Who Donated $50,000 to an Orange County Archery Range and Why Does It Matter?
An anonymous $50,000 donation for an archery range in Fountain Valley’s Mile Square Park has ignited a debate over donor transparency and concerns that nameless contributions could be used to influence county electeds.
Orange County supervisors voted to accept the money on Oct. 31. The name of the donor was not revealed. Voting to accept the funds were Supervisors Michelle Steel, Lisa Bartlett, Shawn Nelson, and Andrew Do, whose district is home to the park in question.
“Maybe there’s too much transparency,” said Nelson, arguing that donors may be more willing to give if their identities are kept secret.
Todd Spitzer voted not to accept the funds.
“Everything I’ve done in government, you have to trace the acceptance of dollars to a donor. It’s just – it goes with the fact of life of government. And so when I see we’re taking 50,000 from an anonymous donor, I’m like, that’s generous – I don’t question the benevolence, necessarily – but it makes me incredibly uncomfortable ‘cause I don’t know the source."
Thanks to media pressure, the identity of the donor was ultimately revealed to the public. Voice of OC reports that he is a wealthy businessman whose company has had to seek approvals from the county before.
“Spokespeople for the county and its independently-elected financial watchdog, Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery, said they were looking into any current business connections,” Voice of OC reports. Woolery conceded that “donations such as these have the potential to curry favor with officials while evading the spirit of various ethics rules and limits.”