Rep. Eric Swalwell has sent out an attack mailer and begun airing a matching television commercial that take his Democratic rival, state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, to task for allegedly “gaming the system” by taking pay and perks she hasn’t earned.
“Ellen Corbett missed 949 votes, but she always pocketed the paychecks and perks,” the mailer says. “Corbett gamed the system and collected $32,000 in per diem pay for days she never bothered to show up! Despite her failure to vote, she always found time to cash her $95,000 taxpayer funded paycheck. Now Corbett expects a promotion?”
The mailer also claims Corbett, D-San Leandro, accepted taxpayer-funded cars worth $75,000; bought office furniture worth $67,000 while serving as San Leandro’s mayor; and took trips to Maui, India and Spain. The TV ad reiterates all this, and ends with Swalwell, D-Dublin, saying he approves the message “because I know being your representative is a full-time job.”
“There’s no gaming of the system. People know my work ethic as a legislator, they knew my work ethic as a mayor and councilmember – I’m someone who’s very hard-working and I take my job seriously,” Corbett responded Friday.
“It’s really disappointing that Eric Swalwell is just a typical politician who’s willing to say or do anything to get elected,” she said. “It shows he has no regard for the truth, he’s willing to put his election before his integrity and his honesty – he’s not the breath of fresh air that people think he is.”
Corbett said she has cast about 43,000 votes during her 14 years in the Legislature.
“I have near-perfect attendance, I have missed a handful of days for sickness or family sickness,” she said, adding she raised her son as a single mom. “From time to time there are votes I’ve abstained on, but I was present … Nobody gets paid per diem unless they actually check in for the session, so we are physically present.”
More, after the jump…
State lawmakers used to be provided leased cars through their office budgets which were used in part to commute to and from Sacramento, she said. “I was always very respectful of taxpayers, I’ve been driving a Prius for years.”
I checked into the mailer’s travel allegations before talking to Corbett on Friday. The 2003 Maui trip was for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s annual conference, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article. “Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said she was paying for her room at the Maui Sheraton with her own money,” the Chronicle reported. “The only part of the trip being paid for with campaign funds is her airfare, she said.”
For the India trip, the mailer cites a November 2008 Chronicle article which noted “more than a dozen state lawmakers have missed much of the special legislative session called to tackle the state’s fiscal mess, instead traveling to India, China and Hawaii to learn about education, high-speed rail and dams.” Corbett was one of eight state senators who made the two-week trip sponsored by the California International Relations Foundation, a nonprofit tied to the senate; the trip’s goal was to promote cultural, economic and political relations while observing India’s education system and burgeoning high-tech industry. No taxpayer funds were used for the trip, which had been booked before the special budget session was scheduled, and which ended in time for lawmakers to attend a floor session.
And the 12-day trip to Spain in 2010 included Corbett, six other Democratic lawmakers and two California Public Utilities Commission members, courtesy of the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy – a nonprofit that for years has funded international trips for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.