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The influence of money in politics is something that has concerned advocates of good government for many decades. As a result, California has transparency laws that require the disclosure of campaign donations and spending.

While state law places limits on contributions to a candidate’s campaign and on gifts to an elected official, there is one kind of donation that operates differently, allowing elected officials to request unlimited amounts of money from individuals, businesses or other entities, even those that have an interest in a particular government action
or policy.

This type of donation is called a “behested payment.” According to state campaign finance regulators, a payment is considered “behested” if it is made at the request, suggestion or solicitation of, or made in cooperation, consultation, coordination or concert with the public official; and it is made for a legislative, governmental or charitable purpose.

Officials must report behested payments within 30 days of the date on which the payment meets or exceeds $5,000 from a single source.

As one example, Gov. Gavin Newsom reported more than $3.6 million in behested payments to fund his 2023 inaugural festivities. Some entities donated as much as $250,000 at the governor’s request.

Elected officials can exert undue influence on the people and entities they govern. It’s something to watch.

You can view behested payments in the state’s database of reports at fppc.ca.gov/transparency/behested-payments.html. Click the link for “Text based search using the name of the elected official, payor or payee” to access the search feature.

Local officials can raise money with behested payments, too. To find the records of these donations, search for “behested payments” on the website of your city or county government.