Bill on media access to prisoners advances

The Assembly voted 47-22 today to pass a Bay Area lawmaker’s bill that would lift the ban on media interviews with specific inmates in California’s prisons.

Since the ban on pre-arranged inmate interviews went into effect in 1996, bill author Tom Ammiano noted, eight versions of this bill have been vetoed by three governors.

“Independent media access to prison inmates is a critical part of keeping our prisons transparent and accountable while providing information to the public,” Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said in a news release.

“Despite the thousands of prisoners who participated in a state-wide hunger strike last year over conditions in the prisons, it was near impossible to get unbiased information about what was happening due to these restrictions,” he said. “Inmates kept in secure housing units (SHU) have no visitation or telephone privileges and information about their solitary confinement punishments are largely unknown to the public even though a disproportionate number of inmate suicides occur in the SHU.”

Ammiano said he’s carrying AB 1270 to increase transparency and public accountability from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which has a $9.2 billion budget.

Sumayyah Waheed, campaign director for the Books Not Bars program of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said in Ammiano’s release that prisons tend to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind for anyone not directly impacted by them. “That’s a recipe for rampant abuse, which is too often the story inside prisons. As taxpayers, we have a right to know what goes on behind prison walls. This bill offers a much-needed step forward in making prisons accountable to the public.”

Full disclosure: The California Newspaper Publishers Association (of which my employer is a member) and the Pacific Media Workers Guild (of which I’m a member) among this bill’s supporters, as is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and an array of civil-rights groups. There’s no registered opposition to it, according to an Assembly committee analysis from last week.

Still, three Democrats – Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata; Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills; and Norma Torres, D-Pomona – crossed the aisle to vote with most Republicans against the bill. The only Republican who voted for it was Steve Knight, R-Palmdale. And 11 members – four Democrats and seven Republicans – didn’t vote.

The bill now goes to the state Senate.


Victims’ group warned to adopt truthful name

A victim advocacy group’s independent expenditure committee drew a written warning from the state’s campaign finance watchdog this month for failing to adopt a name that reflects its main funding source: the state prison guards’ union.

In an Oct. 5 letter to the treasurer of the Crime Victims United Independent Expenditure Committee, Gary Winuk – chief of the Fair Political Practices Commission’s enforcement division – said the FPPC found that the committee “has not been using the correct name.

“Specifically, the (Fair Political Practices) Act provides that a committee’s failing to use a name that fully discloses the committee’s sponsors is a violation,” Winuk wrote. “In your response to our letter requiring an explanation of why California Correctional Peace Officers Association (‘CCPOA’), which provides 87.5% of the contributions to CVUIE, was not included in CVUIE’s name, you stated in a letter that, while CCPOA provides funding to CVUIE, a nonprofit, Crime Victims United, solely makes the decisions regarding the committee’s expenditures.”

Winuk went on to write that if a committee’s two sponsors can’t be considered part of “an industry or other identifiable group,” then the committee must use both sponsors’ names in its own name.

“Because crime victims and correctional peace officers cannot be accurately characterized by calling both groups ‘crime victims,’ the two sponsors are not part of the same group,” he wrote, and so “the committee must include the full name of both sponsors in the committee’s name.”

This sort of thing would come into play if the committee airs an advertisement attacking or supporting a candidate; the ad would have to carry the committee’s name, but that name is supposed to reflect the bankroll behind it. The CCPOA has an IE committee of its own, and so if it’s paying another committee’s bills, the public is supposed to know that.

Because CVUIE responded quickly to the FPPC’s inquiry with an explanation of why it had chosen the name, the FPPC issued only a warning letter; future failure to comply with the law could bring fines of up to $5,000 per violation, Winuk wrote.

The committee made substantial donations to support Proposition 83 of 2006 – “Jessica’s Law,” which enacted harsher penalties, restrictions and tracking requirements for sex offenders – as well as to other causes in the 2005-06 and 2007-08 campaign cycles, but hasn’t been very active in this 2009-10 cycle.


Perata likes Jerry Brown, local columnist doesn’t

Don and JerryOakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata gave $15,000 on Friday to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown’s campaign. Don’t worry – even with his own campaign to run this year, the Don isn’t strapped for cash, seeing as how the consulting firm he runs with his son has pulled down almost $349,000 from the state prison guards’ union since the start of last year. (On a related note, I’d not noticed before that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s Truth in American Government Fund – one of the two CCPOA funds that paid Perata consulting – also made a $50,000 civic donation in January 2009 to Avalon Village, an Alameda nonprofit providing concierge-like assistance to seniors living in their own homes. Perata’s Hope 2010 ballot measure committee, supporting the tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research initiative he’s helping to put on the 2012 ballot, gave $50,000 to Avalon Village this March; Avalon Village and another agency to which Hope 2010 gave money are headed by a former Perata aide and possible past paramour.)

Meanwhile, the Perata campaign continues its grassroots organizing: The candidate tweeted this morning to thank the 107 volunteers who took part Saturday in a cleanup of East Oakland’s Sobrante Park area, carting away 5,280 gallons of trash. The next Perata community cleanup is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday, July 31 at Shiloh Church, 3295 School St.; others are set for every Saturday in August.

But his electoral rivals are pounding the pavement as well. City Councilwoman Jean Quan held a community meeting in East Oakland on Saturday and a house party in North Oakland on Sunday; City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is holding a fundraiser this Wednesday evening at Everett & Jones Barbecue, 126 Broadway.

In other Jerry news, Oakland columnist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor has launched a “How Very Jerry” website collecting about 75 pieces he wrote about Brown’s Oakland mayoral administration, first for the now-defunct UrbanView newspaper and then for the Berkeley Daily Planet. Says Allen-Taylor in introducing the site:

Just like Jerry Brown, too many high-placed Democratic officeholders too often abandon the traditions and philosophies of the Democratic party when carrying out their official duties these days, hoping that progressives will keep quiet in the November elections to keep from giving aid and comfort to conservatives and Republicans.
But if we always keep quiet, how will this pattern ever end?

Oakland is my home town. I love the city and its people too much to keep quiet when its public officials abuse the power we have given them. And so I choose not to hold my tongue about the years of the Jerry Brown Administration in Oakland.

The columns speak for themselves, and no other explanation is necessary.

It is possible that this website might help the campaign of Republican Meg Whitman who, if anything, would be a worse California governor than Jerry Brown, in my opinion. That cannot be helped. Voters should always go into the booth with their eyes open. If Jerry Brown is to be our next governor, at least Californians should not be able to say that we have not been properly warned.


This week in big-time campaign cash

$25,000-and-up contributions to California campaigns and committees, which skyrocketed last week, continued in a mighty flood this week with just days to go before the election. This is my roundup as of about 5 p.m.; I’m sure they’ll continue to roll in…

The highlights in brief:

Tons of money moved for and against Proposition 8 this week, including a tide of cash from Mormons and out-of-state donors supporting the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Chesapeake Energy anted another $1 million — bringing its total so far to $3 million — for Proposition 10, the alternative fuels intiative from which it stands to make a bundle (though its ante is still chump change next to the $18.75 million put up by Prop. 10 proponent T. Boone Pickens‘ Clean Energy Fuels Corp.)

A whole lot more incumbent or otherwise safe Democratic candidates continued tithing money back to the state party.

And children’s hospitals across California made a last-ditch effort to prop up Proposition 3, the Children’s Hospital Bond Act.

Details after the jump… Continue Reading


This week in big-time campaign cash

I knew it was coming, but it still hurts my head: The number of $25,000-and-up contributions to California campaigns and committees suddenly went through the roof this past week as Election Day neared and polls tightened. Given the sudden, enormous jump in notable contributions, I must resort to a more stripped-down format this week. The highlights in brief:

The campaign to defeat Proposition 8 raked in at least about $2.5 million this past week; I’m quite sure many of the big-ticket donations gathered at high-profile Southern California fundraisers this week have not yet been logged in as of this posting.

Chesapeake Energy doubled down on Proposition 10, putting another $1 million into the alternative fuels intiative from which it stands to make a bundle (though its ante is still chump change next to the $15.75 million put up by Prop. 10 proponent T. Boone Pickens‘ Clean Energy Fuels Corp.)

A bunch of Florida Republicans anted up for California’s proposed legislative redistricting reform.

And labor unions (especially the SEIU) and safe Democratic officeholders with money to burn tithed their cash to the Democratic Party, which seems to smell GOP blood in the water in districts up and down the state.

Details — so many details — after the jump… Continue Reading


This week in big-time campaign cash

Topping this week’s roundup of big ($25,000 or more) spenders on California campaigns and committees yet again is T. Boone Pickens‘ Seal Beach-based Clean Energy, which put another $3 million Wednesday into the campaign for Proposition 10, a $5 billion bond measure called the California Alternative Fuels Initiative that would provide cash incentives to buyers of certain high-fuel-economy and alternative-fuel vehicles as well as to companies researching and developing renewable energy and cleaner cars. You know Pickens stands to make a bundle if this measure passes; Clean Energy has now contributed almost $11.75 million of the almost $13.5 million collected overall for the campaign… so far.

The Burlingame-based California Teachers Association gave $1 million Tuesday to oppose Proposition 8, the proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Other contributions to the “No on 8” effort this week included $450,000 Wednesday from healthcare supply heir and billionaire philanthropist Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich., (bringing his total thus far to $1 million), and then $25,000 each from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s mayoral campaign committee Monday; Regent Entertainment CEO Paul Colichman on Tuesday; the Los Angeles-based Breslauer, Rutman & Anderson management services firm Wednesday; personal and dating ad Web site operator Progressive Computing LLC of San Diego on Wednesday; Malibu retiree Charles Williams on Wednesday; and Levi Strauss executive assistant Andrea Fong of San Francisco on Wednesday. Also, Equality California moved $1.45 million it had collected, and the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign moved $250,000 from its California Marriage PAC, into the main “No on 8” account. Meanwhile, A&Z Produce owner Jay Clark of Centerville, Utah gave $25,000 Sunday to support Proposition 8.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association — the state’s prison-guard union — put up $1 million Wednesday against Proposition 5, which would expand state funding and oversight for treatment and rehab programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees while reducing criminal penalties and limiting courts’ authority to lock up offenders who violate probation or parole. The Pala Band of Mission Indians gave $50,000 Saturday to oppose Prop. 5.

The California Teachers Association also gave $300,000 Monday, while the Service Employees International Union’s California State Council gave $250,000 the same day, to the joint campaign against Proposititions 6 and 9; the Democratic State Central Committee of California put up $185,824.64 and the California Professional Firefighters put up $44,345.59 Wednesday to oppose the measures as well. Proposition 6 is a tough-on-crime package including adult prosecution for gang-related criminals 14 and up; annual criminal background checks for public housing residents; harsher bail conditions and penalties for certain crimes; and so on. Proposition 9 seeks to expand crime victims’ rights including restitution.

The SEIU’s State Council also gave $300,000 Tuesday to Strengthening California Through Leadership, a PAC controlled by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

And the SEIU’s State Council struck yet again, giving $200,000 Tuesday to oppose Proposition 4, the proposed state constitutional amendment which would require doctors to inform the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before providing an abortion to that minor. San Francisco-based Planned Parenthood Golden Gate gave $125,000 the same day also to oppose Prop. 4.

Much more on propositions 1a, 2, 7 and 11, plus a bunch of legislative races, after the jump… Continue Reading