Look at how much interest groups spent on lobbying during the third quarter of the year, and it appears the San Manuel Band of Indians was a big player. The tribe was the fourth-biggest spender among more than 2,000 groups that employed lobbyists in California between June and September, declaring $1,008,620 in lobbying expenditures on disclosure forms released this week.
But the vast majority of that money -- a cool $1 million -- went toward throwing a private party at the tribe's San Bernardino County casino featuring a performance by country-music star Carrie Underwood. Three assemblymen -- Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, Curt Hagman of Chino Hills and Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga -- and a legislative staff member were among the aproximately 1,000 invited guests who attended the July 14 party. Each one enjoyed $300 worth of entertainment, food and drinks, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State.
It would appear, then, that the tribe spent $1,200 on entertaining politicians and their staff. But San Manuel was correct to report the entire $1 million event as a lobbying expense, said Lynda Cassady, chief of technical advice at the Fair Political Practices Commission -- even though doing so catapults the tribe from its place near the middle of the pack on lobby spending in the past two quarters to almost the top this quarter.
"That number sort of skews it because it really wasn't used for lobbying, but the way the law reads is you have to provide the full cost of the event and (the government official's) pro rata share," she said.
The full amount must be disclosed, Cassady said, because the party was an invitation-only event. If Underwood's concert had been open to the public and San Manuel gave tickets to a few lawmakers, only the cost of the tickets would have to be disclosed.
PHOTO CREDIT: Carrie Underwood performs at an outdoor show in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. Associated Press/ Mark Humphrey