California's Political Gold Rush

Spending on legislative campaigns spirals out of control

They are known in Sacramento as "crunch weeks," when California's assembly and senate face deadlines for moving legislation toward passage. Last week, as a cutoff approached for voting bills out of committee and onto the floor, the most frantic spot in town was Room 4202 in the capitol building, the hearing room of the assembly's critical ways and means committee. Day after day, the chamber was aswarm with legislators, their aides and California's highly visible corps of lobbyists.

Crunch week also meant that Sacramento's calendar was studded with fundraising events. On Tuesday evening some 100 guests nibbled on shrimp and crayfish...

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