California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has appointed Asm. Mia Bonta, wife of CA Attorney General Rob Bonta, to chair Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5, which controls funding for many of California’s public safety agencies, including the one her husband heads, the Department of Justice. All three officeholders, unsurprisingly, are Democrats.
Mia Bonta was elected to her office in 2021 when her predecessor was appointed to higher office by Gov. Gavin Newsom. That predecessor? Her husband.
Rendon sees nothing wrong with this arrangement, releasing a statement saying there’s no way that Mia Bonta can have any influence on helping her husband via this assignment:
“I believe Ms. Bonta will continue to be independent and unbiased in her legislative judgment, as she has been since starting her service in the Assembly. The Legislature has a robust and transparent budget process, designed with checks and balances to ensure the best possible budget is passed. Our final Assembly budget proposal must be identical to the Senate, and will be approved or vetoed by the governor. Additionally, we can’t set salaries or benefits for state constitutional officers, so no elected official can ever personally or financially benefit from our budget process.”
Almost nothing Rendon says in this statement is an accurate reflection of how things happen in Sacramento, where a Democrat supermajority rules with an iron fist. The budget process is anything but transparent. There are laws on the books that, in theory, create a transparent process, but the legislature routinely votes to set aside those safeguards in the final days and weeks of the budget process so members can partake in back room deals and gut-and-amend existing bills to get around the normal process of citizen and committee input. Detailing all of the ways California Democrats completely flip off the taxpayers during the budget process would take hours, though, so we’ll leave it at that one example.
Whether or not the legislature sets salaries or benefits for state constitutional officers is irrelevant to whether they personally or financially — or politically — benefit from the budget process. That is apparent to anybody with half a brain, which might exclude Rendon.
The decades of unchecked political power California Democrats have enjoyed have skewed their perception of what’s ethical and unethical; they’ve constantly redefined the term and have no self-awareness. As Bob Stern, former general counsel for the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political ethics watchdog, told local news station KCRA:
“It [Mia Bonta’s appointment] should raise eyebrows. What’s going on with them? It seems to me they have a tin ear about ethics.”
In a statement, Mrs. Bonta essentially called anyone who questioned the propriety of the arrangement ignorant and predicted that there would be great funding for gun control efforts, something her husband is a big fan of (though he’s famously not very concerned about protecting the state’s gun owners from being doxxed):
“My district is home to the City of Oakland, where gun violence disproportionately ravages communities of color. I have made promoting public safety and reducing recidivism legislative priorities of mine, as these issues are critically important to my constituents.”
“The suggestion of a conflict of interest shows a lack of understanding about the legislative process. My focus is on continuing to fight for safe communities with an unbiased lens and unwavering commitment my constituents expect, and I look forward to taking on this work with my colleagues in the Assembly, State Senate, and Governor’s administration.”
That Mia Bonta doesn’t see that her chairing the committee that controls the purse strings of her husband’s department can raise questions about a conflict of interest is telling, and her outright dismissal of any concern is distressing but not unexpected. She should at least be able to admit that her chairing the committee can give the appearance of conflict. Lord knows that if this story had to do with a conservative or a Trump, the leftists would be losing their minds.
Indeed, as Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor at the University of Pacific, notes, it isn’t illegal for Mia Bonta to chair the committee, but:
“One of the things we worry about with respect to conflicts of interest is not only whether it violates the letter of the law, but whether there’s an appearance of impropriety and whether there’s the idea there would be some distrust in the government.
“If she did recuse herself on [Department of Justice funding issues], I think people would still feel like, ‘Well she’s the chair,’ she may still have influence over other members who are on the committee.”
The Bontas don’t have a great track record with avoiding the appearance of impropriety and are well-acquainted with novel ways to use elected office to benefit their bottom line. A 2020 investigative report by Cal Matters’ Laurel Rosenhall revealed the Bontas’ process. In 2017 and 2018 then-Asm. Rob Bonta solicited $75,000 in donations “from interest groups that lobby him at the Capitol” to a nonprofit organization that he and Mia founded, “The Bonta California Progress Foundation,” which claims to “support community programs and give scholarships to needy students.” Then,
In one of its first acts of charity in 2018, the assemblyman’s foundation gave $25,000 to Literacy Lab, a nonprofit where Mialisa Bonta at the time was earning a six-figure salary as CEO.
When caught, Rob Bonta claimed that the $25,000 was a loan, although that was not reflected in the foundation’s tax return – which he promised he’d correct right away.
California’s Republicans better keep a close eye on Department of Justice funding with these two in charge.
Trending on RedState Video