Former House candidate lied to feds about threats

A Republican who ran against Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 9th Congressional District last year has been charged with lying to the FBI about death threats she said she received during the campaign – threats she now admits she made up herself.

Karen DavisKaren Davis – who served as the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder from 1990 to 2001 and as the Manteca City Clerk from 1981 to 1984 – is charged with making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations to federal law enforcement officers during their investigation into the mailing of threatening letters.

Davis, 67, was arrested at her Lodi home and then released after posting $50,000 bond Thursday, court documents show. She’s scheduled to return to federal court in Sacramento on Nov. 19.

She was one of three Republicans who challenged McNerney, D-Stockton, as he sought a fifth term last year. She finished fourth out of four in the June 2014 top-two primary, with only 6 percent of the vote.

In an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Treasury Agent John Hartman wrote that Davis contacted authorities in December 2013 to report she had received an anonymous letter that read in part, “You will be stopped by those who believe in the soverign [sic] rights. A close up shot to your head or to your husband will be final. You make the decision now not to run for congress.” Federal agents and Lodi police began investigating.

Davis reported receiving a second letter in March 2014, Hartman wrote. That letter said in part, “If you don’t quit very soon, you won’t be warned. YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING! Your family will have to plan a funeral.”

Davis mentioned the threats in several news stories about her candidacy, including articles in the Manteca Bulletin, Lodi News-Sentinel and IVN.us.

“It’s been scary and it’s like throwing a bucket of ice water on democracy,” she told the Bulletin in May 2014. “Nobody should be threatened because they’re running for office, but I’m not somebody that runs from threats. It has changed the way that I can do things, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get the word out and talk about the sorts of things that matter.

The investigation continued, and in February, Davis went to the FBI office in Stockton to be interviewed. She agreed to take a polygraph test but failed it, and then admitted she had written both letters and sent them to herself, Hartman wrote. In a signed statement, Davis wrote that she sent herself the first letter after Lodi police told her she probably wouldn’t be granted a permit to carry a concealed handgun.


Steinberg wants Calderon 86ed from committees

State Sen. Ron Calderon – embroiled in an FBI corruption probe – should be removed from all his committee assignments, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg recommended Wednesday.

“I am asking the Senate Rules Committee to temporarily remove Senator Ron Calderon as chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, pending resolution of the United States Attorney’s investigation into his conduct,” Steinberg, D-Sacarmento, said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “I will also ask the Committee to temporarily remove Senator Calderon from all other committee assignments, pending the same investigation.”

“I do not make this request lightly, nor do I judge the truth of the publicly reported allegations,” Steinberg continued. “I am concerned, however, about keeping Senator Calderon in his positions. The allegations, though yet unproven, are serious enough to cloud any interactions the Senator might have with colleagues, advocates, and the public on issues within his jurisdiction.”

The claim that an elected official took money and favors for official acts “is perhaps the most serious breach of the public trust and the institution in which they serve,” Steinberg said. “In other highly sensitive public situations that do not involve proven allegations of misconduct, public employers take similar actions. The public and the Senate deserve no less protection in the current situation.”

Calderon, D-Montebello, chairs the Senate Insurance Committee and sits on the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, the Environmental Quality Committee, the Governmental Organization Committee, and the Select Committee on Procurement. Steinberg also wants to eliminate the Select Committee on California’s Film and Television Industry, which Calderon chairs but which has not convened since its creation earlier this year.

The Rules Committee will consider Steinberg’s recommendations at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Room 113 of the State Capitol.


ACLU, Guardian sue FBI for Occupy records

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Guardian sued the FBI in federal court today to find out whether and to what extent agents have investigated or watched members of the Occupy movement.

Filed under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit says the ACLU and the Guardian filed a public information request in March that the FBI promised to fast-track – and then never provided a response.

The lawsuit says the FBI has a long history of surveilling constitutionally protected political and religious activity, and says the FBI already acknowledged that “potentially responsive documents may exist” related to requests for records about Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Wall Street.

“There is great urgency in shedding light on the extent of the FBI’s role in surveilling Occupy activists, and in particular, on whether the FBI has complied with local and national norms in monitoring those engaged in First Amendment activity,” the lawsuit says.

In a web posting announcing the lawsuit, ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said that although “the right of protest goes to the heart of our democracy, and the FBI exists to keep us safe, the FBI has a perverse history of interpreting its mission to mean that it can spy on political activists including Martin Luther King Jr.”


House won’t act to stop medical marijuana raids

The House again tonight rejected a bipartisan amendment to forbid the Justice Department from interfering with states’ implementation of their medical marijuana laws, declining to rebuke the Obama Administration for recent raids in states including California.

The vote was 163-262, after about 43 minutes of debate earlier in the day. All Bay Area members voted in favor of the amendment.

Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, now have offered this amendment to the Justice Department’s appropriations bill six times over the past decade; their high-water mark was 165 “aye” votes in 2007. Joining them in offering this year’s amendment were Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use; the Connecticut and New Hampshire legislatures recently passed medical marijuana bills now awaiting their governors’ signatures. Federal law, however, still bans all marijuana cultivation, distribution, sale and use.

The Obama Administration has taken a multi-pronged approach to cracking down on medical marijuana providers. In some cases, U.S. Attorneys have threatened dispensaries’ landlords and banks with prosecution; in others, the IRS has rejected standard tax deductions from medical marijuana businesses operating in compliance with state law. And in some cases, such as that of Oaksterdam University last month, federal agents have raided medical-marijuana-related businesses.

President Obama has said the federal government isn’t pursuing medical marijuana users, but rather is focusing upon large-scale commercial operations that may be supplying recreational users as well. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a statement last week expressing “strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California.”

Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, earlier Wednesday had issued a statement in support of the amendment. “History is calling on President Obama to protect terminally ill patients from suffering, and he is dangerously close to falling on the wrong side,” Piper said. “He will continue to pay a political price as long as his administration continues to waste taxpayer money undermining state law.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which has begun organizing workers at medical marijuana businesses, also had issued a statement saying that “at a time when millions of hardworking Americans are out of work and still struggling to make ends meet, the use of taxpayer money for the misguided targeting and prosecution of an industry that provides Americans with good middle class jobs with benefits is counterproductive. The U.S. Justice Department should not use the fewer resources it has to focus on targeting patients and dispensaries abiding by state law.”

UPDATE @ 9:43 A.M. THURSDAY: Piper this morning said the fact that most Democrats and nearly 30 Republicans voted for the amendment “shows that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are in political hot water for their attacks on patients and providers. We’ve seen major push-back from elected officials at the local and state level; now we’re seeing it at the national level.”

Asked how a slight drop from 2007’s support constitutes “major push-back,” he replied that yesterday’s vote “is still a third of the House, and when you break down the numbers, 7 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats voted for the amendment in 2007 and 11 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats voted for it last night.”

“Support is rising, but because Republicans are largely hostile and have more seats now than in 2007 the overall vote outcome looks similar,” he said. “Overall, I feel good. This was an amendment offered to a funding bill, with no hearing, and relatively little debate. So I consider the 163 to be the floor.”


Don Perata & friends paid by Prop. 29 campaign

Former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata, who helped conceive, introduce and raise money for the tobacco-tax ballot measure on this June’s ballot, has a lot of friends who are making money from the campaign, new reports show.

Don PerataPerata’s “Hope 2012” ballot-measure committee began raising money for what’s now known as Proposition 29 way back in 2009, and has transferred $488,500 to Californians for a Cure – the primary committee backing the measure, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and a group of cancer research doctors. Prop. 29 would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, and equivalent tax hikes on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research; Perata is a cancer survivor.

Now Perata himself has received $5,792.17 since July from Californians for a Cure, including $2,607.19 for “meetings and appearances” and $2,508.36 for travel expenses.

One of Perata’s current employees also has been paid by Californians for a Cure. Anne Willcoxon, 58, of Moraga, has been paid $27,760 since last May, with the lion’s share of that – $15,000 – paid in the first two months of this year under the designation “campaign consultants.”

Anne Willcoxon’s LinkedIn profile lists her position since January 2011 as “charges d’affaires” at Perata Consulting LLC – that’s a French term for a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an absent ambassador or minister. She ranked high among Perata’s 2010 Oakland mayoral campaign staffers. And her husband, Michael Willcoxon, is general counsel for Dublin-based DeSilva Gates Construction; founder Ed DeSilva for years has been among Perata’s most generous political contributors.

The rest of Californians for a Cure’s expenditure list reads like a who’s-who of former Perata aides and consultants:

    The Sacramento consulting business of former Perata staffer Sandi Polka has been paid $53,887.03 since the beginning of 2011.
    Chris Lehman, a former Perata staffer, has been paid $47,196.04 in the past year, mostly for campaign consulting, including more than $19,000 so far in 2012.
    Maurice Williams, another of Perata’s state Senate aides, has been paid $32,000 by Californians for a Cure since last June, including $7,000 in this year’s first two months, for campaign consulting and fundraising.
    Rhys Williams, who was Perata’s mayoral campaign press secretary, is now the ballot measure’s online campaign director; he has been paid $60,250 since last June, including $18,250 so far in 2012.
    Stephenie DeHerrera, who worked on Perata’s mayoral campaign while a fellow at The Organizing and Leadership Academy in Oakland, has been paid $13,073.34 since November for campaign consulting and fundraising.
    TOLA is run by veteran political consultant Larry Tramutola, who helped run Perata’s 2010 mayoral campaign. Californians for a Cure has paid Tramutola $86,546.00 since last June, mostly for campaign consulting.

Polka, Lehman, Williams and other former Perata aides also were paid generously by Perata’s Hope 2012 committee as he got the initiative off the ground in 2009 and 2010.

Questions and eyebrows arose in 2010 when Perata’s Hope 2012 committee gave money to two nonprofits – neither of which had anything to do with cancer – led by his former campaign treasurer, a close confidante whom some said had been romantically involved with Perata. Earlier, Hope 2012 in 2009 had paid $25,000 for campaign consulting by Oakland Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente, a longtime Perata ally and political lieutenant.

And there were also questions in 2010 of whether Perata was thought to be leveraging the nascent tobacco-tax campaign to widen his name recognition as he also campaigned for mayor.

Perata and some of his political associates were the subjects of a five-year-long FBI corruption probe, which ended in 2009 without anyone ever charges ever filed.