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Rick Perry hires California ‘master of disaster’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, recently indicted but still in the hunt for 2016’s presidential race, has hired a California crisis-communications guru to run interference for him.

Mark FabianiMark Fabiani, 57, of La Jolla, joins Perry’s legal team, lead attorney Tony Buzbee announced Monday.

“I’m proud to join Gov. Perry’s outstanding team which has been assembled to fight back against this attack on the rule of law,” Mark Fabiani said. “As we move forward to protect the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment rights of any governor, I am confident this prosecution will be revealed to be contrary to the law and wholly meritless.”

Fabiani cut his teeth as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and later was deputy campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign; he also has served as deputy mayor of Los Angeles and chief of staff to LA Mayor Tom Bradley, as well as in senior posts in the departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development.

Fabiani and Chris Lehane, a fellow Clinton White House “master of disaster,” run a prominent crisis communications firm. Their past clients have included Madonna, Goldman Sachs and Lance Armstrong, to name but a few.

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Leland Yee placed 3rd for Sec’y of State. Really.

Leland Yee, the Democratic state Senator from San Francisco indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking bribes and conspiring to broker an international arms deal, finished third in a field of eight candidates for Secretary of State in Tuesday’s primary.

Leland Yee (photo by Karl Mondon)No, really. As of now, 287,590 votes have been counted for Yee – a number that will rise at least slightly as registrars around the state tally the final wave of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. Yee had announced he was dropping out of the race to be California’s top elections and political transparency watchdog right after he was charged with crimes that could put him in prison for life, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

My first takeaway is that it sucks to be one of the five candidates who came in behind him. I’d call and ask them, but I’ll have mercy; if I were one of them, I’d be hung over for days and not taking calls.

I see a few possible explanations for Yee’s strong finish, and I suppose it’s probably a mix of several:

    1.) Some voters have a perverse sense of humor, and don’t care much who the Secretary of State will be, anyway.
    3.) Some voters live under rocks, without access to the internet, radio, television or newspapers. Then again, he still came in third in San Francisco, where news of his arrest and indictment was practically inescapable.

That point leads to my second takeaway, which is that the real winner in this primary election is James Lassart, Yee’s attorney. He must feel at least a little better today about his future prospects in picking a jury.

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Ricky Gill cancels fundraiser in marijuana flap

Republican congressional candidate Ricky Gill cancelled a Stockton fundraiser that was to be co-hosted by a businessman whose son was just indicted on federal marijuana charges.

Those who brought the event to my attention believe Gill’s association with anyone under federal investigation or indictment is damning, especially given that this is the second instance. My colleague, Lisa Vorderbrueggen, has written about the Gill family’s business connections to – and Gill’s own campaign contributions, later returned, from – Harvey Whittemore, the Nevada lobbyist now under federal indictment in a campaign-finance scandal.

But this seems like a somewhat different matter, given the debate now raging in California and elsewhere over the Obama Administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries operating in accordance with state and local laws.

Gill fundraiserThe $125-per-person fundraiser was to be held tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, at Le Bistro, a Stockton restaurant co-owned by Bruce Davies, a local Realtor; the Davies family was listed among the event’s co-hosts. Bruce Davies in 2010 had applied to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Stockton, according to the Stockton Record, and had proposed using part of Le Bistro’s kitchen to produce edible marijuana products.

Matthew Davies, Bruce Davies’ son, was indicted by a federal grand jury this month on marijuana cultivation charges; he and two other Stockton men are accused of having grown marijuana in a warehouse and a home within the city.

The Stockton Record reports that a multi-agency probe began last September after Davies and told a CHP officer that he was on his way to his marijuana storage facility, where he stored marijuana for his Medizen dispensary in Sacramento, because the burglar alarm had gone off – hardly an effort to hide his activities. Federal agents later seized 1,962 plants and 40 pounds of processed marijuana from the warehouse, which also apparently had supplied the Central Valley Caregivers Cooperative in Stockton.

Gill is running against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District. McNerney in 2008 reversed his previous opposition to medical marijuana, voicing support for an amendment that would bar the federal government from spending money to investigate and prosecute those who are operating in accordance with their states’ medical marijuana laws.

Ricky GillGill spokesman Colin Hunter today said the campaign cancelled the fundraiser as soon as Matthew Davies’ indictment was reported in the Record, and Gill has not received any contributions from the Davies family.

“This is a transparent attempt to distract from the real issue in this campaign: Jerry McNerney’s utter failure to stand up for our communities in Congress on jobs, foreclosures and agriculture,” Hunter said. “Perhaps the Democrats ought to worry about the real contributions McNerney took – from big banks and from Solyndra’s lead investor, to name just a few – rather than the hypothetical contributions Ricky didn’t.”

Hunter said Gill “does not object to the legitimate, physician-prescribed use of marijuana to treat serious, chronic or debilitating illnesses. He believes state and federal governments should work together to craft a sensible enforcement plan that will hold accountable those individuals operating outside or in clear violation of medical marijuana regimes, but will not penalize seriously ill patients seeking only to manage their pain.”

So, how scandalous would it have been if Gill had raised money from people linked to medical marijuana? Lots of Bay Area politicians have taken contributions from people connected to local dispensaries. But consider who and where Gill is: What flies in the mostly Democratic Bay Area might not fly for a Republican in that Central Valley-centric district (even if Democrats have a 7-point registration edge there).

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Former CA House candidate sentenced to prison

A former Congressional candidate from Southern California was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for obstructing justice by lying about a letter sent to Latino voters during his campaign, federal prosecutors said.

Tan Nguyen (AP photo)Tan Nguyen, 35, of Oceanside, was convicted last year; in addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge David Carter also sentenced him to serve six months at a halfway house. He must surrender to start serving his sentence by March 28.

A federal jury in December found Nguyen had lied to state investigators who were probing complaints from Latino voters in the 47th Congressional District in Orange County, where Nguyen in 2006 was the Republican nominee who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove.

About 14,000 voters in the district had received a letter in Spanish that made claims about who was eligible to vote and what would happen to immigrant voters if they cast ballots; the letter had gone out on letterhead similar to that of an anti-illegal immigration group, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which actually had nothing to do with the letter.

Nguyen, interviewed by investigators in October 2006, falsely stated that campaign volunteers created the letter without his knowledge, prosecutors said. A federal grand jury handed up an indictment in October 2008.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the voting rights of all individuals. We simply will not tolerate those who attempt to interfere with efforts to enforce civil rights laws in our nation,” Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a news release.

In a sentencing memo filed Feb. 5, Nguyen’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, had argued his client shouldn’t have to serve any time behind bars.

“Without question, Tan Nguyen’s reputation took a heavy strike in the indictment, trials and conviction herein,” Steward wrote. “As a public figure, well known in the Vietnamese community and the community in general, such a hit will remove him from politics and many other endeavors for life.”

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The Blackwater indictment documents

A 35-count indictment was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging five Blackwater security guards with voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and weapons violations for their alleged roles in the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq. The defendants are charged with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 other individuals.

Here’s the indictment; here’s the proffer of testimony given by a sixth Blackwater employee about what happened that day; and here’s the criminal information to which that sixth employee has pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.

Read ’em and weep. Literally.