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Cedillo's campaign spending questioned

April 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Lavish shopping sprees, meals and trips, all paid for with campaign contributions. State Senator Gil Cedillo claims his spending is all legitimate. California State Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) is a candidate for a congressional seat in the upcoming May election. A breakdown of his spending practices was revealed in an L.A. Times article over the weekend.

Gil Cedillo says all of the spending was perfectly legal, but a watchdog group says there's no question that gifts and meals were lavish and excessive. As Cedillo mounts his campaign for congress, his spending habits are prompting questions.

"Immigrants who come here, come here to work," said state Senator Cedillo.

As a state senator, Gil Cedillo has been pushing his own brand of economic stimulus: $1,200 for dinner at Patina in downtown L.A.; $5,700 at the Standard Hotel and Bar, where Cedillo and his staff visited 26 times.

"I was surprised to see how much he was spending on travel, on hotels, on meals," said Robert Stern, Center for Governmental Studies. " I was also surprised to see the large amounts spent at specific places.

Bob Stern is the president for the non-partisan Center for Governmental Studies. He says Cedillo has raised more than a million dollars in campaign contributions over the past six years.

"And so he is raising campaign money for non-campaign purposes, for legal purposes, probably, governmental or political purposes," said Stern. "But not for election purposes, and he is using the campaign funds as a slush fund for legitimate purposes, but certainly in a very lavish lifestyle."

Public records show that Cedillo also spent substantial amounts in the retail sector: $7,000 at Nordstrom; $3,400 at Banana Republic; $1,400 at Ann Taylor; and $450 at Crate and Barrel. Cedillo says the items purchased were gifts for staff.

In a statement released Monday, his spokeswoman said: "Cedillo's candidate expenditures are in complete compliance with the strictest campaign finance laws in the nation. The senator is a strong supporter of full disclosure related to political contributions and has conducted his expenditures and reporting in strict adherence to that moral and legal obligation."

There were also trips overseas, including a trip to Rome and Florence, Italy, where a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel cost $1,900.

"The big problem I see here is not that he went on the trips, but the lavish lifestyle he had on these trips," said Stern.

Cedillo is running for the seat in congress that became vacant when Hilda Solis was named Secretary of Labor. That election is scheduled for May 19, 2009.


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