Nov 23, 2011

The interest groups in California that seek to bend the government to their will are spending unprecedented amounts on lobbyists, on hired guns as well as the in-house advocates. Capitol Weekly's Cindy Baker tells the tale.


"Lobbyists have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. The powerful interests that employ lobbyists spent nearly quarter of a billion dollars -- $217 million from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 – to persuade government to meet their clients’ needs. The amount is a record."

"Some of the most lavish spending came from those whose own programs appeared threatened by the looming chopping block of the state budget, and they in included groups representing education, energy, utilities, healthcare organizations and organized labor."

"The 325,000-member California’s Teacher’s Association, one of the largest and most powerful political interests in the state, spent the most -- $6.2 million on lobbying efforts through the end of September."


"The figure includes the money spent on outside lobbyists as well as the dollar value on the organization’s in-house lobbyists.  During the first three quarters more than 2,600 interests spent $88 million on in-house lobbying alone – nearly $10 million a month."

Republicans in Congress, with California's Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham leading the charge, want to take back billions of dollars that had been approved for the state's bullet train project.
From the LA Times' Ralph Vartabedian: "California's proposed bullet train, the nation's largest public infrastructure project, has become the focus of an intense federal funding battle that could undermine its survival, as Republican leaders in Congress attempt to claw back as much as $3.3 billion in federal grants already approved for the start of construction next year."

"The case against the bullet train is being led by a group of California Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the House majority whip, who have argued the project is deeply flawed and has become unaffordable as the cost has spiraled to $98.5 billion."

"Denham, a subcommittee chairman on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he believes all of the project's grants can be rescinded by Congress and should be reallocated to highway construction in the Central Valley. Republican staffers are formulating plans to grab the bullet train money, which they said has not been spent or put under contract."
The use of pepper spray against Occupy movement protesters at UC Davis has raised questions about police procedures. In fact, a decade ago courts made it clear that they frown on deploying the spray against nonviolent demonstrators.
From Bob Egelko in the Chronicle: "More than a decade before last week's videotaped incident at UC Davis, a federal appeals court ruled in the case of North Coast logging protesters that officers can legally use the caustic chemical only to prevent harm to themselves or someone else."

"The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which advises police agencies and officers statewide, says pepper spray "can have very serious and debilitating consequences," and "should only be generally used as a defensive weapon" and never to intimidate or retaliate."


"Friday's pepper-spraying of students as they sat on the ground, their arms linked and heads bowed, has drawn criticism from UC President Mark Yudof, an apology from Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, and the suspension, with pay, of two officers and the campus police chief."


The fallout from Gov. Brown's veto of the agency that coordinated California's Master Plan for Higher Education continues: State officials are pondering higher-education strategies and trying to figure out what to do with a vast and valuable digital database.


From Capitol Weekly's Alisen Boada: "The agency best suited to lead the discussion on California higher education is now closed, its knowledgeable staff scattered, the fate of its databases and remaining responsibilities unresolved."

"Funding for the California Postsecondary Education Commission, formerly charged with coordinating the state’s higher education system, was vetoed earlier this year for what the administration described as its ineffectiveness. It closed it's door Nov. 18, saving the state an estimated $1.9 million."

"But in fact, the agency had played an important role as the only independent body looking at statewide needs across the tiers of higher education. And, perhaps even more crucially, CPEC collected, linked, and refined years of student data from each system, a critical tool for assessing the state’s educational needs."

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