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Perata To Sever Controversial Tie
Senator Will End Profitable Consulting Deal With Pal
By Robert Salladay, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle
February 20, 2004
Sacramento -- State Sen. Don Perata said Thursday he would end his business relationship with a longtime friend who paid him for consulting work at the same time the friend raised money for political campaigns Perata had supported and initiated.
In addition to his duties as a senator, Perata operates a consulting firm that has received the bulk of its money from a company called Staples Associates. The owner of that firm, Timothy G. Staples, has earned $313,000 since 2000 for advising political campaigns pushed by the Oakland lawmaker. During this time, Perata said he was getting an outside income for business consulting work for Staples.
A political watchdog group has criticized the arrangement and asked the Senate to investigate whether campaign contributions were being paid from political committees to Staples and then to Perata's private business. A Senate ethics attorney is examining the matter, after a Chronicle story detailed their relationship.
Both men said Staples was paying Perata only for advice on Bay Area business deals. "I am confident that I have acted within the letter of the law and consistent with the high ethical standard public office demands," Perata said in the statement Thursday.
Perata said he would nevertheless end his business relationship with Staples because it exposed his friend to intense scrutiny. Perata and Staples first met in the mid-1960s while students at St. Mary's College in Moraga.
"It is unfair for me to allow the good reputation of my lifelong friend to be subjected to harsh and often unjustified scrutiny simply because of my position as a public figure," Perata said. "My focus will continue to be on my work in the Senate on behalf of my constituents and my fellow Senate Democrats. "
Perata said in a previous interview that Staples paid him about $100,000 a year for consulting work, on top of his $139,000 Senate salary. The exact figure could not be independently verified, but state economic disclosure statements show Perata has reported an income of between $10,000 and $100,000 a year from Staples Associates since 2000. Perata also said he had received $7, 000 from Ascendent Solutions, another consulting firm that Staples owns, in 2002.
It is legal for lawmakers to hold jobs outside of the Legislature and for Perata's friends to work on campaigns that he supports and sponsors. The law prohibits lawmakers from hiding the source of their income or personally enriching themselves from campaign contributions.
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