Schwarzenegger Accepted Contributions From Cited Nursing Home Operator
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has accepted a total of $67,300 in campaign contributions from Emmanuel Bernabe, a nursing home operator who has been fined $285,000 by state regulators since Schwarzenegger became governor, according to campaign finance reports, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Bernabe, who owns or has interest in 35 California nursing homes, gave $10,000 to Schwarzenegger's campaign in 2003. Pleasant Care, Bernabe's nursing home company, gave $35,000 to a Schwarzenegger campaign account for ballot initiatives and $22,300 to Schwarzenegger's 2006 re-election committee. Bernabe also is a "significant donor" to other Republicans, the Times reports.
The Department of Health Services has taken a series of actions dating back to 1999 to block Bernabe and his partners from acquiring nursing homes. Although some of Bernabe's homes have been "relatively problem-free," the DHS has cited a number of his facilities for patient neglect leading to bedsores, falls and in some cases death, the Times reports. Bernabe's facilities also have been cited for poor record keeping.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) in March filed a 13-count complaint against a Pleasant Care facility in Napa, alleging that residents were neglected and that their health was at risk. Pleasant Care pleaded not guilty. The facility has been closed.
Eleven of Bernabe's facilities have been cited at least 51 times during the Schwarzenegger administration. Pleasant Care is disputing two "AA" citations, which are the most severe citations issued by DHS. Residents died in both cases.
Brenda Klutz, the DHS official who oversees nursing homes, said, "The record is very clear and speaks for itself. There is a clear indication that we believe they have serious compliance problems, problems providing care."
Marty Wilson, a top political aide and fund-raiser for Schwarzenegger, said, "To the best of our knowledge, [Bernabe] has never asked for help, and we did check within the administration." Wilson added, "We are reviewing information on the donor."
Pleasant Care in a statement said Bernabe donated money to the governor out of "personal admiration and a degree of identification based on similar life experiences." The statement added, "It goes without saying that [Bernabe] expects no special consideration in return for any of these contributions and neither he nor any business with which he is associated has ever received such consideration."
Patricia McGinnis, executive director of the San Francisco-based California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said Schwarzenegger should put the contributions "into the licensing and certification unit, so that people in Bernabe's nursing homes aren't neglected. Put it into enforcement" (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 6/20).