California Treasurer John Chiang has Helped Steer Millions in Tax Credits to his Developer Donors
According to The Sacramento Bee, California Treasurer John Chiang has helped award tens of millions in tax credits and bonds over the last decade to a handful of affordable housing developers who contributed to his political campaigns. In August, The Sacramento Bee reviewed the projects done by housing developers and found that Chiang has accepted more than $100,000 from firms that gained tax perks or bond financing from his actions, sometimes within weeks of the votes. Chiang has been preparing to run for governor next year and has used the companies and projects he supported to help promote himself at the expense of the taxpayers. For example, since 2013, Chiang voted to grant 9 percent tax breaks to three of Domus Development’s projects: Curtis Park Court, a senior community near Sacramento City College, as well as Sutter Place in Carmichael and Anchor Village in Stockton. Beginning that year same year, Domus Development’s top brass and its tax-credit equity syndicator contributed nearly $40,000 to Chiang’s campaign committees, including $7,500 toward his 2018 run for California governor. Chiang, in a prepared statement, stated:
As someone who has spent a career exposing billions in government waste and corruption, protecting the integrity of my office is paramount to me. Decisions by my office about where to invest public dollars are driven largely by mathematical formulas tied to getting taxpayers the most bang for their buck. The evaluation and scoring are done by professional staff who have nothing to do with or any knowledge as to who supports my campaigns.
Chiang has been campaigning on a platform of fiscal responsibility and empowering the public to hold government officials accountable. The types of tax perks Chiang supported for firms such as Domus, are difficult to obtain. Chiang’s votes helped steer more than $100 million in state and nearly $60 million in federal tax credits to Caleb J. Roope, president and chief executive of The Pacific Companies, and Pacific West Communities projects. The company made its first contribution in 2009 to Chiang and it has given $37,000 to Chiang to date, including the maximum $28,200 for governor late last year. However, Chiang is not the first treasurer to face questions about benefiting those who financed their political ambitions. Former Treasurer Matt Fong collected more than $177,000 from contributors who had a range of business before his office, the San Francisco Chronicle reported during his 1998 campaign for U.S. Senate. Fong used the money from developers, contractors and lawyers, some with pending tax credit applications, to build out his campaign early on. We will have to wait and see if Chiang’s efforts to gain donations will help or hurt is run for governor in 2018.