State Sen. Kevin de León's daughter landed a job last year with an organization whose proposal he was shepherding through the Legislature after he called the group on her behalf.
De León called the nonprofit Greenlining Institute and asked if his daughter could apply for a position there, according to Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Berkeley-based organization, which advocates for minority communities. The senator's daughter, now 21, obtained a summer job as a consultant with the institute in June.
The Los Angeles Democrat introduced Greenlining's bill in February 2014 and was steering it through legislative committees when his daughter started work.
The bill, proposed by Greenlining and four other nonprofits, ultimately was approved by lawmakers and signed into law by the governor. Part of a plan to put more "green" cars on the road, it will increase state subsidies for poor Californians who want to buy or lease electric and hybrid vehicles.
The senator's daughter worked for the institute as a contractor for 10 weeks, leaving on Aug. 29. Greenlining paid her a total of $4,750, Mirken said. At the time, she was on summer break from her studies at a Catholic college in the Bay Area.
De León, a champion of green energy, was chosen as Senate leader in June; it is not clear when he called Greenlining. Both he and Mirken declined to say who received the call or when.
In a statement, De León said Greenlining's hiring of his daughter was not connected to his support for the bill that the institute co-sponsored. He cited his history of working with groups including Greenlining on environmental legislation.
"Last year, I asked a Greenlining representative if they were still accepting summer internship applications. That's it," De León said. "My day job doesn't preclude me from being a father to my daughter and providing advice to her. But anything she's accomplished professionally in her fledgling career, she's accomplished on her own.
"Any suggestion otherwise insults her hard work and is profoundly disrespectful," De León said. "Implying a connection between my long legislative record and her recent summer internship is patently false."
Mirken said the institute did not feel pressured to hire De León's daughter, Lluvia Carrasco, and she never became involved in lobbying for the Greenlining bill.
"Well before she applied, the senator asked if his daughter could apply for a job here," Mirken said. "We said, 'Yes, of course,' as we'd say to anyone. That was it."
Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said de León's action appeared inappropriate for an elected official. "Parents pick up the phone for their kids all the time. But they are not leaders of the Senate who are carrying sponsored bills," said Levinson, who is vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
Greenlining's Leadership Academy for college students and others attracts some 600 applicants for 18 positions each year, according to Mirken. He said Carrasco was hired separately from that program and did not compete with 600 people.
Her pay and 10-week term were the same as those offered in the competitive program.
At Greenlining, Mirken said, Carrasco did "some research on environmental issues, which obviously her dad plays a role in, but it wasn't any of the stuff he was working on."
She was also "scouting issues that we might delve into that we mostly decided not to," he said.
According to its mission statement, the Greenlining Institute works to "advance economic opportunity and empowerment for people of color." Its major financial supporters include AT&T, Wells Fargo Bank and J.P. Morgan.
On Feb, 21, 2014, De León introduced SB 1275 on behalf of Greenlining and the other groups that had brought him the idea: Environment California, Communities for a Better Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Coalition for Clean Air.
SB 1275 "was an active partnership between the five sponsorship organizations and Senator De León's office," said Maxwell Baumhefner, an attorney for the NRDC.
The measure requires that the state Air Resources Board develop a funding plan to meet the state's goal of putting 1 million zero-emission and near-zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2023. There are some 120,000 such vehicles in California now, according to Environment California.
The board, which gives out rebates for such purchases through a contractor, will provide extra credit for low-income and moderate-income drivers under the terms of the bill.
The Greenlining Institute will not benefit financially from the rebate program, Mirken said.