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Fabian Núñez, a California politician who needs to go

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Núñez represents downtown Los Angeles, to the south of, and East LA in the state assembly. It is rumored he wants to run for Mayor.

It is not like Democrat Fabian Núñez, Speaker of the California State Assembly, is some bogus politician with bad intentions and total self-serving motives. I am not going to argue with him for looking into universal preschool, high speed rail and global warming solutions for California; in fact, I applaud those efforts. Yet, the recent LA Times investigative exposé on the 46th District Assemblyman's luxurious world travels paid for by campaign funds is starting to boil my blood.

The spending, listed in mandatory filings with the state, includes $47,412 on United, Lufthansa and Air France airlines this year; $8,745 at the exclusive Hotel Arts in Barcelona, Spain; $5,149 for a "meeting" at Cave L'Avant Garde, a wine seller in the Bordeaux region of France; a total of $2,562 for two "office expenses" at Vuitton, two years apart; and $1,795 for a "meeting" at Le Grand Colbert, a venerable Parisian restaurant. Nuñez also spent $2,934 at Colosseum Travel in Rome, and paid $505 to the European airline Spanair.

Other expenses are closer to home: a $1,715 meeting at Asia de Cuba restaurant in West Hollywood; a $317 purchase at upscale Pavilion Salon Shoes in Sacramento; a $2,428 meeting at 58 Degrees and Holding, a Sacramento wine bar and bistro; and $800 spent at Dollar Rent a Car in Kihei, Hawaii.

[snip]

"There's not too big a difference," [Núñez] said, "between how I live and how most middle-class people live."

While these are not tax dollars he's spending, there's still an issue here. Doug Heller of the
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Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica told the Times that "when his campaigns are funding [the luxurious expenses], you have to wonder: Who does he owe for this lifestyle? That's the problem."

Good question, who does he owe? The health insurance industry is one suspect. Núñez has received $136,000 for his travel fund from health insurers and their lobbyists. He is also working with Gov. Schwarzenegger on the health insurance reform bill that would require every Californian to buy coverage, but wouldn't require insurers to cap the cost according to Carmen Balber, also of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, who spoke to Steve Lopez for his Sunday column.

Lopez' must-read piece finds that some of his campaign donors are having trouble with the spending revelations:

Barry Broad, who represents the Teamsters ($15,900 in donations to Nuñez) and other labor groups, says it's hard to ask members to keep digging into their pockets for campaign donations when the working stiffs open their paper and see that Nuñez is frolicking around the world like he's playing with Monopoly money.

So what does Núñez spokeswoman Beth Willon have to say about this? She told the Times that "the expenditures were properly disclosed and described as required by law." Can we say stonewall? And should Willon, an employee of the state, be wasting tax payer dimes defending the Núñez campaign, a private entity? Nevertheless and whatever the case be, Willon should be excited to defend such questions with facts, numbers and good reason.

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Her stock answer only tells the people something bony is hiding in the closet and that has something to learn from the edifications of Luke Ravenstahl, the 27-year-old Mayor of Pittsburgh. And that is reason enough for me to say "no" the next time he runs for office.

Photo by Forward Together PAC via Flickr on a Creative Commons License