Not so forest-friendly

Toni Atkins and multitudinous dollars of special interests

Developer Jennifer LeSar (left) has definitely benefited from governmental decisions made by her spouse, Toni Atkins — “colossal conflict of interest,” say some.
  • Developer Jennifer LeSar (left) has definitely benefited from governmental decisions made by her spouse, Toni Atkins — “colossal conflict of interest,” say some.

State senator Toni Atkins had plenty of food, drink, and travel in 2016, thanks to the multitudinous dollars of special interests. Her personal financial report filed for last year shows she received greater than $100,000 from an outfit called LeSar Development Consultants, owned by Atkins’s spouse, Jennifer LeSar.

Their relationship has raised frequent conflict-of-interest questions regarding Atkins’s proposals to raise fees to subsidize low-income housing projects that are a major source of LeSar’s income. “(LeSar and Atkins) are just pocket-liners, cut from the Clinton cloth,” the Union-Tribune quoted San Diego homeless advocate Monica Ball as saying in a February 6, 2017, story about the allegations. “Talk about a colossal conflict of interest.”

In addition to LeSar’s main business, she owns half of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, for which the disclosure does not provide a valuation or income details. Income sources of greater than $10,000 for the ventures include the Port of San Diego, San Diego city-owned Civic San Diego, the San Diego Housing Commission, the California Department of Community Services, and 61 other governmental and non-profit entities. Senate lawyers have ruled that because Atkins’s legislation doesn’t earmark the proceeds of the proposed new fees and taxes for any particular beneficiary, she is not breaking state conflict laws.

In addition to the big housing money, Atkins also collected $200 in tickets and golf fees from insurance giant Farmers, a $48 meal from the San Diego Housing Federation, and $381 worth of meals and lodging from the Forest Foundation of Sacramento. On the Forest Foundation board sit a bevy of timber industry executives, including those from Mendocino Redwood Company, Sierra Pacific Industries, and Green Diamond Resource Company.

The pro-logging group has faced controversy over its generous payments to former Texas A&M University professor Thomas M. Bonnicksen, who provides favorable legislative testimony. The biggest private payoffs for Atkins came from the Association of California Life & Health Insurance Companies, which anted up $1264 in lodging and meals for a two-day stay at Pebble Beach beginning last October 24. A month before that, the California Dental Association came up with $3002 in lodging, meals, and travel for a three-day Atkins jaunt to New York City.

Last year, Atkins ran fellow Democrat Marty Block out of his seat by dint of superior campaign fundraising as then-speaker of the Assembly. To keep her hold on her lucrative office, Atkins is throwing a high-dollar fundraising lunch for herself at the Catamaran on Mission Bay, Friday, May 12. With a minimum contribution of $250, more ambitious donors can spend as much as $4400 for the “co-chair level,” with ten seats at the table thrown in.

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The conflicts of interest between elected public official Toni Atkins and her private enterprise spouse Jennifer LeSar are as numerous as they are shockingly tolerated. But it was a surprise to read that logging lobbyists who make gifts to Atkins also pay Texas professors for "favorable testimony" before our State Legislature. There is no end to the payola.Too bad Marty Bloc got shut out of the circle jerk.

She's just another example of a Dem liberal--or so she would have the voters and supporters believe--who is for sale to the highest bidder. She's doing the same sort of things her soul sister Susan Davis is doing on the federal level. While it's difficult to win elections without a lot of money, and that favor-seekers are the best source of funds, a few of the elected officials do manage to avoid becoming complete sell-outs. She is not one of those few.

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