Knock knock

Sep 16, 2011

Agents from the FBI and IRS raided offices across Riverside and San Bernardino counties looking for matieral linked to the Colonies Partners corruption investigation, a case that has tainted the local political community with allegations of bribery and extortion. The Press-Enterprise's Duane W. Gang and Imran Ghori tell the tale.


"Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service agents carted away computers, dozens of boxes of documents and other evidence from homes and businesses in five cities. Locations included the home and office of a former state senator and the offices of a Riverside public relations firm."


"It is unclear exactly what the FBI and IRS agents sought, since the affidavits in support of the search warrants remain under seal."


"But the locations searched all have ties to people involved in the state and local investigation of San Bernardino County's $102 million settlement with developer Colonies Partners. Local prosecutors say the settlement was obtained through a conspiracy of bribery and extortion. The defendants face more than 20 charges in total."


"The federal investigation is separate, and state and local authorities were not involved in Thursday's searches, according to officials with knowledge of the investigations."


And in other scandal news -- there seems to be no dearth of that lately -- Democratic campaign accountant Kinde Durkee allegedly failed to deposit at least 160,000 in the account of state Sen. Ted Lieu of Long Beach, according to a state audit. 


From Brian Joseph in the Orange County Register: "An audit by the state Franchise Tax Board has discovered that Democratic treasurer Kinde Durkee failed to deposit at least $160,000 in contributions to one of State Sen. Ted Lieu‘s accounts for about a year, the senator told the Orange County Register on Thursday."


"The senator, who said he has not yet read the audit but has had portions read to him, said that the treasurer seems to have “borrowed” the money from him. The issue was discovered during a routine audit of the the senator’s 2010 attorney general campaign committee, he said. (Lieu lost in the primary to the eventual winner, Kamala Harris.) Lieu said Durkee deposited the money in his account after the it was discovered by the board. Lieu, D-Torrance, said he never noticed the missing funds during his campaign."


"The issue was found when auditors compared his campaign finance reports with his bank statements, the senator said. He was first notified of the discrepancy a few months ago, before Durkee was arrested by the FBI on suspicion mail fraud. At the time, Lieu said he didn’t think anything of it. Now he says it makes the allegations against Durkee hit home even more."


Meanwhile, Republicans have filed a lawsuit to block the new state Senate redistricting maps, the latest in a series of challenges to the work of the independent redistricting commission, which crafted districts for the next decade of elections using the census as a yardstick.


From Jim Sanders and Michael Dolyle in the Sacramento Bee: "Arguing that California's newly drawn Senate districts are unconstitutional, a Republican Party-backed group filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the California Supreme Court to kill the new maps."


"We believe there are serious constitutional flaws in the maps produced by the redistricting commission, and these are matters that the Supreme Court should look at immediately," said David Gilliard, a Sacramento-based GOP political consultant leading the effort."


"Gilliard said his group, Fairness & Accountability In Redistricting), also has collected about 100,000 signatures in a referendum drive aimed at asking voters to reject the newly drawn Senate districts."


"If the group can collect 504,760 valid signatures by Nov. 14, the state Senate lines will be put on hold until the referendum is held in the June 2012 election."


U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a long-time favorite among California voters, is weakening in the polls, although no GOP contenders have yet emerged to take her on. From Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle.


"This year, as 1,000 GOP activists gather today in Los Angeles for their fall convention, things are different, as even the California Republican Party chairman has no idea who will take on 19-year-incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year - and no major candidates have stepped up."


"But the landscape may change soon, analysts said, given Feinstein's recent campaign money problems and a Field Poll released today that gives one of California's most consistently popular politicians a 41 percent approval rating, the lowest of her Senate career."


"One person considering a run, The Chronicle has learned, is Michael Reagan, a former conservative talk-radio host and the son of former President Ronald Reagan."


"Republicans may consider a challenge to Feinstein less foreboding after the survey of 1,001 registered voters found that 39 percent disapprove of Feinstein's performance and 20 percent have no opinion."


Former state Sen. Denise Ducheny, a San Diego Democrat and a veteran of the Capitol's budget wars, is running for Congress, the latest episode in San Diego's political musical chairs.


From the San Diego U-T: "Ducheny resigned from the California Unemployment Appeals Board on Tuesday to challenge Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas. The congressional seat is being vacated by Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, who is running for mayor of San Diego."


"We live in a very challenging time. Our economy hasn’t recovered as fast as we would have liked. However, I continue to be optimistic about the strong and capable people of this country and exemplified by the residents of San Diego and Imperial counties," Ducheny said. "Together, we can make the progress needed to stop the special interests and create a vibrant and healthy economy for the next century. I have always worked my hardest to represent my constituents and I am confident that, as we talk with families and business owners, veterans and seniors, we will find common solutions to the problems we all face."


"This is a time for leaders who will stand up for working men and women and their families; Leaders who will fight tirelessly for them in Washington. I believe my record shows I am ready to take on this difficult task and bring about positive results for the people of the 51st District."


And from our "Chicago, Chicago, it's a Wonderful Town" file, comes word that a pack of women beat up an 80-year-old man and swiped his car.  


"An 80-year-old man who was just trying to be a good Samaritan got more than he bargained for after offering a group of women a ride."


"The women promptly beat the man with his own cane, stole his wallet and cell phone and drove off in his car."


"If this were four young lions beating up on an older lion, we'd be sad but would understand. This is just disgusting. Luckily the man only suffered minor injuries; he was treated and released at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center." 


Should have taken light rail...



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