Money & Politics | Daily Report
January 6, 2012 | Will Evans

Behind the legislative record of newly chosen Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff is a host of special interests that have funded his campaigns and given him expensive gifts.

Last year, for example, the California Dental Association spent $124 to send Huff to a Josh Groban concert, the day after giving him a $1,700 donation. AT&T, meanwhile, gave Huff a ticket to see Eric Clapton last March, and PG&E spent $146 on dinner for him at Morton’s steakhouse in Sacramento, according to lobbying records. Huff attended these events with other legislators.

Huff, who represents parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, served in the state Assembly from 2004 until 2008, when he was elected to the Senate. Along the way, his biggest campaign contributors were a developer for whom his wife has worked, a casino-owning Indian tribe and the tobacco company formerly known as Philip Morris, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Huff, who touts his pro-business stance, had a perfect record in 2011 of voting in agreement with the California Chamber of Commerce.

Huff did not respond to requests for comment.

After being elected Senate Republican leader by his colleagues this week, Huff told reporters that he would strive to “get people back to work.”

“We believe a smaller government is a more responsive government,” he said. “And we believe energizing the private sector to create jobs actually pays for the revenues to support the services we want.”

Republicans and Democrats alike commonly accept gifts like concert tickets and fancy dinners from special interests. The dental association, for example, also gave the gift of Groban’s silky voice to Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson and Democratic Assembly members Ben Hueso, Betsy Butler, Marty Block and Rich Gordon.

The dental association also gave Huff $14,300 in campaign contributions over the years. The association’s donations are given to “elected officials who show a level of interest in oral health care issues and are interested in our perspective on those issues,” said spokeswoman Cathy Mudge.

Members of Huff’s staff also received gifts last year, including $238 in concert tickets and suite expenses at Power Balance Pavilion from oil company BP America.

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