California AG’s wife appointed to oversee husband’s budget as ethics experts raise red flags

California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s wife has been appointed to lead a budget committee that oversees and helps determine the spending of her husband’s department, prompting ethical concerns about a potential conflict of interest. California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon recently tapped Assemblymember Mia Bonta, the attorney general’s wife, to serve as the chairwoman of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5, according to local NBC affiliate KCRA. The subcommittee focuses on how taxpayer dollars are used by the state’s various public safety agencies — including the California Department of Justice. Rendon and both Bontas are all Democrats. “It should raise eyebrows,” Bob Stern, former general counsel for California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), told KCRA. “What’s going on with them? It seems to me they have a tin ear about ethics.”  LIBERAL CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS SLAMMED FOR PROPOSING STUDENTS IN MEXICO RECEIVE IN-STATE COLLEGE TUITION Stern clarified there was nothing illegal about Rendon’s appointment of Mia Bonta but argued the state’s top law enforcement official should have a problem with it nonetheless. “Particularly as attorney general, he should have the highest ethical standards of any governmental official,” said Stern. “He should set an example for everyone else.” While not breaking any laws, the decision may still present a conflict of interest, according to experts. “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,” Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor at the University of Pacific, told KCRA. “If she did recuse herself on that, 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.” CALIFORNIA’S NEWSOM SLAMMED AFTER SNIPING AT GOV. SARAH SANDERS OVER ARKANSAS’ ‘PUBLIC SAFETY’ Fox News Digital has reached out to the attorney general’s office for comment. Rendon defended his decision in a statement. “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,” said Rendon. “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.” The budget subcommittee has its first hearing on Feb. 27 and is scheduled to meet to discuss the Department of Justice on March 27. Mia Bonta told KCRA that she does not have unilateral authority to make decisions about allocating the budget. CALIFORNIA PROPOSAL WOULD REINSTATE PRISONERS’ VOTING RIGHTS “The suggestion of a conflict of interest shows a lack of understanding about the legislative process,” she said. “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.” Still, some Twitter users were quick to express outrage.  “Out of the 40 million people in California, the person chosen to lead a legislative committee that oversees the budget of Attorney General Rob Bonta is the wife of Attorney General Rob Bonta,” tweeted Kevin Dalton, who ran unsuccessfully for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last year. Rendon’s appointment is not the first time that the Bontas have faced ethical concerns. In 2020, CalMatters reported Rob Bonta, who was an assemblyman at the time, created a foundation that contributed thousands of dollars to a non-profit of which Mia Bonta was CEO. Stern at the time said the transaction should have been illegal, and the FPPC has since tightened regulations and now requires more transparency in such situations. Bonta’s attorney general campaign has provided $14,940 to his wife’s campaigns for State Assembly, according to campaign finance reports.

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