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State lawmakers seek to regain public trust

A series of scandals that has tarnished the integrity of the state Legislature has prompted a wave of proposals aimed at strengthening political ethics and reforming laws governing campaign contributions.

So far this year, a prominent lobbyist was slapped with a record fine for illegally throwing lavish fundraisers for top elected officials at his home, Democratic Sen. Rod Wright was convicted for lying about living inside his district, and federal corruption charges have been filed against two other Democrats, Sens. Ron Calderon of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco.

"The reason there's indictments, the reason there's trials is because the system is working," said state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is one of several contenders for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections and campaign fundraising. "But clearly there is more we can do to minimize the likelihood of this kind of bad behavior taking place to begin with."

He is among myriad lawmakers and candidates trying to restore public trust in government by untangling the web of money and politics and strengthening oversight.

Freshman Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, released a political reform package in February following the lobbying fine, while a task force of Senate Democrats led by Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens proposed ethics bills in March after Calderon's indictment.


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