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Vowing to fight for his reputation, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino had his private attorney demand Assembly spending and office budget records Thursday from leaders of his own Democratic Party.

Portantino claims he is falsely being blamed for overspending and that Assembly records will make it clear that his office budget was cut as punishment for voting against the controversial state budget crafted by Democratic leaders.

"I am not seeking or asking for this confrontation," he said. "My integrity was called into question falsely."

Portantino, who is termed out of office next year and has announced plans to run for Congress, said "there is no no question that this is a punitive action because of my votes."

"Every member of the Legislature ought to have the right to vote their conscience," said Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge.

Attorney C. Dana Hobart, on Portantino's behalf, sent a formal legislative public records demand Thursday to leaders of the Assembly Rules Committee, with a copy to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who leads the 80-member house.

Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Pérez, said his demand for records is an attempt to divert the focus from the central issue: "Mr. Portantino has proven that he is either incapable or unwilling to balance his budget."

Swanson, asked if she thought that Portantino was grandstanding, said yes but added: "I don't know how that helps you run for Congress - that you can't balance your own office budget."

In his records request Thursday, Portantino sought office budget and expenditure approvals for each member, committee and subcommittee of the Assembly.

He also requested documents targeting changes in approved spending and payments to vendors, consultants and others.

Portantino's demand came four days after he was notified by the Assembly Rules Committee that his budget is projected to be $67,179 in the red by November 30 and that his entire staff is in danger of being placed on a month-long leave without pay.

Portantino was ordered Monday to submit a spending plan by Friday to correct his projected deficit.

If no such plan is received, or if it does not solve the problem, Portantino was notified that in addition to placing staff on leave without pay beginning Oct. 21, the following actions would be implemented beginning Monday:

• Portantino's mail could not be sent through the Assembly mailroom and stamps would not be issued to him.

• He could not order office supplies, furniture, equipment, or subscriptions to publications.

• Staff travel would be prohibited, including mileage reimbursement for driving within Portantino's district.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, chairwoman of the Assembly Rules Committee, could not be reached immediately for comment today on Portantino's demand for disclosure of Assembly spending records.

Earlier this week, however, Skinner said that Portantino had been warned in April, long before last month's budget vote, that his office budget was in the red and that he needed to tighten his belt.

Portantino countered that Perez and the Rules Committee targeted his office budget only after he bucked Democrats in March on a proposal to realign the state's prison system and after he voted against the state budget in June.

Portantino said that Assembly rules allow expenditures only by the Rules Committee, so that Pérez and Skinner have the right to cut his budget but not to blame him for overspending.

Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said that, in practice, the Rules Committee - and Pérez - set annual budgets that members must comply with and, if they don't, they routinely are sent notices of overspending.

Waldie declined to comment on Portantino's public records demand except to say that it will be referred to legal counsel, as are all such requests from the media or members of the public.


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