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20110815_ha_assembly0568.JPGAssemblyman Anthony Portantino has called a press conference today to accuse Assembly leadership of "cooking the books" and misleading the public in expenditure records released Friday.

"Friday's action makes it clear that Assembly leaders continue to mislead the public on how the Assembly spends taxpayer money," the D-La Cañada-Flintridge Democrat said in a written statement announcing today's event.

Portantino will appear with a Stanford-based political analysis group, California Common Sense, which released a written statement today contending that the Assembly under-reported staff salaries in a way that led to Portantino's being listed as the highest spender of the house at $297,580 through July 31 this year.

Portantino has accused Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez of slashing his budget this year as punishment for casting the lone Democratic vote against the state budget.

Robin Swanson, Pérez's spokeswoman, said the Assembly records released Friday allow the public to see how members, committees, leadership and other entities of the Assembly are spending taxpayer money, and that it's time now to focus on other matters.

"Anthony Portantino has a highly inflated sense of self and relevancy," she said. "The Assembly released all its expenditures and now the speaker would like to get back to doing the business of the people of California," she said. "We've had enough of Mr. Portantino's soap opera."

California Common Sense said its computer analysis shows that numerous employees were moved off the rolls of member expenditures into leadership, committee, caucus, overhead or other accounting entities.

The result is that member expenditures for personal staff were underreported by $2.75 million, according to the nonprofit political analysis group.

Rather than being the Assembly's highest spender, Portantino slides far down the list in the group's computer analysis - 18th in spending on personal staff.

"We find peculiar inconsistencies to say the least," said Dakin Sloss, president of California Common Sense.

"The data even seems to suggest that the Assembly Rules Committee shifted how millions of dollars of staff are listed, reporting personal staffers as committee, leadership, caucus or overhead staff to perhaps hide Assembly members' real spending," Sloss said.

Forty employees serving as chief of staff to Assembly members are listed as expenses of committees, caucuses, leadership or overhead expenses, rather than as member costs, California Common Sense said.

Portantino scoffed at the Assembly expenditure records shortly after they were released Friday, calling them an "April fool's joke" and accusing the lower house of "cooking the books."

"They should be ashamed of themselves," he said.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino speaks to fellow Assembly members during the opening of session on Monday August 15, 2011 in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee



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