You can thank L.A. Times reporter James Rainey for pursuing Friedman to ask if he felt any guilt about accepting a significant amount of money from a public agency:
Friedman didn’t return my calls, and New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis seemed pretty cool to my questions. I got the feeling, from her long silences, that she thought my questions were a little silly.
Then late Tuesday afternoon, Mathis called to say Friedman would return the $75,000. She said there had been “a misunderstanding.”
Times ethics guidelines allow staffers to take speaking fees only from “educational and other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and political activity are not a major focus.” The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which coughed up Friedman’s standard fee, hardly fits that bill.