month in public money for the services of Steven Maviglio, head of Forza Communications, despite the fact that Pérez already has a large staff to advise him.

Worse still, Maviglio is anything but a detached party when it comes to business at the Capitol. He has numerous clients, ranging from solar firms to clients who want to expand "scope of practice" for nurses, optometrists and pharmacists. We support many of Maviglio's causes, but it is astounding to us that the speaker would use public money to hire a consultant who has so many conflicts, and potential for conflicts.

Maviglio and Assembly officials insist that Maviglio doesn't advise the speaker on policy issues, or "product development."

"I'm in sales and marketing," he says.

Perhaps so, but it is hard to imagine that Maviglio doesn't use his unique position and his unparalleled access to the speaker to help his clients and drum up business for himself. If he doesn't, he must be wearing a halo, and so far we haven't noticed one over his head.

The Capitol is a cauldron of incestuous, revolving-door politics, with little buffer between the industry of influence and elected officials supposedly at service to the public. Rosenhall noted that Jason Kinney, for example, serves as communications consultant to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, paid by the California Democratic Party. Kinney is a partner with the California Strategies public affairs firm, which means he gets unique access to Steinberg for his numerous clients, just as Maviglio does for his.

Yet Pérez has pushed this practice to a new level by using public funds to hire a consultant with so many clients.

Some good government advocates have suggested a ban on this kind of overlap. There shouldn't need to be a regulation. All that's needed is legislative leaders who aren't so oblivious to the appearance they are creating.

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