Facebook, Google and Blue Shield of California are among the companies that contributed a staggering $226 million to government causes on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s behalf last year, unprecedented levels of spending that are raising alarms about the influence large corporations are amassing in Sacramento.
State records reviewed by The Times show that so-called “behested payments” spiked in 2020 compared to the year prior, when companies gifted $12.1 million on Newsom’s behalf. The governor’s haul last year during the COVID-19 pandemic was six times as much as that reported by former Gov. Jerry Brown during his final eight years in office combined.
With no limit on how much money can be donated by organizations or individuals at the behest of the governor, millions of dollars flowed in to prop up public services during the pandemic and fund Newsom’s favored programs, including an effort to address homelessness and a public safety campaign promoting the importance of wearing masks.
The corporations say they were simply trying to help the state in a time of need. But no matter how noble the cause, critics fear the donations could allow corporations to hold more sway in state government. They noted many of the donors have other business before the governor, received no-bid government contracts over the last year or were seeking favorable appointments on important state boards, which they say creates the appearance of a pay-to-play system.
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