Speaking of AT&T, this week the big telecommunications giant was back in the news for its involvement in another Latino organization, the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, the nonprofit entity that was set up to promote cultural awareness amongst Latinos in California. More specifically, the California Latino Legislative Caucus’s charity has been operating for the past two years without disclosing who its donors are. A list of donors to the group has not been named for 2009 and 2010.
According to Jim Sanders of The Sacramento Bee:
“The Latino Legislative Caucus two years ago stopped revealing which Capitol interest groups give hundreds of thousands of dollars to a nonprofit agency it controls.
As California’s fastest-growing minority group, Latinos have rising political clout. Twenty-three Latino Democratic lawmakers are in the legislative caucus, whose work extends to sponsoring community events through its foundation.
More than $856,000 was donated to the Latino nonprofit over a two-year period ending in 2008, including more than $706,000 that was solicited by then-caucus leader Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose.
Many of the biggest checks came from powerful Capitol players, ranging from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
Since then, solicitations have continued — but disclosure has stopped.
Donors were not identified in 2009, 2010 or thus far this year. Contributions totaled nearly $250,000 in 2009, the most recent year for which tax records are publicly available. Fundraising continues, however.”
And some of the biggest donors who were last identified for 2008 included AT&T, Oracle, Verizon and ConocoPhillips. All of these companies had bills before the state legislature that year.
Already, editorials are calling for the Latino Legislative Caucus to come clean and start disclosing who is donating to its foundation, even though it isn’t required to do so by law. If the group had disclosed donors in previous years and was able to function, why not continue in the spirit of transparency for the public?
Assemblyman Gil Cedillo is defending the group’s nondisclosure, but this isn’t a good way to build up goodwill with the public. Recent polls show that the public’s view of the legislature is poor; people are already distrustful of the environment in Sacramento. To regain some of the lost trust, California legislators need to embrace more transparency and openness with the people they purport to represent.
And finally, the fact that AT&T has been a donor to the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation in the past is no big surprise. The telecommunications corporation has been busy buying influence in the black and gay community as well.