CPAC 2013- Brent Bozell, Founder and President Media Research Center
February 20, 2013
California lobbyists are facing increased scrutiny by theFair Political Practices Commission, according to anew report by the state's political watchdog agency.
The FPPC prosecuted 14 lobbyists in 2012 for violations of the California Political Reform Act, up from just one lobbyist prosecuted two years earlier, says the commission's year-end report. The FPPC also sent 54 warning letters to lobbyists who violated the law in 2012, said the FPPC's enforcement chief, Gary Winuk. Warning letters go out when evidence shows the law was broken but circumstances do not warrant imposing a fine.
Lobbyists are required to file quarterly financial statements with the Secretary of State's Office that disclose who their clients are, how much they're being paid, and which bills or agencies they're lobbying. Any failure to file those reports can result in an investigation by the FPPC. Winuk attributed the rise in lobbying prosecutions to better coordination between the FPPC and the Secretary of State's Office.
"Every person who doesn't file with the Secretary of State after a short period of time, it gets sent over here as an enforcement referral, so no one can fall through the cracks," Winuk said.
The FPPC's annual report also touts a rise in prosecutions of money laundering and an increased focus on behested payments. The agency reports that its major successes in 2012 included:
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson $37,500 for failing to report on time
the payments he asked donors to make to various charities.
• Compelling a nonprofit group in Arizona to report the source of its funds after it contributed $11 million to a California campaign committee supporting Proposition 32 and opposing Proposition 30.
• Investigating campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee, who eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling millions from her clients' campaign accounts and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
• Fining former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his California Dream Team committee $30,000 for illegally using ballot measure committee funds to pay for advertising related to budget negotiations.
Congress: EPA is flouting gov’t transparency laws to hide emails
12:29 PM 02/08/2013
Congressional Republicans are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of improperly using an exemption clause under the Freedom of Information Act to redact the alias email of departing Administrator Lisa Jackson.
GOP lawmakers are asking that the EPA inspector general broaden his search to find out if the agency abused its discretion by redacting the Jackson’s account name, domain name, and server for her alias account.
“Based on documents the Committees have obtained, EPA is clearly deviating from President Obama’s openness initiative and from the letter of the law,” said a letter from Republicans Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, California Rep. Darrell Issa, and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith to the EPA’s inspector general.
“It also appears that EPA is hiding information the public has a right to know in violation of Federal law,” the letter continues, adding that the “EPA has cited Exemption 6 to redact the entire email address and the account name in every email either sent or received by Lisa Jackson’s alias email account. In doing so, the agency not only denied the public knowledge of the domain name, but also the server she used.”
The EPA used Exemption 6 to redact the email address used by Jackson in the released emails. This exemption is supposed to only be used to protect personal privacy — not Jackson’s work email address.
The letter also noted that the EPA previously used a different FOIA exemption to redact Jackson’s alias account in released documents.
The Department of Justice FOIA guidance says that “[e]xemption 6 protects information about individuals ‘in personnel and medical files and similar files,’ when disclosing such information, “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’”
President Obama also instructed agencies that FOIA-ed information should not be withheld “merely because officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”
January 18, 2013
By Torey Van Oot and Jim Sanders
State legislators billed taxpayers more than $450,000 for on-the-job driving in the last legislative year, but officials won't say where the lawmakers went.
The Legislature began reimbursing members for work-related travel in their personal cars, including trips from their home to the Capitol, in Dec. 2011, after a program providing state-leased cars to members was cut by the Citizens Compensation Commission. The change saved taxpayers nearly $240,000 in its first year, a Bee analysis found.
The mileage reimbursements varied significantly by member, however. Some legislators declined to seek reimbursement, while others received large sums for driving thousands of miles for legislative or other official business. While some of the members logging the most miles represent vast, rural districts within driving distance of the Capitol, others from geographically compact districts in Southern California also racked up thousands of dollars in reimbursement costs.
The state Senate and the Assembly have denied a public records request from The Bee to review mileage logbooks legislators submitted when seeking the 53-cents-a-mile reimbursements for car travel related to work in the last legislative year. Officials in both houses cited "concerns regarding privacy, security and legislative privilege" in letters explaining why they are withholding the individual logbooks. Both houses did provide monthly claim sheets filed by legislators, which show overall miles and reimbursement totals that had already been provided to The Bee electronically.
Phillip Ung, policy advocate for California Common Cause, criticized the decision, calling it a sign that the Legislative Open Records Act "continues to be the least transparency-promoting law in the state of California."
"I think if legislators are going to be asking the public to reimburse them for their gas, the public has the right to know where these members are driving," he said.
The opinion does not affect the passage of Proposition 30 but could limit the Legislature's future use of so-called "spot bills," placeholder bills included in budget packages and passed as urgency measures only after they are filled with language later. Such budget-related bills are useful to lawmakers because they require only a majority vote and take effect immediately.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that the does not allow the Legislature to include empty spot bills in the budget package and to fill them with content as urgency bills later.
The measure that gave Proposition 30 top billing on the November ballot "was nothing but a number, a placeholder, an empty vessel at the time the budget bill was passed," the court ruled.
That bill, Assembly Bill 1499, gave ballot order priority to signature-based constitutional amendments over other initiatives. A higher position on the ballot is considered advantageous.
The taxpayers association heralded the ruling in a news release, calling it a case of "huge significance for the budget process."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office said it was reviewing the decision and conferring with counsel.
12/28/12 9:16 PM EST
The Obama Administration told a federal appeals court Friday that if it wants to hear a presentation from lawyers for three senators in a case about potential indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, the court should not take that time away from Justice Department attorneys representing the executive branch.
On Wednesday, lawyers for Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on behalf of Congress, as that court considers a lower court injunction against the use of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 to detain Americans. In that motion, the senators' attorneys said the Justice Department did not oppose their request.
However, the Justice Department chimed in Friday afternoon saying that what it told the senators' lawyers was, in essence: "Not on our time."
"With respect, it would be highly unusual, and we believe unwarranted in a case such as this, to take argument time from the parties who are subject to a district court’s injunctive order to allow individual members of one component of the legislative branch to provide their views of the meaning and purpose of a federal statute that -- as amici themselves agree... -- expressly states that it did not change existing law," the Justice Department wrote.
Also, DOJ refers to the senatorial triumvarate as the "three amici," which doesn't quite have the ring of the "three amigos," but is getting there. http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/?ml=bl_jg
12/29/12 7:12 PM EST
A federal judge in California has rejected the Obama administration's effort to use secret arguments and evidence to defeat a lawsuit relating to the so-called no-fly list designed to keep suspected terrorists off of airline flights.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup turned down a motion by the Justice Department to dismiss former Stanford student Rahinah Ibrahim's lawsuit against various federal government agencies over her reported inclusion on the no-fly list as well as an incident in September 2005 where she was barred from taking a flight from San Francisco and detained for a couple of hours.
Alsup, who sits in San Francisco, also refused the Justice Department's offer to show him affidavits from law enforcement officials which the government would not share with Ibrahim or her attorneys.
"Here the government seeks to affirmatively use allegedly privileged information to dispose of the case entirely without ever revealing to the other side what its secret evidence might be," Alsup wrote in an order filed last week (and posted ). "Only in the rarest of circumstances should a district judge, in his or her discretion, receive ex parte argument and evidence in secret from only one side aimed at winning or ending a case over the objection of the other side. Here, the government has not justified its sweeping proposal."
"It has gone so far as even to redact from its table of authorities some of the reported caselaw on which it relies! This is too hard to swallow," Alsup wrote.
Alsup seemed particularly exercised by what he said was the Justice Department's proposal that it would hang on to the confidential materials, which he added would not be officially filed with the court. If the judge is correctly stating the government's proposal, it would be unusual even for cases involving classified information. A quick glance at the filings in the case suggests the government is following its typical process for cases involving sensitive information. (No-fly list data, which is regularly shared with uncleared airline personnel, is not considered classified but rather "sensitive security information" which the Transportation Security Administration has legal control over.)
The civil case will now proceed to discovery of relevant evidence. The judge did not rule out considering specific evidence later on that the government may wish to submit and keep secret, but he set a high bar for doing so. He also said the government would have to share any SSI relevant to the case with Ibrahim's counsel.
AP Exclusive: Lawmakers got fixes then bought cars
By DON THOMPSON
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 - 9:52 am
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- At least a dozen California lawmakers repaired or upgraded their state-provided vehicles at taxpayers' expense in the final weeks before the one-of-its-kind perk was ending, then later bought those vehicles for personal use.
They ranged from cosmetic changes, such as fixing dents and replacing wheel covers, to billing the state hundreds or even thousands of dollars for fresh tires, multipoint inspections and new parts such as fuel pumps.
Some had the vehicles they would soon buy inspected at no cost to them, while others had last-minute work done under warranty, according to state maintenance records obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests.
Officials at the state Senate and Assembly said they did not ask lawmakers to have their vehicles repaired or upgraded before the state put them up for sale to independent dealers a year ago.
"Essentially what they did was get all their repairs done on the state's dime before they bought it," said Philip Ung, a spokesman for the government watchdog group Common Cause.
The sale was the last step in ending a program dating to the 1950s that had been criticized as an unreasonable benefit for legislators who in recent years have slashed the state's social services safety net to stem billion-dollar budget deficits.
The Associated Press has previously reported on various aspects of the perk, including that the Legislature had spent $5 million for one year's fleet and refused to publicly release the mileage on the vehicles or where they drove them.
California was the only state that provided vehicles to its rank-and-file lawmakers for unlimited use, until the state Citizens Compensation Commission voted in April 2011 to do away with the benefit. Legislators were told to turn in their vehicles by Dec. 1, 2011, so they could be sold.
Of 64 lawmakers who had state-financed repairs after the citizens commission's decision, 37 purchased their vehicles. That includes 16 of 18 senators and 21 of 46 Assembly members.
Many sought routine maintenance, such as oil changes, that accounted for a portion of the more than $78,000 the state spent to repair, clean and upgrade the state-provided vehicles in the final nine months of the program.
Others did much more shortly before the sale, according to the documents. The AP also paid for records from the Department of Motor Vehicles to help determine which lawmakers had bought their vehicles.
What a surprise. Empirical data from researchers at the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation reveal that employees in the private sector spend an additional month working each year compared to those in the public sector.
The Wall Street Journal reports,
With state and local governments struggling to balance budgets in a still sluggish economy, government employment has fallen by 562,000 jobs since September 2008, a decline of 2.6%. In response, the Obama administration has called for more federal aid—on top of the $250 billion doled out in the 2009 Recovery Act—to help keep state and local government payrolls near prerecession levels.
But supporters of more federal aid implicitly assume that the size of the public sector was optimal before the recession. On the contrary, overstaffing is a serious problem in government, and the best evidence is a simple empirical fact: Government employees don’t work as much as private employees. If public-sector employees just worked as many hours as their private counterparts, governments at all levels could save more than $100 billion in annual labor costs.
How do we know that? Are we just dredging up well-worn stereotypes of government employees enjoying shorter work days, prolonged sick leave and extended vacation breaks? In fact, new evidence from a comprehensive and objective data set confirms that the “underworked” government employee is more than a stereotype. …
The time-use survey’s data on work time are far more comprehensive and objective than any other available data source. The survey doesn’t undercount working at home versus working at an office, or working evenings rather than working regular business hours. If, for example, an individual was working at 2 a.m. on the weekend, the American Time Use Survey will account for it. …
What we found was that during a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours. In a calendar year, private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers. Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year compared with public employees. If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services. …
Based on the most detailed and objective data set available, the private sector really does work more than the public sector. This fact may hold different lessons for different people, but our own take is simple: Before we ask private-sector employees to work more to support government, government itself should work as much as the private sector.
Compare this with the unemployment chart below of the public and private sectors.
We could save $130 billion by reducing the unproductive bloat of Obama’s precious government empire. Instead, Obama would rather divert the country with hatred and division by maligning the private sector producers. Resulting in more unemployment for the hardest workers.