ASSEMBLY | 20TH DISTRICT | A recent report revealed 18 previously undisclosed California legislators attended an all-expense, lobbyist-paid junket to Maui late last year. One of the lawmakers named in the article was Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk. However, Quirk says, although he attended the days of meet and greets and conferences offered, the costs came out of his own pocket.

“I paid my own way to Maui, hotel, airfare, and meals,” said Quirk. “Took vacation time and did some scuba diving.” A photo posted Dec. 3 on Quirk’s assembly Twitter account shows him and his son on the water in scuba gear. In addition, the main background photo on the same Twitter page shows Quirk, outfitted in a black wetsuit, following a small octopus.

Eight additional state legislators had previously confirmed their attendance at either of the two special interests Hawaiian junkets since early December. In recent years, the lack of transparency inherent in these lobbyist-driven trips, often held in exotic locales, has attracted unwanted attention for lawmakers.

Last summer, the same reporter revealed Berkeley Assemblymember Nancy Skinner attended a similar all-expense paid junket, this time to Cuba. She repeatedly declined to comment on her attendance. This is apparently a typical response.

All of the 18 legislators named in the Calnewsroom article, for instance, declined to discuss the junket. Quirk’s office said the first-term assemblyman choose not to seek attention for paying his own way and felt it was not their place to discuss the attendance of other lawmakers.

Critics, however, say the junkets reveal the true nexus between special interests groups and the people who write the state’s laws. Others go further by asserting the lavish trips are a reward or enticement for legislators to support their preferred special interests bills.

Even though, Quirk paid his own way, he confirmed attendance at a conference discussing low carbon fuels. A few of the junket’s sponsors included Southern California Edison and PG&E.