The Merced Democrat was part of a group of racehorse owners and lobbyists for the Thoroughbred Owners of California trade association that met with members of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee this week "to discuss Internet poker, and other Internet gaming issues," according to a report by California Watch.
In a telephone interview, Cardoza said he is an unpaid member of the board of directors of the thoroughbred owners association. The House of Representatives' Ethics Committee approved his service last year, he said.
He said the Sacramento meetings were aimed at calling attention to the economic problems of the state's $2.8 billion horse racing industry. He was "absolutely not lobbying," Cardoza said.
"I wouldn't consider it being a lobbyist," he said. "It's just visiting friends, and I certainly am unpaid."
When asked whether his work with the association posed a conflict of interest, he said, "I don't have a conflict of interest - I'm a citizen who is talking to my old colleagues."
A renewed push to legalize and regulate Internet poker and other online gambling in California is expected to be the subject of intense lobbying this year, as Indian tribes, card rooms, horse racing entities and other interests fight for a stake in whatever system is crafted by legislators.
Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who authored one of two online gambling measures that stalled last year, is planning to introduce another bill on the matter this spring.
>PHOTO CREDIT: Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2010. Associated Press/Harry Hamburg.