California Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-Templeton) was part of a group of California lawmakers attending a conference at a four-star resort in Hawaii this week.
Cunningham confirmed he was in Hawaii and brought his family. Lawmakers from California, Texas, and Washington state were reportedly attending. The conference was at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui, where rooms can cost more than $500 per night and was organized by the Independent Voter Project.
“Yes, my family and I are in Hawaii for an annual, bipartisan policy conference,” stated Cunningham, who was reelected in November. “We paid for my family’s tickets and COVID tests with personal money — no state funds were used.”
The news comes as California was in the midst of a massive surge in COVID-19 cases and just days after the state issued a travel advisory firmly warning against non-essential and out-of-state travel.
The state travel advisory urges people to stay close to home and, if they do leave California, to self-quarantine for two weeks when they return.
On Monday, Nov. 16, Gov. Gavin Newsom moved nearly 30 counties back to the most-restrictive Purple Tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Newsom also apologized for attending a birthday party in Napa last a violation of state COVID-19 guidelines.
“While our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner,” Gov. Newsom stated.
Legislators and lobbyists were at the conference discussing how to reopen the economy.
“This event promotes intelligent public policy in our state,” Cunningham stated. “In fact, we are here discussing ways we can safely reopen our society and save our small businesses, workers, and kids.”
Watchdog groups annually pan the conference because lobbyists have been known to pick up the lawmakers’ tab.
“In normal times, it is an abuse of office to have oil, utility and other big companies that lobby in the Capitol paying for an Hawaiian getaway replete with golf, hula show and mai tais,” reportedly stated Jamie Court, president of the group Consumer Watchdog. “In COVID times, it is an abomination that legislators would break quarantine to play in the sun at a four-star resort.”
Also reportedly confirmed in attendance were state Assembly members Heath Flora (R-Ripon), Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Wendy Carrillo (D-Boyle Heights), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and Chad Mayes (I-Yucca Valley), and state Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-8th District).
The Independent Voter Project’s annual Legislative Exchange Conference has been held since the ’80s and according to their website. It’s held in Maui “in large part because the location is away from the partisan focused media and political machines.”
Cunningham stated that COVID-19 guidelines were followed. Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program for COVID-19 began last month. These tests allow travelers to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they are tested within 72 hours before their flight to Hawaii departs.
“Before traveling, every attendee followed local public health and safety protocols, including testing negative for COVID-19 before getting on the plane,” Cunningham stated. “We wear masks in all public spaces and conference rooms and socially distance ourselves from other visitors, complying with all health protocols. This is a safe environment.”
While stating they were following the COVID-19 protocols, Cunningham also sharply criticized Gov. Newsom’s handling of the pandemic.
“I have been saying since April that Governor Newsom’s lockdown policies are draconian and unscientific,” Cunningham stated. “Fortunately, thus far, he has stopped short of unconstitutionally attempting to stop interstate travel, close the airports, or make vacations or Thanksgiving illegal.”