Oil, Tobacco Interests Fund Luxury Getaway for Republicans

Oil and tobacco companies and other businesses hoping to press their agenda in the California legislature picked up most of the tab for a gathering of about 25 Republican state legislators and a dozen of their aides at a luxurious beach resort in Santa Barbara, California. The three day get-together included gourmet meals, gift bags (some worth almost $300 each), a tour of Ronald Reagan's ranch and a cocktail reception where the legislators mingled with lobbyists. The event cost $120,000, and the money was funneled through a non-profit group called the "Council for Legislative Excellence," which is headed by the spouse of a legislative aide, according to the group's most recent tax filing. The Executive Director of Common Cause in California, Kathay Feng, called it "money laundering." She said the donations amounted to "buying access by interested parties through a third-party conduit." The event's biggest donors were Chevron and Altria, the parent company of cigarette maker Philip Morris.