Flash Report: Lara Behested Money to Charity He Ran

By: Dale Debber and Bess Shapiro
CWCI 55th Annual Meeting March 21, 2019 Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara
Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara

In what is becoming a pattern of continuing crookery there is yet another story in the Ricardo Lara chronicles of corruption. He directed Funds to a Charity when he was CEO.

Embattled Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara directed contributors to give hundreds of thousands of dollars — more than $840,000 — to nonprofit organizations so far during his career.   Amazingly, Lara served as the CEO of one of those 501(C)3 nonprofits which received funds at his behest.

He sat on the board of at least one of charity during the time he was acting to behest the funds between the charities.  More telling is one particular charity where the intake and expenses were by so a wide margin larger than its charitable contributions as to be potentially unconscionable.

The largest recipient of Lara behested donations was the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation. The Foundation’s website identifies it as a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt, charitable, nonprofit corporation. It received 88 behested donations totaling $495,750 between 2012 and 2015. Lara served as CEO of the organization from 2013, through 2015. And those years are the focus of this story.

It is a story not only about the behests but, more importantly, about what happened to the money. Where it went, and how little of it went to charity, particularly in 2014, tells the real story of intent.

Behests to Lara’s Own Organization

According to publicly available documents, the organization’s mission is the “promotion and support of Latino culture in California, increased participation of Latinos and Latinas in California society, to educate the public about Latino culture and heritage issues of importance to Latinos and Latinas in California.”

The Data

In 2013, Cash carried over from the previous year was $106,497. Total contributions for the year equaled $273,094. Of that, behests directed by Lara totaled $241,000 some 88% of the total received.  On the spend side, $135,525 was categorized as expenses. Some $52,121 went to a paid fundraiser, and some $37,000 was spent on other expenses related to putting on fundraising events. Only 20% of the money it raised – $54,800 – went to charity. At the end of the year, some $207,144 was on hand in cash. The pattern of conduct is repeated in the following years.

In 2014, the full year in which Lara was in charge, is the most interesting year and the one with the most questionable expenses.  The year began with $207,144 carried over from 2013. Total new contributions were $192,450 of which behests from Lara totaled $181,250 or 94%.  That means $399,594 in cash in the bank. Of that, Lara spent $296,693. The most significant single expense was Conferences, Conventions, and Meetings at a cost of $125,986. Other travel was $14,123. But when it comes to its core mission, Lara spent only $69,500, as gifts to other charities representing 36% of the year’s contributions, or 17% of the cash on hand. During 2014, Lara spent $137,211 more than the organization received, little of it on charity and nearly twice as much on conventions and travel. He ended the year with only $69,933.

During 2015, the last year Lara served as CEO, the Foundation has cash from the previous year of $69,933, and it recorded contributions totaling $286,500.  Its expenses totaled $174,861. Of those expenses, notable are Conferences, Conventions, and Meetings a little over $25,000 and charity of $75,100 – only 26% of the contributions it received. As for contributions it made, there were 25 $1000 scholarships and $50,000 to other charities. There was one contribution of $5000 at the behest of Lara.

The Foundation also donated on Lara’s behalf to the California Equality Institute. Lara sat on its Board during 2015 and 2016. Documents report that Lara did not take a salary from either charity.

Lara did accept campaign contributions from the insurance industry for both his assembly and senate runs according to data from the Secretary of State. He has been under scrutiny in recent weeks for accepting funds from people associated with Applied Underwriters’ and then making changes to legal decisions which benefited


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