By Matt Potter
An El Cajon firm headed by former Democratic state senator Steve Peace has been raking in big bucks from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. According to state campaign finance disclosure records, J.S. Peace & Associates reported getting $60,000 from the public employees union in January, another $60,000 in March, and $40,000 in May, for a total of $160,000 during the first six months of this year. The purpose of the expense was reported as campaign consulting. Peace, onetime director of finance for ousted Democratic governor Gray Davis, has enjoyed long and friendly relations with the state prison guards, who have been major backers of his nonprofit California Independent Voter Project, a group that played a key role in getting voters to approve the state’s new nonpartisan primary system and each fall conducts a controversial shindig on Maui for lobbyists and members of the California legislature. Besides the prison union, event bankrollers reportedly have included Southern California Edison, big tobacco’s Altria, Pacific Gas and Electric, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Chevron.
Peace’s group uses the corporate and union cash to pick up the tab for the politicians, some of whom have subsequently reimbursed the organization after newspaper exposés focused public attention on the practice. This year the confab drew more media attention than usual, with the Sacramento Bee editorializing, “As expected, these lawmakers are attempting to dismiss any suggestion they will be inappropriately influenced by hanging out at the beach, pool and bar by interests that have a multimillion-dollar stake in legislative decisions.… Our view is: Lawmakers already have plenty of opportunity to mingle with experts and special interests in Sacramento. They don’t need to do it in Maui.”
As a nonprofit rather than a political committee, Peace’s project is not legally required to reveal its contributors’ names and as a result keeps most financial details to itself. According to its latest federal disclosure, filed with the Internal Revenue Service on July 19 and covering 2010, the organization received a total of $2,166,875 in contributions and grants. It had total expenses of $2,807,253. David Takashima, onetime Peace chief of staff and a former director of government affairs for utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric, is president and chief executive.
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