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Department Of Revolving Doors

When California legislators are termed out of office, they don’t necessarily leave the capital. They just move to new offices.

State law requires a one-year cooling-off period to keep state officials from trying to influence their former colleagues. But experts say there are ways around the law.

Former lawmakers can work as consultants or strategists during that cooling-off year, according to Philip J. Romero, who was chief economic adviser to Gov. Wilson. They just have to team up with registered lobbyists who can contact legislators.


Dede Alpert, who represented San Diegans in both houses of the legislature before she reached her term limits, became an advisor with the Sacramento law firm Nielsen Merksamer.

Of revolving-door laws, she said, “No law or regulation can be completely effective because so much of what occurs in the legislature is dependent on relationships. Who is trustworthy, what was your relationship when both people were in the legislature, ... how quickly can one get a call back when you use your previous title?”

Romero said the laws’ intentions are clear: “They exist because they’re supposed to prevent you from making decisions as a public official with an eye on your future.”