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California legislators are barred from accepting lobbyist donations, with one exception: if they are running for Congress.

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California lawmakers are facing scrutiny for their acceptance of lobbyist donations, particularly when it comes to running for federal office. State Sen. Susan Rubio, chair of the Insurance Committee in Sacramento, is one of several legislators running for Congress who have received contributions from lobbyists.

Under California law, state lawmakers cannot accept campaign donations from lobbyists as they raise money for their reelection to the Legislature. However, there are no such restrictions when it comes to running for federal office. This means that lawmakers like Rubio can accept donations from lobbyists for their congressional campaigns, even as they continue to serve in the state legislature.

Rubio has raised nearly $43,300 from registered state lobbyists for her campaign to replace retiring Rep. Grace F. Napolitano in California’s 31st Congressional District. While these donations make up a small portion of her overall fundraising, they represent the most lobbyist money of any California lawmaker running for federal office.

Many of the lobbyists donating to Rubio’s campaign represent companies that have interests in bills heard before committees she sits on as a state legislator, including the Insurance Committee and other committees related to healthcare, alcohol regulations, and energy and utilities.

Overall, eight state legislators are running for Congress this year, with six of them receiving lobbyist donations totaling $96,090. While these donations are legal and constitute a small percentage of the candidates’ total fundraising, watchdog groups like Common Cause have raised concerns about the potential influence of lobbyist money on lawmakers’ decisions.

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Despite these concerns, campaign managers for lawmakers like Rubio argue that the donations are based on mutually respectful relationships and that lawmakers have opposed issues that donors have lobbied for in the past. Rubio’s campaign manager also pointed out that she is being outspent by her opponent, Gil Cisneros, who has injected $4 million of his own money into the campaign.

Other lawmakers, such as Assemblymember Evan Low, State Sen. Dave Min, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, State Sen. Anthony Portantino, and State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, have also received lobbyist donations for their congressional campaigns, with varying amounts relative to their total fundraising.

While some lawmakers have expressed willingness to support laws that prevent federal campaigns from accepting money from state lobbyists, others, like Assemblymember Friedman, have emphasized the need to turn down corporate PAC money as a more significant issue in political races.

It is important to note that not all state legislators running for Congress have received lobbyist donations. Sen. Bob Archuleta and Assemblymember Vince Fong are two examples of lawmakers who have not accepted such donations in their campaigns for federal office.

As the debate continues on the influence of lobbyist donations in political campaigns, it remains up to the voters to decide whether they are comfortable with this practice. Election law experts and watchdog groups offer differing perspectives on the ethics of accepting lobbyist contributions, leaving the issue open to interpretation.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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