Lara announced today that he has canceled a fundraiser that was to take place Saturday at an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in Las Vegas because of "an unfortunate case of coincidental timing."
The Bee reported today that the event was to be hosted by Station Casinos, which has been lobbying the Legislature to approve a gambling compact for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The Las Vegas-based casino company is in line to make millions if the compact is approved because it would operate North Fork's casino for seven years. The compact has cleared the Assembly and is now in the Senate.
Lara has declined interview requests, but his legislative staff released a statement today.
"Despite this event having been planned for more than a year, the unpredictability of our legislative calendar has created an unfortunate case of coincidental timing," Lara's statement says.
"To ensure there's no perception of any conflict, I felt it necessary to cancel the event, effective immediately. There has never been - and there will never be - any connection between my outside fundraising and my legislative duties as an elected official."
The $3,000 tickets to the fundraiser for Lara and the Latino Caucus Leadership PAC included two receptions, entrance to the fight and luxurious accommodations at the Red Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Station Casinos, which owns the Red Rock, and its sister company Zuffa, which owns the fighting business, had donated tickets, food and hotel rooms for the event.
Interest groups frequently give campaign contributions to politicians who decide the fate of their business deals. But the close timing of this fundraiser and the Senate's vote on a controversial gambling compact had raised hackles among some campaign finance watchdogs.
The Senate is not going to vote on the North Fork compact this Friday, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today.
PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento (left) speaks with Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens during session in the Senate chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua