SACRAMENTO — A federal allegation that state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon tried to hide a $25,000 bribe in a charity run by his brother has shed light on the use of nonprofits by California legislators to collect cash out of public view.
Some nonprofits, set up with the stated purpose of aiding a charitable or social cause, are also being used to benefit an elected official's career, public image or personal finances, say advocates for open government.
Several current and former California politicians or their relatives have established nonprofits in recent years. Some spent more money on travel, meals or entertainment than on direct assistance to their causes, according to their tax filings.
"This has become a huge loophole," a way to skirt campaign finance laws, said Jessica Levinson, an elections law professor at Loyola Law School.
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