February is a magical time for legislators and legislative aides willing to take free tickets from corporations seeking to buy influence.
The Disney on Ice show makes its semi-annual return to Sleep Train Arena this weekend. It will likely draw thousands of local families who mostly pay between $20 to $40 per ticket -- and a slew of legislators, aides, their spouses and their children who sit in a corporate suite for free.
Over the past decade, telecommunications giant AT&T gave $25,000 worth of free "Disney on Ice" tickets to legislators and aides. Energy company BP gave another $5,000 worth of tickets, and the Pechenga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians gave about $2,500 worth of tickets, according to a Bee review of data from the California Secretary of State.
Corporations have given about $6,000 worth of tickets directly to children of legislators and aides since 2003. The practice, effectively banned in 2010, allowed corporations to maximize giveaways to legislators and aides without hitting legal limits on the value of gifts an individual can receive in a year. The names of the children - some too young to write the letters "BP" - appear on forms posted online by the Secretary of State under the heading "Payments made in connection with lobbying activities."
The "Disney on Ice" show is one of hundreds of events that corporations pay for legislators and their aides to see for free each year. Legislators and aides also regularly take their families to Disneyland for free, courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.
A bill to stop these sort of gifts died in the state Assembly last year.
This chart shows the value of tickets to "Disney on Ice" given by AT&T and BP to legislators and their aides during each of the show's visits to the area.