By Laurel Rosenhall
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 – 12:05 am

Fans of nibbling shrimp, sipping wine and mingling with the powerful are in luck right now – if they’ve got at least $1,000 to drop.

That’s what it costs to get into most of the campaign fundraisers that are taking place in Sacramento over the next three weeks, as about 80 politicians and political hopefuls descend on the bars and restaurants around the Capitol.

Over breakfast receptions, luncheons and cocktail parties, lawmakers will schmooze with lobbyists and other interest group representatives in a push to raise campaign cash before the legislative session ends next month. The fundraising frenzy comes at a key time, as lawmakers prepare to cast their final votes on hundreds of bills still pending in the Legislature.

Lawmakers have a long tradition of tapping the wealth of Sacramento interest groups as the session winds to a close. This year, however, the practice is garnering an extra dose of criticism.

“The quid pro quo at a legislative fundraiser is not explicit, but it’s implied in exactly the same way as when one of the Sopranos shows up at your grocery store and tells you what a shame it would be if something happened to your business or your family,” said Dan Schnur, the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

“Fundraising is a necessary part of politics. Legislating is a critical part of government. They just shouldn’t be able to happen at the same time,” he said.

Schnur, who has worked for several GOP politicians, is pushing a proposal to ban fundraising during the legislative session. He said he’s had “very good meetings” with legislative leaders about putting the proposal in a bill, but doesn’t think it’s likely to happen. He’s pursuing a possible ballot initiative.

Critics say Schnur’s proposal handicaps incumbents by limiting when they can raise money, while allowing their challengers to fundraise year-round. They also say his idea reflects a cynical, overly simplistic view of politics.

“If the optics are that money influences votes, then (ban) it all year long, not just a couple weeks per year,” said Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio.

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