By Laurel Rosenhall, CALmatters
Each January, as lawmakers return to Sacramento from three months in their hometowns, hundreds of lobbyists and staff members join them at The Park nightclub near the Capitol to sip Moscow Mules, puff on cigars and catch up with old friends and frenemies.
For more than a decade the extravagant Back to Session Bash—with cocktails flowing from ice sculptures and hip-hop beats pulsating across the dance floor—was a place to let loose. Debauchery at the bash, insiders joked, ended at least one career annually.
But with the Capitol reeling from accusations of sexual harassment and assault that have caused two legislators to resign and a third to take a leave of absence, the mood at the party this month was more subdued. Several women said—happily—that they weren’t getting as many drunken hugs as usual. Many wore black, a statement inspired by Hollywood actresses at this month’s Golden Globes to highlight efforts to stop sexual misconduct.
And party organizers decided to scrap the rapper they had planned to bring as headline performer, Too Short, after learning he was accused last year of rape, an allegation he denies. Instead, the evening opened with a gospel choir singing “Oh Happy Day.”
“We want it to be a safe and fun event,” said Paula Treat, a longtime lobbyist who, as part of the #MeToo movement, has spoken out about a legislator (now dead) who threatened her career when she refused to perform sexual favors.
Welcoming the crowd from the stage, Treat emphasized that security guards were stationed around the club: “If you have any issues throughout the night, please let them know.”
The party’s tab is picked up by interest groups that lobby in the Capitol—several Indian tribes that run casinos, a cigarette company, a slot machine manufacturer and a council of trade unions. Providing a memorable…