Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 4, 2013
Oil industry treated California legislators to $13K dinner as fracking bill loomed

20110114_AA_THE KITCHEN002.JPGAs negotiations heated up at the end of the legislative session over a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California, oil companies poured millions into lobbying the Legislature, quarterly reports released last week show.

The three interest groups that spent the most money lobbying in California between July 1 and Sept. 30 were oil and gas companies: Chevron ($1,696,477), the Western States Petroleum Association ($1,269,478) and Aera Energy LLC ($1,015,534), according to filings with the secretary of state.

Nearly $13,000 of the Western States Petroleum Association's spending went toward hosting a dinner for 12 lawmakers and two staff members at one of Sacramento's poshest venues: The Kitchen, known for its interactive dining experience where guests sit in the kitchen as cooks share details of the five-course meal. Moderate Democrats seemed to be the target audience for the treat: Assembly members Adam Gray, Henry Perea and Cheryl Brown attended, as did Sens. Norma Torres, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa.

The dinner was held on Sept. 4, as Senate Bill 4 was awaiting a vote on the Assembly floor.

The next day, environmental groups sounded the alarm that the oil industry was pushing to weaken permitting regulations in the bill by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. As amendments were taken in the following days, environmental groups withdrew their support. A week later, the bill passed through the Legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it on Sept. 20.

Third quarter reports show that KP Public Affairs, which represents the Western States Petroleum Association, was the top-billing lobbying firm in California for the period, bringing in $1,658,459.

For Perea, Correa, Calderon and Torres, the September dinner was not the first time they'd been treated to The Kitchen by the oil industry. They were among 11 legislators who attended a Western States Petroleum Association dinner there last year, valued at nearly $11,000.

PHOTO: Randall Selland, owner and executive chef of The Kitchen restaurant, holds fresh-caught lobster at his Sacramento restaurant in January 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Andy Alfaro

November 4, 2013
See how Dean Florez spent his campaign funds

The searchable spreadsheet shows expenses of campaign committees controlled by former lawmaker Dean Florez from 2010 through 2012. Some expenses reflect direct payments by a campaign committee. Others were purchased with campaign credit cards.

November 4, 2013
FPPC fines ex-lawmaker Mike Roos for improper contributions

MikeRoosWillieBrown.JPGCalifornia lobbyists can play a big role in helping political candidates raise the money they need to run for office. Lobbyists registered with the state can advise their clients on which campaigns they should support, and they frequently attend swanky fundraising events on their clients' dime.

But one thing California lobbyists can't do is personally write checks to state-level campaigns. (Federal campaigns are another story, as we explored in this story last election season.)

It's a rule Mike Roos is now likely to remember.

The 14-year assemblyman, who was a registered lobbyist from 2007 to 2012, has agreed to pay a $3,000 fine to the California Fair Political Practices Commission for personally making three political contributions while he was a lobbyist.

Roos made a $250 contribution to the Jerry Brown for Governor 2010 Exploratory Committee in December 2009; a $1,000 contribution to state Sen. Darrell Steinberg in February 2010;
and $465.14 in non-monetary contributions to state Sen. Alex Padilla in October 2010, according to his proposed settlement with the FPPC.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the fine at its Nov. 14 meeting.

PHOTO: Filmmaker Rob Reiner, center, with then-mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, right, and former Assemblyman Mike Roos, left, announce details of the California Children and Families First initiative during a news conference in January 1998. Associated Press/Ben Margot

November 4, 2013
Luis Alejo settles with state over illegal campaign coordinating

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for luis_alejo.jpg

California's campaign finance watchdog continued its pursuit of independent expenditure committees illegally coordinating their contributions with candidates they support for state office, settling with an assemblyman for $21,092 for an over-the-limit donation.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, agreed to the settlement with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which meets to consider the matter Nov. 14.

In April, Joaquin Ross and Voters for a New California, an independent committee he helped operate, settled for $6,500 after spending $28,892 on three mailings supporting Alejo in the June 2010 primary for the open seat running from Monterey to Santa Clara counties.

Voters for a New California was not allowed to donate more than $3,900 to Alejo's primary campaign - unless it spent independently on his behalf without coordinating with the candidate's campaign. The FPPC investigation found Ross violated state election law by serving as Alejo's campaign manager and as the chief officer of the independent expenditure.

Alejo's settlement is the amount in excess of $3,900.

Such coordination has long been suspected in legislative races but has been difficult to prove. The Voters for a New California probe is believed to be the first time the FPPC has been able to levy a fine for a violation. No other charges are expected in the case.

In April, Alejo told The Bee he was not aware of the case or of details into the committee's spending. "I trust the FPPC's investigation was thorough and their judgment will be just," he said at the time."

Alejo is coming off a banner year in the Legislature after Gov. Jerry Brown signed his high-profile measures to provide drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants and eventually raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour from $8.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, during session in the Assembly chambers March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

November 4, 2013
Democrat Dean Florez fined $60K for misusing campaign funds


A former state senator and candidate for statewide office has agreed to pay a record $60,000 in penalties to the state's political ethics watchdog for spending campaign contributions for personal use and failing to refund general election donations after abandoning his candidacy for lieutenant governor.

Democrat Dean Florez violated state law by spending $26,541 in campaign funds to make 168 personal purchases, including airfare, dining, concert tickets and more than 100 stops at gasoline stations. He also failed to refund $247,000 in general election contributions stemming from his lieutenant governor bid in 2010.

Florez, who represented the Central Valley town of Shafter, agreed to settle with the California Fair Political Practices Commission for $60,000, the largest combined fine in the state's history for a case involving personal use of campaign funds..

California lawmakers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in campaign contributions on entertainment, fine dining and travel abroad. While state law bars such spending for personal use, lawmakers must only state that the spending was "reasonably" related to political, legislative or government purposes.

November 4, 2013
California won't meet 2050 emissions goals, report says


Barring a sweeping policy change or the introduction of new technology, California will fall short of its goals to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The good news is that California remains on pace to cut emissions to their 1990 level by 2020, a goal set out in a 2005 executive order issued by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the subsequent goal of thinning greenhouse-gas trapping emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 currently appears to be out of reach.

Making that goal more difficult is expected population growth and the accompanying increase in demand, with the Department of Finance anticipating that the number of California residents will surpass 50 million around mid century, and expanding economic output. The Berkeley models estimate that emissions will steadily decline over the next few decades before reversing and starting to rise.

Even in the lab's most optimistic scenario -- one that incorporates the most aggressive policies and the most widespread use of alternative energy and low or zero emission vehicles -- California would still be pumping more tons of gases into the atmosphere than the 2005 order envisions.

"Even if we aggressively expand our policies and implement fledgling technologies that are not even on the marketplace now, our analysis shows that California will still not be able to get emissions to 85 metric tons of CO2-­equivalent per year by 2050," Jeff Greenblatt, a Berkeley Lab researcher who created the models, said in a press release.

The researchers developed three different models for what California's emissions-creation might look over the next few decades, drawing upon input from a range of California agencies, most prominently the California Air Resources Board. They extrapolated emissions coming from several different sources, from housing to electricity generation to water use to vehicles.

PHOTO: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown hold a news conference to announce the filing of California's lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act on California's tailpipe emissions waiver request, outside the State Capitol, Wednesday Nov. 8, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer.

November 4, 2013
Former California TV reporter named as National Park Service deputy

Christy_Goldfuss.jpgFormer California television reporter Christy Goldfuss was named deputy director at the National Park Service on Monday.

Sacramento Valley residents may recall Goldfuss from her time in Chico and Redding with KNVN-TV. The Brown University graduate served in the station's Redding bureau, and later the main Chico newsroom, from August 2000 through June 2001.

All told, Goldfuss spent eight years as a reporter in California, Nevada and Virginia before jumping over to the policy side, with stints on Capitol Hill and, most recently, at the Center for American Progress.

PHOTO: Christy Goldfuss is the National Park Service's new deputy director for congressional and external relations. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

November 4, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers debate, denounce the Delta plan


While avian aficionados and flying fowl flock to the Sacramento Delta to revel in its natural bounty, legislators and policymakers continue to hammer Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan for potentially disrupting the area's precarious ecological balance.

In Granite Bay, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, and other public officials will kick off a weeklong celebration of Folsom Lake -- but not without some pointed words questioning whether the Delta Plan would protect the lake from being drained dry.

And over in Stockton, the Delta Coalition will bring together area lawmakers and experts for an event trumpeting "The Real Delta Story," which presumably is a story detailing the deleterious impact of massive water conveyance tunnels. Expected are Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, head of Restore the Delta; Senators Lois Wolk and Cathleen Galgiani; and Assembly members Susan Eggman, Jim Frazier, Kristin Olsen and Mariko Yamada. Starting at 10 a.m. at the University of the Pacific Alumni House.

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED: The sometimes-irascible Brown may not always light up the room, but he can still light up a mansion. The Governor's Mansion State Historic Park has restored a floor of the storied building and installed a new lighting system, and the governor will celebrate the latest luminosity during a "Light Up the Night" event tonight. From 6 to 8 p.m. at the governor's mansion.

FEDERAL FOOD SAFETY: Coming on three years after President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, the Senate Agriculture Committee will examine the implications for California's vast array of food producers. Witnesses will include Rick Jensen of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and speakers from the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Western Growers Association, California Certified Organic Farmers and California Citrus Mutual. Starting at 1:30 p.m. at the Stockton City Council Chambers.

PHOTO: Campaign sign along highway 160 in the delta on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.


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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