Democratic state senator Christine Kehoe, barred by term limits from running again for her seat, has continued to collect contributions for her so-called officeholder account, a means that state law sanctions to tap special interests for cash to be used for personal political causes. The law is broad enough to permit expenditures on travel, lodging, and meals, which Kehoe and many other legislators take major advantage of. Last October, for instance, for a California Air Resources Board meeting, the senator from San Diego hosted a party of nine, including herself, for a $230 luncheon at the Acqua restaurant inside the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa. The officeholder fund plunked down $281 for 11 meals at Sacramento’s Buckhorn Grill for an Appropriations Committee staff meeting. Then there was a $230 tab at Frank Fat’s restaurant, also in Sacramento, for three diners at a meeting with a member of the California Energy Commission. Back in San Diego, it was $245 at Seaport Village’s Harbor House for a holiday staff luncheon for eight. In September, San Diego’s Red Door played host to a $139 staff farewell lunch for seven. And Kehoe apparently didn’t have weight-watching in mind when she ordered $584 worth of merchandise from See’s Candies for office use.
But the fund’s largest expenditures were made for a two-week “cultural exchange trip” Kehoe took from San Diego to Beijing, China, in the first half of November, according to the report. Airfare on United was $5955.20, with a leg to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City costing $606.90 on China Southern Airlines. But the bulk of that fare appears to have been credited back by the airline, and the officeholder account paid $337.07 for medical treatment Kehoe received on November 5 at Xie He Hospital in Beijing. (According to the filing, the committee is seeking reimbursement from health insurance.)
In a phone interview last week, Myrna Zambrano, Kehoe’s district director, confirmed that the senator had become ill during the trip, but said that she had since recovered. Zambrano said she would ask Kehoe’s permission to disclose further details but didn’t call back.