San Diego Democrat Toni Atkins, the freshly named state Senate leader, has just filed a financial disclosure statement showing she's also maintained her position as one of California's busiest special-interest fundraisers.
California Works, a so-called ballot measure committee run by Atkins, reports in a January 19 campaign statement that it raised $71,658 last year, ending 2017 with $325,385 of cash in the bank.
The San Jose Mercury-News reported in August 2016 that Atkins was even then a standout in using the ballot-committee loophole of state campaign law to recruit big money without limit from corporations with business before the legislature.
“Candidates are increasingly using these committees as slush funds for unlimited contributions from special interests,” Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, told the paper. “They’re paying off lawmakers without technically violating the law. It’s disgusting.”
Atkins and her ballot committee have been particularly popular with Pacific Gas & Electric, the Northern California utility giant under investigation for its liability in last year's devastating Wine Country wildfires.
The company, which was successfully prosecuted by the federal government for the September 9, 2010, San Bruno pipeline disaster, is currently battling a pending state Senate bill that would prevent the firm from passing the costs of its negligence on to ratepayers.
This month's disclosure by the Atkins committee shows PG&E gave $10,000 on November 14. The utility company made an August 7 non-monetary contribution of $2258 worth of fundraising services.
The Atkins fund spent $38,384, the bulk on fundraising costs and commissions, including $10,000 paid to the Lodge at Torrey Pines on October 19 for "Lodging 27 Guests; Food/Beverage; Spa Appts for Golf Event." Additionally, Sacramento's The Kitchen restaurant received a $1250 deposit.
Other expenses included Q-Star Charters, which got $817 for providing transportation to a July 29 Del Mar fundraising event, and U.S. Coachways, which got $1059 for an August 7 event in San Francisco. None of the payouts were designated for ballot measures, per the filing.
Other major 2017 donors to the Atkins fund included the Communities for California Cardrooms PAC with $10,000 on December 11 and $15,000 from Blue Shield of California on December 31, according to state records.
"The four lawmakers who have collected the most money are Atkins, D-San Diego; [Assemblyman Adam] Gray, chairman of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee; [Sen. Ed] Hernandez, chairman of the Senate Health Committee; and Senate leader [Kevin] de León, D-Los Angeles," the Mercury-News reported in 2016.