Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 14, 2012
FPPC fines treasurer for loaning committee funds to strip club dancer

GivingMoney.JPGCalifornia campaign treasurers, take note: Your love interest's plastic surgery isn't an acceptable use of the political cash you control.

That message was made clear Thursday, when California's political watchdog agency fined a treasurer of a committee supporting decriminalization of prostitution $9,500 for violations of the state political laws that included improperly loaning committee funds to a strip club dancer with whom he had fallen in love.

The treasurer who made the loan, Luke Breit, said he believed at the time that his amour would use the money to pay an attorney for a child support case. He told investigators with the Fair Political Practices Commission in an interview that the woman, who he had met at a club called Centerfolds, "got a boob job and had another kid" and later denied he had loaned her $3,000 in cash. The money was never repaid.

A second treasurer managing the Californians for Privacy Committee, Michael Gunter, received an additional fine of $7,500 for using $10,000 of the committee's money to start his own business. He told investigators that he was having financial difficulties, according to a document outlining the circumstances of a case.

The investigation, which started when the secretary of state referred the committee to the agency for failing to file its financial statements, also found other issues with the group's bookkeeping. Breit addressed some of the inconsistencies in his interview with FPPC investigators, saying the committee did not identify contributors because its money was raised at cash-only "mixers" where "working ladies would come and, you know, the guys would come to meet them."

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel called the action "FPPC Staff's vote for the most amazing case involving improper use of campaign funds this year" in a tweet posted today.

The chief of the agency's enforcement division agreed.

"Actually, I think it is," Gary Winuk said in an interview. "I'd be hard-pressed to come up with another example."

PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press file photo illustration

December 14, 2012
California tightens PR contracts after Bay Bridge revelation

US NEWS BAYBRIDGE 2 CC.JPGFollowing the revelation of a costly public relations contract that the Brown administration said it knew nothing about, the California Business, Transportation & Housing Agency said this afternoon that it is requiring departments to obtain administration approval for even relatively small public relations contracts.

Jim Evans, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email that agency officials have told the California Department of Transportation and other departments within the agency that any public relations contract worth more than $100,000 must be approved by the agency's acting secretary, Brian Kelly.

The order follows a The Bee's report on Wednesday that Caltrans agreed to pay a public relations company nearly $10 million for work on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct tours and produce a video and commemorative book.

The administration ordered the contract's cancellation after The Bee requested documents related to it.

PHOTO CREDIT: Traffic flows on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. (Laura A. Oda/ Oakland Tribune/ MCT)

December 14, 2012
Bowen: Mail ballots hit an all-time high in CA general election

votepic.JPGCalifornia saw a record share of general election voters opt to cast their ballot by mail this year, with 51 percent of the state's 13.2 million participants using mail-in ballots.

The general election record, which still trails the state's all-time high of 65 percent mail-in ballots set in this year's primary, was announced today as Secretary of State Debra Bowen's released the official statement of vote. The numbers include vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling stations as late as Election Day.

In all, 72 percent of the state's 18.2 million registered voters participated in the general election. That number is lower than the 79 percent average turnout rate for presidential elections over the past century.

"While the election results show an increasing number of Californians rely on the convenience of voting by mail,100 years of election data also demonstrate the fact that too many registered voters choose to sit elections out," Bowen said in a statement. "The crucial factor seems to be whether election issues or candidates strike a chord with each voter.'

December 14, 2012
University of California suspends controversial new logo

New UC Logo.jpgThe University of California system announced this morning it has suspended its controversial new logo in the wake of complaints from students and alumni, some of whom derisively compared the image to a "toilet bowl."

Daniel M. Dooley, senior vice president for external relations at the UC Office of the President, said in a statement that a replacement monogram "could require a measure of time to complete."

Dooley seemed a bit defensive, however, suggesting people misunderstood the logo's purpose and that it was only intended for use on "systemwide communications materials." The logo was designed by an in-house design team.

"The controversy has been fueled in large part by an unfortunate and false narrative, which framed the matter as an either-or choice between a venerated UC seal and a newly designed monogram," Dooley said. "In fact, the graphic element in question was never intended to replace the official seal that still graces diplomas and other appropriate documents."

Dooley also noted that the logo "has received praise from an array of accomplished design experts not affiliated with the university."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the UC Board of Regents, was among the loudest critics, calling it a "disaster." Besides posting several criticisms on Twitter, Newsom wrote a letter Tuesday to UC President Mark Yudof.

Newsom responded on Twitter this morning, "Power of the people!"

PHOTO CREDIT: This image shows the old logo of the University of California, left, with the new logo. The university's original logo -- with its open book, 1868 date stamp and "Let there be light" script -- will still be in circulation, appearing on president's letters and official university documents. But marketing materials and websites will feature a radically simple and more contemporary symbol: a little "C" nesting inside a shield-shaped "U." (AP Photo/ Oakland Tribune)

December 14, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Can California handle large public works projects?

Dan says problems with the Bay Bridge project should be a cautionary tale for another public works job -- California's planned bullet train.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 14, 2012
AM Alert: John Burton's swearing-in offers history lesson

RP JOHN BURTON HAND.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters says that the Bay Bridge project might be a cautionary tale for California's high-speed rail.

It's not every day that former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton turns 80 -- that would be on Saturday.

To help the California Democratic Party chairman celebrate, Capitol Alert conducted some historical research into his swearing in as Senate president pro tem way back in 1998.

Bill Lockyer, now the state treasurer, was then the Senate leader passing the gavel to Burton.

"He has taught me all I know about calm and serenity," Lockyer said dryly, "which has been a blessing."

Sen. Patrick Johnston, the Stockton Democrat who'd gone up against Burton and lost, noted Burton's prowess at basketball during his college years.

"Running against him for the Senate pro tempore job felt like the Kings trying to keep up with the Bulls," said Johnston, who later tossed a basketball at Burton.

Thanks to Greg Lucas and the California's Capitol website, you can view the historical record yourself. Click here and scroll down to find the video. The actual swearing-in starts at about the 18-minute mark.

Current members of the Legislature might note that two former Senate Republican leaders -- Ken Maddy, a political moderate who died in 2000, and Jim Brulte, who's being recruited to help California Republicans stage a comeback -- were among the legislators escorting Burton to the rostrum for his swearing-in.

ELECTION RESULTS: Today is the day that Secretary of State Debra Bowen will issue California's official Statement of Vote -- the official results of the Nov. 6 state and federal races. County officials had until last Friday to report their final results to Bowen's office, which has until today to certify them. Look for numbers in statewide contests as well as legislative and congressional races.

SERVICES: Friends and colleagues gather at 11 a.m. at Capital Christian Center, 9470 Micron Ave., in Sacramento for a celebration of Barbara Alby's life. The former Republican assemblywoman died Sunday at the age of 66. Click here to read her obituary.

NEW GIG: Former Assemblyman Juan Arambula, a Fresno Democrat who later re-registered as an independent, has been elected board chairman at Fresno State's Kenneth L. Maddy Institute. Arambula, whose term starts Jan. 1, replaces former Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Listen to live music at the state Capitol rotunda now through Christmas. Today at noon, it's the Capital Valley Harp Circle. Saturday at 11 a.m., the Camellia City Flute Choir performs, followed by the River Bells bell ringers at 1 p.m. Sunday, look for the Sacramento Youth Symphony Symphonic Band at noon, then the Renaissance Choir of Sacramento at 1 p.m. For a full list, visit the Capitol Museum website.

MORE CAKE AND CANDLES: Two current legislators also mark their birthdays this weekend. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, turns 71 on Saturday, and Sen. Curren Price, D-Inglewood, turns 62 on Sunday. Natal wishes to both.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton attends a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday, March 9, 2009. Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee file


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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