FPPC to sue prison health-care receiver?

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission will consider this Thursday whether to sue Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate, court-appointed prison health care receiver J. Clark Kelso and others to force them to adopt a conflict-of-interest code for receivership workers.

J. Clark Kelso Kelso runs the prison health care system at the behest of Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who found years ago that California had failed to clean up decades-old neglect and abuse that amounted to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. As a judicially appointed overseer, the receiver has resisted state regulation and oversight lest his efforts get bogged down in the very bureaucracy it was intended to bypass; he files detailed reports on his work to Henderson periodically, even as he’s gotten into a series of dustups with state officials over the limits of his authority.

But the FPPC is responsible for making sure all agencies in California have conflict-of-interest codes defining which of their employees must file the “Form 700” statement of economic interests, and how much must be disclosed on that form. State law requires this so decision-makers aren’t affected by personal interests when they make public policy.

Irrestistable force, meet immovable object. Lawsuit time!

The FPPC is scheduled to take up the matter in closed session after its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday; FPPC executive director Roman Porter told me today there’s no other publicly available information on this. The FPPC doesn’t usually sue until behind-the-scenes negotiation has proved fruitless; Porter won’t say, and I’m awaiting a callback from Luis Patino, Kelso’s spokesman.

UPDATE @ 4:29 p.m.: Kelso’s office says most receivership staffers already file Form 700, but this dispute was over a Construction Oversight Advisory Board and a Rehabilitation Services Advisory Council – the former of which met twice, the latter never – which since have been disbanded, rendering any potential litigation moot. Read Kelso’s verbatim statement, and the FPPC’s reaction, after the jump…
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Westly, committee, treasurer to pay FPPC fine

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission will consider Thursday whether to sign off on a $104,500 fine paid by former state Controller and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate Steve Westly, his campaign committee, and committee treasurer Kinde Durkee.

Documents show the FPPC leveled against Westly, the committee and the treasurer 29 counts of failing to report or timely report required subvendor information for payments made by the committee; two counts of failing to report accrued expenses; and one count of failing to report expenditures paid to the treasurer’s firm, Durkee & Associates.

FPPC Executive Director Roman Porter says that, per the usual procedure, a check for the penalty already has been cut as part of this stipulated agreement, to be deposited into the General Fund if the commission approves the deal Thursday.

Durkee, based in Burbank, is a big-time name in managing money for Democratic campaigns: among her many other clients have been Secretary of State Debra Bowen and a ton of Southern California state lawmakers, Democratic clubs, PACs and ballot measure committees.

But this isn’t the only trouble Durkee potentially faces. The San Diego Union Tribune recently reported that former state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, has asked the FPPC and the Attorney General’s office to investigate the suspected embezzlement of more than $57,000 and other possible financial irregularities found during a routine audit of her 2006 campaign account; Kehoe also fired Durkee for allegedly failing to report 29 suspected check forgeries by one of the company’s employees.


Activists again urge disbarment for Yoo, Haynes

Two Bay Area lawyers who played roles in the Bush Administration’s legal justifications for torture should be disbarred, according to papers filed Friday in Washington, D.C.

John YooDisbar Torture Lawyers, a group of non-governmental organizations with more than a million members, filed complaints with the District of Columbia Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility against John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, and William Haynes, now chief corporate counsel at San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. The group also filed a complaint against former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The group filed the complaints in Washington because that’s where the targets were practicing at the time of their alleged violations. Yoo served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; Haynes served as the Defense Department’s general counsel. Both helped provide a legal framework for fear- and pain-inducing techniques for interrogating suspected terrorist detainees.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Yoo, Haynes, and Gonzales violated their oath by advocating and allowing torture against U.S. detainees,” attorney and group spokesman Kevin Zeese said in a news release. “Just as a lawyer cannot ethically advise a police officer to torture a criminal defendant, a government lawyer cannot ethically advise a government employee to torture a detainee. In both cases, the lawyers would be in violation of the law, and would be subject to disbarment. We strongly urge the Department of Justice to release its own OPR investigation into the conduct of these and other attorneys who provided cover for the wholesale use of torture by our government. We are hopeful that the investigation supports our call for disbarment.”

William Haynes The group filed similar petitions against Yoo and Haynes with the state bars of Pennsylvania and California, respectively, earlier this year.

Also, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in March filed a complaint against Haynes with the State Bar of California; after the State Bar closed that case, the NLG said it would pursue the case to the state Supreme Court, but the court rejected the petition in October.

Meanwhile, protestors yet again will urge Cal to fire Yoo today, staging protests at noon on Sproul Plaza and at 3 p.m. – just before one of Yoo’s scheduled classes – at the law school.

UPDATE @ 1:30 P.M. TUESDAY: A Chevron spokesman has just fronted me a letter that William T. Coleman Jr., a prominent Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote to the National Lawyers Guild in March – an impassioned defense of Haynes. “I know first-hand that Jim Haynes is a superb lawyer of the highest integrity, and believe that he discharged his responsibilities while General Counsel of the Defense Department in accordance with his oath of his office and the highest ethical standards,” wrote Coleman, who served as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford. “We should all be grateful that we had such courageous, committed, knowledgeable and superior people including Jim Haynes, not only willing to serve in these times of peril, but having the love of just laws would always act within the law, even though their mission was to prevent many more attacking terrorist actions on American citizens in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”


Jerry Brown is thankful for Hollywood, casinos

Or, at least, Hollywood and casinos seem thankful for Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial candidacy.

In addition to the money on which I reported last week, Brown’s campaign in the past seven days has listed contributions totaling $138,800 from Dreamworks cofounders Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzeneberg and David Geffen, plus Spielberg’s and Katzenberg’s wives. The campaign also received $25,000 each from the Bicycle Casino of Bell Gardens, the California Commerce Club of Commerce and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in El Cajon.

But that might be cynical of me, I suppose. Here’s what Brown actually e-mailed out on the day before Thanksgiving:

Jerry BrownAs Anne and I get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow, many fond memories of past family gatherings come to mind. It is on these occasions that my father would often share stories of his family, particularly his grandfather who came across the plains and over the Sierras to Sacramento in 1852. In those days, the challenges were enormous and of a type we can barely imagine.

Today we face entirely different challenges. Whether they are bigger or smaller, I can’t say. But I do know that California is still a state of imagination and boundless possibility. Our pioneering spirit is very much alive and will enable us to handle any of our problems, however daunting they may now appear.

As you take time to enjoy Thanksgiving with your own family and reflect on the year that is drawing to a close, you can take renewed encouragement from the courage and achievements that have made California such a unique and wonderful place.


If you’re gonna dream, dream big.

Lee W. Olson of Huntington Beach clearly feels the ballot initiative process is his opportunity to have his vision of government writ large upon California – even if that vision involves a wholesale reworking of large swaths of public policy.

The Secretary of State’s office last week cleared three Olson-authored initiatives for petition circulation. In an age when lengthy, complex legislation is considered by many to be the devil’s work, Olson has kept each of his measures to a single, tidy paragraph.

One measure would eliminate state income and property taxes for all Californians 55 and older; the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance estimate this would mean a $15 billion-per-year hit to the state budget, and $5 billion to $10 billion more for local governments.

A second measure would prohibit property, sales or income taxes from being used to fund California’s public schools, colleges and universities, or to buy textbooks for grades one through eight. K-12 and higher education now account for about 32 percent of California’s General Fund spending, about $38 billion. “The only remaining sources of revenue would be from the state lottery, student fees, and the federal government,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office found. “Absent any new sources of revenues, public education programs would only be a fraction of their current size.”

And a third would change the state constitution to give parents or legal guardians the sole authority and responsibility to set their children’s educational curricula, not to be usurped by state and local governments. Simplicity might not have been Olson’s friend on this one, as the LAO seemed stumped about what it might actually mean.

Olson has until April 23 to gather valid signatures from 694,354 registered voters for each of these measures in order to put them on next year’s ballot. But I’m guessing… no.


Campaign finance update: Ballot measures, Brown

ch-CHING!Palo Alto physicist Charles T. Munger Jr., son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire investor partner, yesterday put another $512,167 into his “Voters First Act for Congress” ballot measure, bringing his total so far to $1,515,197. The measure would remove authority for setting California’s 53 Congressional district boundaries from the state Legislature, and would give that authority instead to the same Citizens Redistricting Commission that will soon be setting state Legislative boundaries (as required by last year’s successful Proposition 11).

Real-estate and financial billionaire Eli Broad of Los Angeles put up $100,000 for Californians for an Open Primary. That’s the committee backing the ballot measure that state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria – the guy Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped this week to serve as lieutenant governor – forced Legislative Democrats to put on the June 2010 ballot in exchange for his crucial Republican vote on a budget agreement earlier this year. The money, so far, has not been rolling in fast.

Republican former Los Angeles Mayor, 2002 gubernatorial primary candidate and education secretary Richard Riordan gave $6,500 Friday to Democrat Gloria Romero’s campaign for superintendent of public instruction.

And among those showing Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign the deep-pocketed love in the past week are Gemini Industries founder Sebastian Paul Musco and his wife, Marybelle, of Newport Beach ($103,600); movie mogul Rob Reiner of Beverly Hills ($50,000); Belkin International President and CEO Chet Pipkin and his wife, Janice, of Manhattan Beach ($50,000); Hard Rock Hotel and Casino founder and chairman Peter Morton of Los Angeles ($50,000); investor Linda Buckel of Park City, Utah ($50,000); and Annenberg Foundation chairwoman, president and CEO Wallis Annenberg of Los Angeles ($46,000).