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Open the Books Exposes California Spending & Gov. Newsom’s Donor Base

In January 2020, Open the Books sued California Controller Betty Yee in a Sacramento Superior Court after her office rejected their sunshine request for state spending. Yee claimed that she “couldn’t locate” any of the nearly 50 million bills she paid in 2019, Open the Books says.

Specifically, Open the Books legally requested line-by-line spending by state agencies. Notably, California was the final holdout on state checkbook transparency, according to Open the Books. “Forty nine of the 50 states, the U.S. federal government, and 15,000 municipalities produce their line-by-line spending in response to our request.”

That was when Open the Books sued.

This has been an ongoing issue with California and is reminiscent of former Sen. John Moorlach’s attempts to acquire California’s annual audited financial statement. In 2020, the Globe reported, “Did you know that 49 of the 50 nation’s states have completed and published their annual audited financial statements? Even the state of Illinois has finally filed theirs. Illinois was last year’s laggard. Which state will be the last to issue their managerial reports for the year ended June 30 of last year, or nearly 12 months ago? You guessed it — California.”

“You can’t blame COVID-19 when the other 49 states, including New York, have issued their CAFRs,” the Globe concluded.

Open the Books Sues

In a January 2022 ruling, Judge Steven M. Gevercer, a Gov. Jerry Brown appointee and former public defender, “agreed with another argument advanced by the controller – the California checkbook data was of limited public value and the burden on the controller to release even a single transaction outweighed the public interest. So, we got nothing.”

That was when Open the Books took a different approach. They filed 442 California Public Record Act requests – one with each state agency. “Most agencies complied. Only 25 junior colleges, the University of California at Irvine, and the Board of Regents refused to acknowledge our requests,” they reported.

“We accomplished what the governor, controller, attorney general, lawmakers, a Superior Court judge, and state bureaucrats refused to do. We opened the books on California’s line-by-line state expenditures.”

“We’ve posted nearly every dime, online, in real time for the disclosed fiscal year 2021 state expenditures.”

The results are an abundance of evidence of the inner workings in California state government – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Here are a couple of the gems Open the Books found after searching state spending:

Buying Clout?: Governor Gavin Newsom’s wife founded a public charity (The Representation Project) and some of her biggest donors are those with near monopoly marketplace power in the fields of utilities, telecom, and healthcare. Companies include AT&T, Comcast, Kaiser Permanente, and Planned Parenthood.

Wealthy Foundations: The George Soros funded Tides Center, with $126 million in net assets, received nearly $4 million which included $50,000 to its sister organization Tides Advocacy, a 501(c)4 organization, that wants to defund the police and supports organizations “doing critical work against state terror.” The San Francisco AIDS Foundation, with $30 million in net assets, received $802,861 in payments mostly from the Department of Public Health. Recently, the organization released a guide to having “a fun and filthy weekend— free of anxiety” for an annual “kink and fetish festival” called “Dore Alley.”

Lawyers: Why are some of the most prominent law firms in the state receiving millions of dollars in state payments? The California Department of Justice headed by the California Attorney General employed 1,100 lawyers and an additional 3,700 employees. Yet, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP received $3.4 million; Loeb & Loeb LLP received $2.8 million; Musick Peeler received $1.7 million; and Reed Smith LLP received $1.6 million.

The Globe has also uncovered some gems.

We are looking at the expenditures of the California Air Resources Board and see they’ve sent many checks to a national non-profit called the Center for Sustainability and Energy. In just the first few pages of 2021 checks paid out, we are up to $93,022,590, and have only scratched the surface.

Also notable, the California Air Resources Board cut many checks to its own Western Climate Initiative, Inc., located in Delaware hidden from prying eyes under a Delaware Corporation. I’ve been covering the Air Resources Board’s shady corporation since it was created in 2012: “The problem is that Western Climate Initiative Inc. was formed in Delaware. However, Delaware is not subject to California state open meeting or sunshine laws, leaving many questioning why CARB opted for such secrecy. The only reason to register the corporation in Delaware is the lack public or legislative scrutiny on any of their meetings or actions they take.”

“The latest government cover up is transparency issue specifically with WCI, Inc., the corporation created by California Air Resources Board to manage the upcoming cap and trade auctions,” I wrote in 2012.

The Globe is participating in a press conference Monday with Open the Books, and will be using this incredible resource to shed some light on how the state is spending the taxpayer’s money.

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