Midterm forecast: Gas prices get GOP control of U.S. House

If control of the House of Representatives flips to the Republicans this fall, economist Jim Doti thinks he found the issue driving political change: the gas pump.

Chapman University’s veteran economic forecaster was trying to see which historic economic, demographic or voting patterns factors might provide numerical hints for November’s midterm elections in which control of the House is at stake.

Doti’s formula suggests Republicans will gain control of the House by flipping 53 of the legislative body’s 435 seats to the GOP side of the political aisle in November. The flip isn’t terribly stunning considering the party controlling the White House has lost an average 27 seats in midterms since World War II. And over the July 4th weekend, forecasters at fivethirtyeight.com gave the GOP an 87% chance of winning the House in the first fall projection for 2022.

Political track records are not fool-proof prognostications of future election results. But Doti was startled to discover the pivotal vote-changer that’s bad news for President Joe Biden and his Democrats: record-high gasoline prices.

“First of all, let me say that this was a big surprise to me,” Doti says.

Price points

Pain at the pump was not on Doti’s mind when he started the research with fellow Chapman professor Fadel Lawandy. He was betting big vote swings followed inflation, which in 2022 is running at 40-year highs.

But when the professors looked at voting patterns vs. traditional measures of the cost of living, such as the Consumer Price index, Doti said “I found nothing, even when you look at some of our high inflationary periods.”

So gasoline prices were input into his formula, and to the professors’ astonishment, fuel inflation was a significant political driver. The out-of-power party gained more House midterm seats when gasoline was pricier.

Equally noteworthy were the only two times the party in the White House grew its political base in the House at the midterms — Bill Clinton’s second term (1998) and George W. Bush’s first term (2002).

Gas prices were falling in both of those outlier periods.

So why is gasoline — a relatively modest expense for many Americans — such a political flash point? It’s the simplicity of the economic measurement.

“People every week fill the tank. They see these big prices,” Doti says. “It’s not like reading the CPI. Or reading the Wall Street Journal. It’s affecting their pocketbook, and they get it. They’re agitated.”

Bad start

Doti’s research shows the Democrats start the midterm political season in a weak position.

The model revealed Democrats’ modest House advantage — it’s currently only a 10-seat edge — translates to 10 seats lost come November.

Biden’s unpopularity doesn’t help. The president scored a low approval rate of 41% in May, according to Gallup. That compares with an average of 51% at the same moment for presidents since WWII. The Chapman formula says that adds up to nine more lost Democratic seats.

Yes, there’s decent economic growth — Biden’s 2.8% gross domestic product expansion is better than the 2.5% post-WWII average. But that earns Democrats only one seat by this math.

And a Republican winning Virginia’s governorship — an election that’s proven to be a leading indicator of political fortunes — translates to a six-seat House pickup for the Republicans, says the formula.

Then ponder gas prices — up 61% in a year vs. average hikes of 2.5% annually. That pump pain is worth 29 seats for the Republicans — literally giving them the House if this Chapman forecast is correct.

You don’t need an economics doctorate to understand that if folks vote with their wallets, gas prices are an obvious winner for Republicans. And a psychology degree isn’t required to comprehend the emotional response gas prices can create — and voters often act with their hearts.

To me, though, what will be intriguing to watch is what voters think this fall about topics hard to quantify. The Supreme Court’s actions on reproductive rights or gun control. Or the hearings into the January 6 insurgency.

I’ll note that 1974’s midterms — when the Republicans controlled the White House and lost 48 House seats — were the party’s second-worst outcome since World War II. By the way, the 50 seats lost in Dwight Eisenhower’s second term in 1958 was the GOP’s biggest drop.

What was up in 1974?

Gas prices jumped 33% to 53 cents per gallon. Inflation ran at 11%. But Richard Nixon also resigned from the presidency. Oh, and it was the first midterm election after the Supreme Court made abortion a right in every state in Roe vs. Wade.

Sketchy tale

Doti tells the tale of a recent visit to a Chapman University graphic design class.

Students were assigned to draw a political cartoon. Doti was there to provide some economic background highlighting the nation’s inflation challenges.

And what was the theme of the graphic professor’s favorite cartoon from the assignment? A humorous sketch of a gas station where the price was artfully displayed at $18.89 a gallon.

“That brings home the fact people see it, it’s transparent,” Doti says of the fuel pump’s political power. “The analysis clearly shows gas prices affect how people vote in midterm elections — but not the overall trend in consumer prices.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Newsom Runs a TV ad — In Florida

Gov. Gavin Newsom is launching his first television ad of the general election on Monday, but not in California. The ad will air thousands of miles away, in Florida, further fueling speculation that he wants to run for president — or, at a minimum, to troll the state’s Republican leaders.

In the ad, Newsom contrasts the policies in California and Florida while images flash of former President Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, potential 2024 presidential candidates.

“Freedom, it’s under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors,” Newsom says in the 30-second spot. “I urge all of you living in Florida to join the fight, or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom — freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom from hate and the freedom to love.”

Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign is spending about $105,000 to air the ad on Fox News stations around the state, according to AdImpact, a firm that tracks political advertisements.

The size of the buy is a pittance for the governor, whose reelection campaign had more than $23 million as of May 21, according to the latest filings with the California secretary of state’s office. Newsom is heavily favored in the fall election over his conservative Republican challenger, state Sen. Brian Dahle.

The move, which was rolled out on CNN on Sunday, appears designed to draw national media attention. After Newsom tweeted the ad and the media began running stories, it had been viewed 1.4 million times on Twitter and 90,000 times on YouTube as of Sunday evening.

Newsom, 54, has denied that he wants to run for president, but many political experts are skeptical, particularly considering the speculation about President Biden’s plans to seek reelection.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

‘Operation Just Reward’: A Tale for the Ages

Something’s afoot in Washington that dovetails almost eerily well with the invigorating cultural moment we have found ourselves in once again courtesy of Tom Cruise and the makers of the “Top Gun” film franchise.

As we drive irresponsibly on the way home from movie theaters, calculating whether or not we are too old to actually join the Navy and fixate anew on the folklore that has always surrounded our nation’s most elite military aviators, a great, bipartisan thing is shaping up in Congress (believe it or not!). Something which will hopefully culminate in an even greater thing happening very soon in a White House ceremony.


In the midst of a determined campaign by retired military officials of all stripes dubbed “Operation Just Reward” that’s had its ups and downs mostly due to bureaucratic nonsense, Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, has grabbed the reins, built an impressive bipartisan coalition of fellow lawmakers, and introduced H.R. 5909 to fast-track the effort to authorize the president to give one of the greatest combat pilots the world has known, retired 97-year-old Capt. E. Royce Williams, just that in the form of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The tale of Capt. Williams’ real-life heroics and the reason why it has taken so long to secure for him the United States government’s highest and most prestigious military decoration could fit right in with the “Top Gun” franchise, should Mr. Cruise and company feel the urge to have another go. His story is long, intense and perhaps more fantastical than even the best Hollywood screenwriters could conjure.

As an aside, the very first commanding officer of the Navy’s advanced fighter tactics program that came to be called TOPGUN, retired Rear Adm. Roger Box, simply referred to him in an email exchange as “the most remarkable fighter pilot alive.” From what I can tell that sentiment seems very much to be shared in most relevant quarters. 

Here’s the gist: 70 years ago this Nov. 18, one of the greatest and certainly the hardest-won dogfighting triumphs in military aviation history took place in international waters off the Korean coast. On that day, 27-year-old Williams found himself suddenly alone in the sky in his F9F-5 Panther, staring down seven superior Russian MiG-15s who had come to eat his lunch and move on to sink his nearby carrier, the USS Oriskany.

By any clear-headed calculation, lunch-eating is exactly what should have happened at that moment. Except it didn’t. What did ensue was a fierce 35-minute dogfight (note that most last mere seconds, and in exceptional cases have lasted up to five minutes) which ended with Williams safely back on the deck of the now-safe Oriskany after a dicey landing, 263 bullet holes and a 37-millimeter shell gash in his crippled Panther. 

It didn’t end quite as well for at least for six of the seven MiGs that set out to dispatch the outgunned American, as only one of them returned to base. 

Though one of the most extraordinary feats in the history of military aviation had just happened, there was no celebration and no dramatic recounting from Capt. Williams to his shipmates. Quite the contrary. A frank conversation and handshake with his admiral was intended to be the last time the mission would be spoken of.

Turns out the circumstances and detail surrounding the dogfight, which ended so badly for the Soviets, contained a level of sensitivity that necessitated immediate top-secret classification. No one outside of a very small cadre of individuals knew a whiff of it for over 50 years until the Soviet Union fell and it was reported out of their archives. One of those in the loop, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was president-elect of the United States at the time. Eisenhower summoned Capt. Williams for a visit and a drink during a dramatic pre-inaugural fact-finding visit to Seoul because he wanted to meet the young aviator. Yet even in that rarified setting, the mission was not discussed.

When the U.S. government finally declassified it all in December of 2017, no one was more surprised than Capt. Williams’ wife and his brother — a fellow elite military aviator with whom he shared a long-running friendly pilots’ rivalry.

Capt. Williams had gone half a century without breaking his promise to his admiral. Half a century keeping secret something that could bring him immediate fame, fortune and a place among the greatest aviators in history. As 146 of his fellow Korean War heroes were honored and celebrated with well-deserved Medals of Honor, he was content with his Silver Star, knowing full well that an upgrade was out of the question for national security reasons.

But as Mr. Issa says, “America owes Williams a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid, and we won’t stop fighting until he is at least given the proper recognition he has not sought but richly deserves.”

Thanks to Mr. Issa’s laudable efforts to force the issue (remember, Capt. Williams is 97 and we don’t have all the time in the world here) and thanks to the longtime determination of his “Operation Just Reward” comrades plus the endorsements of over 100 retired general officers and admirals, The American Legion, Distinguished Flying Cross Society, Special Operations Association of America and others, the most deserved and overdue military honors upgrade of all time may well be imminent. 

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

San Francisco Defends Right of Non-Citizens to Vote in School Board Elections

San Francisco is defending the right of non-citizens to vote in school board elections.

In a brief filed Friday, the City Attorney’s Office swung back at a legal challenge by a Republican operative that aims to revoke the right of non-citizens to vote in San Francisco Unified School District elections. 

The motion comes in response to a lawsuit filed three-and-a-half months ago in San Francisco Superior Court by James V. Lacy—an Orange County lawyer, right-wing pundit and author of conservative books such as Taxifornia—alleging that non-citizen voting is unlawful and should be banned.

Fellow plaintiff Michael Denny, a San Francisco resident, said non-citizens participating in local elections unlawfully dilutes the votes of citizens.

In his response Friday, City Attorney David Chiu countered that while California’s constitution guarantees voting rights to citizens over the age of 18, it does not prohibit cities from extending the electorate to additional residents in local elections. 

Even if the court found a conflict between the city’s charter and state law, Chiu argued that San Francisco’s “home rule authority” would prevail.

Chiu noted in his filing that non-citizens were allowed to vote for the first 150 years of United States history.  

“While women and racial minorities who were citizens were deprived of voting rights, non-citizens who were white male property owners could vote in state and local elections well into the 20th century,” he wrote in the brief. “Non-citizen voting in 40 states and U.S. territories was curtailed only after an influx of Southern and Eastern European immigrants and World War I provoked xenophobia and nativism in this country.”

In 2016, San Francisco voters passed Proposition N, allowing non-citizens—including permanent residents, visas holders, refugees and undocumented immigrants—to cast ballots in school board races. Five years later, in 2021, the city made non-citizen voting in school elections a permanent right for parents or guardians with at least one child under 19 years old.

San Francisco’s response brief to Lacy v. City of San Francisco

Chinese for Affirmative Action—a group that advocates for multiracial democracy—told The Standard the Lacy lawsuit coincides with a national Republican effort to engage in voter suppression and prevent  immigrant voters from having their voices heard.

The nonprofit advocacy group pointed out that more than 500 bills have been introduced since the 2020 elections to effectively disenfranchise people by, among other things, requiring photo identification and purging voter rolls.

If the litigation against San Francisco’s non-citizen voting law succeeds, Chinese for Affirmative Action says it would discourage some immigrant voters from weighing in on issues that affect their children. 

“By extending the right to vote to non-citizens, San Francisco has led the way in expanding access to democracy and promoting immigrant inclusion,” Chinese for Affirmative Action Immigrant Rights Coordinator Olivia Zheng said. “In the face of attacks on voting rights across the country, it is crucial to continue defending the right for immigrants to fully participate in and shape their communities.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 105,000 of San Francisco’s 870,000 residents are non-citizens.

Proponents of non-citizen voting rights say it gives people with roots in their community a chance to have a say in local governance. 

Immigrant parent and San Francisco resident Hwaji Shin said it brought her to tears when she voted for the first time in the U.S. in 2018.

Click here to read the full article in the San Francisco Standard

Latest ‘racist’ Smear Against Prop.13

Here we go again. Another “study” purporting to reveal how unfair Proposition 13 is. But this time, the tax-hikers are using the progressives’ favorite catch-all justification: inequity and racism. Prop. 13 has been under constant assault for 42 years by people who want to raise property taxes without limitation. Like all their other arguments, this one won’t stick either.

First, let’s review a few of the many complaints leveled against Prop. 13 over the last few decades. An early one was the “nosy neighbor” argument, complaining that some new homebuyers pay more in property taxes than their neighbors. Of course, exactly like their neighbors, new buyers’ taxes are based on the price they paid for the property, and increases are capped after that.

Next there was the false charge that “Prop. 13 starves education.” Then there was bitterness that Snow White didn’t pay enough in taxes on her Disneyland castle. Now the theme is Social Justice and the Fight Against Racism.

The 47-page report from the Opportunity Institute and Pivot Learning, titled “Unjust Legacy,” wrongly asserts that Proposition 13 has contributed to inequities in schools and communities. Contrary to the authors’ contention that Proposition 13 is unfair to minorities, the nation’s highest court concluded just the opposite. In Nordlinger v. Hahn, the United States Supreme Court expressly stated that California can “legitimately … decide to structure its tax system to discourage rapid turnover in ownership of homes and businesses, for example, in order to inhibit displacement of lower income families by the forces of gentrification.”

Ironically, at the same time the “Unjust Legacy” report was being released in California, the Washington Post carried a story out of Texas with the headline “Modern ‘redlining’ is pushing some Texans out of their homes.” The Post relates the sad situation of Rebecca Flores, a 79-year-old woman in San Antonio who wants to keep her home in the family. But “she and many of her mostly Mexican American neighbors say they are being priced out of their homes due to skyrocketing property taxes and a hot housing market that has developers pressuring them to sell in the rapidly gentrifying city.”

The Post notes that rising home values, and the rising property taxes that follow, threaten to displace the longtime residents who helped give San Antonio its distinctive culture and character. “It’s a crisis facing cities across America,” the paper reports, “where housing is in short supply, affordable housing is even scarcer, and investors are sweeping into high-demand markets with big cash offers that are pricing many Americans out of the market altogether.”

Flores, the 79-year-old grandmother, is at her wits’ end. “This is how the fiber of a community is frayed,” she said. “Investors come and take over. It’s just like 1836, people with money came and changed laws, got the land and the power and they threw all the Mexicans out. Here we are in 2022, and they are doing the same thing all over again.”

The so-called “Unjust Legacy” report concludes that scholars and others “should collectively determine what it will take to overcome political and taxpayer resistance to changing Proposition 13.” This is a thoughtless assault on California property owners, who do not pay property tax bills “collectively.” They pay property taxes for the property they own, based on the price they paid, with an annual inflation adjustment that cannot exceed 2%.

Click here to read the full article in the Daily Breeze

California Takes Aim at Supreme Court’s Concealed Gun Ruling

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Days after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed more people to carry concealed weapons, California lawmakers on Tuesday moved to limit where firearms may be carried and who can have them, while struggling to stay within the high court’s ruling.

They aim to restrict concealed carry to those 21 and older; require applicants to disclose all prior arrests, criminal convictions and restraining or protective orders; require in-person interviews with the applicant and at least three character references; and allow sheriffs and police chiefs to consider applicants’ public statements as they weigh if the individual is dangerous.

“We’re going to push the envelope, but we’re going to do it in a constitutional way,” said Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino.

It’s the latest example of California, where Democrats hold sway, pushing back against recent decisions by conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices. On Monday, lawmakers advanced a gun control measure modeled after a recent high court ruling in a Texas abortion case, and adopted a ballot measure that would enshrine a right to abortion in the California Constitution.

The Supreme Court last week rejected a New York law requiring that people seeking a license to carry a gun in public demonstrate a particular need, such as a direct threat to their safety. California is among a half-dozen states with a similar requirement, and Attorney General Rob Bonta said the ruling renders that portion of California’s law immediately unconstitutional.

But lawmakers won’t act on the replacement legislation until August, after they return from a monthlong summer recess and make further amendments. And even then they won’t seek to impose the new standards immediately, which would require a two-thirds vote, instead waiting to have the legislation take effect in January.

New York, meanwhile, plans a special session of its legislature Thursday to consider gun legislation that could also impose new requirements for a carry permit, perhaps as many as 20 hours of mandatory live-fire training, along with a substantial list of areas where carrying is prohibited.

The California legislation was advanced Tuesday by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a 5-2 vote over the objections of gun owners rights advocates who said it goes too far and predicted that it, too, would be ruled unconstitutional.

“This amendment is not improving California’s concealed carry laws — it’s in defiance of this court opinion,” said Daniel Reid, the National Rifle Association’s Western regional director. “We’re seeing a complete redrafting of places where law-abiding citizens can carry in the state of California. It’s an incredibly confusing patchwork.”

He said lawmakers are using a “shell game” to substitute new rules for the one outlawed by the Supreme Court.

The proposed legislation would bar concealed weapons from schools and universities, government and judicial buildings, medical facilities, public transportation, any place where alcohol is sold and consumed, public parks and playgrounds, and special events that require a permit.

No other state uses those kind of restrictions, said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.

“This bill will never become law,” he said.

The proposal would allow anyone whose application is denied to receive a hearing before a Superior Court judge.

Applicants would be required to provide fingerprints each time they apply for a permit, regardless of whether they have previously submitted their fingerprints to the state Department of Justice, which opponents called redundant and designed to drive up the cost and bureaucracy of obtaining a license.

It also would require the applicant to be the licensed owner of the specific firearm for which they seek a license, which opponents said would make it more difficult for spouses to be licensed for weapons they jointly own, potentially putting them in legal jeopardy.

Bonta said the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t undermine other requirements of California’s law, including that those seeking to carry concealed weapons demonstrate “good moral character.”

Sheriffs and police chiefs are required to perform background checks before issuing permits. The applicant must have training in carrying a concealed weapon, must live or work in the city or county where they are seeking the permit, and the sheriff or police chief may require psychological testing.

California officials issued about 40,000 permits last year, down from more than 100,000 during the peak year of 2016, according to information newly posted on the state Department of Justice’s website.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Jury Convicts Developer Lee in LA City Hall Bribery Trial

Dae Yong Lee was the first defendant to go on trial in the City Hall corruption scandal surrounding former Councilman José Huizar and his associates.

A Los Angeles real estate developer was found guilty on Monday, June 27, of paying a $500,000 bribe to a city councilman to “grease the wheels” for a proposed downtown condominium project.

Dae Yong Lee, also known as David Lee, was the first defendant to go on trial in the City Hall corruption scandal surrounding former Councilman José Huizar and his associates.

Lee and his 940 Hill company — named for the address of the proposed downtown retail and residential project — were convicted of bribery, honest services fraud and obstruction. The fraud and obstruction charges carry a total penalty of up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

The verdict came just hours after the federal criminal jury began deliberating in downtown Los Angeles. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.

Evidence showed Lee used Huizar associate Justin Kim to transfer bags of cash on behalf of his company, 940 Hill LLC, to the councilman’s aide, George Esparza. Within days of payment, Huizar smoothed out a bureaucratic tangle that had halted the proposed mixed-use development from moving forward, according to testimony.

At the time, Huizar was head of a powerful city planning committee that reviewed the city’s biggest development projects.

As chairman of the panel, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cassie Palmer told the jury during her opening statement, “Huizar’s vote mattered, and the defendant knew his vote mattered. They needed José Huizar on their side.”

Defense attorney Ariel Neuman argued that his client had been conned by Kim, who told the developer the cash was needed to pay legitimate fees.

“He made the mistake of trusting the wrong person,” Neuman said of Lee. “He was taken advantage of by a liar and a thief. David Lee did not knowingly or intentionally bribe anyone. He thought he was paying a consulting fee.”

Kim admitted to facilitating the payment from Lee and pleaded guilty to a federal bribery offense. Lee and 940 Hill were also convicted of falsifying accounting and tax records to cover up the bribe — the basis for the obstruction charge.

Both Kim and Esparza took the stand at Lee’s trial for the prosecution.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

Mysterious Bay Area Criminal Organization Had Nationwide Reach, Law Enforcement Impostor, Ties to Shootings and Notorious Murder, Feds Say

On April 13, 2020, a white Jeep Cherokee pulled up alongside a Honda containing Antioch resident Kameron Booth and one other person as it drove past the 23rd Street exit on Interstate 880, then opened fire.

Mortally wounded from gunfire, Booth pulled over, stumbled to the trunk, and in desperation offered a passing motorist $10,000 for a task: He said he had $400,000 in cash that needed to be delivered to another person. Before he could hand over the money, Booth collapsed. Paramedics rushed him to a hospital but he died from his injuries two weeks later.

Booth’s killing remains unsolved, but this month federal prosecutors in Sacramento revealed a bombshell: Just four days before the shooting, an Alameda County prosecutor received a call from a woman claiming to be a U.S. Attorney, inquiring about Booth. Days after the shooting, the same woman called a CHP officer, claiming to be with the DEA, and revealed information that had never been released to the public.

That woman, according to federal prosecutors, was the co-leader of a mysterious criminal organization that has been officially linked to identity theft, marijuana trafficking in several states, and EDD fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic. But court records reveal the investigation also involves unsolved violent crimes, guns hidden in secret compartments, and attempts to retrieve souped-up classic cars that had been seized by law enforcement.

The alleged leaders of the organization are a man named Quinten Moody, 37, of Dublin, and a woman named Myra Minks, 46. Minks, Moody’s onetime girlfriend, is accused of repeatedly impersonating law enforcement officials, including in the calls related to Booth’s homicide. The third defendant, Jessica Tang, 48, of Sacramento, is charged with EDD fraud, but she’s best known for her role in a notorious East Bay murder from 1999.

An indictment against the trio, filed June 16, includes charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana to “California, Georgia, Nevada, Texas, and elsewhere,” false impersonation of an officer, aggravated identity theft, and mail fraud. Most of the charges are aimed at Minks and Moody, while Tang is accused of committed EDD fraud by filling out false unemployment forms in other people’s names.

Moody remains in federal custody in Sacramento, while Tang has been released on a $50,000 bond, court records show. Minks was arrested June 21 in Nevada and is in custody there, pending extradition to Sacramento, where a federal magistrate will decide whether to free her or keep her in jail while the case is pending.

Minks’ past criminal history include other attempts at impersonation, including identity theft. In 2005, she was charged in an alleged identity theft scheme that involved her and another person allegedly buying jewelry with a victim’s credit card. Minks’ co-defendant later escaped from the Sonoma County jail; the complaint alleges the two “discussed arrangements” for the escape beforehand. The charges were dropped a month after they were filed, but Minks was later convicted and sentenced to federal prison for an unrelated fraud scheme, records show.

In 1999, then-Pinole residents Raymond Wong and Tang allegedly murdered and mutilated 21-year-old Alice Sin, dumping her body in a Nevada desert and staging the crime scene to appear as though it was committed by a racist hate group. Wong was dating both women; police believe the motive was related to the love triangle. In 2011, both were charged with murder. Tang pleaded guilty to accessory and received probation and community service, while Wong was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 50 years to life.

Moody, meanwhile, has twice dodged serious criminal convictions. He was accused of beating his then-wife with a blunt object in Alameda County in 2014, but the charges were dropped when the alleged victim’s attorney showed up in court and said she didn’t desire prosecution. In 2010, he beat a federal gun possession case when a judge ruled two U.S. Park officers illegally searched his car, where they found a pistol hidden in a secret compartment, court records show.

The charging documents describe Minks as a daring impostor of law enforcement officials, alleging she claimed to be a U.S. Attorney, a member of the Secret Service, an FBI agent, a DEA agent — also an airline employee — and that she and Moody drafted forged property release orders to obtain vehicles that had been seized by law enforcement. For instance, in October 2020 Minks allegedly called the Colma police department, posing as a Secret Service agent, and asked them to release a Jeep that had been seized from one of Moody’s associates, Gregory Bell, four months earlier.

Federal prosecutors are targeting Bell as well. He currently faces federal gun possession charges in San Francisco and Atlanta. Court records allege that he and Moody were arrested in Roseville in June 2021, after police there attempted to pull over a car containing both men at the direction of the FBI. Moody, the driver, allegedly sped away from police, reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour, before they both were arrested. Bell’s phone reportedly contained a video of him and another man shooting guns at a Georgia gun range.

Prosecutors also allege that in 2019 Bell possessed a pistol — later linked to nonfatal shootings in Oakland and San Francisco — that was found in the hidden compartment of a white Jeep. During a search of his home, authorities allegedly found an unregistered “assault pistol” loaded with 100 rounds, as well as 40 pounds of marijuana.

Some of Minks’ alleged impersonations appeared to be attempts to sniff out federal informants. On April 27, 2020, she allegedly called a federal prosecutor in Georgia, posing as U.S. Attorney “Cynthia Lee” in the Bay Area to inquire about a person referred to as “Associate 1” that had been cooperating with the government, naming Moody as a marijuana trafficker. The Georgia prosecutor allegedly confirmed the existence of an investigation involving Associate 1 and Moody, then discovered there were no federal prosecutors named Cynthia Lee in the Bay Area.

Three weeks earlier, when Minks allegedly called the Alameda County DA’s office, the focus of the call was Booth, according to federal authorities. A DA spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics and DA Nancy O’Malley didn’t return an email seeking comment.

When Booth was gunned down four days after the call, it wasn’t his first shootout, nor the first time he’d been caught with huge amounts of cash. In November 2018, Kameron Booth and his brother, Kyle Booth, were arrested and charged with gun and marijuana possession after they were involved in a gun battle in San Leandro. Police searched their Hayward home and found nearly $2 million in cash and 180 pounds of marijuana, as well as a pound of marijuana and about $43,000 in their car.

Kyle Booth was shot and killed four months before his brother, in Atlanta. Police say Kyle Booth and another California resident, Byron Edwards, were driving through the northeastern district of the Georgia capital when another car pulled alongside them and opened fire, killing both men. Authorities have not announced any arrests in the double homicide, nor publicly revealed a motive beyond saying the victims appear to have been targeted.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Does the Legislature know What It’s Doing With The Abortion Amendment?

At the urging of Governor Gavin Newsom, the California legislature is rushing a constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would create a fundamental right to choose an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Once it is on the November ballot, it needs only a simple majority to pass, and then there will be a fundamental constitutional right to choose a late-term abortion in California.

Senator Melissa Melendez sought to clarify the issue during the Senate floor debate on June 20. “Does this constitutional amendment place any restrictions on when a woman can get an abortion?” she asked Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, who along with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is the principal author of SCA 10.

“It is consistent with current California law, so what exists today is as it would be. It is between the doctor and the client, the patient,” Atkins answered.

Melendez wondered “where in the bill it would be very clear, should this go to a court, that it is to coincide with current state law.”

Atkins responded, “It’s as simple, it’s simply stated: abortion, right to contraception, it doesn’t change practice in California. That is between a doctor, and the patient.”

But Atkins is contradicted by the bill analysis prepared for the Senate, which states that current law in California “provides that the state may not deny or interfere with a person’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the person.”

Here is the exact language of current law, in Health and Safety Code Section 123462(c): “The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman’s fundamental right to choose to bear a child or to choose to obtain an abortion, except as specifically permitted by this article.”

And here’s the “except” language, in Section 123466: “The state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”

SCA 10 says this instead: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

The California Catholic Conference issued a statement of opposition to the bill that included this sentence: “We are extremely troubled by the language in SCA 10, which is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late-term abortions, which most Californians oppose.”

A constitutional amendment overrides any law that conflicts with it. If SCA 10 is adopted, the “except” language in current law could be interpreted by a court as an unconstitutional infringement of the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.”

Even the strongest pro-choice advocates should think this through very carefully.

What if doctors or hospitals refuse to perform the procedure late in pregnancy? Could they be sued for denying a fundamental right? Would the state take action to penalize unwilling providers? Will malpractice insurance rates be affected? Will more doctors leave California or stop practicing?

Will private insurance policies be required to cover late-term abortion? Will taxpayer-paid health insurance pay for it?

What happens if a federal court finds that someone has standing to sue on behalf of a nearly full-term fetus and a lawsuit goes forward to block an abortion or challenge California’s new constitutional provision? Could such a case lead to a landmark Supreme Court ruling declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to be born?

And then what?

Then we’re right back where we started, in a national war over future nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Understand that SCA 10 is completely unnecessary to protect current law in California. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade frees the states to make their own laws and regulations concerning abortion. California has already done that. Without SCA 10, the right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability or to protect the life or health of the mother will still be the law of the land in California.

Why are the governor and more than two-thirds of state lawmakers so intent on getting SCA 10 on the ballot this fall?

The answer is in the polling data. It’s all about motivating the independent “swing” voters who decide close elections to turn out and vote this fall.

A poll by the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at UC San Diego asked registered California voters how likely it is that they will vote in the November election. Then the pollsters showed the voters a May 7 Newsweek article headlined, “National Abortion Ban Possible if Roe v. Wade Overturned: Mitch McConnell.”

The pollsters found that “the percentage of independents definitely planning to vote when asked at the beginning of the survey was 45.9%; this rose to 57.1% among those who read about a potential abortion ban.”

Click here to read read the full article at the OC Register

California Governor, Lawmakers Near Deal on Gas Tax Rebate

Most California taxpayers would get hundreds of dollars in cash to help offset the high price of fuel and other goods under a tentative budget compromise being discussed by legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The plan would return a portion of California’s record-setting $97 billion budget surplus to taxpayers — but the money would only go to people who made below a certain income level.

Newsom and legislative leaders were still negotiating the state budget on Friday, with talks scheduled to extend into the weekend. While both sides had agreed to a framework for rebates, the overall numbers could change as other parts of the budget are finalized. But in general, the less money people make in a year, the more money they would get from the state.

The current proposal would return about $9.5 billion to taxpayers. Single people who make less than $75,000 per year and couples who make less than $150,000 per year would get $350 per taxpayer, plus an extra $350 for each dependent. That means a married couple earning $100,000 per year with one child would get $1,050.

Single people who make less than $125,000 per year and couples who make less than $250,000 per year would get $250 each plus their dependents. Single people making less than $250,000 per year and couples making less than $500,000 per year would get $200 each plus their dependents.

The proposal was confirmed by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles. Santiago announced the plan in a news release late Friday afternoon, calling it an agreement between Newsom and the Legislature. But a representative for Santiago’s office later clarified the deal has not yet been finalized.

“As prices increase on everything from gas to baby formula, this rebate will help the vast majority of California taxpayers, including undocumented Californians, with hundreds of dollars in direct cash assistance, providing critical relief during tough times,” Santiago said.

The statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California hit an all-time high of $6.44 last week. The average price was $6.35 cents per gallon on Friday compared to the national average of $4.93.

Republicans, who don’t control enough seats in the state Legislature to pass anything, have called for Newsom and Democrats to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax — which at 51.1 cents per gallon is the second highest in the nation. The tax is scheduled to increase to 53.9 cents per gallon next week, an automatic adjustment that is part of a state law intended to keep up with inflation.

Newsom and Democratic leaders have refused to suspend the gas tax, arguing it would not guarantee a big enough price drop to benefit drivers. They also said it would cost construction jobs as the tax pays for highway maintenance throughout the state.

Click here to read the full article in AP News