Our favorite quote to emerge from the intramural flap over the Legislature’s secret spending records comes from John Vigna, chief flack for Speaker John Perez:
“All this reminds me of the woman with the Virginia ham under her arm, crying she has no bread,” he told the Pasadena Star-News.
We’re not really sure what the hell that means, but we are sure that referencing ham, bread, or any other foodstuff, is most appropriate in commenting on the Battle of Heavyweights between Speaker Perez and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.
One other thing that’s certain about the clash: the biggest loser is Perez.
Every schoolchild by now knows the details of the silly spat over legislative perqs and partisan loyalty that set these Sumo-sized political warriors at each other. Frankly we don’t have a big problem with Perez punishing Portantino for taking a hike on the big budget vote by whacking his expenses for office and staff; Mr. Speaker, however, apparently made his Mr. Badass move without giving a great deal of thought to what the unintended consequences might be.
Now Portantino has performed a slick piece of political jujitsu, seizing the principled high ground by inviting the whole world to take a whiff of the stinky cheese that is of one of Sacramento’s oldest open scandals: the Legislature’s exemption of itself from open records and transparency laws and regulations that apply to every other state and local agency in California.
Let’s recap the clumsy moves Perez has made in an effort to wish away the important issue that Portantino, however inadvertently, has raised: 1) Resisting release of spending records until getting sued for access by the SacBee and the By God L.A. Times; 2) Releasing partial records, books cooked to cloak and confuse exactly how much of the public’s money is being spent for what and on whom in the Assembly; 3) Calculating in this exercise of obfuscation that Portantino is — We’re shocked! — the biggest spender in the house; 4) Dumping his rival’s bill to end the legislative open record exemption onto the remainder table for the rest of the session; 5) Appointing a double-really-super-special blue ribbon committee to study the whole problem until next year, hoping everyone will have forgotten about it by then.