More than two years ago, liberal billionaire Tom Steyer gave $200,000 to the campaign supporting Proposition 45, a measure to give the state’s elected insurance commissioner more authority over health insurance rates. Yet his name is nowhere to be seen on a list of top campaign donors maintained by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
The state’s political watchdog recently launched a new effort to post the top 10 donors for and against statewide ballot measures and candidates, a requirement of Senate Bill 27. The goal was to provide more transparency for the public and the kind of one-stop information-gathering that is impossible on the state’s clunky campaign finance database.
Steyer’s $200,000 contribution would make him the fourth largest donor to the Yes on 45 campaign, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of campaign finance data. The Bee’s analysis also shows Yes on 45 took $125,000 from a law firm called Greene, Broillet & Wheeler and more than $205,000 from a committee affiliated with Consumer Attorneys of California. Those don’t show up anywhere on the FPPC list.
The FPPC relies on the campaign committees to report their top donors directly to the watchdog agency, but does not cross check the information it gets with the Secretary of State’s campaign finance database. An FPPC spokesman said the agency has contacted the Proposition 45 committee, which plans to send in an updated list of donors that will include Steyer.
“It’s a work in progress but this is the only anomaly at this point,” said FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga. “It was discovered quickly by our staff and there was no reason to think that it’s anything other than an oversight.”
The other Prop. 45 donations that showed up in the Bee’s analysis but not the FPPC list are the result of different methodologies, Wierenga said. The lists the agency posts only include contributions from committees that raised at least $1 million. The Bee combined all committees that are supporting the ballot measure.
Jamie Court, president of the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group that is promoting Prop. 45, said the group’s attorneys made a mistake.
“Our attorneys didn’t report it correctly and as of Nov. 5 they will no longer be our attorneys,” Court said. “They made us look bad. It’s a small thing but it really bothers me.”