By Joe Schoffstall | Fox News
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's campaign donors landed billions of dollars in state contracts last year, an investigation has found.
The lucrative contracts went to nearly 1,000 entities that showered Newsom's campaign with almost $11 million since 2010.
The generous campaign donors, in turn, hauled in more than $6 billion in contracts from the state of California in 2021, according to an audit by government transparency group OpenTheBooks.
"The Golden State is the Wild West when it comes to the lack of pay-to-play prohibitions," OpenTheBooks founder Adam Andrzejewski told Fox News Digital. "Even in Illinois, state contractors of more than $50,000 are barred from giving in the governor's race. Since that law was instituted, no Illinois governors have been indicted.
"Major California corporations entrenched with public-private marketplace monopolies are recycling a portion of their profits back into political donations to Newsom," Andrzejewski said. "Although legal at arm's length, the pattern is troubling, and many people across the spectrum will find it highly unethical."
According to the investigation, the 979 state vendors that contributed to Newsom's campaigns and received the contracts include health care, utility and telecom companies. Law firms and big banks also were identified by the group.
The top 30 vendors accounted for over $5 billion in contracts, the audit shows. Those vendors, meanwhile, had pushed more than $1.5 million into Newsom's campaign coffers from their companies, affiliated PACs, key executives, employees, partners and/or affiliates.
Anthem Blue Cross was one of the biggest winners. Last year, the company received $844 million in contracts after its employees and affiliated entities provided $70,000 to Newsom's campaigns.
Centene Corporation and its affiliate Health Net raked in $206 million in contracts after its employees and groups donated nearly $243,000 to the governor.
Pacific Gas & Electric, whose workers and affiliates provided $123,000 to Newsom's campaign, received $323 million in contracts in 2021, while UnitedHealth Group employees and entities gave $120,000 to Newsom's campaigns and received $544 million in contracts last year.
"The state makes all contracting decisions based on the best interests of the state and its residents," a spokesperson for Newsom's office told Fox News Digital.
The watchdog group had to file hundreds of records requests to conduct its analysis.
"In the home of Silicon Valley, a $1.1 billion state government investment into an accounting and transparency platform still couldn't get their state checkbook posted online," Andrzejewski said. "Our team of auditors accomplished the task with 442 sunshine requests over the last four months."
OpenTheBooks said its findings show the Golden State needs a "statewide, pay-to-play prohibition."
"Major corporations with quasi-state monopolies in their given industries are recycling millions of their profit dollars back into the politicians," the watchdog said. "This practice is legal in California today, but that doesn't mean the public will find it ethical."