Governor Jerry Brown is getting very rich off of real estate and stock holdings by partnering with prestigious Oakland developers whom he at one time regulated when he was Mayor of Oakland.
The former Jesuit seminarian has mastered the ability to project himself as living the monastic life. Most remember when Brown first came to the Capitol in the mid 1970s that he spent his first eight years in Sacramento sleeping on a box spring and mattress on the floor of an apartment that he rented for less than three hundred dollars per month. Moreover, Brown has been known to fly the economy airline Southwest while traveling across the state during his current gubernatorial tenure.
Dan Schnur, a onetime GOP strategist who now directs the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics, contends, “Jerry Brown has obviously attended the Warren Buffett school of public relations. He’s certainly not anywhere near as wealthy as Buffett, but they both understand the benefits of talking about their personal frugality as a way of connecting with people who don’t share their financial means.”
Not quite in the same league as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Brown has developed a handsome portfolio over the last decade. The News reports that during his current term as governor, Brown invested in an $11 million office building near Oakland International Airport which is being considered as a possible venue for “Coliseum City,” a large redevelopment venture that could include new baseball and football stadiums.
Moreover, Brown is part of a consortium that began construction this year of a 100-unit apartment building on prime real estate they bought in 2007 on the Oakland-Emeryville border. The News revealed that Brown also has stakes in millions of dollars of East Bay real estate in conjunction with developers Phil Tagami and John Protopappas. Both conducted business with the city of Oakland when Brown was Mayor of the city.
In the face of these findings by the Bay Area News Group, Brown and his representatives are not planning to disclose a lot of particulars regarding his investments to the public. Dan Newman, a spokesman for the governor, said that Brown won’t provide any details beyond what’s on the forms. According to the News, political experts say discussing the details of his wealth isn’t in Brown’s interest.
Sarah Swanbeck of California Common Cause, a public interest group, argues, “It’s one thing to follow the letter of the law, but the public does have a right to know who a governor’s partners are.”
Some may say that it is hypocritical that Jerry Brown, who won his first term by advocating for transparency and championing the Political Reform Act, now is not being forthcoming about much of financial holdings that have been enhanced by connections that he cultivated while in office.
Peter Scheer, executive director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition, believes that Brown “should be setting an example about disclosure for the rest of the state.” He is setting an example, but unfortunately it is not about disclosure.