Capitol Alert

Here’s who paid for the flashiest California governor’s inauguration in 20 years

Health care companies, the state’s biggest teachers union and other groups gave over $5.4 million to fund the biggest and most star-studded inauguration for a California governor in two decades, records filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission show.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s inauguration in January featured a lunch for donors, a family-friendly event at the California State Railroad Museum and a ceremony under huge tents on the Capitol lawn.

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Blue Shield of California, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, the California Teachers Association and former San Diego Padres owner Jennifer Moores were the biggest donors to the inauguration, each contributing $200,000.

Separately, Newsom hosted a concert and fundraiser at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento during his inauguration events to raise money for victims of the state’s deadly wildfires. The lineup included rappers Pitbull and Common.

Collectively, the events were the most elaborate governor’s inauguration in Sacramento since Gray Davis took office in 1999. Davis’ inauguration included a concert at Arco Arena where 7,000 attendees paid $125 each to watch the likes of Coolio, Kenny G and Lionel Richie.

Records show Newsom has directed $6 million to the California Fire Foundation, mostly from the concert at Golden 1 Center. After paying performers, the venue and other expenses, the foundation has $4.6 million left to help fire victims which it plans to begin doling out in grants next month, said Carroll Wills, the foundation spokesman.

Salesforce reported the largest contribution at Newsom’s behest, spending $1 million to support the California Fire Foundation. Verizon, Blue Shield and Sutter Health were also top donors to that fund.

Although the foundation has experience providing gift cards to survivors in the immediate aftermath of massive blazes like the Camp Fire in Paradise, the organization wanted the aid collected through the inauguration to fund long-term relief, Wills said.

It identified community groups working on long-range recovery, such as helping survivors access health care and education in the aftermath of fires including the Camp Fire, the Woolsey Fire and the Carr Fire, Wills said.

“It’s important that we are in a position to distribute funds to organizations that we feel confident are actually doing the function for which the funds were designated,” he said.

Politicians have to disclose so-called behested payments when they solicit $5,000-plus donations on behalf of a charity, such as the Fire Foundation.

A previous version of this story included an incorrect description of Salesforce’s contribution to the California Fire Foundation. It was based on incorrect data from the Fair Political Practices Commission.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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