Assembly Democrat Shirley Weber last year behested a total of $1.3 million in corporate contributions.
Behesting, the practice by elected officials of raising money for charitable, governmental, and semi-political causes by soliciting special interest donors for the cash, has burgeoned over the past decade as a major tool of influence over California decision-makers.
"Under California's transparency laws, an elected official who fundraises or otherwise solicits payments from one individual or organization to be given to another individual or organization may be required to report the payment," explains the website of California's Fair Political Practices Commission.
Lorena Gonzalez, another Assembly Democrat, was second-highest local behester with $507,000.
"While state law limits the amount of gifts and campaign contributions an official may receive, there are no limits on behested payments,” notes the political watchdog. "However, state law requires the reporting of behested payments if they total $5,000 or more per calendar year from a single source.
"Officials must report the behested payments within 30 days of the date on which the payment meets or exceeds $5,000."
That provision got San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer in hot water with the city's ethics commission last July, when he was required to cough up a $4000 finefor a 16-month delay in revealing $10,000 he solicited for One San Diego, his charitable corporation, from city lessee Campland, LLC., among several other tardy reports.
In third place on the 2019 behesting totem pole was Assembly Democrat and San Diego mayoral hopeful Todd Gloria, with a total of $120,000.
Though Republican Faulconer is San Diego's busiest grantor of behests among city politicos, he is behind local Democratic state legislators, who have a wider base of eager donors from which to solicit cash for their pet causes.
Topping legislative ranks here is Assembly Democrat Shirley Weber, who last year behested a total of $1.3 million in corporate contributions, the vast majority, $1.1 million, earmarked for the California Legislative Black Caucus Policy Institute, per Fair Political Practices Commission data.
Weber's largest behested contribution to the group was $100,000 on June 18 of last year, made by DaVita, a kidney dialysis provider that has long battled against caps on treatment costs and other proposed regulations.
"We will keep advocating for our patients in California and other states where some labor unions are pursuing policies that are not good for patients, cost or the care delivery system," said DaVita CEO Javier Rodriguez during the company's February 10 earnings call.
Altria Client Services, LLC whose parent is Altria Group, owner of tobacco giant Phillip Morris U.S.A and holder of a $12.8 billion stake in e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, Inc., came up with $50,000 on July 26, FPPC’s numbers show.
Noted CalMatters in a September dispatch: "Juul and the Vapor Technology Association, a trade group, spent a combined $314,418 on lobbying state legislators.
"Since early last year, Juul has contributed $95,150 to California lawmakers (including $33,800 to [Democratic Assemblyman Adam] Gray and his associated fundraising committees) and $278,750 to other political groups, including the Los Angeles County Democratic Party."
Another $50,000 behest to the Black Caucus's institute by way of Weber came from Chevron Products Company on February 14 of last year. Northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric, now bankrupt, furnished $45,000 on August 8.
A distant second among local legislative gift-designators was Lorena Gonzalez, another Assembly Democrat, with $507,000. DaVita provided $100,000 for the California Latino Legislative Caucus foundation, and the California Dental Association PAC chipped in $15,000, per state data. BNSF Railway came up with $13,000, and the California Medical Association gave $10,000.
In third place on the 2019 behesting totem pole was Assembly Democrat and San Diego mayoral hopeful Todd Gloria, with a total of $120,000. The top donor was the AT&T Foundation, with $20,000 on July 16 for the Blue Heart Foundation," a non-profit organization that focuses on the education and empowerment of under-served youth ages 13-18 in the greater San Diego County community," the group's website says.
$70,000 worth of Gloria behests, including $15,000 from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and $10,000 from Vista-based developer Sun Country Builders, were earmarked for the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee, otherwise known as MAAC, based in Chula Vista.
East West Bank of Pasadena, which gave $10,000 to MAAC on November 1, also furnished $15,000 on January 13 of this year for pro-Gloria digital and mail pieces produced by the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender and Queer Caucus.
The banking company, according to a January 27, 2020 disclosure filing has spent a total of $20,259 during the current legislative session on Sacrament-based Campbell Strategy & Advocacy, lobbying the "Legislature, Governor's office and Treasurer's office re issues related to banking and [Senate Bill] 51."
The bill by state senate Democrat Bob Hertzberg, intended to legalize dealings between banks and credit unions and marijuana companies, was pulled last December, with Hertzberg promising to return to the matter this year.
"If we're going to do this, we have to do it right," Hertzberg said in a statement quoted by the Sacramento Bee.
"We owe it to the dozens of cities, counties, and cannabis industry officials who have been supporting this effort to see it through."