Do We Want MID to Keep Giving Money to Lobbyists?
By Emerson Drake
Can it really be a coincidence MID gives money to organizations like the Alliance and the Chamber of Commerce and then representatives of these same organizations appear at MID meetings to promote the very arguments those who push the funding have? Consider what has happened recently when officials in the Alliance and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce stood many times both at the MID podium and at various organizations speaking in behest of the water sale, MID donates money and the representatives make their appearance.
MID is proposing to give the Alliance $20,000 again this year like they have in years past. MID also buys “pages” in the Chamber of Commerce’s publications at our expense and the Chamber Directors conveniently appear for MID meetings, Rotary, and the County Board meetings. It’s another example of the “good old boy” way to do business. They use OUR money to achieve their aims.
The Alliance’s IRS designation is that of a 501 (C) (6). Let’s just make it easy and call the m a 501C6. This enables them to spend their time and money on lobbying. The Chamber is the same. A type of non-profit, a little like SCAP (you remember them) was a non-profit. They can pay themselves any amount they choose and still pretend to the world their hands are clean.
The Alliance even refers to business donors as investors except for MID and maybe others because the paperwork I received from the Alliance doesn’t show a list of donors and/or amounts. Remember MID is supposed to be a non-profit and Allen Short was making over $200,000 yearly. Not bad for a non-profit.
According to Bill Bassitt the Alliance has three budgets. The money from the State and County seem to be closely accounted for but the business donations aren’t dealt with so clearly (or at all) as far as I can tell. Maybe he hasn’t sent me that budget yet. He did say they revise it monthly.
The idea of MID making the donations is to create more electric sales. I have to chuckle at a company who on one hand is supposed to be cutting back on both our rates and consumption and on the other hand is spending ratepayers money on selling more electricity. Especially interesting is the fact MID wrote over $2.5 M in bad debts to BUSINESSES who didn’t pay their bills last year. So ratepayers covered the losses created by businesses and now we’re being asked to pony up another $20,000 to attract more.
When I waded through the MID budget workshops I didn’t see the line item for giving Modesto Lobbyist Cecil Russel the Chamber’s donation, or the subsequent advertising purchases (page buys) that make the Chamber so happy with MID Directors Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild.
The County and the City both donate to the Alliance so I feel like I’m already getting taxed twice for these lobbyists. I don’t want to pay another user fee to MID so Tom and Glen can make nice with their buddies at the local watering hole while they’re playing pass the scotch.
The Oakdale Irrigation District on the other hand has cut them back to just $2,000 again this year. Personally I think the $2,000 is too much and that if Directors want to make a donation it should be out of their own wallet, not ours.
Yes, I do remember Bill Bassitt making the claim at the last MID meeting that OID was in this year for $10,000. But that was an intentional misstatement. Why should we be surprised, after all, he’s just another lobbyist.