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THE NOONER for April 2, 2014

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IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR: The LAO has posted March revenue numbers and will be beginning tracking daily personal income cash receipts tomorrow. Add the LAO twitter feed to stay on top of the latest.

SCOTUS: High court voids overall contribution limits [Mark Sherman @ WaPo] - "The Supreme Court struck down limits Wednesday in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. The justices said in a 5-4 vote that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates."

Like it or not (and liberal justices did not), the decision is consistent with Supreme Court doctrine. Contribution limits to individual candidates are constitutional limits on speech to minimize corruption of a donor with an individual prospective lawmaker. Thus, caps to candidates are rationally constitutional, while the quantity of candidates an individual contributes to should not matter (as long as we continue to allow individuals to contribute, as opposed to public financing). Further, in a Citizens United world, this may be a good thing, in that more contributions can go through candidate committees than SuperPACs.

California does not have an aggregate cap in its campaign finance law, so the ruling only impacts federal candidates who benefit from a donor exceeding the maximum.

CAUSE: FBI searches Yee aides' office near state Capitol [Melody Gutierrez @ SFChron] -

Less than a week after arresting state Sen. Leland Yee, FBI agents searched a Sacramento office Tuesday that is used by aides to the San Francisco Democrat, authorities and legislative employees said. Agents converged in the morning on a fifth-floor office of the Legislative Office Building across from the Capitol, said Gina Swankie, an FBI spokeswoman in Sacramento."

The office is used by district employees for Yee and as an entrance to a separate office for aides to state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. The FBI agents searched the portion used by Yee's aides.

Authorities said the FBI was unaware of the office before agents arrested Yee on Wednesday.

"We told the FBI we found this office," said Mark Hedlund, spokesman for state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "They came back with a warrant this morning. To our knowledge, they didn't take anything."

EFFECT: California Senate Dems cancel annual golf fundraiser [Laurel Rosenhall @ SacBee] - "Instead of attending the Pro Tem Cup, Senate Democrats "intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this State," the statement said."

Remember, A-Listers, to not register in advance puts you on the S-List. To ask for your money back after the cancellation puts you on the Super-S-List.

Schnur: Secretary of state should be 'reformer-in-chief' and Secretary of State Candidate Calling for Ethics Commission

. . . which brought up a discussion on Twitter yesterday. The Secretary of State is legally the state's custodian of records, and is not charged with enforcement (nor with sending delegations to Russia, as Yee suggested to an undercover agent). Enforcement of campaign and ethics reporting laws is under the Fair Political Practices Commission. The FPPC, created by the Political Reform Act in 1974, has the ability to impose fines for those violating reporting requirements. Laws around political corruption is enforced by the U.S. Attorney, California Attorney General, and local district attorneys. 

We have an ethics agency, and elected and appointed officials fill out Form 700s. We know Leland Yee timely reported a $1.89 Coke and straw received from Coca-Cola. However "envelopes of cash" were not reported as that violates the law. And, sure, it took three years from the first connection to Yee to lead to his arrest. That's good law enforcement work, as distasteful as it seems that we had a bad apple amongst a barrel of good ones in our Legislature. It takes time to build cases and prove corruption. "I hear that Politician X takes cash for favors" doesn't lock people away.

Those calling for new agencies or responsibilities are confusing the issue of under-resourcing of our existing rubric of laws, which leads to prosecutorial discretion. Is it fair that candidates in Los Angeles are held to a higher standard on things like residency because the DA's office has prioritized "political corruption" while candidates in Orange and Sacramento counties get a pass? Absolutely not. However, prosecutorial discretion goes back as old as this nation's founding and the legal systems on which ours was modeled.

The system worked.

Sure, we need to provide more resources to the Secretary of State and FPPC to provide better public disclosure so that irregularities can be identified. The Form 700 should be required to be submitted electronically so they can be searched. That's already in the pilot stage. Work has begun on rebuilding CAL-ACCESS, the campaign finance and lobbying reporting system. Lots of good things are happening and, if the agencies had more resources, it could be done more quickly. But, we don't need new agencies or to change responsibilities for constitutional officers.

Don't get me wrong, Schnur and Cressman are just doing what candidates do, as evidenced by the headlines. 

#AGREE: We Owe Rod Wright An Apology [Joe Mathews @ Fox & Hounds]

The media, by describing Wright as one of three lawbreakers are doing most of the wrong here. But Wright's colleagues did him no favors when they suspended him along with Ron Calderon, accused of taking bribes, and Leland Yee, accused of a host of things, including weapons dealing, at the same time. Wright should have been left out of the suspensions.

It's not clear to me that Wright's crime is even a crime. Residency has always been a very loose requirement, and the requirement doesn't exist for members of Congress. And the money that determines legislative and Congressional elections doesn't have to come from inside the district – so why should the candidate?

I wouldn't be surprised to see Wright's conviction overturned on appeal. Even it holds, he didn't violate the public trust – and he hasn't been accused of anything remotely like the conduct that Calderon and Yee are accused of."

Aside from the prosecutorial discretion issue, there is a requirement in the state constitution that a candidate reside in a district one year prior to the election, which is not enforced based on Voting Rights Act cases in other states. That's the same provision that Rod Wright was convicted under, although it wasn't applied to several candidates when their districts moved due to redistricting.

Yes, the Daily Show.

AD16 (Tri-Valley): The independent expenditures committee led by the California Teachers Association for the benefit of Tim Sbranti is up to $286,000. Meanwhile, Sbranti's opponent Steve Glazer takes his anti-questionnaire campaign to Gloria Romero.

AD20 (Hayward): There's something about getting all these press announcements by Bob Wieckowski's shop about the data breach and Nieman Marcus...if only I could get my head around it... 

AD55 (Diamond Bar): Biographies are scrutinized in 55th state Assembly District race [Martin Wisckol @ OCR] - "Biographies for Assembly candidate and Diamond Bar Councilwoman Ling-Ling Chang have sometimes listed her as having been born in Diamond Bar, having a degree in biology from UC Riverside and now attending Harvard. In fact, she was born in Taiwan, has no degrees and has been taking online classes from Harvard Extension School since 2008. The Republican is running for Assembly District 55, half of which is in Orange County."

COURTWATCH: Why 'Harris v. Quinn' Has Labor Very, Very Nervous [Joel Rogers @ The Nation] - "The fate of public sector unionism lies with a single Supreme Court justice—and not the one you'd want."

#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Bill Monning!




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#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Marie WaldronKiyomi Birchill (Saturday), John Laird (Saturday), Ted Lieu (Saturday), Mark DeSaulnier (Monday), and Kara Howard (Monday).




More Public Corruption Investigations, Please
Robert Gammon @
The shocking arrest last week of state Senator Leland Yee on charges of public corruption and conspiracy to sell illegal firearms has renewed calls for campaign finance and public ethics reform in California.

Taxpayer-financed California Campaigns Bad Idea, Schnur Says
Jim Miller @
Suggestions that California adopt public campaign financing in response to a spate of Capitol corruption scandals are "the last refuge" of politicians who want to keep a corrupt status quo, secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur said Tuesday.

Dem Sec Of State Candidate Derek Cressman’s Pitch: “i’m Not A State Senator” - Politics Blog
Derek Cressman, a former Common Cause head and candidate for California Secretary of State, says that -- in the wake of a corruption scandal ensnaring three Democratic State Senators -- he will app...

FBI Returns To Sacramento To Search Another Leland Yee Office
Laurel Rosenhall and Christopher Cadelago @
Suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, leaves the San Francisco Federal Building on March 26, 2014, in San Francisco. The FBI has filed a 137-page affidavit outlining a detailed corruption case against Yee, who is accused of asking for campaign donations in exchange for introducing an undercover agent to an arms trafficker.

California Senate Dems Cancel Annual Golf Fundraiser
Laurel Rosenhall @
Reeling from a spate of political scandals, leaders in the California Senate have canceled the Pro Tem Cup, a major fundraiser scheduled for this Friday where lobbyists typically mingle with legislators at the Torrey Pines golf course near San Diego to raise money for the California Democratic Party.

Fallout From The Senate Scandals :: Fox&hounds
Senator Leland Yee is innocent until proven guilty, but in the court of public perception his high profile arrest will ripple through the political landscape like aftershocks from an earthquake.

Schnur: Secretary Of State Should Be 'Reformer-in-Chief'
Melanie Mason @
Secretary of State candidate Dan Schnur, denouncing lawmakers' response to the recent series of ethics scandals in the state Senate as "diffident and lackadaisical," cast his bid to be the state's top elections official as a campaign to be "California's reformer-in-chief." 

Senate Ethics Reforms Real Or Just Image Management?
Dan Walters @
With three of his Democratic colleagues accused of crimes, the state Senate’s top leader, Darrell Steinberg, is in total crisis response mode these days.

Senate Democrats call off Pro Tem Cup fundraiser
Melody Gutierrez @
Senate leadership canceled a signature Democratic fundraiser scheduled for this weekend - where tickets cost as much as $65,000 - saying the decision was a result of "very recent and extraordinary breaches of the public's trust by three individuals."

Healthcare Advocates Push For Medical Services For Uninsured
Eryn Brown @
Healthcare advocates urge L.A. County Board of Supervisors to set aside more funding for free medical services people who remain uninsured, including immigrants lacking legal status.

Assembly Resolution Blasts Outsourcing
Jon Ortiz @
An Assembly resolution against government contracting is drawing fire from local governments and business groups for what they contend is a pledge against giving work to outside interests.

Obama celebrates 7.1 million health care sign-ups
Mercury News wire @
After facing a rocky start and chorus of naysayers who declared his health care law a failure, President Barack Obama on Tuesday celebrated a better-than-expected 7.1 million sign-ups for health coverage that he said should end the debate over whether the law should be repealed.

For faulty state exchanges, big decisions loom about healthcare law
Maeve Reston @
Although the Obama administration appears to have surpassed its goal of enrolling more than 7 million people in the new healthcare program this year, some of the states that have struggled with technology problems are headed into an intensive new phase of fixes as they try to shepherd final enrollees through the process.

S.F. supervisors vote to bring in-law units out of shadows
Marisa Lagos @
San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday took a crack at easing the city's housing problems, approving landmark legislation that would allow property owners to bring tens of thousands of illegal in-law units out of the shadows and into the official housing market.

Supreme Court strikes down aggregate campaign limits on individuals, opening political taps
Michael Doyle @
The Supreme Court on Wednesday further opened up the taps on political campaign spending, with a bombshell ruling that removes the long-standing limits on how much total money an individual can contribute to federal candidates.

L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies Union Embroiled In Power Struggle
Cindy Chang and Robert Faturechi @
The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has two presidents, two boards of directors and two 'official' websites.

California Snow Levels Remain Low, Signaling Less Water For Summer
Snow levels atop California's Sierra Nevada mountains, key indicators of how much water will be available for drought-stricken farms, residents and wildlife this summer, remained precariously low despite recent storms, officials said Tuesday.

Caterpillar Avoided $2.4 Billion In Taxes, Senator Says
Katherine Skiba @
Democratic senator blasts Caterpillar over offshore tax strategy. Republican Sen. Rand Paul says the firm should get an award.

Keith Jackson emerges as major figure in Calif. Sen. Yee probe
Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross @
Former San Francisco school board President Keith Jackson turns out to be more than the alleged conduit between state Sen. Leland Yee and tong leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow in the corruption case that has ensnared all three men.

New Report Finds Dramatic Racial Disparities For California Kids
Rachel Dornhelm @
Many children of color in the state face different health and education opportunities from the earliest years. That’s according to a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Maryland to overhaul healthcare exchange with help from Connecticut
Maeve Reston @
The board of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange voted Tuesday night to overhaul its troubled healthcare website by adopting the smooth-running technology platform developed by Connecticut.

Solutions Sought To Reduce Food Waste At Schools
Teresa Watanabe @
Federal rules require students to take at least three items each day, but L.A. Unified throws away at least $100,000 in food daily.

President Obama says Obamacare enrolled 7.1 million people
Christi Parsons @
WASHINGTON — In a buoyant Rose Garden event Tuesday to announce that 7.1 million people signed up by the deadline for the first round of Obamacare, President Obama gleefully declared his healthcare law “good for the country” and pledged he would work to perfect it in the months to come.

Ethics Bills Abound After California Senate Scandals
Katie Orr @
A wave of ethics-related bills is washing over the California Capitol after two recent corruption scandals. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are canceling their marquee campaign fundraising event of the year as three of their members face legal troubles.