Eric Holder hired to “fight Trump” – San Fran Chronicle does not provide whole story

attorney-general-eric-holderWhen President Obama worked to pass the Affordable Care Act, the state of California did not hire a Washington attorney to fight for this legislation. As Obama was issuing the Dream Act, amnesty for illegal aliens, the state Legislature did not hire a Washington attorney to demand, at a $25,000 a month retainer, to use his office to overturn a vote of Congress for the amnesty. Sacramento has given the 38 million people of California some of the toughest, and least enforced, gun laws possible. The hacks of the Capitol were “so successful” that 1.3 million new guns were sold in the state in 2016.

Yet, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in an article on January 15, 2017, that the state of California, via the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, has hired a Washington, D.C., attorney to “fight” for California:

“California lawmakers are bracing for a fight against soon-to-be President Trump and top officials in his administration who have said they will push for policy and legal changes that would threaten several of the state’s progressive laws.

From immigration to gun control to environmental protections, the state finds itself at odds with Trump, who will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday. One of the biggest tools the federal government has is control of the purse strings. California is expected to receive $105 billion in federal dollars in the upcoming fiscal year, which includes $78 billion for various health and human services. The new administration, and the Republican-controlled Congress, can reward — and punish — states with the way it distributes federal dollars.

To prepare for any battles, the Legislature has hired a Washington, D.C., law firm headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.”

So, to get these “progressive policies” in the past, the California government used its 53 members of Congress, its two U.S. Senators, 80 Assembly members, 40 State Senators, the governor, the attorney general and the 1,600 attorneys in that office, along with the numerous state agencies.

Now that Donald Trump is to be the president, politicians in Sacramento, using tax dollars, have decided to hire a gun-runner, a former attorney general that authorized the sale of assault weapons to the Mexican drug cartels, to represent us in Washington. It is as if none of the thousands already being paid to do the job of representing us no longer exist. This has a smell of a political payoff rather than the hiring of an attorney.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, though a freshman, has figured it out and why this is wrong. “In a letter to the opinion unit of the state attorney general’s office, the Rocklin Republican and former deputy attorney general argued that hiring Holder as outside counsel violates Article VII of the California Constitution. Kiley said California courts have interpreted that section ‘as forbidding private contracting for services that are of a kind that persons selected through civil service could perform ‘adequately and competently’ ” – such as “assisting in defending California against federal actions,” a function of the attorney general.

“In light of these facts, I respectfully ask your legal opinion as to whether the 1,592 attorneys and legal staff at the State Attorney General’s Office can perform ‘adequately and competently’ the legal services for which Covington & Burling has been retained by the Legislature,'” Kiley wrote in a letter to the Attorney General’s Office.

Most headlines in the Times, Chronicle and Bee noted that Holder was hired “to fight” Donald Trump. Is that the role of the Legislature, to fight a president because they do not like him? Is that the proper use of tax dollars, when we have homeless, affordable housing, pension and a water crisis? The state of California has a close to a $2 billion planned deficit, yet the Democrats in the Legislature refuse to use current assets to hire an attorney with no credibility in a town with a Republican president, Congress and Senate? Even if this was a needed hire, the person hired is known as being ethically challenged. He lied to a court and got caught, using his office for political purposes.

From Techdirt, October 30, 2014:

“Holder was asked if there was a decision during his tenure that he regretted, and he brought up the Rosen story:

Holder: I think that — I think about the subpoena to the Fox reporter, Rosen. I think that I could have been a little more careful in looking at the language that was contained in the filing that we made with the court. He was labeled as a — as a co-conspirator. I mean, you had to do that as a result of the statute, but there are ways in which I think that could have been done differently, done better. And that’s one of the reasons why I thought the criticism that we received because of that — and the AP matter as well — was something that we had to act upon and why we put in place this review of our — the way in which we interact with the media.

Except, as Julian Sanchez points out, that’s completely bogus. Holder claiming they had to do that because of the statute is flat out opposites-ville. They had to do that because the statute doesn’t allow them to spy on journalists. The law was designed to stop the DOJ from spying on journalists, and so the only way to break that was to lie to the court. The law in question — 18 USC 793 is designed to only apply to the people actually committing the crime of leaking defense information — and not to reporters.”

Yes, not only did Holder lie to a court — he used his office to illegally spy on journalists.  Plus on other occasions he lied to Congress.

None of this was part of the Chronicle story — other than California is angry with the results of the elections and does not like it that Trump appears to be willing to keep his campaign promises. And, the fact, California taxpayers have been forced to hire one of the least likely people in Washington to get past the receptionist. The San Francisco Chronicle has a responsibility to fully explain the story. By leaving out who Holder really is and his record, it denies the readers of being able to make a judgement that the decision was good or bad.

Is this a man you would want pleading your case in Washington starting January 20, 2017? It is not California vs. Trump. It is Sacramento vs. California. And the Democrats have a supermajority. What could you do with $25,000 a month?

Stephen Frank is editor of the California Political News and Views section of California Political Review. 

California’s Government by Lottery

LotteryCalifornians can now “Play at the Pump.”

Under a new California Lottery initiative being rolled out across the state, we can purchase lottery tickets while buying gas, without even going inside. Presented with the options of “Play Lotto” or “Gas Only,” we’ll actually have to decline the opportunity to play before fueling our vehicles.

As a matter of principle, this intrusion of the lottery into our most routine of daily activities is hard to justify. Conservatives should balk at a state-run monopoly. Liberals should recoil at a regressive source of revenue. Californians of all political stripes should wonder why exactly our government is encouraging us to gamble. Morally dubious as it is, there is one argument for expanding the lottery: it generated $5.5 billion last year, $1.3 billion of which went to education. But a well-governed state should not have to fund its schools by enticing citizens – usually the poorest of citizens – into irrational economic decisions. That 10 percent of players accounts for 80 percent of sales lays bare the hidden social cost of the lottery.

What is more troubling, though, is that the California Lottery is not California’s only lottery.

Fiscal policy in our state is itself a grand game of chance. Every year, California’s politicians effectively buy a ticket and hope that the right numbers come up. Our tax system depends so deeply on capital gains and income from high earners that state revenue fluctuates wildly from year to year, and in an unpredictable fashion. A strong stock market performance or a well-timed IPO can mean the difference between a windfall surplus and unmanageable deficits. The result is not just budgetary chaos, but sluggish economic growth, diminished opportunity, and an uncertain future.

In a similar vein, the state’s largest manager of assets, CalPERS, has effectively thrown California’s long-term solvency into the POWERBALL. Entrusted with more than $300 billion and the benefits of 1.7 million employees, the agency minimizes both the amount of pension contributions and the reported size of liabilities by assuming a 7.5 percent investment return – a figure it must beat or unfunded liabilities will grow. Last year, the actual rate of return was 2.4 percent. This means that unless CalPERS hits the jackpot again and again, future debt will reach staggering levels, with taxpayers bearing all liability.

As a state, we can no longer afford to leave our future to chance. Just as buying reams of scratchers is poor financial planning for a person, lottery-like public policy is leading our state down an unsustainable path. A change of course is urgently needed. We must begin the hard work of reforming California’s core governing institutions in line with some basic guideposts: math, common sense, and an awareness of the future.

To start with, this means reforming our tax structure to produce stable revenue from a broad base, instead of relying on the stock market returns of the rich or the sale of lottery tickets to the poor. It means reforming our pension system to institute professional accounting and realistic projections, in place of gimmicks and can-kicking. And it means reforming the budget process to eradicate the rigid formulas and one-way ratchets that have caused state spending to double over the last 15 years.

Californians are not asking for the chance to Play at the Pump. We are asking for legislators to stop gambling with our state’s future.

Kevin Kiley is a candidate for the California State Legislature.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily