Toni Atkins
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As Jesse Unruh, also known as "Big Daddy," once famously said, "Money is the mother's milk of politics."

The legendarily Falstaffian speaker of the California Assembly, who died in 1987 at the age of 64, is also remembered for his line about lobbyists: "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them, you have no business being up here."

Exactly how many times Democrat Unruh voted against a lobbyist is unrecorded.

Ben Hueso mugshot

Ben Hueso mugshot

Imbibing alcoholic beverages around the state capitol remains a frequent pastime, as illustrated last summer by San Diego state senator Ben Hueso, busted for drunk driving after partaking of more than a few in a late-night party on a capitol balcony.

"Yes...Loving my Latino Caucus boys", wrote his Democratic Assembly colleague Lorena Gonzalez in her now infamous tweet that captured the event for political posterity.

And bribery still plays a role, as witnessed by the indictment of Democratic ex–state senator Ronald Calderon and his brother Thomas, also a former lawmaker. They have pled not guilty, with a trial set for August.

San Diego's giant Sempra Energy was a big giver to the Calderon cause.

Another form of legislative lubrication is offered in the guise of gifts of food, travel, and other emoluments from those who wish to influence, as the recently filed annual financial disclosure statement of current Assembly speaker Toni Atkins shows.

According to the March 2 document, the Democrat has been besieged by gifts, including on May 28 a $365 humidor stuffed with cigars from Arthur Berberian of Zander-Greg, a "distributor of tobacco products."

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin and Lisa Bicker of La Jolla forked over $180 on June 7 for flowers. He's chief executive of Sempra-owned SDG&E.

The Mexican government, through its office of the president, gave $320 in "crystal paperweights" on August 28, and San Diego developer Fred Maas of Pacific Eco Companies came up with a $212 dinner for Atkins at the Cafe Milano in Washington DC on September 17, according to the statement.

"Cafe Milano has been a power center for diplomats, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, lobbyists, entertainers, and all who enjoy fine Italian food and gracious attentive service," according to the restaurant's website.

Free lodging and meals worth $1227 for Atkins in Richmond, Virginia, from September 10 thorough 13 were provided by the nonprofit State Legislative Leaders Foundation.

"In addition to spending time with other Speakers, participants walked battlefields and discussed battlefield leadership with noted Civil War historian James I. (Bud) Robertson, Jr.," says the group's website.

"And, we can't forget the hospitality! You enjoyed some of the finest food the Old South has to offer and experienced musical entertainment that is uniquely Virginian!"

According to, the foundation has been the beneficiary of major cash from Target and Procter & Gamble, though it isn't required by law to disclose its complete donor list.

Jennifer LeSar

Jennifer LeSar

When it comes to personal income, the big moneymaker of the Atkins household is her spouse, low-income housing consultant Jennifer LeSar.

According to the disclosure, LeSar owns two companies, each worth between $100,000 and $1 million, which raked in more than $100,000 apiece last year.

A 40-plus list of greater-than $10,000 income sources to LeSar includes the City of San Diego; San Diego Housing Commission; El Cajon Housing Authority; Affirmed Housing; Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation; San Diego Gas & Electric; Downtown San Diego Partnership; Metropolitan Water District; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; L.A. County Community Development Commission; and the University of California.

Of late, Atkins has been pushing a plan to hike real estate transaction fees and raise state tax credits by $300 million to benefit low-income housing developers.

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Visduh March 12, 2015 @ 1:56 p.m.

And here I always thought the "mother's milk" quote came from Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois. Maybe it has been famously uttered by many politicians and critics.


dwbat March 12, 2015 @ 2:44 p.m.

From Wikipedia: Rostenkowski was incriminated in a House scandal and "was fined and was sentenced to 17 months in prison, of which he served 15 at the federal prison in Oxford, Wisconsin, and the remaining 2 months at a half way house in Chicago."


Visduh March 12, 2015 @ 3:44 p.m.

But you might not know that he was the principal architect of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, largely credited to Reagan. While the president wanted to bring the marginal rates down, way down, he wasn't terribly concerned how that happened. "Rosti" came up with the package that Reagan was happy to sign.


Visduh March 12, 2015 @ 6:04 p.m.

Oh, Reader, could you come up with a less-glamorous shot of Toni? Her hairdresser isn't the only one who knows.


AlexClarke March 13, 2015 @ 5:59 a.m.

Beauty is only skin deep but ugly is clear to the bone.


AlexClarke March 13, 2015 @ 5:58 a.m.

And the idiot voters think that they have a say in who is elected. The choice of whom to vote for is made well in advance of the election and whatever corrupt political candidate wins they are already bought and paid for.


Sjtorres March 15, 2015 @ 8:20 p.m.

So now I understand all the recent legislation from Atkins to pour more taxpayers money into "affordable" housing, i.e. Her own bank accounts.


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