News

Interests spend for politicians’ favor

Special interests, directly solicited by lawmakers, their leaders and the governor, have poured millions of dollars into an array of special programs favored by the politicians, including nonprofit entities specially created to handle donations. But these payments don’t show up in the normal filings that candidates and donors must make with the Secretary of State.

In fact, these so-called “behested payments” are not available anywhere online. Instead, the payments are only available in hard copy tucked away in the sixth-floor office of the Fair Political Practices Commission in downtown Sacramento.

That’s something the head of the state financial watchdog agency would like to change.

“We believe it is necessary to make this information available to the press and public in a more useful way,” said FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson.

Unlike campaign donations, some $10.6 million in behested payments since January 2005 that were reviewed by Capitol Weekly carry few restrictions and they do not flow to a politician’s campaign treasury. Rather, they are intended for legislative, governmental or charitable causes, although the line between those and campaign politics often appears blurred. Many of the payments go to community advocacy organizations, youth clubs, schools, health organizations, research groups and the like. The payments are legal, and those $5,000 or larger must be reported within 30 days to the state, where they are recorded at the FPPC.

The donations–$5.4 million of which were made in 2006, an election year–are known within the government as “payments made at the behest of


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