Commentary: More hypocrisy from California politicians

The Sacramento BeeFebruary 5, 2010 

Those outside the trade occasionally ask political journalists whether spending one's working life listening to the self-serving speeches of politicians and watching their antics becomes tiresome.

Watching politics, like watching sausage-making, does tend to make one somewhat leery of the final product, to paraphrase an old saying. There is, however, another side to professional political voyeurism — being entertained as politicians preen and puff and then face the consequences when reality intrudes.

That's why hypocrisy is a mainstay of political reporting, and why the public responds so readily to do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do stories. We couldn't help but be amused, for instance, when a "pro-family" Republican legislator was caught on videotape boasting of his sexual exploits with a lobbyist and forced to resign.

Titillating scandals aside, what really grabs us is the tendency of politicians to impose burdens on others while exempting themselves. If three members of a five-member school board meet privately to discuss school district business, to cite one example, it's a violation of state law. But while passing the anti-secrecy Brown Act, the Legislature allows majorities of its own members to "caucus" behind closed doors on legislation.

By the same token, legislators frequently complain about – and sometimes legislate on – corporate chicanery. But they annually pass state budgets that contain exactly the sort of financial flimflam – phantom revenues and hidden liabilities – that would put them in jail were they corporate executives.

While tens of thousands of state employees deal with a 15 percent salary cut via three-day-a-month furloughs, the Legislature continues to manipulate its schedule to keep "per diem" payments flowing to its members seven days a week. It's about $35,000 per year in tax-free extra income, more than many furloughed workers earn.

Sometimes, politicians make it almost too easy to spot hypocrisy – perhaps because they're so cloistered they can't see it.

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service