Lawmakers urge internal state Senate investigation be made public

Oct 2, 2014

An investigation into the state Senate’s nepotistic hiring practices is under wraps, but pressure is mounting to make it public.

Laurel Rosenhall reports for The Sacramento Bee: “The Senate has been billed more than $98,000 for the independent investigation it commissioned into the nepotism complaints. It rejected a request from The Bee for a copy of the report.”

““Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg promised to all Californians that the Senate would be run with transparency. Hiding the results of an investigation into nepotism and retaliation is not transparency,” Republican Sen. Andy Vidak said in a statement released Wednesday. “When Sen. Kevin de Leon assumes the office of Pro Tem on Oct. 16, he should end the cover-up and make the report public.””

“Vidak, of Hanford, is campaigning for re-election in the state Senate district that covers Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. Steinberg, though, said Wednesday that the report is confidential because of a legal settlement the Senate reached with Hidalgo. The Senate paid her $85,400 to leave, and a separation agreement says Hidalgo will not sue and that the Senate will not release the investigation except under court order.”

The Public Utilities Commission’s meetings practices have been under scrutiny in the wake of PG&E’s gas line explosion in 2010 -- could half-decade old amendments to the Bagley-Keene Act be to blame?

Dorothy Mills-Gregg reports in Capitol Weekly: “But Jana Zimmer, who serves on the Coastal Commission with Shallenberger, had a different view, saying the Eng amendment has created confusion and uncertainty.”

““In my opinion, this uncertainty has, in turn, understandably led to very cautious advice from our attorneys as to the scope of discussions we may have among ourselves, and has frustrated our good intentions to participate, as Commissioners, in improving our own process and work product as an agency,” Zimmer said.”

“One question is whether the issue is unique to the PUC, said Peter Scheer, the executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for free speech and greater public access to government.”

Like he did when he was first elected, Sen. Andy Vidak faces another close campaign battle in his Democratic leaning Central Valley district.

Jim Miller reports for The Sacramento Bee: “Democrats, who hold a 20-percentage point registration edge in the district, have poured in money to help Chavez, whose campaign has raised more than $900,000 since Aug. 1. Vidak has raised $385,000 during that time. Both campaigns have started running TV commercials.”

“As a tumbleweed blows across the screen, a new Vidak ad links Chavez to incoming Senate leader Kevin de León and the Los Angeles Democrat’s description of the valley as a place where “no one lives out there in the tumbleweeds.” The ad then segues to the indictments of Democratic state senators Ron Calderon and Leland Yee on corruption charges and the conviction of former state Sen. Rod Wright for lying about where he lived on candidacy papers.”

Political fundraising tycoon, and New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie is on the West Coast this week, with no plans to help GOP gubernatorial hopeful (and campaign cash-strapped) Neel Kashkari.  

Seema Mehta reports for The LA Times: “Christie, who has shattered fundraising records since taking the helm of the RGA in late 2013, will raise money for the group at a private event in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening. Kashkari was included on the invitation as a “special guest” and will also address attendees.”

“But he is not being given the billing of the GOP gubernatorial candidates in the other states Christie is visiting. On Thursday, Christie will greet phone bank volunteers and attend a fundraiser for Arizona Republican nominee Doug Ducey; on Friday the New Jerseyite will visit a charter school with GOP candidate Bob Beauprez in Colorado and co-host a campaign rally with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in his state, which holds the first presidential nominating contest in the nation.”

“Ducey and Beauprez’s appearances alongside Christie at RGA fundraisers in their respective states were highlighted in an advisory about Christie’s trip; Kashkari was not mentioned.”


What would you do for a free cookie?

Lois Beckett reports for Pro Publica: “"It is crazy what people were willing to give me," said artist Risa Puno, who conducted the experiment, which she called "Please Enable Cookies," at a Brooklyn arts festival. The cookies — actual cookies — came in flavors such as "Chocolate Chili Fleur de Sel" and "Pink Pistachio Peppercorn."”

“To get a cookie, people had to turn over personal data that could include their address, driver's license number, phone number and mother's maiden name.”

“More than half of the people allowed Puno to take their photographs. Just under half — or 162 people — gave what they said were the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. And about one-third — 117 people — allowed her to take their fingerprints. She examined people's driver's licenses to verify some of the information they provided.”


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