Sen. Ricardo Lara won't hold an event Saturday that was to be aided by Station Casinos, which could run a new Indian casino.

Ricardo Lara cancels Vegas fundraiser; casino vote postponed

Published: Wednesday, May. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 22, 2013 - 8:22 am

Sacramento lobbyists and others looking forward to attending a mixed-martial-arts fight in Las Vegas with Sen. Ricardo Lara on Saturday will have to find another way to enjoy the holiday weekend.

Lara announced Tuesday 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 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 Tuesday.

"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 originally was to vote on the compact as soon as Friday, but a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday that it will not hit the floor this week.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @laurelrosenhall.

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