San Diego city councilman Ben Hueso is doing some reverse bundling in connection with his scheduled Tuesday swim across San Diego Bay this week. According to a recent news release by his office, Hueso is raising money for a program he is promoting called Brighter Futures Through Fitness to encourage exercise and better diet among his younger constituents. Potential donors are told to make their checks payable to Athletes for Education, a small nonprofit foundation that supports various youth fitness activities around the country. But according to the release, all checks are to be sent to Hueso's city council office. In Sacramento, a similar practice, in which donors earmark contributions to a charity in the name of elected officials, is known as "behesting" and requires disclosure with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. An effort by legislators to water down the behesting disclosure requirement this session was withdrawn by its author, Democratic state senator Ron Calderon, after it became apparent the measure would likely be vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Supporters of the disclosure requirement, such as Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, argue that contributions to charity solicited by elected officials are made as a gesture of political support. "When a legislator calls somebody up and they give money, that should be disclosed," Stern told a reporter. "We should know if money is being given at the request of a public official." San Diego city law requires that charitable contributions greater than $5000 given by a single donor at the behest of an elected official within a 12-month period be reported by letter to the office of the city clerk, according to Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the city's Ethics Commission. Those who want to donate to the Hueso bay swim are offered three levels of giving: Bass, $1000; Bluegill, $3000; and Trout, $5000.