Lame Duck Jerry Brown Reaping Millions in Crony Capital

Jerry Brown (Ken James / UPI)
Ken James / UPI

Although Jerry Brown no longer will be campaigning for governor he is still directing wealthy supporters to contribute millions in tax-deductible donations at his behest.

This year alone Brown orchestrated $2.73 million in “behested payments” into two charter schools he launched when he was mayor of Oakland. This is almost as much as the “behested payments” for all of 2014, when the governor directed $2.8 million to the recipients of his choice. It is triple the amount of payments in 2008 when he was still attorney general.

The plethora of donations comes even though Brown no longer needs campaign donations since he cannot run for another stint as governor due to term limits. The governor still has almost $20 million left over from his 2014 re-election campaign

The Contra Costa Times reported that the leading donors are  a tribal casino; the CEO of a company that owns 17 California hospitals; California’s largest car insurer and the state’s biggest wine exporter. Additionally Brown received “behested payments” from the nation’s largest biotech company.

All of the companies and groups making the donations have one thing in common—a vested interest in how Sacramento sets policy. At least eight of the 14 leading behested donors in 2015, gave money to Brown’s 2014 re-election campaign.

“The governor will tell you that he is not going to do anything differently, that he won’t be affected,” said Bob Stern, a political ethics expert, “but the contributors feel they’ll be able to get their phone calls answered when they have a question about public policy.”

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, sponsored a bill in 2014 which would have decreased the amount of “behested payments” to $2,500 from $5,000 and would have prohibited public officials from donating in behest to charities they or their relatives have a vested interest. However, lawmakers stripped the bill of the most significant cuts and then Brown vetoed what was left of it in September.

“The activities that are addressed by this bill are already subject to extensive regulation, including robust disclosure requirements,” Brown stated in his veto message. “This bill would add more complexity to the regulations governing elected officials, without reducing undue influence.”

Brown’s most generous contributor in 2015 is Maurice Kanbar of San Francisco, a Republican multimillionaire real estate investor, Skyy vodka inventor, who gave $1 million to the Oakland Military Institute in February.

According to the Times, other donations made in behest were:

-The San Pablo Lytton Casino, an East Bay gaming center that would need the governor’s approval to grow, who gave $100,000.

-Dr. Prem Reddy of Victorville, chairman and CEO of Prime Healthcare Services, who gave $100,000.

-Gilead Sciences, of Foster City, the nation’s biggest biotechnology company, which gave $50,000. Gilead regularly lobbies state agencies and the Legislature on medical and budget issues.

-Los Angeles-based Mercury Insurance, the state’s largest automobile insurer, which gave $99,520 in behested payments. The insurance company is constantly lobbying lawmakers on pending bills dealing with taxes, emailed insurance notifications and other tweaks to insurance laws.

“Behested payments” year by year for Jerry Brown special interests:

2015 so far: $2.7 million

2014: $2.8 million

2013: $3.7 million

2012: $3.7 million

2011: $3.45 million

2010: $2.3 million

2009: $3 million

2008: $3.9 million

2007: $3.3 million (2007-2010 as attorney general, 2011-2015 as governor)


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