The LA Times has a detailed article about California State Senator Gil Cedillo’s campaign expenses, and let’s just say that he likes the finer things in life. His champagne tastes give former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez a run for the money and remind us all how disgusted people were with Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s spending of RNC funds. Although I think that Sarah Palin’s expenses for her and her family still take the cake.
Cedillo is saying that no aberrations occurred and that he has complied with the law that says campaign spending must serve “a political, legislative, or governmental purpose.” That may be the case, but in dismal economic times, this kind of campaign spending doesn’t go over well with his donors and creates the impression that he is enriching himself and his aides at the expense of his supporters.
Robert Stern, head of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies says, “It sounds like he is using campaign funds to supplement his lifestyle.”
This story is particularly damaging to Gil Cedillo because he is in a race for Congress to represent California’s 32nd District, which was the seat left vacant by now Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. And Cedillo’s main opponent, Judy Chu, is rather economical in comparison. The LA Times reports:
“Cedillo’s spending, detailed in reports he filed with the secretary of state, contrasts with the frugal record of Judy Chu, his chief rival for the San Gabriel Valley congressional seat. A former Monterey Park assemblywoman elected to the state Board of Equalization in 2006, Chu has spent no campaign money on shopping or entertainment, and less than $5,000 on meals and travel over six years.”
According to the LA Times, over the course of six years in California’s State Senate, Cedillo has spent approximately $77,000 on restaurants, $29,000 on hotels and $21,000 on airline tickets.
My thought is that Cedillo could certainly trim these travel and dining costs, which would free up more campaign money and build goodwill with the public and his donors. It should be noted that money collected for his congressional race is raised separately and subject to stricter campaign finance rules. Cedillo sells himself as a champion of working people having been a leader of SEIU, yet he lives large. I would imagine that much of his international travel could be cut and handled via webinar or Skype. In general, the trend of public servants and their staffers taking advantage of high end hotel stays and meals plagues both political parties and all ethnic groups. However, stories like this have more bite when it comes to Latino politicians and especially those who advocate on behalf of populations that don’t have much political capital such as the undocumented immigrant community.
It will be interesting to see how voters in California’s 32 district factor Cedillo’s campaign spending into their decision on who to vote for, if at all, come May 19.