Five issues to watch in the California Legislature’s final month

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

State lawmakers return from summer break today to a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse and tens of thousands of people crowding into Capitol Mall for a free concert to urge passage of a trio of criminal justice bills.

Monday also marks the beginning of the end of session. Legislators have one month to get their bills to the governor’s desk before the Senate and Assembly call it quits for the year. It’ll be a busy time with plenty of action. Here’s our take on issues to watch as the session resumes:

▪ Housing: This tops the Legislature’s agenda this month, with Democrats hoping to reach a deal that includes long-term funding for affordable housing construction and regulatory changes to speed the development process. Democratic lawmakers say a housing package could be announced as soon as this week. At the core of the debate is financing: Can Democrats muster a two-thirds vote for a real estate fee and persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to sign off on a multibillion-dollar housing bond measure?

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Steve Bannon, former Hollywood Producer, Out at White House

President Trump’s controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving the White House, in another major staff shakeup announced at the close of another tumultuous week in Washington.

The White House confirmed in a brief statement that Bannon, a hardcore populist who often sparred with his West Wing colleagues, would make Friday his last day — just over a year after he joined the Trump presidential campaign.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

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Mainstream conservative groups alarmed to be found on ‘hate map’

As reported by the Washington Times:

Brad Dacus was thousands of miles away in California last weekend when the Charlottesville protest erupted, so he was flabbergasted when CNN labeled his Pacific Justice Institute a “hate group.”

“Here are all the active hate groups where you live,” said the CNN wire story headline on Chicago’s WGN-TV website.

The article listed the 917 organizations on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s much-disputed “hate map,” which names racist groups like the Aryan Nation alongside mainstream conservative organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.

Mr. Dacus’ conservative Sacramento-based institute, which specializes in religious-liberty cases, was featured on the CNN list right below the Pacific Coast Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. …

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Los Angeles approves plan to pay homeowners to house homeless

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

A pilot program that pays some Los Angeles County homeowners to build a second dwelling on their property to house homeless people was approved with a 4-0 vote Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Homeowners in unincorporated communities who qualify can receive up to $75,000 to build a second dwelling in areas zoned for such structures, while others may get $50,000 to update and legalize an existing dwelling.

The program was introduced last year as part of Los Angeles County’s set of 47 strategies to solve homelessness. The office of Regional Planning will work with several departments countywide with an allocated $550,000 in part to be used to offer subsidies.

Unlike a guest house, second dwellings include kitchens. …

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State ethics commission poised to help Democrats fight off recall effort

As reported by the L.A. Times:

The state’s campaign watchdog agency is poised on Thursday to open the spigot for large political contributions that would help an embattled Democratic state senator fend off a recall campaign, a change that opponents say is tainted by secret talks between a commissioner and a Democratic attorney.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission last month began the process of lifting the $4,400 limit on political contributions by elected officials to anti-recall campaigns. The change was requested by Democrats to help state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who is facing an effort to remove him from office after his vote in April for a $52-billion gas and vehicle tax package.

FPPC Commissioner Brian Hatch is facing criticism for communicating before the vote with an attorney for the Senate Democrats, Richard Rios, holding a private meeting and exchanging emails and text messages that appeared to strategize on passing the policy change.

Hatch, a Democrat and former firefighters’ union lobbyist, defended his communication with Rios, saying it was needed to counter what he saw as a bias in favor of keeping the existing policy — which Hatch said he saw as unfair — by commission staff and FPPC Chairwoman Jodi Remke. Hatch challenged the notion that a campaign to recall an official could receive unlimited contributions while those fighting a recall were subject to limits. …

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Should the LAPD use drones?

As reported by the L.A. Times:

For more than three years, a pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department was locked away, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.

Seattle police saw a similar backlash when they wanted to use the devices, grounding their drone program before it even took off. And recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s use of a drone has been criticized by activists as well as civilian oversight commissioners who want the agency to stop.

On Tuesday, the LAPD again waded into the heated debate, saying the department wanted to test the use of drones in a one-year pilot program.

Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to deploy the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates or police critics for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance and fears of military-grade, weaponized drones patrolling the skies. …

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John Cox Did Not Run Against Barack Obama – Contrary to His Claims

John Cox, who is running for Governor of California as a Republican, has been claiming to reporters that he once “ran against Barack Obama for U.S. Senate” in Illinois, and reporters are buying the claim, here in the Los Angeles Times, and here on The Times reported, “Cox, a Republican, in 2003 ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Illinois against Barack Obama,” and Politico reported “[i]n 2004, he was one of a half-dozen Republican candidates for the Illinois U.S. Senate, a race in which he appeared at a candidate forum alongside Barack Obama, then a state senator, who eventually won the Senate seat. (The two had a brief one-on-one exchange over the merits of the Iraq war.)”  Both statements are untrue, and the source of the misinformation to the reporters was likely Cox himself.

News reports have included a lot of half-baked material and misinformation about Cox.  The Los Angeles Times referred to him as an attorney here: but an “attorney search” of the California Bar website here does not yield a “John H. Cox” or any variation as an attorney licensed to practice in California.  (John Herman Cox is currently licensed to practice law in Illinois, at a registered address in Schaumburg, Illinois, but he is not licensed in California.  See:  Cox is also referred to as a “venture capitalist” in media reports but research indicates his most evident corporate activity was serving as a top financial officer for a potato chip company in Chicago, reported in this 1994 article:

Cox appears to be attempting to create a myth about himself that he took on Barack Obama in an election campaign.  But that did not happen.  Rather, Cox is conflating events to apparently gain sympathy with Republican voters who dislike Obama, in order to counter the fact that he has a very poor vote-getting history, running unsuccessfully for Cook County Recorder of Deeds, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, and President.  In 2008, Cox gained less than one-tenth of one percent of the vote (0.01%) on the California ballot for president.

Here are the facts about Cox and Barack Obama:

Cox’s Wikipedia page states he ran for Senate in 2002, (not 2003 as misreported by the Times). See:   Wikipedia states Cox lost the Republican primary (which was a closed primary) to Jim Durkin receiving 23% of the vote.  But said another way, Cox actually finished last in that closed primary against the other two Republican candidates, (not a “half-dozen” as misreported by Politico) and in 2002 not 2004 (as misreported by Politico).   The results of the 2002 Republican primary for U.S. Senate are found here:,_2002.  The fact is, John Cox ran for U.S. Senate in 2002, and never ran against Barack Obama, who instead ran for U.S. Senate on 2004, in the next election, and one in which Cox did not run for Senate.  Rather, according to this Chicago based website, while Obama was running for U.S. Senate in 2004, Cox was running for Cook County Recorder of Deeds at the same time, a race he lost by a wide margin.

Cox roots his claims to having run against Obama in an alleged “candidate debate” he says he had with Obama in August 2003 at Chicago State University.  But there was no election going on at that time.  An internet records search of Chicago State University does not reveal any corroboration that such a “candidate debate” took place.  Rather, Cox was that summer in serious litigation over his 2002 Senate race the previous year, where the Federal Election Commission had assessed a $22,150 fine on him for failure to properly disclose personal funds he used in his race.  Cox lost his challenge to the fine, reported by the FEC here, and never filed any documents to run for Senate in the next election in 2004.  See for Cox’s claims about a “candidate debate” with Obama.   Cox still claims to reporters to have been a candidate for Senate at the time of this alleged debate, but he really was not, was not officially a candidate, had filed no paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, and he in fact did not run in 2004, which was the Obama election year.   If Cox was running for Senate in 2003, it was in his own mind, and not reflected in his deeds or supporting facts.  Even the article Cox himself wrote above says he “withdrew” as a candidate before the election – however, there was no election campaign for him to withdraw fromJohn Cox. Yet reporters unfortunately persist in accepting Cox’s highly exaggerated and false claim that he “ran for Senate against Barack Obama.”


More CalPERS retirees are getting $100,000 pensions

As reported by the Press-Enterprise:

The number of retired public employees in the CalPERS system with annual pensions of $100,000 or more grew 63 percent since 2012, according to a report released Wednesday, Aug. 9.

Riverside County, Long Beach, Anaheim, Torrance and Riverside made the list of the 25 public agencies with the most pensioners receiving six-figure retirement pay, Transparent California reported. Almost 23,000 CalPERS retirees collected pensions of at least $100,000 in 2016, the government watchdog group found.

The rise in $100,000 pensions underscores the importance of making public employee pension data public, Robert Fellner, Transparent California’s research director, said in a news release.

Transparent California is an offshoot of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which describes itself as a “nonpartisan, non-profit think tank that promotes policy ideas consistent with the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets.”

A spokesman for Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of unions and other groups representing public employee retirees, took aim at Transparent California. …

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Ethics commissioner Brian Hatch had private meetings with Democrats over recall election rules

A former labor lobbyist who serves on California’s political watchdog agency met privately, talked on the phone and exchanged text messages with a lawyer working for Senate Democrats while advocating for the agency to flip a longstanding legal interpretation of campaign finance law in favor of Sen. Josh Newman.

The conversations between California Fair Political Practices Commissioner Brian Hatch, a Democrat and former lobbyist for the firefighters union, and Richard Rios, an attorney representing Senate Democrats, were revealed in a public records request seeking communications about the matter.

Senate Democrats are asking the FPPC to reverse its position on contribution limits in recall elections. If the agency approves the change next week, state candidates would be able to give unlimited sums of money to Newman. The Fullerton Democrat is fighting a Republican-led recall to oust him and upend Democrats’ supermajority dominance in the state Senate.

FPPC commissioners are prohibited from speaking privately with interests in enforcement cases. Commissioners are allowed to meet or discuss the agency’s legal opinion on state law and rule-making decisions with outside parties, but such one-on-one meetings are unusual and are supposed to be disclosed. None of the other commissioners reported private meetings with outside groups in response to the records request.

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Jim Brulte: State ethics commission a partisan tool of Democrats

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s supposedly non-partisan political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has exposed itself as a partisan tool of the Democrats.

First the Democrat-controlled legislature changes the law to protect Senator Josh Newman from a recall election his constituents are calling for. And today the FPPC overturns years of established legal precedents, over the objection of their own legal counsel, to help Democrat Senator Newman withstand the recall election.

This is another step in the continued decline of the integrity of California’s elections. It is one more example of absolute power corrupting absolutely.

Jim Brulte is chairman of the California Republican Party.