Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 10, 2012
VIDEO: Feinstein on losing millions to treasurer Kinde Durkee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke up about being a victim of what's thought to be the nation's largest campaign treasurer fraud ever prosecuted, calling the situation a "very hard thing."

Kinde Durkee, the prominent campaign treasurer used by Feinstein and many other California Democrats, pleaded guilty earlier this month to defrauding clients of at least $7 million. Feinstein's multi-million dollar war chest was one of the accounts that was hit hardest.

While her request to seek more money from donors whose contributions were misappropriated is expected to be rejected by federal elections officials this week, Feinstein said she is not "terribly worried" about the losses hurting her re-election prospects. She has already put up $5 million of her own money to make up for lost cash and is suing the bank where the committee funds were held.

Feinstein said while she had no personal relationship with Durkee, the news was particularly difficult because she had used Durkee for campaigns in the past. She echoed a reporter's characterization of the embezzlement, calling it a "big betrayal."

"She had a big business," she said. "She was the go-to Democratic fiduciary."

Watch a video of Feinstein's full remarks on the subject.

April 10, 2012
California Governor's Mansion has a black cat mystery to solve

RB Mansion Exterior.JPGThe tour guides at the old Governor's Mansion in Sacramento are trying to solve a mystery, one that involves a black cat.

One of the guides, John Casey, is the grandson of former Gov. Pat Brown, the last governor to live in the Victorian mansion at 16th and H streets, and therefore the nephew of the current governor, Jerry Brown.

Casey was given the black ceramic cat by his aunt, former Treasurer Kathleen Brown, with a story that Pat Brown used it to denote whether his conversations with reporters at the mansion were on or off the record. If the cat was sitting on a hall table, so goes the legend, reporters knew the conversations were off the record, but if it was missing, everything was for attribution.

Casey contacted me in hopes that I could verify or debunk the story so that the cat could be properly displayed in the mansion, which is now a state park facility, but I wasn't around the Capitol in those days, nor were any of my current reportorial colleagues. But if anyone knows the real story, he or she can either email me at or post a comment on this item.

PHOTO CREDIT: The exterior of the historic Governor's Mansion in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday September 6, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

April 10, 2012
Dianne Feinstein praises Jerry Brown's high-speed rail plan

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein praised Gov. Jerry Brown's revised approach on California's high-speed rail project today, but cautioned that the federal funding for the project could depend on final cost projections.

"Do I think it's doable? Yes. Do I think it's doable with all the bells and whistles? No," Feinstein told reporters after addressing local business and government leaders at the Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento. "That's a decision that has to be made."

The revised high-speed rail plan unveiled by the Brown administration late last month relies heavily on federal dollars, counting on $41.9 billion of the projected $68 billion needed for the project coming from the federal government. Feinstein noted that cost has been greatly reduced -- a cut of roughly $30 billion from an earlier business plan -- and that voters already approved nearly $10 billion in bonds to build a bullet train.

Feinstein said Brown has "done the right thing" by focusing on a building a high-speed rail line down the center of the state that would then connect to high-population centers such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. That so-called "blended approach" would rely on some existing infrastructure in urban areas.

"You're really not going to bring, in my view, those high-speed trains into either population area," she said.

April 10, 2012
California revenues 4.2 percent shy in March

As state leaders hope for a surprise uptick in revenues this spring, state Controller John Chiang reported Tuesday that California lagged last month by $233.5 million, or 4.2 percent.

The state missed its target most in corporate income taxes, which were $125.8 million (8.2 percent) off the mark. Income taxes and sales taxes were each less than 2 percent behind Gov. Jerry Brown's revenue forecast.

For the fiscal year that ends in June, the state is now trailing Brown's expectations by nearly $1.1 billion, or 1.9 percent.

"While revenues continue to fall short, the months ahead will be far more important to the State's finances," Chiang said in a release. "More than 35 percent of all revenues are expected in the next three months, making this the most important period for tax collection in the fiscal year."

Because April is such a telling month for state budgeting, Chiang has a daily revenue tracker on his website. Through Friday, the state had cleared $923 million. Brown's budget is counting on $9.132 billion for the month.

Lawmakers are delaying significant actions on the budget until Brown issues his May budget revision, which takes into account April revenues. Brown is circulating a new tax initiative with larger increases on sales and wealthy earners than his initial proposal in part to give lawmakers a bigger buffer against the possibility of disappointing spring tax revenues.

April 10, 2012
Carmichael billboard targets Rep. Dan Lungren on Medicare

Billboard.jpgNational Democrats are taking their campaign against Rep. Dan Lungren to, well, above, the streets.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it has put up a billboard in Carmichael hitting the Gold River Republican on his support for a Republican budget plan that would make major changes to Medicare. The billboard, which was erected by the intersection of Fair Oaks Blvd. and Garfield Ave., accuses Lungren of "Protecting Millionaires Instead of Medicare," according to a photo provided by the committee.

Democrats are hoping to make Medicare a major issue in the 7th Congressional District race between Lungren and Ami Bera, the Elk Grove Democrat who also challenged Lungren in 2010. They argue that provisions in the House GOP budget plan, which Lungren supports, will end up increasing health care costs for future seniors while providing tax cuts for the wealthy.

Lungren's consultant has dismissed the tactic in the past, arguing that voters will be more concerned by the effect the federal health care overhaul could have on the health care program for seniors and the disabled.


Voters in Sacramento-area district hit with political claims over Medicare

Dan Lungren ramps up re-election efforts in Sacramento Co. seat

Democrats targeting Reps. Jeff Denham and Dan Lungren again

PHOTO CREDIT: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put up a billboard targeting Rep. Dan Lungren in the 7th Congressional District. Photo courtesy of the DCCC.

April 10, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Drilling down on the oil and gas tax

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses moves to tax oil and gas extraction in California.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

April 10, 2012
AM Alert: U.S. Senate rivals shadowbox in Sacramento

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Bee columnist Dan Walters dives into the debate over taxing oil and gas extraction in today's video clip.

Sacramento takes center stage in the U.S. Senate showdown today.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and one of her chief rivals, Republican Elizabeth Emken, both have events scheduled within blocks of each other - and the Capitol - today.

Feinstein will swing by the Citizen Hotel at noon to talk about "the economy, housing, international affairs and California's water infrastructure" at an event organized by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Next Economy Partnership, according to her office. She'll follow that event with a tour of the Natomas levees alongside Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

Emken, who beat out 13 other GOP challengers on the June ballot for the California Republican Party endorsement, has scheduled a press conference of her own ahead of Feinstein's remarks. She plans to address the federal deficit, unemployment numbers and "why new leadership is needed during this critical election year." The longtime advocate for children with autism will head to the Arden Hills Resort Club and Spa later today for a 6:30 p.m. reception with the Republicans of River City.

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: Policy committees in both houses continue to churn through measures up for consideration ahead of upcoming deadlines for bills to move to fiscal committees and the floor. Click on the links to the see full Senate and Assembly committee schedules.

HONORING TROOPS: A trio of legislators will stage a press conference on a resolution aimed at honoring veterans who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure would ask state agencies to plan a privately-funded memorial for troops who served in the two wars and encourage communities throughout the state to organize parades or other events to welcome back members of the military. Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, the Camarillo Republican who returned to Sacramento yesterday after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, will headline the 11:30 a.m. presser at the California Veterans' Memorial in Capitol Park.

LEGISLATIVE PAY LAWSUIT: Today's court date in the lawsuit Democratic legislative leaders filed over Controller John Chaing's decision to withhold lawmakers pay after the budget they approved was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown has been rescheduled for April 18. To brush up on the lawsuit, which raises the question of who decides what constitutes a balanced budget under Proposition 25, click this link.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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