Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 1, 2014
Taxpayer-financed California campaigns bad idea, Schnur says

Suggestions that California adopt public campaign financing in response to a spate of Capitol corruption scandals are "the last refuge" of politicians who want to keep a corrupt status quo, secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Sacramento, Schnur, a former Republican who has no party preference, said his proposed ban on political fundraising while the Legislature is in session is the best way to clean up a "Capitol culture of corruption."

"I don't care if you're the most meticulous record-keeper in the world. If you receive a really large campaign contribution six months before a key vote, it simply cannot have the same visceral emotional impact as if you receive that same check the night before a key vote or the morning of," said Schnur, who said he would be the state's "reformer in chief" if elected.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, floated the idea of public campaign financing during his floor speech Friday on a resolution to suspend Democratic senators Ron Calderon, Rod Wright and Leland Yee — one of Schnur's secretary of state rivals until shortly after his arrest on corruption and gun-running charges last week.

Schnur acknowledged that some people sincerely support public campaign financing. But Schnur said public financing of California campaigns would never happen. Voters, he added, would not want to divert money from police, libraries and other governmental services, he said.

"Public financing? That's the last refuge...of a legislator that just doesn't want to see any change happen at all," Schnur said.

Speaking to reporters later, Steinberg and state Sen. Kevin Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, accused Schnur of fundraising hypocrisy. Schnur's campaign has raised more than $313,000, with the average check exceeding $1,500.

"If you live in glass houses, you should be careful not to throw stones," de León said.

Other candidates for secretary of state are Democrats, state Sen. Alex Padilla, Derek Cressman, and Jeffrey H. Drobman; Republicans Pete Peterson and Roy Allmond; and David Curtis, a member of the Green Party.

Editor's note: This post was updated April 1 at 5:43 p.m. to include response from Steinberg and de León.

Secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur, who has no party preference, speaks to reporters in Sacramento on Tuesday. The Sacramento Bee/Jim Miller

April 1, 2014
California Senate Dems cancel annual golf fundraiser

Reeling from a spate of political scandals, leaders in the California Senate have canceled the Pro Tem Cup, a major fundraiser scheduled for this Friday where lobbyists typically mingle with legislators at the Torrey Pines golf course near San Diego to raise money for the California Democratic Party.

Given the taint political fundraising has garnered with the arrest last week of Sen. Leland Yee — coming on the heels of Sen. Ron Calderon being indicted on corruption charges and a record-setting FPPC fine for Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat for hosting lavish fundraisers — Democrats in the Senate were eager to separate themselves from the exchange of money.

"These are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step back and take stock of how we all do the people's business and balance it against the demands of running for office," said a joint statement from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and future leader Sen. Kevin de León.

Instead of attending the Pro Tem Cup, Senate Democrats "intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this State," the statement said.

The Senate took the unprecedented step last week of suspending three of its members, all Democrats, accused of felonies: Yee is accused of taking bribes from undercover FBI agents to put toward his now-aborted campaign for secretary of state and a failed run for San Francisco mayor in 2011, as well as conspiring to traffic weapons. Calderon is accused of taking bribes from an undercover agent and a hospital executive. Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty by a jury of lying about where he lived when he ran for the Senate in 2008.

"While the Legislature as a whole cannot be held responsible for the bad acts of three individual members, we do bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they left behind," says the statement from Steinberg and de León.

Here is a video of the two senators talking to reporters Tuesday about their decision to cancel the event:

PHOTO: Senator Kevin de León, talks with Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, during the first California Senate session Jan. 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 1, 2014
After Yee raid, federal authorities return to Sacramento

Beard.JPGFederal authorities returned Tuesday to Sacramento, visiting a fifth-floor office of the Legislative Office Building across N Street from the Capitol that Senate authorities said belongs to Sen. Leland Yee, the San Francisco Democrat who was arrested last week and charged with corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons.

Two men who were part of the FBI raid at the Capitol last week were seen leaving Room 549 early Tuesday, accompanied by the Senate's Sergeant-at-Arms, Tony Beard. Beard would not comment substantively, but politely asked a reporter not to take photographs of their faces.

Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said the office is occasionally used by a staff member of Yee's who normally works in his district office. After the arrest and the FBI raid on the Capitol last week, the Senate informed federal authorities that Yee had an additional office in the Legislative Office Building, Hedlund said.

"So they came back this morning with a warrant to check that office (because) it wasn't part of their investigation before," Hedlund said.

"They served that warrant over there and were there for a couple hours and then left."

Agents looked through the computer, desk and boxes in the office early this morning, Hedlund said.

FBI spokeswoman Gina Swankie confirmed the agency was executing a search warrant but did not say what case it pertained to.

The action comes less than a week after the latest misconduct case to grip the Capitol.

California Senators on Friday voted to suspend three of their own -- Yee, along with Sens. Ron Calderon of Montebello and Rod Wright of Baldwin Hills -- accused in separate cases of corruption and perjury.

Wright is scheduled to appear in court in May after a Los Angeles County jury convicted him of lying about his place of residence in 2008.

Last month, Calderon was indicted on two dozen counts including bribery, money laundering and tax fraud that carry a maximum sentence of 400 years in prison.

The flow of legal action has hurt morale in the Senate and cost Democrats the supermajority in both legislative houses the party worked more than a century to attain.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 10:17 a.m. to include comments from Mark Hedlund. Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Senate Sgt. at Arms Tony Beard stands outside room 549 in the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Sacramento.
The FBI confirmed they executed a search warrant in the room.The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 1, 2014
AM Alert: Political reform package up in the Assembly


It has been a scandal-scarred 2014 so far for the Legislature. A legal storm has cost Senate Democrats their supermajority, culminating in the suspension of three members Friday. And the alleged wrongdoing hasn't been limited to elected officials, with a powerful lobbying firm earning a record-setting fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Today, a package of political ethics bills by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, introduced in the wake of the Sloat fine (but before Sen. Ron Calderon was indicted), comes before the Assembly Elections committee (1:30 p.m., in room 444). Most relevant to the FPPC's action is Assembly Bill 1673, which would bar lobbyists from hosting fundraisers at their homes.

The Senate is mulling a similar package of campaign-finance measures, including a bill that would prohibit the home fundraisers. Unlike with Garcia's package, the Senate push came with the blessing of legislative leaders who announced the effort at a press conference back in the more innocent, pre-arrest of Sen. Leland Yee days.

VIDEO: A 2013 special election that at the time seemed relatively inconsequential at the time has taken on huge significance, Dan Walters says.

SCHNUR THING: Lest there be any doubt that secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur would cite the cascading scandals in his campaign, the former FPPC chair plans to discuss the "Capitol culture of corruption" during a 10:30 a.m. news conference at the Stutzman Public Affairs office today. Yee allegedly took campaign cash from undercover FBI agents, fueling the arguments of Schnur and other critics that perpetual fundraising is an urgent problem.

ANTI-ANTIBIOTICS: You may recall reading about a pair of bills intended to limit feeding antibiotics to livestock, spurred by concerns about a new generation of drug-resistant bugs. The less sweeping of the two bills, this one by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is up in the Senate Agriculture Committee today at 9:30 a.m.

REGISTRATION CONSTERNATION: Are you a registered independent? Are you sure? Thousands of Californians trying to distance themselves from partisan affiliation instead register with the right-wing American Independent Party, according to a "Don't Be AIPrl Fooled" voter-information campaign being launched today with a mass email blast to AIP-registered voters.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens during session in the Assembly chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

April 1, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Special election loss haunts Senate Democrats


From affirmative action to water bonds, the agenda of Senate Democrats will suffer now that Dems have lost their supermajority, Dan Walters says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, left, gets advice from Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, on his first day in the Senate, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.


Capitol Alert Staff

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. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

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

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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