California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that there was no conflict of interest between his administration and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s filmmaking work, following a Sacramento Bee report that donors to her nonprofit also were companies that have lobbied his administration.
“Absolutely none whatsoever. There is no correlation. Period. Full stop,” Newsom told reporters Friday.
The Sacramento Bee reported that a nonprofit Siebel Newsom founded, The Representation Project, which has promoted her causes, financed her documentary films and paid her $290,000 annual salary also has received donations from a host of companies that have lobbied the administration or are involved in significant regulatory issues before the state. They include PG&E, — which has admitted fault in several massive CA wildfires — and Kaiser Permanente which has done at least $35M in business with the state in the past two-and-a-half years — as well as AT&T and Comcast.
A week after Newsom was elected governor in 2018, there was a glitzy fundraiser for The Representation Project. Pacific Gas & Electric was acknowledged as a “champion donor,” according to the Bee. That designation required a $25,000 donation. AT&T and Comcast, telecoms fighting for market share in heavily-regulated California, each gave $10,000.
The companies denied that there was a connection to their donations and to Newsom’s work before the state, but a concern of campaign-finance reform advocates has been the practice of making donations to charities aligned with elected officials to get in their favor. The governor said he’s not worried.
“I am incredibly proud of my wife,” Newsom said. “She has been running a nonprofit for well over a decade, well before my time here in Sacramento. And I am really proud of the work in particular around gender equality, woman and girls.”
In late 2020, Newsom barred his political consultants from lobbying his administration. In March, he extended the ban to include his unpaid political advisers which, one assumes, would include his spouse.
He said that his wife “adheres, certainly going further in terms of disclosures, we certainly expect nothing less. I expect nothing less.”
Per the Bee:
The Representation Project financed the films by making payments to Siebel Newsom’s film company, Girls Club Entertainment, records show. For example, a tax return filed for the 12 months ending in March 2019 shows the nonprofit paid Girls Club $150,000 for “writer/producer/director” services. Siebel Newsom also drew a $150,000 salary that year from the nonprofit.
Newsom said that his wife’s work has been “inspiring not only here” in the state but “around the world.” The Representation Project’s mission to shift public attitudes around gender. Some of the documentary projects include Miss Representation, The Mask You Live In and The Great American Lie.