CALIFORNIA SHAKEDOWN "An Investigation Into The Questionable Ethics of Behested Payments to Elected Officials In California.
In an era of increased public awareness and scrutiny of both real and perceived political corruption and questionable ethical behavior, this report sought to investigate a very substantial issue that has succeeded in evading the public eye despite significant implications for both the public and the integrity of our system of elected democracy.
This report, titled “California Shakedown: An Investigation of Behested Payments to Elected Officials in California,” was produced by the Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy at the request of the Center for Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (CETA).
CETA asked the Kersten Institute to take an in-depth look at an emerging campaign finance issue whereby publicly elected officials steer contributions from individuals, corporations, unions, and other organizations to the nonprofitor charitable cause of their choice (commonly referred to as “behestedpayments”).
Moreover, these so-called “behested payments” are essentially an end-run around state and local limitations on campaign finance contributions to candidate committees directly controlled by elected officials.
Furthermore, a case study of the City of Sacramento in 2010-2013 alerted CETA, the Sacramento Bee, and good government watchdogs up and down the state regarding the perceived unethical behavior of large “charitable” contributions made by Wal-Mart and other special interests with business before the city to then Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Councilman Jay Schenirer.
This report sought to investigate this City of Sacramento case study and others like it to produce a written report on the origins of the behested payment issue in California and an analysis of potential policy solutions that have been take or could be taken to address the problem.
The following report represents the findings and conclusions reached in this investigation and ultimately provides a look at an emerging issue that raises important ethical questions about the role of behested payments in our state and local political system, as well as potential issues that may merit additional investigation and political action.
In short, this report found significant evidence regarding the highly questionable practice of California elected officials accepting large behest payment payments from special interests which then at least gave the perception of impropriety and improper influence buying by these special interests, particularly when behests appeared to directly benefit the elected official.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board even went so far as to refer to practice of elected officials soliciting behest contributions from special interests with business before their elected body as a “shakedown.”
The intent of this report is to provide an initial look at the issue, present relevant case studies, data and sources, and discuss potential solutions to this importantpublic policy issue.