Capitol Alert

Inaugural events for California legislative leaders cost the public at least $38,000

Democratic Sen. Kevin de León, second from left, at his inauguration as Senate leader at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, October 2014.
Democratic Sen. Kevin de León, second from left, at his inauguration as Senate leader at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, October 2014. The Associated Press

The California Senate used public funds to pay for at least $28,000 in travel expenses related to Senate leader Kevin de León’s swearing-in ceremony in Los Angeles this fall.

The Senate paid for at least 40 people – including some senators, staff members and security personnel – to travel to Los Angeles in mid-October, according to documents The Sacramento Bee obtained through a public records request. The expenses covered flights, hotel rooms, ground transportation and “per diem” payments for people attending the event de León billed as his inauguration.

Held at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the event included performances by a mariachi band and Korean drummers. A foundation tied to the Legislature’s Latino caucus paid for the $50,000 celebration, using money largely contributed by interest groups that work to influence state government.

But taxpayers footed the bill for staff members and some officials to travel to the event for the Democratic leader, the records show.

“This was an official, historic state event which included the participation of more than 2,000 constituents, and more than 100 current and former elected officials,” said a statement from de León’s spokesman, Anthony Reyes.

“While the event itself was privately funded, this was an official state event and therefore certain state staff fulfilled official functions as required and customary – mostly security, since the Senate was responsible for providing for the safety for all attendees. When it comes to protecting state officials or their constituents, we are not in the habit of second-guessing the security recommendations of the Chief Sergeant or experts.”

Several of de León’s staff members stayed over two nights in Los Angeles to participate in a policy retreat during the week of the inauguration, Reyes said, giving Capitol staff the chance to meet with district staff and familiarize themselves with de León’s district.

It wasn’t the first time a legislative leader held a swearing-in ceremony outside of Sacramento and billed the public for associated travel costs. Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins held a swearing-in celebration in her San Diego district after becoming speaker in May. The Assembly spent $10,575 on that event, according to documents provided through a public records request, including about $800 for printed materials and travel costs for 14 employees.

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

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