Katcho spends spring break in Cuba with powerful lobbyist
April 8, 2013
Central Coast Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian traveled to Cuba during the legislature’s spring break with a California lobbyist who is heavily invested in the country. [CalWatchdog]
Achadjian joined Democratic State Senator Cathleen Galgiani on the trip to Cuba led by founder and president of the lobbying firm Platinum Advisors, Darius Anderson. Since the 1960s, the United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba, which prohibits American citizens from traveling to the country. Still, select Americans travel to Cuba each year with government approval.
A Capitol source described Achadjian’s Cuban voyage as a “super secret trip.” The source said the trip participants “shredded their itineraries when they landed.”
Achadjian’s office confirmed that the Republican assemblyman traveled with Anderson to Cuba and said that he paid his own way.
“He went on the annual trip to learn and study about Cuba,” said Craig Swaim, Achadjian’s chief of staff.
Galgiani’s chief of staff, Trent Hager, confirmed that Anderson organized the trip.
The Sacramento based lobbyist, whose firm payed $500,000 in 2010 to settle pay-to-play allegations, is the founder of a “humanitarian” mission called the Havana Project, which operates under the nonprofit Californians Building Bridges, for which Anderson sits on the board of directors. According to the Californians Building Bridges website, the Havana Project works with the Martin Luther King Center to “enhance sustainable community development operations” in Cuba and delivers basic services and supplies to those in need.
Anderson’s bio states that he has led more than 50 missions to Cuba over the last 10 years through Californians Building Bridges. However, the nonprofit’s website states that the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control granted it approval to travel to Cuba in 2011.
The same year, former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown wrote a column in the San Francisco chronicle describing a California Building Bridges trip he took to Cuba.
“The trip was put together by Darius Anderson, who turns out to be very big in Cuban investments,” Brown wrote. “So big, in fact, that the night he was missing from the group, he was dining with the president.”
CalWatchdog contacted the offices of every member of the state Senate to confirm where they spent the spring recess. Four offices would not confirm that their state senators did not participate in the trip to Cuba.