California Governor Gavin Newsom reportedly directed a staggering $226 million in “behested donations” to specific charities, some of which reportedly came from companies that also benefited from no-bid state contracts awarded to help with coronavirus relief.
“Behested” payments have come under scrutiny in California in recent years. They are legal payments that politicians are allowed to ask companies to make to charitable organizations. However, as Capital Public Radio noted in 2018, they raise significant questions about conflicts of interest. When Newsom was inaugurated, for example, he gave donors special access “in exchange for nearly $8 million in donations to his inaugural committee and a charitable fund” for wildfire relief.
Reason.com reported Thursday that Newsom’s 2020 behests “were a record-setting haul eclipsing all prior donations on record by nearly $100 million.” Moreover:
While most donations supported COVID-19 relief efforts, a closer look suggests Newsom’s fundraising was supercharged not just by the pandemic, but also by the broad emergency powers the Democratic governor has assumed because of it.
Last year, Newsom raised a combined $45 million from insurance giants Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente for Project Homekey, his housing initiative. Newsom had selected Blue Shield CEO Paul Markovich to co-chair California’s task force on COVID-19 testing. In January, the governor again tapped Blue Shield, with assistance from Kaiser Permanente, to manage vaccine distribution across the state. That decision has raised eyebrows as the governor’s office has remained silent about the particulars of the deal, including why his administration selected Blue Shield and how much the company would be paid.
But Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente aren’t alone. Newsom has committed to spending nearly $4 billion on no-bid contracts to fight the pandemic. A number of companies who lined up for these contracts ended up donating, at Newsom’s request, to his various relief efforts.
Reason.com’s Jacob McLeod noted that Newsom had only raised $12 million in behest payments the year before — less than 5% of his 2020 total — and that he was the only political leader in California to experience such a large increase.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is How Not to Be a Sh!thole Country: Lessons from South Africa. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.