Flailing Fabian

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has been taking a pounding in the Times for his extravagant spending with money stuffed in his pockets by the interests who grease lawmakers in this state. Sacramento reporter Nancy Vogel reported last week on the $4,972 spent on "office expenses" at Nordstrom's, $5,149 dropped at a wine shop in Bordeaux and $8,745 paid on a hotel bill in Barcelona. Steve Lopez picked up the cudgel and slammed Núñez hard, writing he "has tossed money around like a drunken sailor, and I mean no disrespect to any drunken sailors." Today, columnist George Skelton skewered Núñez but good, and got the speaker's lame attempt at a rebuttal.

He "became a hit around the world" after his global warming bill passed last year, the speaker said, and received many foreign invitations. "The dollar is pretty darn weak in Europe these days" and that runs up expenses, he added. He also buys lots of gifts for dignitaries, staffers and other legislators.

Nuñez defended paying for all this with political money rather than tax dollars. "My conscience wouldn't allow me to do that, so I use my campaign funds. That's between me and the people who contribute."

But what about the wine trip? The French organized it.

"I know this stuff doesn't look good. But it's legitimate. I did not do anything wrong."

Tonight, Núñez turned to Conan Nolan at NBC4 to give a longer response to the charges. Watch the video. Núñez also apologizes for saying the Times "tries to destroy important people including Hispanics," in an interview to air Sunday morning on "News Conference."

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