Builders give Perata $500,000

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Sacramento Bee

A campaign committee controlled by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata received a half-million dollars Thursday from the California Building Industry Association, two days after the lawmaker killed flood-control legislation opposed by the group.

The $500,000 contribution was made to Rebuilding California, formed by Perata to promote the transportation, housing, flood control and other bond measures on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The massive donation came on the heels of Perata’s disclosure Tuesday that he has shelved a package of eight flood-control bills touted as a way to reduce flooding risk in the Central Valley and other low-lying areas.

The California Building Industry Association vehemently has opposed two of the bills, designed to increase flood-protection requirements for future subdivisions in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds, and to require cities and counties to accept some financial liability for flooding.

Perata, D-Oakland, denied earlier this week that contributions from builders affected his decision to shelve the eight-bill package of flood-control legislation.

Perata said last-minute amendments by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to one key bill in the package, Assembly Bill 1899, were unacceptable and that there was not enough time to resolve the impasse before the legislative session ends Thursday.

Asked Friday about the CBIA’s $500,000 donation, Alicia Trost, Perata’s spokeswoman, noted that the package of shelved bills included Assembly Bill 3022, sponsored by the CBIA.

“If holding the flood package was an exercise to appease the builders, we wouldn’t have held (that) bill,” she said.

John Frith, CBIA spokesman, noted that the $500,000 contribution was to a campaign fund committed to passing the bond measures. While Perata formed the committee, the funds cannot be used for personal or re-election purposes.

Frith said the timing of the contribution was coincidental. Also on Thursday, the CBIA donated $500,000 to another campaign committee, Let’s Rebuild California, which also is dedicated to passing the five bonds but is not controlled by any officeholder, he said.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said the builders’ $500,000 contribution is not illegal but that its timing is suspect.

“It looks bad,” Stern said. “You can’t say that there was an agreement… but it plays into people’s perceptions that decisions are not being made on the merits.”

State law limits campaign contributions to a lawmaker’s personal campaign account, but not to a candidate-controlled committee created to promote ballot measures.

Consumer Watchdog
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