‘Tis better to give than to receive, they say — especially when you’re giving someone else’s money.
Since 2011, California public officials have steered more than $74.5 million of other people’s money to their favorite causes and charities, often donated by business and other entities hoping to influence elected leaders, demonstrate their stellar citizenship to the masses, or perhaps a bit of both.
While state law sets caps on gifts and campaign contributions to politicians, there’s no limit on so-called “behested payments” to politicians’ pet projects. Critics say it’s another way for the well-heeled to curry official favor, while lawmakers say they’re simply using the power of their bully pulpits to make the world a better place.
Nine pols facilitated behests worth more than $1 million each since 2011, according to data from the Fair Political Practices Commission. They were overwhelmingly from the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego, while officials from Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties displayed their more conservative leanings, facilitating behests that look paltry by comparison.
No. 1: Gov. Jerry Brown was the most prolific at helping money change hands for charities, reporting behests of more than $22 million. Most of that money went to two charter schools he founded in Oakland – $13 million to the Oakland Military Institute College Prep Academy (“develops leaders of character by providing a rigorous seven-year college preparatory program to promote excellence in the four pillars of academics, leadership, citizenship, and athletics”) and $5.8 million to the Oakland School for the Arts (“Immersive arts experiences in a college preparatory setting, providing students unique opportunities for learning, innovation, expression and personal growth”).
No. 2: Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, was next, shepherding $12.7 million in government grants and tax credits to businesses. Nearly half – $6 million – went to Poway’s Transportation Power, Inc., to develop alternative fuel and vehicle technology. A $2 million tax credit went to San Diego ship builder General Dynamics NASSCO; a $1.85 million tax credit went to San Diego’s Pacific Steel Group; and $1 million grant went to the Chino nonprofit River Partners to restore riparian habitat. A 2015 law removed such government grants and credits as reportable behests, so Maienschein will presumably fall much…