The Sacramento Bee reports that California’s crusading Attorney General has taken tens of thousands in political donations from sources he’s now investigating for corruption involving New York’s state and city pension funds. Family members of Darius Anderson and Daniel Weinstein gave Jerry Brown over $52,000 in donations in 2008. Yet the men find themselves on the business end of a multistate probe headed in part by the man they sponsored:
The contributions from four family members of Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson and the company of Los Angeles political fundraiser Daniel Weinstein went to Brown late last year – months before his office reportedly subpoenaed companies run by the two men. They have not been charged in a public pension scandal that has migrated west from New York and resulted in a handful of indictments and two guilty pleas, including one by one of Weinstein’s former employees.
Brown received $48,000 in contributions from the wife, brother and parents of Anderson in late December 2008, state campaign finance records show. That included $12,000 from brother Kirk Anderson, with whom Darius Anderson co-founded Gold Bridge Capital, a “placement agent” that helps money managers secure major investments from public pension funds like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Darius Anderson controls 75 per cent of the firm.
As a registered lobbyist, Anderson is prohibited by state law from making contributions himself.
Interestingly, this appears to be the very same probe that involves Barack Obama’s auto czar, Steve Rattner. The case involves alleged kickbacks for investments in the pension funds, using money to buy power and connections. The various states have yet to make a major case in court, although they have gotten a few guilty pleas from lower-level participants in the corruption scheme.
I lived through Brown’s disastrous governorship in California and watched him get rehabilitated back into statewide politics. I’d never vote for Brown, even if I lived in California; he’s still too far left and simply incoherent at times. However, Brown has never been a machine-politics man. He was a terrible Governor, but not a corrupt one. As far as I recall, no one has ever made even a mildly credible and serious allegation of pay-for-play against Brown. We questioned his judgment and his intelligence, but not his integrity.
And indeed, Brown can easily turn the tables on this story to prove it. The families of these men gave Brown over $52,000 less than six months ago, and yet Brown apparently has no problem going after their businesses as part of a corruption investigation. That would speak to independence from contributors, not complicity in a scheme to protect corruption.
Still, Brown needs to return the money or donate it to a charity. Even with the demonstration of independence, the fact that he still has their money while he probes their actions in regards to the pension funds looks bad — and if California fails to charge the two with any wrongdoing, that appearance of integrity will start unraveling.