Capitol Alert

Interest groups sponsor inaugural festivities for California politicians

Attorney General Kamala Harris smiles Monday after taking the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, in the courtyard at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
Attorney General Kamala Harris smiles Monday after taking the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, in the courtyard at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. jvillegas@sacbee.com

After taking their oaths of office Monday, eight California leaders celebrated new beginnings with festivities paid, in large part, by interest groups that do business with the state.

Labor unions, law firms, Indian tribes, large corporations and wealthy individuals donated tens of thousands of dollars for swanky parties hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Treasurer John Chiang. Controller Betty Yee, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who raised money from many of the same groups during their runs for office, used leftover campaign funds for their inauguration events.

The celebrations ranged from an office reception with a roasted pig gifted by a supporter to grand productions featuring color guards, choruses and hundreds of guests. Here’s a run-down, provided by campaign and government representatives, of how much California’s constitutional officers spent on their inaugural celebrations – and where the money came from.

Gov. Jerry Brown: about $75,000

Brown celebrated his historic fourth term as governor Monday with at least three events: a private reception in his office, a party at the California State Railroad Museum that was closed to the press and an afternoon barbeque on the lawn outside the Capitol, where politicians lined up alongside homeless people for hotdogs and union boss Art Pulaski mingled with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. The Orange County Employees Association paid for the barbeque that featured a performance by a live mariachi band. The evening reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres at the railroad museum cost roughly $75,000 and was paid for with donations left over in Brown’s 2011 inaugural account. For his inauguration four years ago, Brown raised more than $400,000 from private donors – including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Peace Officers Research Association of California; Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the Sycuan, Morongo and Pechanga Indian tribes.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom: about $23,500

Newsom raised $50,000 in December into a host committee that paid for his inaugural events. The largest chunk of money ($15,000) came from the Entertainment Software Association, with smaller sums donated by a handful of labor unions and individual supporters. Newsom took the oath Monday in an intimate ceremony surrounded by family, with his wife juggling a toddler in one arm and a Bible in the other. Afterward, he held a reception in his Capitol office where a well-wisher from San Francisco arrived with a whole roasted pig. Newsom spent $3,300 to have the event catered by Plates Café and Catering, a program that provides job training to formerly homeless mothers in Sacramento. On Tuesday, he held a $20,000 swearing-in party at a YouTube video production studio in Los Angeles.

Attorney General Kamala Harris: about $85,000

Interest groups and a handful of individual supporters gave $127,500 to a nonprofit committee to pay for two inaugural celebrations for Harris. On Monday, a party for about 600 guests at the Crocker Art Museum featured a performance by singer Anjali Ranadivé (daughter of Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé). Another is scheduled for this weekend in Los Angeles. The money came largely from labor unions representing law enforcement, tradesmen, and health care workers. Leaders in the tech and entertainment industries – including Silicon Valley investor Ronald Conway and television producer Charles Lorre – also donated to put on the events.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla: at least $30,000

Padilla’s inauguration was paid for by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a nonprofit that promotes Latino participation in politics, of which Padilla is president. A simple ceremony in the auditorium of the Secretary of State Office, where his young son performed the pledge of allegiance and Brown administered the oath, was followed by a $6,000 reception next door in the California Museum with drinks, appetizers and a live band. His parents “came here in pursuit of the American Dream,” an emotional Padilla said, “and to stand here before you today...is proof that that American Dream is still alive and well.” A second celebration, also paid for by the Latino officials group, is planned for Saturday in Los Angeles at a cost expected to be at least $24,000.

Controller Betty Yee: under $23,000

Yee hosted a huge welcome to her first term in statewide office, with guests filling two overflow rooms during her swearing-in at the Crocker Art Museum. The event, which included catering and performances by the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus, was paid for with leftover campaign funds, though the final cost had not yet been determined. Yee held back tears as she told supporters, “Where but here in this Golden State can a kid named Betty Yee grow up to serve as the controller of the eighth-largest economy of the world?”

Treasurer John Chiang: $23,060

Blue Shield of California, the United Nurses Association of California and developer Bill Witte were major sponsors of Chiang’s lavish inauguration at the Crocker Art Museum Historic Ballroom, which included drinks, flower displays, a photo booth and chocolate coin favor bags. AT&T, several local and national law firms, and unions representing public employees, firefighters, school workers, plumbers and law enforcement also helped pay for the event. With his mother sitting beside him on stage, Chiang joked: “My mom wanted me to be a medical doctor, so I stand before you as California’s treasurer and a failed son.”

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones: about $15,500

Jones jumped right into his second term, issuing an emergency regulation during his swearing-in at the Tsakopolous Library Galleria. Leftover campaign funds covered the venue, catering, a sign language interpreter and a photographer. The emergency regulation established tougher standards for the availability of doctors in medical provider networks. “As our president has discovered, there’s a lot of joy in executive action,” Jones said before signing the order.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson: about $11,500

Torlakson took his oath, and called for extending Proposition 30’s temporary tax increases, during a reception in the lobby of the Department of Education. Leftover campaign funds paid for about $6,500 of catering and invitations for the event, as well as a second celebration next Friday in Los Angeles at a cost of no more than $5,000. Torlakson was re-elected following a contentious and tightly contested campaign that saw the California Teachers Association spend millions on his behalf through independent expenditures. “My road to a second term was not an easy one,” Torlakson said in his remarks at the inauguration.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 1:22 p.m. with information about the costs for Newsom’s events. It was updated at 5:32 p.m. with information about more events for Padilla and Torlakson. It was updated at 11:04 a.m. January 8 with the cost of Padilla’s L.A. event.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall. Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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