SAN JOSE (AP) — Two favorite charities of Gov. Jerry Brown are getting a flood of donations from California business interests this year.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that two Oakland charter schools that Brown supports have received $2.7 million in contributions made at the governor’s behest in just the first three months of 2015.
Top donors include the San Pablo Lytton Casino, a San Francisco Bay Area gambling center that would need Brown’s approval to expand. The casino has given the two Oakland schools $100,000 so far this year, after also supporting them with donations in previous years. Other top donors in 2015 include Maurice Kanbar, a San Francisco-based real estate multimillionaire who gave $1 million to one of Brown’s favored schools in February.
Health-care CEO Prem Reddy, who unsuccessfully sought state approval recently to buy six California hospitals, gave $100,000.
California law requires reporting of any charity donation over $5,000 made at the behest of an elected official. Brown in September vetoed a bill that would have slightly restricted the so-called “behested” contributions.
The Mercury News reports that donations to Brown’s favorite charities at his behest are on pace to more than double the amount given in previous years.
Brown, barred by term limits from running for re-election in 2016, has $19.6 million left over from his re-election campaign last year.
Brown declined to say whether he believes contributors give to the two Oakland charter schools in order to win his approval and attention, or whether he feels influenced by those donations, the Mercury News said.
Evan Westrup, the governor’s spokesman, said the donations “represent an opportunity for foundations, businesses and individuals to invest in their communities and help students succeed.”
Campaign watchdog groups contend, however, that donors give in hopes of securing access and favors from the governor.
“None of the companies who are giving tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to the governor’s pet charities can tell you with a straight face that they’re doing it for the children,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of the group Consumer Watchdog.