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Monday, May 5, 2014

AT&T Schmoozes State Legislators at Pebble Beach

Posted By on Mon, May 5, 2014 at 3:15 PM

  • JD Hancock

Golf -- the wealthy retiree's pastime that doubles as a form of political diplomacy -- has earned a particularly bad name in California, where it's all but synonymous with soft corruption.

It's no secret that corporations and lobbyists often pay tens of thousands of dollars to tee up alongside state legislators at any of California's annual golf-themed fundraisers, a tradition that's well within the rules, even if it seems unsavory.

But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg began questioning the wisdom of these schmooze-fests in light of several recent scandals -- particularly the shocking indictment of Senator Leland Yee for alleged graft and gun-running conspiracies. In April, he pulled the plug on the annual Pro Tem Cup at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, arguing that public servants should take a step back from anything that remotely resembles pay-for-play.

Last week, Secretary of State candidate Derek Cressman called for cancellation of the annual Speaker's Cup fundraiser at Pebble Beach, which charges lobbyists and special interest groups anywhere from $30,000 to $65,000 for the chance to rub elbows with their favorite Democrats.

This year's event was sponsored by AT&T, a telecom giant with designs on killing a few bills that are currently making the rounds in Sacramento, including Mark Leno's "kill-switch" legislation to curb smartphone theft.

By requiring manufacturers to pre-equip each phone with software that would disable the device if it were stolen, Leno's bill threatens to drain the estimated $30 billion a year that companies like AT&T harvest from replacing purloined gadgetry. So it's no surprise that AT&T and other carriers have been fervently campaigning against it.

Leno's bill failed it's first round in the Senate on April 24, garnering 19 aye votes and 17 nays -- two short of the 21 ayes it needed to move forward. AT&T's Pebble Beach gala -- which proceeded as planned -- was well- timed for this week, when the bill goes up for reconsideration.

Undaunted, Cressman called for a protest outside the AT&T store at 705 Market Street on Friday. He asked participants to wear golf attire.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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