Tag Archives: California

No election fraud charges against Ami Bera, says U.S. Justice Dept.

I’m sure Ami had no idea what his father was doing. Riiiiight.

Demorat Ami Bera

Demorat Ami Bera

From Sacramento Bee: The U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that it has closed the books on its investigation of contributions to the campaign committee of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

The only result of the investigation was the prosecution of Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, who pleaded guilty to election fraud and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. He was also fined $100,000 and ordered to serve three years under the supervision of federal probation authorities upon his release from prison.

“No other charges will be sought in this matter,” the Justice Department’s announcement said. “The United States will not comment further on this matter.”

Babulal Bera

Babulal Bera

Rep. Bera issued the following prepared statement after the department’s announcement:

 “After conducting an exhaustive investigation, this case was closed after the U.S. attorney stated that my campaign and I had been fully cooperative and that neither I nor my staff were targets of this investigation.

“In this matter, I have never believed it to be appropriate for me to comment on how authorities handle their job, and I trust the decisions they made in the pursuit of this case.

“My father made a grave mistake, but moving forward I’m focused on helping my parents get through the next year.”

Bera faces a stiff challenge in the Nov. 8 election from Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones for his 7th District seat.

Jones’ campaign spokesman Dave Gilliard said in an email, “Congressman Bera was not exonerated or cleared. The statement simply says there will no more charges in the case.”

“That Bera’s elderly father masterminded a very sophisticated quarter of a million dollar political money laundering scheme is beyond rational belief,” Gilliard added.

The FBI, a branch of the Justice Department, investigated contributions made from 2009 through 2012 to Ami Bera’s campaign committee. The agents established that Babulal Bera, 83, of La Palma in Orange County, made unlawfully excessive contributions to his son’s committee and made contributions in the names of other people, also a violation of federal election law.

He solicited legal maximum contributions from people, allowed them to be recorded on the records of the committee and reported to the Federal Election Commission as contributors, and then reimbursed them.

At a May news conference after the matter became public, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said there were approximately 90 such straw donors who were contributors of record but were reimbursed a total of more than $260,000 by Babulal Bera. He said the straw donors included Bera family members, friends and acquaintances.

Yet, he said, there is no evidence Ami Bera or any members of his congressional and campaign staffs knew of Babulal Bera’s criminal activity.

Talbert acknowledged at the news conference that the straw donors, some of whom were interviewed by the FBI, were culpable due to their participation in the scheme. Their identities have not been made public, and none of them will be charged.

The Justice Department does not typically announce conclusions of its investigations. “It’s unusual for the government to announce its investigations to be over,” said William Portanova, a former federal and state prosecutor now in private practice. “It takes away from the deterrent value. The government wins when people are worried they may be involved in an investigation. Everyone’s behavior improves.

Read the rest of the story here.

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Planned Parenthood-backed bill faces ACLU, media backlash in California

The truth shall not be exposed...

The truth shall not be exposed…

From Fox News: California lawmakers have OK’d a Planned Parenthood-backed bill that creates new penalties for distributing secret recordings of discussions with health providers – but civil rights and media advocates say the measure goes too far. 

The bill, which passed Friday and now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, targets activists such as the Center for Medical Progress — which last year released secretly recorded videos purportedly showing activists discussing the purchase of aborted fetal body parts with Planned Parenthood representatives.

Truth hurts...

Truth hurts…

The videos, while criticized for selective editing, sparked significant outrage among Republicans who called for the organization to be defunded.

Recording and distributing a “confidential communication” without consent already is a crime under California law. However, the new bill adds an additional layer of penalties — including additional fines and up to a year in prison — specifically for recording a conversation with a health care provider.

Planned Parenthood supported the bill and said that in light of the videos, it had seen a nine-fold increase in violence against its facilities. “With the Internet and the tremendous wildfire nature in which news can be spread now through social media, we need to have a crime against distribution by those in particular who did the illegal recording,” Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, told the Los Angeles Times.

The bill passed on a party-line vote. However, some voices often allied with Democrats were unhappy with the bill.

“We know of no legitimate governmental reason for singling-out disclosure of all health care provider communications for special criminal sanctions, making the bill vulnerable not only on First Amendment grounds but also on equal protection grounds,” the American Civil Liberties Union argued in opposition to the bill in June.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the measure initially stalled in the state Senate due to opposition from media advocates that it could prevent lawyers and journalists from doing their jobs. However, it passed after language was added that restricted who could be prosecuted under the law — which proponents said would prevent it being used against news organizations reporting on such videos.

“It is narrowly tailored to address the growing threat to health care providers,” Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson told the Bee. (Jackson has been honored by the Planned Parenthood Action FUND for her courageous efforts to support reproductive rights.)

hannah-beth-jackson

It did not appear, though, that those changes specifically addressed the ACLU’s complaints. The ACLU did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FoxNews.com on Tuesday.

Even after the amendments, The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board on Aug. 31 called the move to give health care providers special protection “mystifying” and accused the lawmakers behind the bill of pandering to special interests.

“But make no mistake, this measure would heap more criminal and civil penalties on making a secret recording — an act that’s already prohibited by state law, even when done in the public interest — simply to satisfy an interest group popular among Sacramento Democrats,” the board said.

The editorial board warned that the bill could disincentivize potential whistle-blowers from recording abuses such as a patient who sees a doctor handing out opioid prescriptions too liberally. “The potential for unanticipated and unwelcome consequences is huge,” the board said.

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Concealed-gun fees in CA could increase under bill headed to Brown

It’s not like they’ll be getting any additional revenue from the gangbangers to help them balance their budgets.

Governor Brown

Governor Brown

From Sacramento Bee: Concealed carry permits could get more expensive under a bill the California Assembly sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday.

The prevalence of such permits varies widely across California, depending largely on the stance of local sheriffs. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones has been among the state’s most prolific, granting thousands.

Kevin McCarty

Kevin McCarty

One of the lawmakers whose district falls under Jones’ jurisdiction, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced a pair of bills intended to more tightly regulate those permits.

He has since abandoned a bill requiring people to show they face imminent danger to get a permit, which would limit how often they’re granted. But a companion bill allowing cities and counties to boost the cost of permits beyond its current $100 floor passed the Assembly Tuesday on a 41-29 vote. McCarty called it a way to help local governments balance their budgets.

“It simply requires that the fees charged by a sheriff or police chief cover the cost to obtain or enforce these permits,” McCarty said, adding that for former local officials now in the Legislature, “an issue we know all about is cost recovery.”

But critics called that misleading, arguing McCarty simply opposes the notion of concealed weapons.

“That’s what this is about – pricing people out of their constitutional right to have a concealed carry permit,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore.

In addition to McCarty, Assembly members Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa, voted for the bill. Sacramento-area members Jim Frazier, D-Oakley and Beth Gaines, R-El Dorado HIlls voted no. James Gallagher, R-Plumas Lake, and Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, did not vote.

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Jerry Brown scolds Fresno sheriff in voice mail over Proposition 57 mailer

The "very thoughtful" Jerry Brown

The “very thoughtful” Jerry Brown

From Sacramento Bee: In his effort to pass a ballot measure to make certain nonviolent felons eligible for early release, Gov. Jerry Brown has turned to direct confrontation – scolding a California sheriff in a voice mail for what he called a “malicious” mailer opposing the measure.

“Hey Margaret, I got that mailing on Prop. 57 that you signed,” Brown said in a message received by Margaret Mims, the sheriff of Fresno County, and obtained by The Sacramento Bee.

In the voice mail, Brown objected to campaign’s distribution of a card featuring a prisoner that “you said would be released under my proposition.”

“I just want you to know that’s completely false, and that makes that mailer extremely false, and I would even say malicious,” Brown, a Democrat, told the sheriff, a Republican.

He accused Mims of employing “scare tactics that I think are unbecoming of a public official, and certainly will not build the kind of mutual respect and trust that we all need to do our jobs.”

Opponents of Brown’s measure have been distributing sportslike trading cards with photographs of prisoners convicted of heinous crimes under the headline, “Meet your new neighbor.” Though it was unclear what prisoner was featured in the card Brown received, Proposition 57 does not define what constitutes a “nonviolent” crime, and opponents of the measure have sought to highlight criminals convicted of such “nonviolent” crimes as certain kinds of rape.

The Brown administration has said it anticipates implementing regulations to carry out Proposition 57 that would disqualify from early release inmates who must register as sex offenders, though that language is not written into his measure.

Sheriff Mims

Sheriff Mims

Brown told Mims, “This guy was sentenced to 100 years, and he’s a registered sex offender, and on both accounts would not be getting out.” Referring to an upcoming meeting of sheriffs, Brown told Mims, “So, that’s all I can say. Maybe I’ll see you up at the sheriffs’ meeting. Thanks.”

Asked about the voice mail on Wednesday, Brown said, “Very thoughtful, I thought.”

Mims confirmed in a statement that she received the voicemail. “After listening to it, I took the measure of reconfirming that the inmate in the mailer is in fact eligible for release if the Governor’s initiative passes. It is troublesome that the Governor is not aware of the details of his own initiative.

Read the full text of Proposition 57 here.

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Running as terror expert, Loretta Sanchez misses many anti-terror panel meetings

She’s a demorat in California, that’s all the qualifications she needs to be elected in that state.

Loretta Sanchez

Loretta Sanchez

From Sacramento Bee: California U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who points to expertise in homeland security issues as a reason for Californians to elect her to the U.S. Senate this fall, has missed more than half the hearings of the House Committee on Homeland Security since she first joined the influential panel 13 years ago.

She’s far from the only one. It’s not uncommon for members of Congress, who may have conflicting meetings or other responsibilities, to miss committee meetings, and there are many with worse records than Sanchez.

But Sanchez has ranked particularly low in attendance in recent years: Last year, she ranked 28th out of 30 committee members after missing seven of the nine full committee hearings for which the Government Publishing Office has transcripts.

She also missed nearly all 2015 meetings of the Subcommittees on Border and Maritime Security and on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, according to the available official transcripts.

Sanchez announced in May of last year that she is running for the Senate to replace the retiring Barbara Boxer – so, not surprisingly, Sanchez spent time in California working on her campaign effort.

But she also missed the bulk of the meetings in 2013 and 2014, including most held by the subcommittees on border security and Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

Sanchez attended nine of the 22 full committee hearings those years, placing her near the bottom in attendance. Among the hearings she missed were “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” and “The Rising Terrorist Threat and the Unfulfilled 9/11 Recommendations.”

Sanchez joined the Homeland Security Committee in 2003 and has attended 44 percent of the hearings since then, according to a McClatchy analysis of the full-committee hearings for which there are official transcripts released by the Government Publishing Office.

Her attendance record is far from the worst – Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young of Florida, for example, didn’t show up for a single hearing during his two years on the committee – but it’s below the 55 percent average for members of the committee dating in 2003.

Sanchez has campaigned on her position as the most senior female member of the Homeland Security Committee, saying she “has emerged as an expert on intelligence and counterterrorism issues.”

Sanchez is also a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, where she is on a pair of subcommittees and is particularly known for her work combating military sexual assault and expanding women’s combat roles. The Armed Services Committee transcripts don’t indicate how many of the meetings Sanchez and other members attended.

Sanchez spokesman Luis Vizcaino said attending hearings was one aspect of her role on both committees, along with subcommittee work, briefings and congressional trips to volatile regions of the globe. “She is known and respected in Congress and the Pentagon for her expertise on military readiness and counterterrorism,” Vizcaino said in a statement.

“Her work ethic, commitment to her committee role and 20 years of experience on national security issues has provided her with a strong foundation of in-depth knowledge and expertise. Rep. Sanchez is always speaking with leaders and experts to get the information and intelligence needed to make the best decision for the security of this nation,” Vizcaino said.

Read the whole story here.

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Advocates demand that California DMV suspend fines for poor people

Gee, I wonder which “poor” people they are trying to assist…

serious

From Sacramento Bee: Advocates for the poor are demanding that the California Department of Motor Vehicles stop suspending the driver licenses of people who fail to pay traffic fines or appear in court.

Monday’s letter from Bay Area Legal Aid, the ACLU of Northern California, Western Center on Law and Poverty and others alleges that the DMV lacks the authority to suspend licenses at the request of court officials. That’s because many courts, the letter said, improperly conclude that someone falls under the suspension law that applies to people “willfully failing” to pay fines or appear in court.

The letter to Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly and DMV Director Jean Shiomoto comes as state lawmakers consider legislation that would prohibit the practice.

“We ask that the DMV immediately cease suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay and failure to appear…until there is a system in place to ensure that all courts provide legally-required procedural protections,” the letter reads.

Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty said many poor people cannot afford the high fines and surcharges from traffic tickets. Losing their license makes it that much harder to earn a living and pay off the tickets, he said. “It’s become so damaging to people. They’re pretty much stuck in a hole forever,” Herald said. Monday’s letter follows lawsuits against some counties over the suspensions. A lawsuit against the state over the suspensions is possible, he said.

Lawmakers last year unanimously approved legislation that allowed people to go to court to contest traffic fines without first paying the money.

Another measure, Senate Bill 881 by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, would prohibit a county or court from seeking to suspend a driver’s license to collect on unpaid fines. The bill also would repeal the rule requiring the DMV to suspend a driver’s license at a county’s request. It is pending in the Assembly.

The DMV was not immediately available for comment.

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CalPERS post gain of less than 1% for latest fiscal year

Liberal logic: Investment gain well below official target?  We’re pleased and proud!

CalPERS exec Marcie Frost

CalPERS exec Marcie Frost

From Sacramento Bee: CalPERS reported a 0.61 percent gain in investments in its latest fiscal year, well below the big California pension fund’s official target.

The results are in line with expectations following a bumpy year in the stock market. A few weeks ago Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos told the Wall Street Journal that CalPERS essentially broke even for the year ending June 30.

CalPERS’ annual investment performance matters because a lackluster year increases pressure to raise contribution rates from state and local taxpayers. The 0.61 percent gain contrasts with the annual target of 7.5 percent, and follows a gain of just 2.4 percent the prior fiscal year.

In the past few years CalPERS has imposed significant rate increases on the state, local governments and school districts. The state’s annual bill rose by $600 million this year, to $5.4 billion a year. Besides dealing with lingering effects of the 2008 market crash, CalPERS also has cited longer retiree lifespans and the growing state and school districts’ payrolls. All told, CalPERS is about 76 percent funded, which means it has 76 cents available for every $1 in long-term pension obligations.

Another factor at play in the fund’s finances: CalPERS has said it expects investment markets to become increasingly uneven in the coming years and has implemented a plan to gradually reduce risks in its investment portfolio. That same plan is also expected to reduce its annual target of investment gains.

“We can expect a low investment return environment … in the coming years,” newly hired Chief Executive Marcie Frost said last week. “There are challenges ahead of us.”

Still, CalPERS officials said they were pleased with the latest results in light of the difficult investing climate. “Positive performance in a year of turbulent financial markets is an accomplishment that we are proud of,” Eliopoulos said in a prepared statement.

The fund lost 3.4 percent on its stock portfolio, which makes up the largest share of its $302 billion asset base. “Over half of our portfolio is in equities, so returns are largely driven by stock markets,” Eliopoulos said.

See also:

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