Lockyer’s Approval of Grant to Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights Criticized
Some Republicans are criticizing Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) for approving a two-year, $200,000 grant to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which has been critical of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) fund-raising activities and policies since he took office last year, the Sacramento Bee reports. FTCR's Health Consensus Project, which holds town hall meetings around the state to discuss ways to expand health coverage, will use the grant.
The grant money comes from an $85 million antitrust settlement against six major vitamin manufacturers for alleged international price-fixing. The funding from the settlement, which Lockyer announced in October 2000, was distributed by consumer activist Harry Snyder, who screened applications from charitable organizations. According to the Bee, about two dozen other groups received funds "without generating controversy."
Lockyer approved the grant to FTCR last year. According to the Bee, the move has "raised eyebrows" among some Republicans, as both Lockyer -- who is considering a campaign to run for governor next year -- and FTCR recently have increased their criticism of Schwarzenegger.
Karen Hanretty, a spokesperson for the California Republican Party, said, "I think it's outrageous that Bill Lockyer would abuse the power of the attorney general's office to benefit a partisan political shill like Harvey Rosenfeld," FTCR's founder. She added, "Lockyer knows exactly who and what Harvey is all about, and it's to Lockyer's advantage to make sure he's well funded."
Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) said, "This is not unique to California, but politicians can be very creative in finding ways to hand out money. This incident raises serious questions. Close scrutiny is imperative any time politicians are the beneficiary of something like this. [FTCR is] well-known for the political stances they take and their political activity, which is very much on the left."
Snyder said each organization that applied for grant money from the settlement was thoroughly checked. He added that FTCR applied for money in 2002, before Schwarzenegger took office.
"This is not funding whatever activities the governor or others might have problems with. This is a public education project, and it's expanding the debate and dialogue about health care issues today," Snyder said.
Lockyer spokesperson Tom Dresslar said, "The foundation's fight with the governor is irrelevant to this case. These funds will finance health care advocacy, not guerrilla political warfare against the governor. The settlement monies were supposed to be allocated to such programs."
Jamie Court, executive director of FTCR, said that the grant money is not being used to fund any partisan activities, adding, "What we have to do on this grant is organize something from our California Health Consensus Project. To do that, we've got to do town halls, public education through the media and then bringing together different stakeholders to talk about different solutions -- all on access for the uninsured."
Rosenfeld declined to comment. Schwarzenegger spokesperson Rob Stutzman also declined to comment (Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, 4/14).