Aguilar also strongly defended the organization's integrity. "To say that just because we got a stipend from Mercury Insurance" that bought their support, Aguilar said, is simply wrong. "Money comes from somewhere."
Greenlining's allies in various campaigns to protect low-income communities say they're willing to give the group the benefit of the doubt. Joshua Arce, executive director of the SF-based Brightline Defense Project, doesn't think donations from Mercury Insurance influenced the group's position, noting that it has also received contributions from PG&E and AT&T then subsequently joined campaigns that opposed those companies' practices.
Instead, he said Greenlining was probably just offering support to the measure because Mercury had addressed Greenlining's criticism of Prop. 17 two years ago. "That's one of the things about Greenlining," Arce told us, "they say, 'If you fix all the things we laid out, if you address them, then we'll support it." Yet Court said the minor changes made between Props. 17 and 33 shouldn't have won over such a potentially influential ally. "I'm told they're going to use Greenlining in the commercial. It's clearly a transactional relationship," Court said. "When the billionaire behind Mercury Insurance says it, it's hard to believe, but it's easier to believe coming from an organization called Greenlining."