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Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Junket in Maui

Our chapter on interest groups describes the many ways by which they seek to influence policymakers. Trips and entertainment often provide a social lubricant, as this case from California illustrates:

Patrick McGreevy writes at The Los Angeles Times:
With temperatures dropping in Sacramento, some state lawmakers are migrating to the sunny beaches of Hawaii this week for a conference at a luxury resort, subsidized and attended by special interests that lobby the Legislature.

About 15 lawmakers are scheduled to attend the annual gathering in Maui, where they will stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel on the tab of the Independent Voter Project, a nonprofit policy group largely funded by business and labor interests.
The group's financial supporters include cigarette maker Altria, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Assn., Chevron and the state prison guards union.

The five-day event, running this weekend through Nov. 18, features panels on prison issues, biofuel and pollution at the Salton Sea, according to organizers including former Democratic state Sen. Steve Peace. He co-founded the group with former Republican Assemblyman Jeff Marston.

Peace said the conference allows lawmakers to "get to know each other and talk about issues in depth," away from Capitol pressures. "It's those kinds of relationships that allow people to bridge partisanship."

Open-government advocates say the occasion also allows representatives of corporations and unions undue access and influence as they garner one-on-one time with decision-makers at poolside or on the golf course.