SACRAMENTO - What do $3.70 lattes, an Indian casino and a BMW dealership have in common?
An obscure California agency thinks they're all public benefits worth tax-free money.
The agency, the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, issued about $4.2 billion in tax free bonds in 2007, ranking behind only the states of California, Ohio and New York.
County supervisors and city council members statewide formed the agency. Last year, their political associations pocketed $4 million from it.
The Bay Area businessmen who staff it made even more. They collected $10 million.
For 20 years, they have operated out of the public view, using a public agency to help finance their special interests while siphoning off tax revenue for projects of dubious public value.
They have taken a public agency and made it a private benefit.
"This is the ultimate in invisible government," said Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, who's been suspicious of the agency since he was a Fullerton City Councilman in the 1990s.
"It's kind of the worst of both worlds," he said, "public and private."
For more on this article, go to The Orange County Register