Capitol Alert

California officials arranged $28 million in payments to favored nonprofits

Crew members of the San Diego Maritime Museum's "Star of India," right, line up on the bow sprit to catch a good view of the U.S. Coast Guard's sailing ship, "Eagle.” Nine lawmakers reported $800,000 in behested payments apiece to the museum during the first half of 2015, according to state filings.
Crew members of the San Diego Maritime Museum's "Star of India," right, line up on the bow sprit to catch a good view of the U.S. Coast Guard's sailing ship, "Eagle.” Nine lawmakers reported $800,000 in behested payments apiece to the museum during the first half of 2015, according to state filings. AP

California lawmakers and other state officials arranged for donors, many with business at the Capitol, to contribute $28 million to nonprofit organizations, local museums and other favored causes during the first half of the year, according to the most recent filings with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

So-called behested payments must be reported when a public official asks a business, union, foundation or other entity to donate to a particular legislative, charitable or governmental purpose. Unlike campaign donations, which have limits, behested payments can be of any amount.

More than 250 entities made behested payments during the first half of the year, money that was on top of what many donors spent on lobbying or contributing to elected officials’ campaign committees.

About 170 foundations, unions, businesses and other donors gave $3.7 million in payments behested by Gov. Jerry Brown to a pair of charter schools the Democratic governor started when he was mayor of Oakland – the Oakland Military Academy and the Oakland School for the Arts.

The Maurice S. Kanbar Revocable Trust gave $1 million, $200,000 came from the San Pablo Lytton Casino and $100,000 apiece from the W.M. Keck Foundation and the foundation of Prem Reddy, the major owner of Prime Healthcare Services, Inc. Actor Robert Downey, Jr. donated about $50,000.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom behested $642,000 in payments from Comcast, AT&T, the Tides Foundation and others to several causes, including this year’s Special Olympics, We Day California 2015, and Newsom’s inauguration events.

Lawmakers also solicited donations to the nonprofit arms of several racial, ethnic or religious legislative caucuses.

Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, behested $370,000 in payments from business, union and trade groups to the caucus’ policy institute. Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, the chairman of the Latino Legislative Caucus, secured $137,500 in donations to that caucus’ policy institute.

State Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, arranged donations of $20,000 and $5,000 to the foundations of the Legislature’s Jewish and Armenian caucuses, respectively.

Lawmakers also must report grants, awards and other money they helped arrange between governmental and non-governmental entities. San Diego-area lawmakers have been particularly active in that area this year, filings show.

Nine San Diego-area lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, each reported $800,000 in behested payments to the Maritime Museum of San Diego by the California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency. The lawmakers had asked for grants and loan forgiveness to help pay for a replica of the ship San Salvador, which sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542.

The California Energy Commission gave about $6 million in renewable fuel and vehicle technology grants to Transportation Power, Inc., a Poway-based maker of zero-emission engines and vehicles. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, reported the grant as a behested payment.

Maienschein also listed a $2 million business-incentive grant to General Dynamics NASSCO ship-building facility in San Diego, by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic, known as Go Biz.

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