Mayor Kevin Johnson isn’t running for re-election, but he continues to raise more money than any Sacramento politician or candidate
K.J. took in at least $1.3 million in behest donations since sexual-misconduct allegations resurfaced last fall
Mayor Kevin Johnson isn’t running for election, but that hasn’t stopped donors from showing him the money.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN BRENEMAN
Kevin Johnson isn’t running for re-election next week. Yet most Sacramentans might be surprised to learn that the outgoing mayor has raked in more money this campaign season than any Sacramento politician or candidate—even mayoral front-runner Darrell Steinberg.
K.J.’s taken in these donations despite the video of a teenaged girl accusing him of molestation. The video was filmed in Phoenix in 1996 but only surfaced in October of last year. It drew national coverage, and the mayor announced he would not seek a third term after its release.
Some might assume such a video and accusations would have donors thinking twice about giving. But it’s been big business as usual for Johnson.
In fact, the mayor has brought in more than $1 million in “behested” donations to his private organizations and nonprofits since national sports website Deadspin made the video public.
How does Johnson continue to rake in millions of dollars? Why do regional powerhouses such as UC Davis, Golden 1 Credit Union and Sutter Health—and also private citizens such as Sacramento Republic co-owner Kevin Nagle and Democratic Party benefactor Angelo Tsakopoulos—keep giving to the K.J. brand?
The donations come in the form of behests. A behest is when a group or person donates money to an elected official’s private organization or nonprofit. Unlike campaign donations, behested money is given in unlimited amounts. It’s also difficult to track how organizations spend this money.
Jessica Levinson, an elections law and government expert at Loyola Law School, explained that even though these behests are a “loophole” around campaign contributions, “that doesn’t mean nothing good comes of it.” Behests benefit nonprofits and causes important to the city, she said. But they also benefit a politician’s personal interests.
“And I think Kevin Johnson is definitely quite adept at” using behests to bring in money, she added.
The mayor’s network boasts a handful of private groups or 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which have taken in millions of dollars during his time in office, according to city of Sacramento records and filings. The money allows Johnson to pay for additional employees, often noncity staff who do their work inside City Hall and who portray themselves to outsiders as actual city workers. The mayor says this helps him do more good Sacramento News & Review - Mayor Kevin Johnson isn’t running for re-election, but he continues to raise more money than any Sacramento politician or candidate - News - Local Stories - June 2, 2016: