Posted 14 days ago
Former Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill took to Facebook on Friday to bring attention to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s use of "behested payments," a technically legal but highly opaque practice that can generate untold amounts of "donations" to politicians’ preferred projects and non-profit organizations.
O’Neill, who was mayor of the coastal Orange County town between 2019 and 2020, asked readers to imagine they’re running a company, and Newsom asks for a donation "to a cause he cares about."
"Seems like a shakedown, right? Nope, perfectly legal. It’s called a ‘behested payment," O’Neill wrote.
Per California law, behested payments over $5,000 must be reported. But unlike political donations, there are no caps. The practice is relatively obscure and not often used. In 2019, for instance, Newsom’s administration only reported $12 million in behested payments.
But in 2020, during which the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and the governor’s emergency powers were expanded, payments to various entities – at Newsom’s "behest – shot up to a whopping $226 million, according to data from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).
In 2020, Newsom raised $45 million from Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente for his housing initiative. Blue Shield’s president and CEO Paul Markovich, later served as co-chair on the governor’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force. And last month, the governor chose both Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente to help manage vaccine distribution in California.
Since the outbreak, Verily Life Sciences -- which under the same parent company as Google -- has received up to $44 million in three separate contracts from the governor’s Office of Emergency Services to operate COVID-19 testing sites.
O’Neill cited reporting from CapRadio, a Sacramento NPR-affiliate, showing that, between 2018 and 2019, UnitedHealth donated $220,000 to political committees controlled by Newsom, who later awarded $492 million in contracts to UnitedHealth subsidiaries in no-bid and expedited situations.
Bloom Energy, a California-based company, contributed some $85,000 to Newsom between September 2018 and October 2020, CapRadio reported. In March 2020, the company received a $1 million no-bid contract – later ... (Read more)
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