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CA Dem Gubernatorial Candidate Accused of Using Campaign Funds for Spouse’s Austria Trip

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Gavin Newsom, the current governor of California, is hoping to be succeeded by a California legislator who wants to become California’s first LGBTQ Governor. She may, however, have already run into a roadblock due to the scrutiny surrounding her use of campaign money.

According to a Politico article, Toni Atkins paid her wife’s business thousands of dollars as campaign funds. The money was used to fund a trip in 2022 to Vienna, Austria.

Disclosures reviewed by POLITICO reveal that Toni Atkins is a powerful former San Diego legislative leader who paid $22,500 to Global Policy Leadership Academy. Her long-time spouse Jennifer LeSar is the CEO and sole shareholder of the academy. Atkins said the money would be used to fund a trip in 2022 to Vienna, Austria.

California law prohibits officeholders from using funds raised for campaign purposes to give money to their spouse or domestic partner. LeSar owns a portfolio that includes affordable housing and economic growth companies, including the Global Policy Leadership Academy.

Ann Ravel is a former chair of the Federal Election Commission in Washington, and the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento, both agencies that monitor campaign finance. She told POLITICO that the money Atkins sent the Global Policy Leadership Academy – a for-profit company – was not legal.

She said that any money donated from campaign funds should be directly and reasonably related to a legislative, political, or government purpose. Ravel, after reviewing Atkins’s payment, said that “this is not the case.”

Atkins’ campaign denied that the money had been illegally spent. Evan Westrup, a spokesperson for the campaign, explained to Politico that the seminar’s goal was to help leaders find solutions for housing issues and homelessness in California, a major problem. He stated that “GPLA nor the spouse of the senator received any net financial benefit” from the seminar.

Westrup insists that funds are used for seminar expenses.

He argued that the fact you cite information revealed in public documents regarding Senator Brown’s participation at this seminar shows her commitment to not only transparency but also making housing affordable for Californians.

The report states that Atkins’ disclosure form highlighted the funds.

Atkins announced her candidacy for governor in 2026 in January.

Atkins, a democrat from San Diego, walked on stage to McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and a crowd chanting “Toni.” She announced her candidacy and stated that she would continue to focus on affordable housing, healthcare, and other issues.

Atkins stated that it was time to elect a female governor in California. As the most qualified woman running for governor who is also a woman, Atkins agreed.

Atkins, the first openly homosexual woman to serve as California’s Senate leader, lost her Senate seat in July and announced that she would not seek reelection.

She released a statement in September addressing California’s homeless crisis. “This was another difficult year. Between the homelessness crises, a tight budget forecast, and damaging storms caused by a warmer climate, our work was cut out for us. “Despite these challenges, my Democratic Senate co-workers and I have continued to protect the state’s progress by advocating for new approaches to mental health, housing, homelessness, and infrastructure issues,” she said.

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