Dear Assemblyman Calderon,

I was short on cash, so I sent you a fire extinguisher (one should always have one close by in these dry and trying times) and a copy of a terrific book on state governance, California Crackup. Did you get them?

Please let me know – but that’s not really what this note is about.

I am writing to share my outrage at the outrage directed at you by small-minded editorialists from Sacramento and Los Angeles for your decision to ask for cash as a wedding gift. Those scandal-minded scribblers hate things they cannot understand. Like love.

I speak not only of the love between man and woman (and, in these enlightened times, of same-sex love) but also of the love between friends. So what if some of those friends might be lobbyists or otherwise interested in your public decisions? What kind of friend would you be if you shunned your friends merely because of their occupation? And aren’t lobbyists citizens too, deserving of representation, just like the rest of us?

And then the mucky muckrakers linked your behavior to your relatives who are currently in that unpleasant dispute with the federal government on other legal matters that I will not raise here. Must a young man must be responsible for his family and his friends? Must the son bear the sins of the father?

One suspects that the editorialists have seen The Godfather too many times. Or perhaps the problem is that, in this state with so few legislators having far too many constituents, and with so many of us preferring the Smartphone to actual conversation, the Fourth Estate has simply lost sight of the fact that we need friends, and human contact.

But you know all of this, wise and young Assemblyman. However, I must offer a light reproach, a minor criticism: your response to the journalistic jackals was not worthy of you.

You said that you had asked the lobbyists not to give. No! Such a response was too soft, too parsed, too narrow, too legalistic. It was over-cautious.

I suggest – since the criticism will continue, I’m sure – a different approach: A full-throated embrace of the cash gift from all our friends, no matter their kinship or the nature of their registration with the Secretary of State.

Let me humbly present 8 talking points for further inquiries on this matter.

  1. You bet I asked for cash. Have you seen what it costs to buy a house in this state, particularly since the anti-growth environmentalists in my party have made building anything so time-consuming and expensive?
  2. (Useful in responding to follow-up questions on #1): I wouldn’t have needed to ask for cash if Speaker Atkins had gotten the affordable housing package through.
  3. Do you know how hard it is to raise a down payment and qualify for a loan on a legislator’s salary?
  4. If we’re going to have to have kids, we’ll need to send them to private schools – this state can’t even get public school funding up to the national average.
  5. Have you taken a look at your water and electric bills lately?
  6. Have you looked at the ballot initiatives being filed? Taxes are going up next year, so I need as much cash coming in this year as possible.
  7. I was merely trying to reflect the diverse cultural traditions that we represent in the California legislature. At a Korean wedding, you give cash to the parents of the bride and groom. At a Chinese wedding, you hand the bride money in red envelopes. The Italians have a reception line at the wedding in which the newly married couple gives each guest a candy in exchange for money. And the Poles pin money to the bride’s dress. Seriously!
  8. As long as it’s $14,000 or under, it falls under the IRS gift exclusion, and I don’t have to tell the government or your sorry ass.

And if they’re still pressing you after those, you can unleash the following neutron bomb.

  1. Emily Post said it’s OK. To be more precise, Anna Post, Emily’s great-great-granddaughter and author of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette said on Huffington Post that gifts to a honeymoon fund or even a bank account in the couple’s name are “fine.”

Anyway, this should really put the media types in their place.

And one more bit of wisdom. I’m sure you’ll beat the odds and this marriage will last. But just in case it doesn’t: Next time you head to the altar, be sure to ask that the cash be directed to a charity—one you admire but don’t control.

Mazel Tov,
Joe Mathews