Veteran reporter doubts Capitol has changed much

SACRAMENTO, CA- After 15 years of covering the state legislature for the Los Angeles Times and another 17 years as publisher of the Capitol Morning Report,veteran journalistBob Fairbanks is not convinced human nature has improved much.

"People are people and you're gonna find bad guys over there as well as the good ones," Fairbanks said Tuesday, nodding toward the state capitol.

Nearly 30 years after a series of FBI stings jailed a score of Sacramento legislators, lobbyists and aides, Fairbanks believes those inclined to break the law are more careful.

"Previously, you didn't have to be. You could say anything you want and deny that you said it afterward. Because nobody could record it," Fairbanks said of the days before pinhole cameras and tiny hidden microphones.

Fairbanks seemedunsurprised at the FBI raid that hit the offices of veteran capitol legislator, StateSenator Ron Calderon, (D) Montebello.

Without speaking directly to the current FBI investigation still unfolding, Fairbanks said the knowledge you can be under surveillance almost any time, has likely had a chilling effect onlawbreakers.

"It had to make people more cautious. Nobody's gonna blurt out things to someone who may be wearing a wire, for crying out loud," he at office across from the capitol.

Fairbanks believes the successful 1990 initiative to create term limits for legislators was one effect of the string of arrests at the capitol.

"That was looked upon by some people as one way of keeping people from gaining too much power," he said.

He also believes back then, as now, most capitol regulars have a feel for who is clean and who may be dirty.

"If you worked day to day over in that building, people there have a pretty good idea of who's a little sleazy, who's squeaky clean," Fairbanks observed.

When it comes to behavior change at the capitol, he believes a Sacramento motorcycle cop who used to wait outside the ever-popular Frank Fat's Restaurant and arrest drunken legislators made as big a difference as anything.

"He had as much effect on drinking habits and social activity around the capitol as anyone ever did, including the FBI," Fairbankssaid.


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