Donations on Behalf of Supervisors Topped $100k This Summer

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Three members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors solicited $111,417 over the summer for county projects and events ranging from a monument and a statue to an old-fashioned highway ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to documents filed with the county Registrar of Voters.

And one of the supervisors, Andrew Do, may have accomplished a first for California by getting a foreign government to make a so-called behested donation, said a spokesman for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

Mexico gave a $35,000 statue of independence leader Miguel Hidalgo to the county’s Mile Square Park in Westminster, according to documents filed by Do.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer brought in $41,417 worth of design work for his plan to create a monument to crime victims at the county’s Mason Regional Park in Irvine.

Tait and Associates, the firm owned by Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, is the construction manager for the project and donated $21,438.75 worth of staff time. Two other contractors also made in-kind donations. Landscape architects RJM Design Group gave $11,825 worth of work, and Leighton Consulting put in $8,153.28 in staff work.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett asked for and received a total of $35,000 from three donors for an Aug. 13 celebration of the opening of the 2.27-mile the La Pata Gap Connector Project, the county-built road extension connecting San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

The donors included Outlets at San Clemente, $25,000. Outlets developer, Steve Craig, also was one of the event speakers. Huitt-Zollars Inc. of Irvine gave $5,000 at Bartlett’s behest and the city of Mission Viejo donated $5,000.

Under California law, lobbyists and wealthy political contributors can give big money and in-kind donations requested, or behested, by elected officials for their favorite charities or government-sponsored events.

It’s an added way for donors to gain influence with elected officials in addition to regular campaign contributions.

Behested Requests Increasing in Popularity

Under roughly 20-year-old rules adopted by the FPPC, elected officials must report donations of $5,000 or more made at their request for events such as job, senior or health fairs or to non-profit organizations, including schools and charities. The reports must be filed within 30 days of the donation being made.

There is currently no way to know how prevalent behested payments are throughout California because there is not a statewide database. However, establishing such a database might become part of the FPPC’s long-term plans, said agency spokesman Jay Wierenga.

In a recent high-profile case, behests showed up as part of the federal and FPPC investigation of former state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), who pleaded guilty June 21 to federal charges of accepting approximately $100,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents and a hospital executive. He is scheduled for sentencing in federal court Sept. 19.

As an outgrowth of the federal probe, the FPPC was investigating whether Calderon requested a total of $30,000 be donated to a nonprofit in 2012 and early 2013. That investigation was dropped after Calderon’s guilty plea.

The $5,000 limit for behested payments is more than twice the maximum donors are allowed to contribute to supervisors in campaign contributions under the county’s Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics or TINCUP law. That limit is $1,900 per supervisor candidate in each four-year election cycle.

Theoretically, donors who want to score points with supervisors also could donate $4,999.99 to events or charities at the supervisor’s behest and neither would have to publicly report it.

Bob Stern, who co-wrote the state’s 1974 Political Reform Act, but not the section on behested payments that was added later, said if they wanted to, supervisors could lower the $5,000 to $1,000 to create more transparency.

“The locals can reduce it (the $5,000 threshold) if they want to,” Stern said, “but none of them want to.”

Using Nonprofits

Bartlett and Spitzer have nonprofits handling the funds donated for their behest causes.

In Bartlett’s case, the non-profit was the Inside the Outdoors Foundation which told Voice of OC the event raised a total of $62,969 from 19 donors, including the $35,000 she behested. An additional 85 car show participants contributed $2,100 in participation fees.

Spitzer said in a text message that the $41,417 design in-kind donation will help establish an overall fundraising goal for the victim’s memorial. Another $21,047 has been raised for the memorial, according to Theresa Sears, who is handling the funds raised for the project and donated through the non-profit Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks. Sears is also an editor for Voice of OC’s opinion section.

Mexico’s donation of the Hidalgo statue completes Do’s three-statute project for Mile Square Park. The others depict former President Ronald Reagan and 13th-century Vietnamese General Tran Hung Dao. The FPPC is reviewing a complaint filed against Do by a campaign opponent this year in connection with how money for the other two statutes was handled.

Asked by Voice of OC if there were any restrictions on foreign governments making donations at the request of elected officials, FPPC spokesman Wierenga said nothing in state law prohibited it and in the nearly 20 years since reporting was required, there was no record “or indication” the FPPC has been asked about foreign donations.

However, because no one has reviewed all behest forms statewide, there is no way to know for sure.

Correction: A previous version of this article said the entire $41,417 worth of design work for crime-victims memorial champtioned by Supervisor Todd Spitzer inaccurately stated the source of those funds. We regret the error.

You can contact Tracy Wood at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Spitzer needs to answer for the thousands of dollars of donations from the nursing home operators and their attorneys, who gave him tons of money, but Spitzer ignored the FACTS, PROVEN FACTS IN COURT RECORDS, that these sleazy operators were overcharging taxpayers, stealing from patients, providing substandard care, allowing patients to be covered in bedsores, some were raped, some killed, while rats and mice, cockroaches and worms were found in their spoiled and rotten food. Todd Spitzer took money for his campaign, and ignored the misconduct that was proven in federal court, and looked the other way as corrupt employees of the SSA rigged the computer billing system so these vile operators could bilk millions out of the overtaxed citizens of this county. Employees who spoke, who refused to look the other way, were harassed, assaulted and finally forced out of their jobs and careers.

    Todd Spitzer, Michelle Steel, Tony Do, Shawn Nelson and Lisa Bartlett are nothing more than highly paid prostitutes, who sell their votes and souls to whatever entity writes a bigger check. Not one of them is worth the money they are paid, because not one of them is in their job to serve the people of the county. They only serve themselves.

    • LFOldTimer

      How do you really feel, Jacki? 🙂
      Politicians would take money from convicted murders and rapists if they formed a union and the media agreed not to report it. That goes for both Republicans and Democrats. If ethics ever existed in local politics they’re gone now, probably never to return. In general I have more respect for the female gender than the male. But the good Lord must have miscalculated the testosterone levels of women who enter politics. Many are worse than the men. Heck, Pat Bates used to be a social worker. How about that for a transition? Social worker to cut throat politics where nobody takes any prisoners. That would be like a former nun working in a house of ill repute. Go figure.

      • Jacki Livingston

        I am working on overcoming my shyness issues… 😉

        I think that OC Social Services has about a dozen employees who are actually there to serve people in need. Most of them are borderline illiterate, dumber than a box of hair, who got their jobs because of being related to some other borderline illiterate and dumber than a box of hair dipstick. The County offers lots of opportunities for further learning about poverty and homelessness, and few ever take it. These are people who did not go to college, or if they did, they barely skated through. Did you know that the County gives no pay incentive to get a degree? Lots of the people there could never make twenty six dollars an hour in private sector, except maybe on a pole. They then get their illiterate relatives hired and protect the Temple of Substandard for their own kind. They could not care less about helping real people. Most of my colleagues considered the clients to be annoying and a hindrance to their job.

        Do you know how many times I ever saw the BoS at the offices, especially CRO, where the homeless and really disturbed are? Never. They are the real scum of the earth, taking advantage of a system they rigged for their own service. The fraud and ripping off of tax dollars is a disgrace, and the waste? Outrageous.

  • astar2b

    The Orange County Board of Supervisors do not need tip jars…!

  • Jasenn

    Why doesn’t the State Government act to end these pay-to-play schemes? Why? Because the state officials either benefit or are from county supervisory positions who benefited in the past.

    • LFOldTimer

      It’s all one big corrupted family. A house of ill repute. No teetotalers or goody-two-shoes allowed. For complicit adults with strong stomachs and a honed ability to look another man in the eyes and lie with a perfectly straight face. Believing in God is optional but promoting him is a strict requirement.

      • Jacki Livingston

        I had a senior manager, a real sleazoid named for a Norse God, who could lie in depositions, or to investigators, without blinking. He lied and lied and lied. In fact, it was PROVEN, by highly paid external private investigators (paid for with taxpayer dollars), that he blatantly lied about me. I have letters, emails and documents catching him in lie after lie after lie. He was caught in the parking lot on the receiving end of an intimate act, performed by a subordinate, caught by his wife who worked for the agency. He promoted the subordinate, divorced the wife, married the subordinate and now both of the naughty lunch players are making over a hundred grand a year. He is a scumsucking pig! But he is the fast rising star in the agency, because of who he is related to. And, he is ugly! Talk about a strong stomach! It boggles the mind! The County of Orange offices are nothing but a bordello of shame, where public service and care for our citizens is the last thing on the minds of the pimps and prostitutes who only serve themselves. But the voters know this, and they don’t care.

        • LFOldTimer

          You’re a hard act to follow, Jacki.

          Yeah, I have no idea how a man or a woman in that business for 30 years restores his or her self-esteem after such a seedy career. But I assume it comes with small baby-steps. My guess is that Tijuana would be the first stop.

          • Jacki Livingston

            I cannot find a job, anywhere, because they have blackballed me and give me such a horrible reference. It is so hard, because I really loved serving the public. It was so fulfilling. I never wanted to get rich, I just wanted to give back to a county that had been good to me. I don’t have any self esteem left, I doubt myself all the time. I know I did the right thing, to get the money back to my clients. I know that my clients and the patients in those homes are being horribly abused to this day, and I feel so powerless and angry. But when I look at the career I worked so hard for and lost, all because I did the right thing, I do have my weak moments of doubt. It makes me angry that not one person stepped up to help these people. I had all the proof in the world, LFOT. But no one lifted a finger. I never felt it was about me, though I lost everything. I will get by. But those patients have no one looking out for them. I don’t know what to do with that sense of failure.

          • LFOldTimer

            Most importantly, you can get up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror. Pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done, even though you got stepped on for doing it. Things generally work themselves out if you just continue putting one foot in front of the other. And at the very end when it all counts – you get rewarded. There’s not a reason for all things – but for most things there are.

          • Jacki Livingston

            You and I have not always agreed on things, but you, sir, are a genuinely good person, and I respect you. I just need a paycheck! I don’t care what it is, I just need a job. Sadly, the County is full of childish criminals who are too stupid to see that if they just stopped their drama, and let me get a job, this could all blow over. Meh.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Precisely. Moorlach, Bates, Nguyen…all just as dirty as those who followed them. I, personally, called the state to tell them of the millions being stolen, from their MediCal scam started with Nguyen. The state couldn’t be bothered. The press cannot be bothered. VoC cannot be bothered. And, truth? The voters are so self absorbed, uninformed and downright stupid, they deserve the criminal element that they elect to serve them.

  • David Zenger

    “…13th-century Vietnamese General Tran Hung Dao”

    Who played a vital role in the establishment of the United States. No, wait. That’s not right.