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California State Assembly. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

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

64,000 vendors received $76 Billion in state payments in 2021

By Katy Grimes, August 29, 2022 7:43 am

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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18 thoughts on “Open the Books Exposes California Spending & Gov. Newsom’s Donor Base

  1. This sounds like a good database to make public. It only takes a few good data harvesters to find the gems.
    Great work by Open the Books

  2. The sunshine request for state spending will be a moot issue after Lanhee Chen (R) is elected as state controller replacing Betty Lee. He will find all of the bills paid that Yee claims that she could not locate; and make them public.

  3. Thank you Open Books and Katy Grimes for exposing the graft in California government.
    This light you shine is the start of a very long journey to change.

  4. This is HUGE. God bless Open the Books and Katy Grimes for reporting.
    Just LOOK at what Katy Grimes reported back in 2012 (!!!) about unelected bureaucrat CARB as a Soviet-like entity, which was the God’s truth THEN. And now here we are in 2022, all the bad guys richer, more powerful, more firmly cemented than ever in their dirty scorch-the-earth agenda, which has been destructive to everyone in this state except themselves. And how can we forget that CARB recently issued an edict, with Gov Gruesome’s blessing, to continue to go to hell in a hand basket to force the elimination of gas-power vehicles and replace them with E-cars, an utterly impossible task given that our electrical system cannot handle TODAY’S electrical load, which is only one problem from it that is clearly evident and obvious to all Californians? What could be more illustrative of how utterly devastating CARB et al’s purposeful secrecy and underground skullduggery has been?
    I’m all in on this and looking forward to more, more, more from Open the Books.

  5. wow. open books..thank you. the one on lawyers, im sure some are the ones Newsom used to defeat the fire lawsuits(PGE,Edison).

  6. Katy, I knew you would be on this! Thank you.
    We can all subscribe to Open the Books email notifications. Go to OpenTheBooks.com and also subscribe to the substack, https://openthebooks.substack.com/p/historic-announcement-californias?r=ytkhg&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

    Our tax dollars are essentially be laundered back to the NGO big donors to bring more harm to each and every one of us. They use our tax dollars to early release criminals, defund the police and get Soros DA’s elected. You wonder why Scott Wiener brings up such outlandish, vile bills? This is how. I will be keep it PG but this is one big circle j***, just how Wiener likes it!
    Soro’s Tides Foundation is one big marxist organization. I am sorry but we live in a constitutional republic that is being destroyed from within, with our tax dollars! The California Hamsters need to get off the wheel and start paying attention. You are just a useless eater to the likes of Newsom, Soros and the others. Make sure you get those taxes paid on time!????

  7. In a NORMAL, well-run state, this would BLOW THE LID off of the State Government (at least it would have boiled over when the State Controller (an oxymoron in California, where she’s the OUT-OF-Controller) cannot locate 50 MILLION bills (a significant LACK of “internal controls – how does this State pass a financial audit, he wondered aloud)…
    Keep the proverbial kitchen light on these Capitol Cockroaches and make them squirm – we KNOW that the lamestream media will NOT pick this up so it’s going to be important to circulate this with as many alternative media sites as possible, such as TheGateWayPundit , Breitbart, Townhall, The Daily Caller and many others…

    1. Exactly CriticalDfence9.
      I did one quick search on business and housing, a company called BSD Capitol Inc comes up multiple times with 99 million dollar contacts just in the year2021! Who is BSD Capitol, I wonder. Does the correlate with the homeless crisis?

  8. Ms. Grimes, once upon a time, the last Republican Speaker, Curt Pringle, was in his office and noticed a Dumpster in the Parking lot. He noticed who came out and put stuff in it and went to have a look see. Apparently it was records from Willie Brown’s days in office. Nothing ever came of it and I’ve always wondered why. He was only Speaker for half the term as Willie held out as long as he could. This stinks and I’m glad you are getting a look but this is recent and the Pringle episode was around 1999. We are in really bad shape as a State.

  9. Thank you for your sheer tenacity and fortitude Open the Books, and exceptional reporting Katy and Globe. Scary proposition this article only scrapes the surface.

  10. Great reporting! California agencies like the CPUC holds meetings with staff advising them how not to respond to public information requests. Whatever happened to Michael Peevey and his over a million spent on criminal defense attorneys. Why was the state paying for a criminal defense attorney? Public review of state finances is extremely important. The state officials are currently bragging about $96 billion surplus. Should surplus revenue be refunded to taxpayers?

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