Sen. Rubio’s exit draws complaints about Sacramento revolving door

by Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

The abrupt resignation of state Sen. Michael J. Rubio (D’Shafter)  to accept a government affairs job with Chevron Corp. sparked renewed complaints by some ethics watchdogs about the revolving door between the public and private sector in Sacramento.

As chairman of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, Rubio was leading the charge to make California’s environmental laws more business-friendly and has introduced bills during his two years in office that affect the oil industry in his Central Valley district.

Rubio on Friday announced his resignation from the Senate, effective immediately. There are two years remaining in his term of office, and a special election will be held in the next few months to fill his seat.

"The concern is that legislators may change their behavior while in office to pave the way toward their personal future employment opportunities instead of thinking solely about the needs of their constituents,” said Derek Cressman, regional director for Common Cause. "The revolving door maintains a cozy relationship between lobbyists and legislators that makes a voter’s head spin and stomach churn.”

An official with the state Fair Political Practices Commission said his office will conduct a routine review of the situation to make sure there is no violation of the conflict of interest rules in the Political Reform Act.

"We will look to see if there is something to indicate that the Act was violated and, if so, we will take a look at it,” said FPPC Chief of Enforcement Gary Winuk.

Winuk said a lawmaker can negotiate for a job with a corporation doing business with the state but then must avoid acting on any issue affecting that business during those talks.

Rubio said in an interview that he has complied with state law, but declined to discuss the terms of his employment, including his salary.

Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court said Rubio takes with him cell and home phone numbers and relationships with public officeholders and state environmental official who can impact Chevron in the future.

"This type of revolving doors shows that too many anti-consumer and anti-environment politicians are spending their time in public office auditioning for a well paying job for the companies they are supposed to regulate,” Court said.