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Private donors run second nonprofit for Brown

Governor's friends have taken over the California State Protocol Foundation, used by Schwarzenegger to pay for trips and other expenses. Brown promises there won't be 'secret donors.'

June 25, 2011|By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento -- Friends of Gov. Jerry Brown who have acknowledged raising money from private donors to pay the governor's Sacramento rent said Friday that they are also running a second nonprofit for Brown that his predecessor tapped to fund luxury travel around the world.

The nonprofit, called the California State Protocol Foundation, was used by supporters of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pay for private jet trips, luxury hotel stays and other expenses incurred by the governor and his entourage. Special interests with business before the state footed many of the bills.

Schwarzenegger's supporters turned control of the nonprofit over to Brown backers in March, said the nonprofit's new president, George Kieffer, who is also helping to run the residence fund. The Protocol bank account currently has just one deposit, $25,000 left over from Brown's inaugural fund, he said.

Brown's office said Friday that the Protocol Foundation had already begun to pay for some staff travel and that no international trips are in the works. Spokesman Gil Duran said Brown had not decided whether to ask for a cap on contributions, as he did for his inaugural committee, but pledged there would be "no secret donors."

Kieffer, who had previously said that donors to the residence fund would remain undisclosed until January, said Friday that the fund has also received $25,000 in leftover inaugural money. The residence account, which is paying Brown's $3,000 monthly rent and utility bills, has not yet received any other donations, Kieffer said.

Brown has declined up to $35,000 in taxpayer money available to offset his living arrangements, opting instead to rely on the private donors. California is one of only a handful of states not to offer its governor an official residence in the capital city.

For decades, governors have used nonprofits to "lessen the burden of government," as the Protocol Foundation's mission statement says. But the practice has come under increasing criticism from ethics watchdogs who say it is a means for well-heeled donors to curry favor.

Supporters of Schwarzenegger and former Gov. Gray Davis, for instance, directed millions in donations into the foundations. Some checks exceeded $100,000.

"If it were a collection of a million people paying a dollar, I wouldn't care," said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. But it's wealthy donors giving thousands, and that's "usually people who want something from the state. People just don't contribute without a reason," he said.

The nonprofits are supposed to be independent, though Duran said Brown suggested names of potential Protocol board members, such as Kieffer, who served as counsel for Brown's 1976 presidential bid.

Kieffer is now a lawyer at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a firm with a lobbying wing in Sacramento that represents companies such as AT&T Inc., SunEdison and Oracle America. Other board members of the Protocol Foundation, Kieffer said, are Antonia Hernandez, chief executive of the California Community Foundation; Stewart Kwoh, president of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center; Gary Toebben, head of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; and Zack Wasserman, a lawyer who is also on the residence group's board.

Nonprofits such as the Protocol Foundation have existed since patrons of former Gov. George Deukmejian created one in the 1980s. Davis dramatically expanded their use, tapping them for millions of dollars for travel, housing and even a party at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

Schwarzenegger, who traveled the world by private jet, drove the up the expenditures — and public scrutiny. New rules were drafted to stop large donations from funding gubernatorial globetrotting. But unlimited checks continued to flow without being earmarked specifically for the governor.

Brown has not indicated how he will use the nonprofits.

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com

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