Hearst Castle waives fees for politically connected
October 22, 2012
While many California state parks battled to escape closure because of budget cuts, the crown jewel of the park system – Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo County– waived $611,000 in private event fees over the last decade for the politically connected, select individuals and certain organizations. [CaliforniaWatch]
Since 2002, Hearst Castle has been the venue of choice for 125 events ranging from weddings to fundraisers, birthday bashes to cocktail parties.
Nick Franco, superintendent for the state Department of Parks and Recreation’s San Luis Obispo Coast District waived $124,450 for the birthday party of former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and a charity race led by Maria Shriver while she was California’s first lady.
Two Central Coast parks – Limekiln State Park and Morro Strand State Beach – were set to close in July as the result of budget cuts, but both received reprieves through last-minute funding from a private parks management company and the district. A recent investigation revealed that the state parks department was not suffering as much as it claimed – it had been sitting on a $54 million surplus for years.
The rate for a three-hour event at Hearst Castle is $11,100, but that nearly doubles to $22,100 if more than 50 people are expected to attend. The ultimate decision of whether to charge the event fees is left up Franco, the district superintendent.
“There’s obviously politics that come into play with big events like that,” Franco told California Watch. “It plays into it when the first lady is one of the sponsors of the event.”