Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian’s recent trip to Cuba featured a visit to a cigar-making factory, salsa dance lessons, rooftop cocktails at a Havana hotel and a tour of a castle.
The San Luis Obispo legislator also met artists, musicians and former government officials in the six-day trip to the island nation.
An online news site, CalWatchdog.com, posted a story over the weekend reporting that Achadjian and a state senator traveled to Cuba over spring break on what “one Capitol source described as a ‘super-secret trip.’ The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that participants ‘shredded their itineraries when they landed.’ ”
But Achadjian promptly produced the itinerary when The Tribune requested it on Tuesday.
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Achadjian said he was with seven other legislators as well as business people who took a cultural tour of Cuba. The itinerary indicates most of their time was spent in Havana.
The trip was organized by a nonprofit organization called Californians Building Bridges. That group was formed by Darius Anderson, one of Sacramento’s top lobbyists.
Anderson represents some firms that, in the past, have donated to Achadjian. The lawmaker said he did not see any conflict with going on the trip because it did not relate to any of Anderson’s lobbying efforts. Furthermore, Achadjian said he paid for the trip himself.
That’s true. However, the Assemblyman “used campaign funds to pay for his expenses on the delegation trip to Cuba,” said Achadjian’s chief of staff, Craig Swaim. “Doing so is consistent with FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) regulations related to the use of such funds and the expenditure was reported accordingly. While no lobbying occurred on the trip, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, he has fully reimbursed his campaign using personal funds.”
According to Tara Stock of the FPPC, “Under the Political Reform Act, the general rule is that elected state officials (including members of the Legislature) and legislative employees may not accept a gift or gifts totaling more than $10 in a calendar month from any individual who is registered as a lobbyist under state law; otherwise, the Act does not limit socializing or otherwise spending time with lobbyists.” The gift fact sheet can be found at fppc.ca.gov/factsheets/StateGiftFactSheet2013.pdf.
As to the anonymous allegations about the trip being secret with ripped-up itineraries, Achadjian explained that “the trip was fully sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department; when asked about the trip, my staff did not hesitate to confirm my participation; and, I have been forthcoming when asked about the purpose of the trip.
“Any suggestion that the trip was secret or unsubstantiated reports that participants shredded their itineraries upon return is ludicrous and not based in fact.”
Katcho Achadjian's Cuba itinerary
Here is the itinerary prepared for his trip: