Watch CBS News

Former State Lawmaker Returns To Capitol As Lobbyist Despite Sexual Harassment Accusations

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It's been over a year since the Me Too movement began bringing down powerful lawmakers at the California Capitol, but activists haven't been able to stop them from coming back in different positions.

"I think it's very common for former legislators to come back as lobbyists," said Samantha Corbin, Executive Director of Sacramento's We Said Enough Group.

As a lobbyist and Me Too activist, Corbin says lobbying is often a legislator's next step, but questions are being raised about the latest lawmaker to make the move, former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

The Los Angeles Democrat registered as a lobbyist for his own firm the same week the Assembly released the results of his sexual harassment investigation, finding "it is more likely than not that the conduct occurred."

READ: Assembly Allegation Records For Asm. Sebastian Ridley-Thomas

His attorney also released a statement saying the investigation "defied any definition of due process and objectivity."

"He, of course, resigned allegedly for health reasons but there were other legislators who resigned without admitting guilt or fault while their investigations were ongoing. And so certainly now that it's been a year, they could register as a lobbyist take lucrative contract lobbying their former colleagues," said Corbin.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission requires former lawmakers to take an ethics class and complete harassment training, before becoming a lobbyist. Like any private business, nothing can stop them from joining the industry. And even lawmakers who've worked on harassment reforms aren't ready to change that.

"Private firms can hire people who've been in prison. They can hire people who've been fired from other jobs, have accusations. And I don't think there's really a role for the state of California to come in and restrict that unless there's a compelling reason to do so," said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Los Angeles).

ALSOCeres Native Cade Cowell, 15, Becomes One Of The Youngest Players In MLS

Friedman created the legislature's current process for handling harassment complaints and is open to helping lobbyists push for accountability.

"How do we put arms around this as a community-wide solution is very important otherwise a significant portion of the population still feels very unsafe. And we're hearing that," said Corbin.

In the building at the Capitol, there are still constant reminders for how and when to report sexual harassment as well as where to receive counseling.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.