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So-called behest payments have long been a bit of a bugaboo for Sacramento politicos.

According to the website of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, "behest payments are contributions to charity by individuals and corporations solicited by members of the Assembly, Senate and statewide elected officers."

The rules go on to say: "These payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts, but are payments made at the 'behest' of elected officials to be used for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes.

"While state law limits the amount of campaign contributions and gifts, there are no limits on these so-called 'behested 'payments.

"State law only requires the reporting of 'behested' payments if they total $5000 or more per calendar year from a single source. There are no reporting requirements for payments up to $4999.99.

"Officials must report the 'behest' payments within 30 days of the date they are made."

One recent example of the practice is the money raised by Jerry Brown's inaugural committee. The governor reported that, at his "behest" -- according a spreadsheet on the FPPC's site -- a long list of special interests, including the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and Majestic Realty Co., which wants to build a pro football stadium in the City of Industry, each anted up $5000 apiece to pay for the inaugural bash.

Brown's inaugural committee said any money left over would go to charity.

"In fact, the committee found two," the Sacramento Bee reported last month. "One to pay for Brown's housing in Sacramento and the other to pay for government-related activities he may host. The inaugural committee donated $25,000 to each."

That story is here:

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/25/3726322/jerry-browns-inauguration-money.html

Then there is the case of GOP Assemblyman Martin Garrick and prospective state senate candidate, who was cited for driving under the influence after a party during last month's state budget turmoil.

Last November, based on FPPC disclosure filings, we reported that the assemblyman had made multiple behests from corporations including Global Surveillance Associates and Genetech totaling $185,000, to Angel's Depot, a North County charity for impoverished seniors.

Garrick later told us that the only reason he had reported the contributions as his behests was that, as an honorary board member listed by Angel's Depot, his lawyers advised him that he was required to do so.

FPPC executive director Roman Porter said that was a misreading of the regulation. To resolve such confusion, at a meeting this Thursday the FPPC staff is proposing to clarify things by specifically exempting cases such as that claimed by Garrick from behest reporting.

"Whether certain scenarios qualify as 'behest payments' under the Act is unclear under the current language of the Act and regulations," the FPPC notes.

"The Commission will consider a regulation to exempt from 'behest payments' a common situation where a public official's name is listed on the letterhead of a fundraising letter for a nonprofit organization, but neither the official nor any person on his or her staff act as an agent to solicit contributions to the nonprofit organization on behalf of the official.

"This regulation codifies current staff advice."

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