The Santa Clara Family Health Foundation was created to help raise money to pay for poor children’s health insurance premiums. In recent years, however, the tax-exempt organization has also acted as a political entity, providing year-round help and coordination to the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA campaign organizations. While there are some allowances for tax-exempt organizations to get involved in issue campaigns, nonprofits and public agencies cannot participate in individual candidate campaigns. Kathleen King, executive director of the Health Foundation, has not always followed this rule.
A brief footnote in the District 5 county supervisor race last year was King’s bid for the seat. She bowed out in February 2012, and Joe Simitian went on to win the seat in the June primary. But in an email dated Aug. 2, 2011, King wrote a brief letter with the subject line, “My campaign,” to Health Foundation boardmember and state Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose).
In the note, King made an overture for Campos’ endorsement through her Health Foundation email account.
“Nora, I think I should send out some kind of announcement about my campaign,” King wrote. “Are you still willing to endorse me? Phaedra did but I am also going to check in with her about putting her in an announcement. I also have Jim Beall, Susie Wilson, Melinda Hamliton.”
The name “Phaedra” is almost certainly in reference to Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who was formerly a SBLC employee and executive director of Working Partnerships. She now runs Green For All, an anti-poverty tax-exempt organization based out of Oakland. Ellis-Lamkins was included in another email about Jed York and the San Francisco 49ers, as an SJI commenter noted.
King’s use of the public agency’s email to conduct campaign work for herself, an individual candidate, appears to be a clear violation of IRS law on campaign restrictions. It also violates state law (code 8314), as King is considered a public official and she was using a government email address. In an interview earlier this week, County Executive Jeff Smith said he considered the Health Foundation a public agency.
A little more than a year later, on Jan. 30, 2013, King was appointed to the State Dental Board by Gov. Jerry Brown. She notes in an email the next day to the Health Foundation board, “I would like to take the opportunity to thank our own board member, Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos for recommending me for this position.”