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The California Assembly underreports spending on personal staff in a way that clouds how the lower house spends its $146.7 million budget, a computer analysis by a Stanford-based nonprofit group announced today.

The findings by California Common Sense mirror a similar analysis by The Bee, which concluded that more than 170 personal staff salaries are being paid by committee funds and an additional 70 by leadership stipends. The augmentations exceeded $10 million for the first eight months of the legislative year.

Under the Assembly's method of accounting for salaries and reporting expenditures to the public, personal staff salary is "artificially inflated," California Common Sense said in a written statement.

"As more data comes to light, it becomes clearer that Assembly leadership is not presenting an accurate account of spending," said Dakin Sloss, executive director of the Stanford-based watchdog group.

Jon Waldie, Assembly administrator, has said that placing various Capitol office aides on a committee payroll is neither unreasonable nor unusual because duties tend to overlap at the Capitol.

California Common Sense analyzed roster and payroll data covering the first eight months of the current legislative year, from December 2010 through July 2011.

The Assembly balked recently at releasing member-by-member budgets, sparking a lawsuit by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times in an attempt to force disclosure.

Sloss characterized his group as nonpartisan. Its chairman is Joe Lonsdale, a Bay Area investor and entrepreneur. Donors include the Passport Foundation, Matthew Fournier, Processing Pledge, Koret Foundation, Draper Foundation and Charles T. Munger Jr.

The Bee found that the transfer of personal aides to committee payrolls allows some legislators to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more to run their offices than are reported as member expenditures.


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