Anthony Rendon, the new speaker of the state Assembly, made an appearance Thursday at the Sacramento Press Club, talking mostly about his new role and the tragedy of corruption at various local governments in his Los Angeles-area district.
As is the club’s custom, he fielded questions from the audience.
One of his final questioners was a man wearing a straw hat sitting at a table near the podium. His inquiry – more a statement than a question – was about Rendon’s policy of allowing Assembly committee chairs to be free to fashion legislation without interference.
The questioner talked about how committee assignments had been handled “in my day” and how “juice committees” – those that deal with topics likely to produce the most campaign contributions – were important to legislators.
Rendon didn’t appear to recognize the man, and his office later confirmed that he hadn’t. But Capitol hands in the audience did.
It was Joe Montoya, a former assemblyman and state senator who was convicted of seven federal bribery charges in 1990 – one of a number legislators, Capitol staffers and lobbyists who were snared in the FBI “Shrimpscam” sting investigation of Capitol corruption.
He chaired the ultimate juice committee, Business and Professions, and prosecutors caught him on videotape pocketing a $3,000 “honorarium” check at a restaurant in downtown Sacramento in 1988.
He spent five years in prison.