Manchin Pushes to Delay Tax Credits for EVs

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III on Wednesday moved to delay new tax credits for electric vehicles, a key feature of President Biden’s landmark climate law.

Manchin said guidelines issued by the Treasury Department allow manufacturers in Europe and other countries to bypass requirements that significant portions of EV batteries be produced in North America.

The climate law, officially known as the Inflation Reduction Act, “is first and foremost an energy security bill,” Manchin said, adding that the EV tax credits were supposed “to grow domestic manufacturing and reduce our reliance on foreign supply chains for the critical minerals needed to produce EV batteries.’’

Manchin’s bid to delay the tax credits surfaced as Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and White House climate advisor Ali Zaidi visited the Washington, D.C., Auto Show on Wednesday to highlight the administration’s efforts to boost electric vehicles and related infrastructure.

EV sales have tripled since Biden, a Democrat, took office two years ago, Granholm said. There are now more than 2 million EVs and 100,000 chargers on U.S. roadways, with more than $100 billion invested or pledged for EVs and their supply chains, including batteries, she said.

Although batteries and components have long been manufactured in China, “we’re going to bring that manufacturing home,” Granholm told reporters.

Granholm and the White House declined to comment on Manchin’s bill, but the measure by the West Virginia lawmaker is unlikely to gain traction in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority and have shown no inclination to reopen a bill they just passed on a party-line vote.

Tax credits of up to $7,500 per vehicle are intended to spur EV sales and domestic production of vehicles and batteries while reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Manchin’s bill follows a decision by the Treasury Department to delay rules on battery contents and minerals until March, while allowing the rest of the program to be implemented Jan. 1. The Manchin bill directs Treasury to stop issuing tax credits for vehicles that don’t comply with battery requirements.

“The United States is the birthplace of Henry Ford, who revolutionized the automotive industry,” Manchin said, calling it “shameful that we rely so heavily on foreign suppliers, particularly China, for the batteries that power our electric vehicles.”

Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was a crucial vote in passing the climate law, which was adopted without support from any Republican in the House or Senate. He has said exemptions approved by the Treasury — including one that allows tax credits for EVs purchased for commercial use, even if they are foreign-made — undermine the law’s intent to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign countries, including adversaries, and create jobs in the United States.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has said he has no interest in reopening the climate law.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

McCarthy kicks 2 Democrats off key committee

As promised, House speaker has blocked California Reps. Schiff and Swalwell from the intelligence panel.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday blocked fellow California Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell from continuing to serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The denial follows through on a pledge by McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) to remove Schiff (D-Burbank) and Swalwell (D-Dublin) from the panel in retaliation for a move by Democrats — and some Republicans — in the last Congress to strip GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona of their committee assignments.

“I appreciate the loyalty you have to your Democrat colleagues,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who requested over the weekend that Schiff and Swalwell retain their seats on the panel. “But I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security.”

McCarthy described his rejection of the California Democrats as a step toward maintaining “a standard worthy of this committee’s responsibilities.” The panel provides oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Military Intelligence Program.

McCarthy claimed the panel was misused with Democrats in the majority during the last four years, “severely” undermining national security.

Schiff and Swalwell were quick to react. Schiff called the move “petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump” and warned in a fundraising email that it’s also “a dangerous effort to go after anyone who holds [Republicans] accountable” and risks turning the committee “into a political plaything for their right-wing supporters.”

“This rejection is based on a claim that the Washington Post independent-fact checker gave 4 Pinocchios,” Swalwell tweeted. “[GOP] Speaker Boehner and Ryan, both Gang of 8 members, appointed me to Intel with access to the same facts McCarthy is distorting. He can keep me off Intel, but I’m not going away.”

McCarthy has also vowed to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but it’s unclear whether he has the votes to do so.

Under House rules, the speaker has unilateral authority to keep Schiff and Swalwell off the high-profile select intelligence panel. Removing Omar from a standing committee will require a full floor vote.

At least two Republicans — Reps. Victoria Spartz of Indiana and Nancy Mace of South Carolina — have said they won’t vote to remove Omar from the panel. With a razor-thin majority, Republicans can’t afford more than four defections if they wish to boot Omar from the committee.

Over the weekend, Jeffries urged McCarthy “to honor past practice of the House of Representatives and our mutual interest in working together for the good of the American people” by accepting his recommendations for Schiff to serve as the panel’s ranking member and Swalwell to retain his membership. Jeffries said the removal of Greene and Gosar from their committee posts was no “precedent or justification” for removing Schiff and Swalwell.

Greene was removed in February 2021 following a backlash over comments she made before taking office expressing support for baseless conspiracy theories and appearing to endorse violence against Democratic lawmakers. She later distanced herself from the comments.

Gosar faced similar punishment in November 2021 after posting, then deleting, a cartoon video with his face superimposed on a character who kills someone with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) face and wields swords against President Biden.

McCarthy said removing Schiff, the lead manager during the first impeachment of President Trump, is justified because Schiff “lied” to the public about details related to a whistleblower report that triggered the investigation and dismissed as a Russian ploy emails found on a laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden. McCarthy has argued that Swalwell couldn’t get a security clearance in the private sector following a report that he was targeted by a suspected Chinese spy with whom he later cut ties.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California’s First Lady Produces ‘Gender Justice’ Films, Sells to State Public Schools

Just a little conflict of interest?

California Governor Gavin Newsom and his wife, “First Partner” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, have quite a money-making scheme going on: “He runs the state and she’s a nonprofit founder, entrepreneur, and filmmaker,” Open the Books reports.

“While her husband attends to state business, Siebel Newsom engages in her passion: advancing ‘gender justice’ through her charitable nonprofit The Representation Project. According to tax documents the organization is ‘committed to building a thriving and inclusive society through films, education, and social activism.’”

Jennifer Siebel Newsom solicited state vendors and the governor’s campaign donors for large gifts to her charity, The Representation Project.

Siebel Newsom, through her non-profit The Representation Project, has released four films advocating gender justice. The films are leased for screenings to individuals, corporations, and schools, and come with their own lesson plans. Schools spend between $49-$599 to screen these movies to children.

With her Governor husband, who would dare deny her solicitations?

See just a little conflict of interest?

FLOWCHART: How Jennifer Siebel Newsom used taxpayer dollars to trade with herself, her nonprofit organization, and her for-profit business. The organization refused to disclose how much of their screening revenues came from California public schools. (Photo: Open the Books, with permission)

Open the Books dug in and reports:

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is credited as a writer and director on each of these films. Two of the movies feature Gavin Newsom himself, and many of the lesson plan activities are oriented toward engaging children in social and political activism.

Because of Gavin Newsom’s role in these films and because licenses are sold to schools which the governor is responsible for funding with tax dollars, auditors at OpenTheBooks.com felt the organization deserved further scrutiny.

Who’s Watching? 2.6 million students in 5,000 schools.

“Auditors at OpenTheBooks.com watched Newsom’s movies and read the lesson plans. What we found was, at times, shocking: sexually explicit images, political boosterism, and something called ‘The Genderbread Person.’”

The Globe watched the Misrepresentation Middle School movie as well. It’s a documentary, but it hammers strong feminist and gender justice messages for school kids ages 11-14:

  • Women as sex objects
  • Women/girls “in a disempowered position”
  • Few female protagonists in movies
  • women/girls portrayed as only seeking men, husbands, marriage, pregnancy
  • boys should be trained to not be “hyper masculine” or “misogynistic”
  • Middle school children are served images of upside-down strippers with little left to the imagination
  • the “genderbread person,” who aims to show children how biological sex, “gender expression,” “sexual attraction,” and “gender identity” exist on a spectrum, which can be mixed and matched.

The movie is not age appropriate for Middle Schoolers, and really should not have any place in school curriculum. It is pure propaganda.

Open the Books moved on to Siebel Newsom’s film The Mask You Live In, which features the website addresses of porn sites including Porn Hub, MassiveCams, BDSM.XXX, and Brazzers.com. The pornographic images displayed in the film are tagged with descriptions such as “domination,” “face fuck,” “kinky couples,” and “…dirty brunettes.”

“Siebel Newsom included images of naked or mostly naked women being slapped, handcuffed, and brutalized in pornographic videos. The pictures are graphic even when blurred. Screenshots of those scenes can be found HERE (VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED).” The movie claims it will show “how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men,” and will help “shape the national conversation around healthy masculinity.”

Open the Books also exposes lesson plans from The Representation Project which promote radical gender and sexuality messages:

One such lesson for middle and high schoolers includes the “genderbread person,” who aims to show children how biological sex, “gender expression,” “sexual attraction,” and “gender identity” exist on a spectrum, which can be mixed and matched.

While kindergarteners are spared the genderbread person in their curriculum, they are offered similar lessons on “gender identity,” introducing genders other than “boy” and “girl.”

Gavin Newsom is featured in Miss Representation and The Great American Lie as himself, talking about how he appointed women as police chief and fire chief when he was San Francisco Mayor, but only because they were the “most qualified” people for the jobs.

“Newsom speaks three times in Miss Representation and is portrayed as a champion of women’s rights—see this example from the middle school curriculum video (18:37).”

It is shameless political propaganda, and it is shown to young school kids.

“Getting paid by schools to portray your politician husband as a standup guy to captive children in the classroom was such a winning idea, Siebel Newsom deployed it again in The Great American Lie,” Open the Books reports.

The Great American Lie examines the roots of systemic inequalities through a unique gender lens,” Siebel Newsom’s movie page states. “With America facing widening economic inequality and stagnant social mobility, this film takes audiences on an empathy journey, inspiring a path forward.”

Open the Books summarizes the actual threats of the movies:

Kids forced to watch The Representation Project films in schools aren’t just subjected to gender ideology, sexually explicit images, and Gavin Newsom’s one-liners. They’re being given a left-wing framework through which to see the world, and then prompted to conduct social and political activism.

In The Great American Lie curriculum, students are asked to do a “privilege walk,” divulging personal information in order to compare themselves to peers inside and outside the classroom. “Privileges” include being “a cisgendered man,” “white,” “born in the United States,” “straight,” and speaking English as a first language.

First Partner solicits state vendors and Governor’s campaign contributors

In January, the Globe covered the Open the Books report which found in California’s state spending “979 state vendors who gave $10,561,828 in political donations to Gavin Newsom during his 2010, 2018, recall election, and 2022 election cycles. Meanwhile, these companies reaped $6,201,978,173 in state payments.”

That’s a $10.6 million investment for a $6.3 billion return.

Open The Books also found “pay to play” vendor contributions going to the first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who they say solicited state vendors for donations to her charity, The Representation Project, which since 2011, has generated $17,489,680 in revenue.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Phony Budget

If it’s January it must be budget time in California, or so it would seem. Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press briefing to unveil his proposed budget, and it certainly looked official.

Mainstream media have variously reported that the governor’s budget proposal is “austere,” “fiscally responsible,” and even “conservative” as the state tries to close a projected $22.5 billion deficit. But there are things taxpayers should know before breaking out the champagne to celebrate the governor’s handling of what he has called a “modest shortfall.”

A spending problem, not a revenue problem.

The governor’s proposed $297 billion budget is only about 3.6% smaller than last year’s record-setting budget of $308 billion. The state has long spent beyond its means, but it has kicked it into overdrive in recent years. In just the last three years alone, spending has increased by almost $100 billion dollars despite warnings from economists, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, HJTA and many others that the state was spending beyond sustainable revenue levels.

This is not the real budget.

They may call this a budget, but it is just a wish list. It is a way for the governor to signal his priorities to the Legislature as budget negotiations begin, and legislators from the governor’s own party have already been critical of the cuts he is proposing.

We also do not know what the actual dollar amount will be yet. In November, the budget shortfall was estimated to be around $24 billion. The governor now says it is $22.5 billion. We will have a better idea of where the state stands financially when the governor does his “May Revise” of the budget.

That is not the real budget either.

The May Revise is also not the budget, it is just another step in the negotiation process. It gives us a better idea of what the actual numbers are, and the governor will adjust his wish list accordingly, but it is the Legislature that passes the budget, and they have until June 15th to do it.

That is not really the budget either.

While the Legislature will pass a “budget” by June 15th, it also is not really the budget. That is because Proposition 25, entitled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” says legislators forfeit their pay if they do not pass the budget “on time.” The problem with that is, the courts have ruled that it is the Legislature itself that defines what is and is not the budget.

What we will get then is not a true annual spending plan for the state but a 1,000-page sham, drafted largely in secret and full of blanks to be filled in later through hundreds of “budget trailer bills” after substantial provisions of the budget are negotiated behind closed doors among just three people: The two Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Newsom.

On Wednesday, 121 of these budget-related bills were introduced in the state Legislature, completely blank except for a line of placeholder text expressing the “intent” to fill them in later. They are numbered SB 100 through SB 220. You can “read” them for yourself at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

Eventually, those budget-related bills will spring to life with new language replacing the placeholder text. Then they sail through the process without hearings, or amendments or debate.

A balanced budget in name only.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

DOJ Searches Biden’s Home, Finds More Documents with Classified Markings 

The Justice Department conducted a search of President Joe Biden’s Wilmington home Friday and found even more documents with classified markings, according to Biden’s personal attorney on Saturday.

The latest trove includes six documents. The content of the classified materials is unknown.

The White House had previously claimed on January 14 the search for all classified documents was completed.

The trove is in addition to the about 25 classified documents unearthed by Biden’s personal attorneys in past weeks between the Penn Biden Center and Biden’s residence.

Critics have questioned why Biden’s personal attorneys were initially searching for Biden’s illegally stashed documents. The White House has failed to provide the initial reason or cause for the search.

Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, claimed Saturday that Biden offered to allow the Justice Department to conduct the search. 

The search began “at approximately 9:45 AM and concluded at around 10:30 PM and covered all working, living and storage spaces in the home,” Bauer said in a statement, noting “representatives of both the personal legal team and the White House Counsel’s Office were present” for the search.

The White House Counsel’s Office, which is a distinction from Biden’s personal attorneys, issued a statement that “[n]either the President nor the First Lady were present during the search. The President’s lawyers and White House Counsel’s Office will continue to cooperate with DOJ and the Special Counsel.”

The investigation of wrongdoing was reportedly widened after the DOJ and Biden’s personal attorneys agreed to hide the scandal from the American people.

According to the Washington Post, not only did the White House and DOJ try to obscure the scandal from public view, but they also refused to divulge that the second trove of classified documents were already unearthed at Biden’s home in Wilmington when CBS News first contacted the White House about the initial leak of classified documents apparently illegally stored at the Biden Penn Center.

Click here to to read the full article at BreitbartCA

Wealth Tax Push Faces Uphill Fight

Sacramento lawmaker joins other blue states in new effort to get rich to pay fair share.

SACRAMENTO — Even in progressive California, passing a new tax on ultra-rich residents is a long shot. But a Democratic lawmaker is trying again, this time flanked by similar efforts in other blue states.

San Jose Assemblymember Alex Lee plans to introduce a bill that would impose new taxes on California’s “extremely wealthy,” at a rate of 1.5% on those worth more than $1 billion starting next year, and at 1% for those worth more than $50 million starting in 2026.

If passed, the tax would affect 0.1% of California households and would generate an additional $21.6 billion in state revenue, according to Lee.

“This is all in the spirit of making those who are not paying their fair share pay what they owe,” Lee said, pointing to a ProPublica report that exposed how the world’s richest people use legal loopholes to avoid paying income taxes, instead amassing wealth through assets like stocks that are not taxed unless sold.

Lee’s proposed tax focuses on a person’s “worldwide wealth” — not just their annual income — including such diverse holdings as stocks and hedge fund interests, farm assets and art and collectibles. It’s similar to proposals progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) championed during the 2020 presidential campaign, and to a plan President Biden floated last year that never passed Congress.

In the absence of a federal wealth tax, the State Innovation Exchange, a progressive nonprofit, and the State Revenue Alliance, which works with labor groups to call for taxing rich people, gathered a handful of states to create policy as part of the “Fund Our Future” campaign. The California bill was announced as a joint effort on Thursday alongside officials promoting similar wealth taxes targeting capital gains and “unrealized gains” in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Washington.

“States are leaning into their power. They’re reminding us that states are the laboratories of democracy,” said Charles Khan, who serves on the advisory committee for the State Revenue Alliance.

But the initiative faces an uphill battle in California despite the Democratic stronghold in the state Legislature. Similar attempts by Lee have failed before, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has shown no signs of supporting such a measure.

Newsom parted with his own party last year when he came out against Proposition 30 on the November ballot, which would have raised income taxes on the richest Californians and used the money to subsidize electric vehicles and suppress wildfires. The governor said that plan was “fiscally irresponsible” and criticized Lyft for bankrolling it, calling it a “cynical scheme to grab a huge taxpayer-funded subsidy” because ride-hailing companies must add more electric vehicles to their fleets.

Another measure that would have raised taxes on California’s richest to fund pandemic public health programs also lacked Newsom’s support, prompting organizers to keep it off the 2022 ballot.

In the Legislature, past attempts at a wealth tax have not made it far. Last year’s version was basically dead on arrival and did not get taken up for a vote in a single committee.

But Lee believes the legislation is more likely to succeed this time, in part because of California’s projected $22.5-billion budget shortfall. Revenue from the proposed tax would go to the state general fund.

“This is how we can keep addressing our budgetary issues,” he said. “Basically, we could plug the entire hole.”

Lee said the national push also helps thwart concerns that California’s richest will leave to avoid new taxes, as more states could do the same. “It’s a ‘they can run but they can’t hide’ situation,” he said.

A report by the nonpartisan California Policy Lab found that there’s “little evidence that wealthy Californians are leaving en masse,” but the threat of such a loss remains.

That’s because California’s progressive tax structure makes the state budget disproportionately dependent on the wealthiest residents, who are largely to thank for the state’s flush years even during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill is supported by the California Federation of Teachers and opposed by the California Taxpayers Assn.

California Taxpayers Assn. President Robert Gutierrez said the state should not jeopardize losing its top earners at a time of economic uncertainty. He also questioned the fairness and practicality of a first-of-its-kind tax on assets and total wealth.

“When would the state determine the tax on stocks, whose value can change dramatically from minute to minute? Would California’s tax auditors travel around the globe every year to attempt to locate and verify the value of one-of-a-kind artwork, vehicles, iconic Hollywood props and other items whose market value can’t be known with any degree of certainty?” he said. “Would wealthy individuals stay in California and wait for these questions to be answered?”

But Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, said the initiatives can work successfully and make a significant difference in “restoring tax justice.”

“Our current tax system, both at the federal and state levels, fail to tax the enormous wealth amassed by billionaires. Billionaires can keep profits inside their businesses, and if they don’t sell their stock, they can avoid the individual income tax. If they retire in Florida and sell their businesses then, they will never pay income taxes in the state where they built their fortune,” he said. “Relative to their true economic income, billionaires end up paying a lower tax rate than the rest of us.”

Click here to read the full article here in the LA Times

D.C. Journalist Proves Biden Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong By Assuming He Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong

Missing classified documents are only a problem when a president that the bureaucracy doesn’t like has them.

If the entire news media, plus Biden’s vindictive Justice Department, hadn’t put the country through months of insanity over the petty “confidential documents” drama at Mar-a-Lago, Biden’s own scandal of having illegally retained government material when he was a private citizen would be a pretty boring affair.

But they didn’t. They decided to get cute and make this a criminal matter. Now they get the same treatment.

Wait! they claim in unison. This is different! Biden did the right thing and Trump did the wrong thing!

Admittedly, that’s a totally fair and obvious point when you start with the assumption that over the six years Biden was in wrongful possession of government secrets, the material just sat there, untouched and unread (and make the concurrent assumption that the same wasn’t true of the Trump documents). They simply gathered dust, month by month, sound asleep in office drawers and garage boxes, forgotten by Biden, time, and the federal bureaucracy. Then, when one fateful day Biden’s lawyers happened upon the documents, they immediately dialed the National Archives for a swift transfer to the proper authorities.

That’s the entire premise of longtime Washington, D.C., journalist Garrett Graff’s essay this week in The New York Times: Biden says he did nothing wrong, and anyway, he immediately handed over all the materials that he possessed (but definitely never looked at) for six years!

“Mr. Biden’s scandal so far feels more like an administrative error; there’s no evidence he even knew the documents were misplaced or in his possession, and when discovered they were promptly and properly returned to authorities,” wrote Graff. “The government didn’t know they were missing (which itself is a bit of a mystery, since classified documents are usually tightly controlled, which is how the National Archives knew Mr. Trump had missing documents in the first place), and Mr. Biden didn’t try to hold onto them in the face of a legal process ordering otherwise.”

See?! Biden had no problems turning over the documents he’d been sitting on, doing absolutely nothing with, for six years! Besides, the government didn’t even know they were missing! No harm, no foul!

That version of events doesn’t do what Graff, Washington’s least interesting writer, thinks it does. He thinks it portrays Biden as an innocent hoarder who didn’t realize the things in his possession were not his to have. What it does is prove what right-wingers have been saying all along: that Donald Trump (along with what he represents) is the subject of a political persecution, that the rules don’t apply to everyone, and that the media are every bit a part of the corruption.

Missing classified documents are only a problem when a president that the bureaucracy doesn’t like has them. If they like you, hold onto them — for six years, even! Meanwhile, Trump was in possession of what he purportedly believes is his property and it took far less time for the FBI to decide to raid his private residence to get it back.

As for the presumption of innocence — that’s reserved for people whom Graff and Washington like. Biden says he never used the government secrets while he was a private citizen. He didn’t even know he had them.

What’s that you say? Biden’s son Hunter regularly rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars doing business with foreign governments? Totally unrelated! Besides, like Biden said, he didn’t know he had the classified documents!

Click here to read the full article in the Federalist.om

Melahat Rafiei, Who was Central to the FBI’s Anaheim Investigation, Takes Plea Deal

The former Democratic party leader could face prison time. She hopes her record and FBI cooperation will help.

Melahat Rafiei, who was a cooperating witness for an FBI probe into a massive corruption scandal involving Anaheim and Irvine, said Wednesday evening that she’s agreed to accept a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office on charges of attempted wire fraud.

She could face time in prison, though she said she’s hoping the judge will take into consideration the role she played in uncovering those broader scandals.

“I have made this painful choice by weighing my options, the most important of which was the care and custody of my son… ” Rafiei said in a statement provided to the Register. “I know this option will bring certainty, closure and a path forward.”

Rafiei was secretary for the California Democratic Party, was helping run campaigns for a number of elected officials and was a prominent consultant for the local cannabis industry until May of last year. That’s when news broke that she’d been arrested in 2019 on charges of “theft or bribery” involving federal funds related to a cannabis scheme, and that she later had been assisting the FBI with a related investigation.

That probe led to federal charges against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament,and the resignation of then Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. At that time, the Anaheim City Council voided a $320 million deal to sell Angel Stadium to a business partnership created by the team’s owner Arte Moreno, as the release of wiretap transcripts appeared to support allegations of a self-described “cabal” of business and political leaders that had been exerting “significant influence” over how the city was run.

As for Rafiei, the FBI states that she had promised two executives at a local cannabis company that she could help get a favorable cannabis ordinance passed in Irvine if they gave her money to bribe two council members. She later denied those allegations, saying in a statement that she “never attempted to improperly influence any elected official.” Those charges were dismissed without prejudice, which meant they could always be filed again later.

After that arrest, Rafiei began cooperating with the FBI to bring them information about possible corruption in Anaheim. She says she accepted a request to cooperate, wearing a wire and delivering evidence that the FBI used to charge Ament and to raise concerns about Sidhu’s actions.

The FBI previously said that they did not believe Rafiei was being fully honest with them, even while she was acting as a witness.

Federal authorities couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday evening for comment on Rafiei’s plea deal.

But her attorney, Alaleh Kamran, said via email that Rafiei’s plea is not contingent on any conditions and that the government “has made no assurances other than what is included in the plea agreement, which will not be filed under seal.”

Wire fraud can carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, or 30 if the victim is a federally insured bank or other financial institution.

“The hope is that the court will take her distinguished career and lack of criminal history into consideration when sentencing her,” Kamran said.

On advice of her attorney, Rafiei said she can’t discuss facts of the case more until it’s fully resolved.

“I will share my story in due time,” she said. “For now, I will proceed with dignity, humility towards finding peace and clarity in my life.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Calif. Legislative Analyst ‘Calls Bull’ on Newsom Budget Projections

Gov. Newsom got a reality check from the Legislative Analyst on Friday

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom presented a $297 billion 2023-2024 budget plan on Tuesday, with a projected deficit of $22.5 billion. He shaved $3 billion off his last budget, in the face of a recession, and the $22.5 billion deficit.

In November, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported California revenue is $41 billion below expectations, likely resulting in a massive $25 billion shortfall in the upcoming 2023-2024 state budget – on the heels of reveling in a $31 billion surplus? How?

“Gavin Newsom (D-Fantasyland) got a reality check from the Legislative Analyst on Friday, when the nonpartisan office called for greater spending cuts and disputed the Governor’s contention that the state won’t face a recession in the coming years,” reads a press statement from the California Assembly Republican Caucus. “Legislative Analyst Calls Bull on Newsom Budget Projections,” the title says.

This is Priceless.

But they are right. The Legislative Analyst’s Office did indeed present a report to the governor recommending other cuts, and offering their solutions to the Legislature if the governor won’t budge.

The LAO identifies these problematic areas with Gov. .Newsom’s budget projections:

  • $14 Billion in Higher Revenues
  • $3 Billion in Higher School and Community College Spending
  • A $4 Billion Set‑Aside in the SFEU. The Governor proposes the Legislature enact a year‑end balance in the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties.
  • $2 Billion in Discretionary Spending
  • $800 Million in Other Differences

Specifically, the Legislative Analyst’s Office is concerned that Gov. Newsom is planning for spending more despite lower revenues. They say it a little differently: “Our estimates suggest that there is a good chance that revenues will be lower than the administration’s projections for the budget window, particularly 2022‑23 and 2023‑24. Nonetheless, the Governor’s budget trigger restoration proposals implicitly place more emphasis on revenue upside—suggesting the administration anticipates that revenues are more likely to be higher, not lower, than their current projections.”

Could Gov. Newsom have a serious case of recession budget denial?

The Legislative Analyst says:

“Recent budgets have allocated or planned tens of billions of dollars for one‑time and temporary spending purposes in 2021‑22, 2022‑23, and 2023‑24. The Governor’s budget identifies one set of recent augmentations to reduce or delay in order to address the budget problem. The Legislature can select entirely different spending solutions. To assist the Legislature in this effort, we have provided a list of large augmentations provided in recent budgets in Appendix 4 and a set of criteria for evaluating them for reduction or delay in “Chapter 2” of this report. The Legislature could apply these criteria through its budget oversight hearings throughout the next few months.”
 
The LAO’s report describes a “heightened risk of recession” and urges the Legislature to “plan for a larger budget problem by identifying more spending reductions,” the caucus said.

The LAO said:

“As the Legislature works to address the budget problem, we suggest policymakers consider the unique impacts of inflation on each of the state’s major spending programs in conjunction with possible budget solutions. (See our report, The 2023‑24 Budget: Considering Inflation’s Effect on State Programs, for more information.) 
 
“Meanwhile, economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal say there’s a 61% chance of the economy tipping into recession within the next year,” the caucus said.  
 
“If the governor and legislative Democrats don’t accept the reality that the economy is in trouble, middle-class Californians will pay the price for their fiscal recklessness,” Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City) said.

Here’s one area the LAO lays out as a problem – “new discretionary spending”: “The Governor’s budget also includes $2 billion in discretionary spending proposals that are not currently reflected under current law or policy,” the LAO reports.

“In addition to addressing a budget problem, the Governor’s budget proposes $2 billion in new discretionary spending mainly in capital outlay financing, resources and environment, and other miscellaneous program areas. Because of revenue shortfalls, these new spending amounts contribute to a larger budget problem and necessitate additional budget solutions. That is, for each dollar of new proposals, another dollar of solutions would be required. While the Legislature might share some of these priorities, it need not adopt all, or even any, of the associated proposals. Rejecting them would reduce the budget problem and the number of solutions necessary.”

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher is right, and it is likely to be worse based on the Wall Street Journal survey of economists:

  • Economists expect GDP to stagnate this year, posting growth of just 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared with the fourth quarter of 2022.
  • Employers are expected to cut jobs starting in the second quarter through the end of the year.
  • Economists view high inflation, and the Fed’s efforts to tame it, as a top risk to the economy this year.
  • When asked which category of inflation will be the hardest to tame in 2023, a quarter of economists picked housing. A further 18% said healthcare and another 18% picked personal services.
  • Economists in the survey expect the Fed will need to raise the benchmark federal-funds rate target to 5% this year, in line with central-bank officials’ own projections.

The perfect storm for a recession may be upon us with high inflation, high taxes, high energy costs, high food costs, a sizable budget deficit, and now tens of thousands of big tech layoffs, which is the other issue California lawmakers and governor need to address. Meta, Twitter, Salesforce and now Amazon are all cutting thousands of staff. The potential for, or early economic ramifications to the cities and counties in which they reside, as well as the state, and the ripple effect these could have on startups and investment banks, looks to be immense.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

24 Hours and Hundreds of Feet Apart, 2 Killings in Downtown Turlock. ‘We Will Not Tolerate’

Less than 24 hours after, and just around the corner from, a fatal shooting early Saturday, another deadly shooting took place early Sunday in downtown Turlock. It’s the city’s second homicide of the year, police say. The Turlock Police Department got a 911 at 1:38 a.m. Sunday reporting a shooting behind the Udder Place and Grand Cru in downtown. Arriving officers found found 31-year-old Robert Morgan, who worked security at Grand Cru, on the ground and suffering multiple gunshot wounds. “Uninvolved persons” were administering CPR, according to a police news release. Officers assisted with lifesaving efforts until an ambulance crew arrived and took Morgan to a local hospital, where at 2:16 a.m. he died.

TPD Detective Sgt. Victor Barcelos has indicated Morgan’s shooting and one the night before are unrelated, the news release says. Officers learned that Morgan, though it was his day off, was at Grand Cru with friends. “Inside the bar, Grand Cru’s security was involved in an altercation with several male patrons of Hispanic descent. Security was able to move the involved parties outside, but the fight continued, and Morgan stepped in while off duty to assist his co-workers,” says the release. While Morgan reportedly was in a physical altercation with a man near the rear of The Udder Place, the as-yet unidentified occupant of a dark sedan stopped, got out and fired multiple gunshots at Morgan. The shooter then got back into the car and fled the scene. Detectives are examining evidence including video surveillance and interviewing “relevant parties.” Additional resources including the Major Accident Investigation Team and the Special Investigations Unit are supporting detectives in the investigation and using specialized equipment to process the crime scene. Jerry Powell, owner of Grand Cru, has voluntarily closed for two weeks to review internal processes and procedures related to evaluating and improving safety measures at his establishment, the TPD release says. “I had a discussion with Mr. Powell regarding this tragedy at Grand Cru, and he let me know he is heartbroken at the loss of a valued staff member and friend,” Turlock Chief of Police Jason Hedden says in the release. “He also informed me that he is closing his business immediately to conduct a review and ensure that Grand Cru is a safe place for both patrons and employees.” The chief adds, “I am employing new, state-of-the-art technologies and resources to combat violent crime in our city to keep our residents and businesses safe and secure. We will not tolerate this kind of activity and want our residents to know we are working hard and will continue to update the public as information can be shared during these investigations.” The Turlock Police Department asks that anyone with information about the investigation to call Detective Raul Garcia at 209-664-7314, or the department’s Tip Line at 209-668-5550, ext. 6780, or email tpdtipline@turlock.ca.us.

The gunshot fatality was the second of the weekend. Early Saturday, just after 2 a.m. in the area of Market Street and South Broadway in downtown, a shooting took the life of a 21-year-old man and wounded a 20-year-old. The man who died is Romeo Portillo, according to a Turlock Police Department news release. The release did not identify the 20-year-old. The two were passengers in a car being driven by 22-year-old Gary Jackson. Both were taken to the hospital, but Portillo later died. The release said all three men are Patterson residents.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee