Monday, July 6, 2009

CSU Spent Millions On No-Bid Lobbying Contracts

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the CSU, in addition to spending $1.1 million per year on its own lobbying office in Sacramento, contracted with high-priced lobbyists without competitive bidding:

In the last decade, the university system has paid more than $2 million in public funds to two Sacramento lobbying firms – Capitol Advocacy LLC, and Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates – to influence the policies and budget decisions of the governor and state lawmakers.

At a time of state budget cuts, student tuition hikes, canceled classes, faculty hiring freezes and layoffs, CSU's lobbyists have been paid to defeat bills designed to shed more light on CSU executive salaries and perks as well as public records.

One example of the legislation blocked:

Trent Hager, chief of staff for Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County), said CSU paid the two lobbying firms in 2007 to derail his boss' bill aimed at full disclosure of CSU salaries. They got it sidetracked and killed, he said.

Bills tracked also included nearly a dozen bills that had little or no direct connection to the university, including legislation on affordable housing for Iraq veterans, money laundering, terrorism, sex offenders and sacred Indian grounds. The CSU spent almost $400,000 on retainer fees during periods when lobby activity reports show the firms weren't lobbying.

According to the story, the University of California rarely hires outside lobbyists, and the California Community Colleges system doesn't use them at all.

The CSU didn't even follow its own rules:

Under CSU policy, university officials must identify in writing three additional firms that they surveyed with regard to a no-bid contract. CSU officials did not do this.

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