1

A roast of Gray Davis. No, really.

Former aides and advisers to Gray Davis are planning a 70th birthday celebration and roast in the former governor’s honor for Nov. 14 at the California History Museum in Sacramento.

Organized by Lynn Schenk, Garry South and Dan Zingale, the event will be MCed by former California Democratic Party chairman Art Torres.

A roast. Of Gray Davis. The mind fairly reels with possibilities.

To commemorate the governor’s tenure, they should brown out the lights several times during the party. Or make it a casino night, so you have to pay to play. Or have a dance contest, in which people will be judged solely on their ability to do the robot.

In related news, the remake of “Total Recall” opens this Friday.

(C’mon, readers, help me out here with your own ideas.)

2

Convicted former candidate hit with $10.2 mil tab

While former cigarette mogul Ned Roscoe – who placed 34th in a field of 135 in 2003’s gubernatorial recall election even while he was busy defrauding a bank – prepares to start serving a five-year federal prison term next Monday, a federal judge has hit him and his father with a $10.2 million restitution bill.

Roscoe, of Fairfield, was convicted in February 2011 of all 28 counts federal prosecutors had filed against him: one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to make false statements to Comerica Bank, 13 counts of bank fraud, and 14 counts of false statements to a bank.

Benicia-based Cigarettes Cheaper! at its peak had almost 800 retail stores nationwide and $1 billion in annual revenue. After a month-long trial, jurors agreed Roscoe from August through November 2003 had directed company accountants to inflate the company’s weekly borrowing base reports of inventory submitted to Comerica Bank, eventually inflating the value of the company’s inventory by more than $16 million. He did so to get more money from Comerica through Cigarettes Cheaper!’s $21 million line of credit and to avoid a pay-down on another, $10.7 million credit line.

The jury also agreed that evidence showed Roscoe and his father, John Roscoe, 82, conspired to defraud Comerica Bank and make false statements to the bank; the elder Roscoe pleaded guilty in January 2011, and eventually wound up with a sentence of five years of probation with one year of home detention. And Ned Roscoe directed a company accountant to falsely inform Comerica Bank in late November 2003 that the cause of the $16 million in inflated inventory was due to clerical or accounting errors, his jury found.

Ned Roscoe was sentenced in February, but not before prosecutors had filed a memo asking the judge to order the Roscoes to pay more than $27 million in restitution: the $16.1 million outstanding principal balance on the company’s loan, plus $10.9 million in accrued interest.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte ordered restitution including $8,229,692.58 in principal, and $1,976,963.10 in pre-judgment interest, due and payable immediately; the order reflected that the bank’s losses were partially mitigated by the bank’s prior liquidation of the defendants’ collateral. Whyte further ordered that John and Ned Roscoe each make an initial payment of $5,000, plus no less than $2,500 per month until the restitution orders are satisfied. Ned Roscoe was ordered to pay $25 per quarter while serving his time in prison.

On the plus side, Roscoe has the edge of knowing the value of a cigarette before becoming an inmate.

He ran as a Libertarian in the October 2003 race to oust and replace Gov. Gray Davis. In a blog he maintained at the time, he said he was counting on the support of “this political base, formed first of smokers with many different political persuasions, united in the belief that we must respect the freedoms of others in order to have freedoms of our own, combined with others seeking sensible, realistic actions by a new Governor.”

“I am optimistic, with the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces,” he wrote. “Government isn’t like business. Good government needs consensus. I can work with Legislators and officials to decide rapidly and to do what makes sense quickly. My sense of urgency comes from having customers to serve and bills to pay. My top priority is to improve the prosperity of workers without expanding the burden of government. That is, to do the decent thing.”

He finished 34th in a field of 135, earning 2,250 votes (about .02 percent of all those cast).

1

‘Think Long Committee’ won’t go for 2012 ballot

The Think Long Committee for California – a panel of experts funded by an itinerant billionaire that had developed plans for tax reform and a citizens’ oversight committee – will delay putting its plans to voters from 2012 to 2014.

The committee, which released its report in November, issued a statement today sying it has been “vigorously discussing and developing a viable action plan and timeline for implementing our broad range of proposals ever since.”

“Consistent with our collective view that California needs to think, plan and act for the long term, we’ve been guided by the cardinal rule that it is far more important to get our reforms done ‘right’ than ‘right away,’” the committee said.

The committee had proposed broadening the state’s tax base while raising $10 billion per year in new revenue by extending the state sales tax to services such as auto repair, dry cleaning, legal work and accounting (but not health care or education), while lowering the sales tax on goods, reducing personal income tax rates and reducing the corporate tax rate.

It also proposed creating an “independent, impartial and nonpartisan” Citizens Council for Government Accountability. That council would have 13 members — including nine named by the governor — to oversee government functions and conduct long-term planning. It would have power to place measures directly on the ballot without collecting signatures, and to have the secretary of state publish its comments and positions on measures in the state voters’ guide. It also would have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents.

Members of the committee include former Gov. Gray Davis; former Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown; former U.S. secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz; GOP power broker Gerald Parsky; Google Chairman Eric Schmidt; and many others. Committee founder and funder Nicolas Berggruen had promised to put up at least $20 million to convince voters to implement these plans as ballot measures in 2012.

Although the proposals had seemed to meet with muted, if not negative reactions from many current politicos, the committee’s statement today says it was “gratified by the overwhelming interest from elected leaders in both parties, including Governor Brown, stakeholders and everyday citizens in these bold, broad-based changes.”

California is “hungry for real reform and are more willing than ever to support a sweeping plan that is fair and will put an end to California’s perpetual financial volatility and suffocating wall of debt,” the committee said.

“At the same time, we recognize the practical constraints of the 2012 election calendar – and have come to the conclusion that it will take more time to perfect these proposals, eliminate unintended consequences and provide every stakeholder and everyday Californians a meaningful voice in that process,” it said.

And so the committee will keep trying to sell the plan with hopes of putting it to voters on the November 2014 ballot.

“In the meantime, a high-turnout election is a terrible thing to waste. California voters deserve the opportunity in 2012 to begin the long process of reforming state government,” the committee’s statement said. “Therefore, in the coming days, we will be announcing our intention to partner with other organizations by generously supporting one or more reform measures that have already been filed for the 2012 elections, consistent with our Blueprint.”

The statement doesn’t specify which measures the committee will back.

The committee said it also will co-sponsor the California Economic Summit in May to develop a statewide job creation and competitiveness implementation plan; support regulatory reform, including that of the California Environmental Quality Act, to maintain the state’s environmental leadership while speeding up permissions for job-creating projects; and work with the governor and other state, federal and local officials to create “plug-and-play” pre-permitted zones to attract new investment to California.

UPDATE @ 3:40 P.M.: Gov. Jerry Brown just issued this statement: “Think Long is doing very important work and I look forward to working with them on the critical issue of more permanent tax reform.”

7

Jerry Brown cancels new death-row housing

Gov. Jerry Brown just announced he’s canceling plans to build new housing for condemned inmates at San Quentin State Prison.

“At a time when children, the disabled and seniors face painful cuts to essential programs, the State of California cannot justify a massive expenditure of public dollars for the worst criminals in our state,” he said in a news release. “California will have to find another way to address the housing needs of condemned inmates. It would be unconscionable to earmark $356 million for a new and improved death row while making severe cuts to education and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us.”

Planning for a new condemned inmate housing facility at San Quentin began in 2003 under Gov. Gray Davis and continued under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The facility was designed to hold 1,152 inmates, allowing for future growth in the condemned population; California currently has 713 condemned inmates, of whom 42 are from Alameda County and 18 are from Contra Costa County.

Brown’s office says the project would have added another $356 million to the state’s debt, at an annual cost of $28.5 million in debt service that would have come out of General Fund dollars.

UPDATE @ 3:08 P.M.: From state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“Governor Brown should be praised for his thoughtful decision to reject the ill-conceived plan to build a new death row inmate complex at San Quentin, which would have cost the state more than $1.6 billion over the next decade,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “Given the severity of our budget crisis, it makes no sense to spend millions of General Fund dollars every year on this wasteful plan. We have known for a long time that the project has deep flaws, including inexcusably high construction and operating costs and the fact that the complex is likely to run out of space just three years after it opens.

“Working with the Senate Budget Committee, which I chair, we included budget bill language requiring the question of double bunking of death row inmates to be legally resolved before the project proceeded. Lacking this resolution, the Condemned Inmate Complex expansion would have reached capacity within three years of its completion, leaving taxpayers with a billion dollar hangover. I thank Assemblymember Jared Huffman for his commitment and partnership in stopping this mistake.”

From the Twitter feed of state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach:

Guv wants new way 2 address condemned inmate housing. Execute em. Problem solved

0

2003 recall candidate convicted of bank fraud

A federal jury has convicted a North Bay businessman of bank fraud and other crimes he committed even at the same time that he was running as a candidate in 2003’s gubernatorial recall election.

Ned RoscoeNed Roscoe, 51, of Fairfield, a former owner and officer of Cigarettes Cheaper!, was convicted yesterday of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to make false statements to Comerica Bank, 13 counts of bank fraud, and 14 counts of false statements to a bank, federal prosecutors said.

Roscoe is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald White on June 6 in San Jose; the crimes of which he was convicted carry penalties that could add up to decades in federal prison and millions in fines, plus restitution.

Cigarettes Cheaper!, based in Benicia, at its peak had almost 800 retail stores nationwide and $1 billion in annual revenue. After a month-long trial, jurors concluded that Roscoe from August through November 2003 directed company accountants to inflate the company’s weekly borrowing base reports of inventory submitted to Comerica Bank, eventually inflating the value of the company’s inventory by more than $16 million. He did so to get more money from Comerica through Cigarettes Cheaper!’s $21 million line of credit and to avoid a pay-down on another, $10.7 million credit line.

The jury also agreed that evidence showed that Ned Roscoe and his father, John Roscoe, 81, of Green Valley, conspired to defraud Comerica Bank and make false statements to the bank. And Ned Roscoe directed a company accountant to falsely inform Comerica Bank in late November 2003 that the cause of the $16 million in inflated inventory was due to clerical or accounting errors.

Ned and John Roscoe first were indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2007, and a second, superseding indictment containing the counts that actually went to trial was handed up last September. John Roscoe pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count in January; his sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Ned Roscoe ran as a Libertarian in the October 2003 race to oust and replace Gov. Gray Davis. In a blog he maintained at the time, he said he was counting on the support of “this political base, formed first of smokers with many different political persuasions, united in the belief that we must respect the freedoms of others in order to have freedoms of our own, combined with others seeking sensible, realistic actions by a new Governor.”

“I am optimistic, with the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces,” he wrote. “Government isn’t like business. Good government needs consensus. I can work with Legislators and officials to decide rapidly and to do what makes sense quickly. My sense of urgency comes from having customers to serve and bills to pay. My top priority is to improve the prosperity of workers without expanding the burden of government. That is, to do the decent thing.”

He finished 34th in a field of 135, earning 2,250 votes (about .02 percent of all those cast).

1

Meg Whitman rallies her troops in Burbank

Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman made what she said was her 63rd campaign visit to Los Angeles County on Sunday with a get-out-the-vote rally at the Burbank Marriott. Several hundred local supporters packed into the hotel’s conference center for a glimpse of the candidate, who bounded onto the stage after a live band and several other GOP ticket members had warmed up the crowd.

Meg Whitman in Burbank 10-31-2010 -- photo by Josh Richman“So, just a couple of days out until Nov. 2, and you know what? We’re going to win this!” she said with unusual intensity, adding internal polls and some public polls show the race for the governor’s office in a dead heat.

“I like to think of this as two more days before a lot of really good things start happening,” Whitman said, vowing to pursue job creation and – in a nod to the Burbank area’s major industry – a focus on not losing a single entertainment job.

She said she’s “a proven job creator” as opposed to “my opponent, who has been a part of the war on jobs in Sacramento for 40 years.”

Whitman said former Gov. Gray Davis, who earlier was chief of staff to Jerry Brown while he was governor, recently said Brown will probably try to raise taxes to balance the budget – something she again vowed never to do. And, she said, there are rumors circulating that Brown would pick Davis to head his transition team; this brought a chorus of boos from the audience.

Whitman said she wants to turn around K-12 education. “It is not OK that so many of our kids are in failing schools” with high dropout rates, she said, adding that her goal is to restore California to its place at the top of the nation’s school systems.

Brown “has no prayer of ever fixing the school system” because he’s supported by California Teachers Association bosses, she said, promising to take those union bosses on and put more money into classrooms to support good teachers.

“We have a chance to make history here, don’t we?” she said, a chance to “start the process of real change to take back this state for our children and our grandchildren.”

And, she added, a chance to elect California’s first woman governor.

“Who has the power in this election? You do. The people of the state of California are going to decide this,” Whitman said, calling Tuesday’s vote “a battle for the soul of California.”

“Our problems are tough, aren’t they? But so am I.”

Whitman was accompanied to the Burbank rally by Mike Villines, the Republican nominee for insurance commissioner; Mimi Walters, the Republican nominee for state treasurer; and Tony Strickland, the Republican nominee for state controller. Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, served as emcee.

From Burbank, Whitman was headed to the Santa Barbara area for a “Halloween-themed” campaign event at the home of Tom Deardorff, president of Deardorff Family Farms. On Monday, she’ll be in Menlo Park, Woodland Hills, Orange County and San Diego.

Queen Meg in Burbank 10-31-2010 -- photo by Josh RichmanShe may be campaigning right up until the polls close on Tuesday, but for “Queen Meg” – the mocking, matronly monarch created by the California Nurses Association to stalk the candidate – today was the swan song.

A CNA contingent led by the tiara-topped royal made a brief appearance outside the Burbank Marriott, where Whitman supporters were lining up for a rally with the candidate. Waving union signs, they chanted, “Hey Meg Whitman, get out of our town, so much money and you’re still 10 points down” as the bogus candidate yelled about being beset by the riff-raff and so on.

Another person in a skeleton cavorted around Queen Meg – a skeleton from her closet, as it were; Queen Meg demanded its deportation.

CNA has mounted the Queen Meg campaign to underscore its contention that Whitman’s policies would disproportionately harm California’s women and children – particularly her plan to eliminate the state’s capital gains tax, a $5 billion hit to the state’s revenue that the union says would come out of education and health-care funding.