San Diego Republican, famous locally for MTV party house fundraiser, makes Sacramento headlines by dating lobbyist for California Medical Association
Rack up another sex and politics case for San Diego's voluminous record books.
While a horde of San Diego reporters has been chasing harassment allegation-plagued Democrat Bob Filner, one local Republican has been caught making his own hay, and headlines, in Sacramento.
It's freshman GOP Assemblyman and ex-city council member Brian Maienschein, who the Sacramento Bee today reports is dating a lobbyist for the state doctors' association.
Cupid's work is even more complicated when a lawmaker and a lobbyist fall in love. Think legal opinions, questions from the media and advice from government transparency advocates.
That's the case for Brian Maienschein, a freshman assemblyman who sits on the health and business committees.
The San Diego Republican is dating Carolyn Ginno, a lobbyist for the California Medical Association, which routinely has bills before his committees.
Both are single. They were not involved when Maienschein was elected in November and met when he began working in Sacramento earlier this year. As the relationship blossomed, Maienschein said, he checked with the Legislature's lawyers.
"And everything is appropriate," he said. "So … to me, it's a non-issue and a non-story."
Ginno has a tie to a previous San Diego sex-and-politics case. She was chief of staff to Mike Duvall, the ex-GOP Assemblyman who claimed he'd had sex with a Sempra lobbyist.
Among Sempra's most memorable influence peddling moments came in September 2009 when GOP then-Assemblyman Mike Duvall was caught on an open microphone bragging about his romantic exploits with an SDG&E lobbyist.
Duvall later said he had engaged in "inappropriate storytelling," Law enforcement took no action, and the woman was kept on by Sempra after an in-house investigation.
Continues today's Bee on Ginno's current status:
A review of legislation the California Medical Association is lobbying this year shows Maienschein frequently – but not always – votes its way.
He has voted in favor of bills the group sponsored, including legislation to fund a new medical school at UC Riverside, renew a loan repayment program for medical students, and eliminate cuts to the rates doctors are paid through Medi-Cal.
In an April hearing on that last bill, AB 900, Maienschein and Ginno both addressed the health committee, making similar arguments about the need to better compensate health care providers who treat Medi-Cal patients.
The report adds that Ginno is set to leave the association and move to San Diego, where she plans to attend law school.
Maienschein has cut somewhat of a rakish figure locally, throwing a $3900 a head fundraiser at the MTV "Real World" house in La Jolla, and collecting a $106, 270 annual salary as downtown "homeless commissioner."
The big party, set to feature boxing champ Evander Holyfield--along with Supervisor Ron Roberts, state Sen. Joel Anderson, and congressman Darrell Issa--brings to mind the candidate's salary trajectory as a councilman and commissioner of United Way San Diego's "Plan to End Chronic Homelessness."
Maienschein picked up the United Way gig after he was termed out of his city council seat and defeated in a primary race for city attorney in 2008.
According to a January 2009 U-T feature, Maienschein denied the that the job represented a payback for favors he had done while on the council.
"I've had no connection with the United Way," he told U-T reporter Ron Powell. "I've never had any interaction with the United Way ."
(According to its website, United Way's homeless effort is co-chaired by downtown developer Dene Oliver, CEO of OliverMcMillan, Inc. and Jennifer LeSar, an ex-member of the city-run Centre City Development Corporation board, development consultant, and spouse of Democratic Assemblywoman and ex-city council member Toni Atkins.)
The Assemblyman's current liaison has its critics, including Jessica Levinson, an expert in political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and others.
Phillip Ung, an advocate with California Common Cause, said the state hasn't set enough rules governing relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers – even when they're married – and pointed to the U.S. Congress as a better model.
"The federal regulations do not allow spouses who are lobbyists to make contact with that official's staff," Ung said. "We have no such regulation here."
Levinson and other government watchdogs said Maienschein should step down from committees that routinely vote on bills the medical association lobbies, such as the health and business panels.
"I don't think we can say, 'Drop out of office, or stop dating this person,' but I think we can suggest, 'There may be a more appropriate committee for you to sit on,' " Levinson said.
But the Assemblyman tells the Bee he won't make any changes: "Maienschein said there is no need for him to step down from the committees or recuse himself from votes on CMA bills."