Thursday, December 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Is government corruption rampant?

TomEliasW

By
From page A4 | August 19, 2014 |

To some, it seems almost as if California has lately become New Jersey West. Incidents of possible corruption and conflict of interest are seemingly exposed at least once a month these days, with almost no consequences for anyone involved.

Some examples:

* Last month, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the president of the state’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Alan Trounson, took a job with a private company shortly after the institute gave the firm a $19 million grant. Whether or not that was payback for Trounson, it didn’t look good.

* A month earlier, this column caught the state Energy Commission earmarking more than $28 million in “hydrogen highway” grants for a new company co-founded by a consultant who only months earlier drew the map determining where hydrogen refueling stations will go and then trained commission staff on how to evaluate grants.

No conflict of interest there, the commission insisted. Right.

* More recently, the San Francisco Chronicle uncovered emails in which the chief of staff to Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey advised officials of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on how to fend off lawsuits over the deadly 2010 explosion of a PG&E natural gas pipeline in San Bruno.

Never mind that the fact Peevey is the former president of a large utility by itself should have raised sufficient conflict of interest questions to prevent his getting that job in the first place.

These revelations — probably just the tip of a conflict of interest and corruption iceberg, because each exposure most likely required a tip from an insider — suggest that corruption may be rampant in state government.

The incidents are magnified because they arose while the state Senate steadfastly refuses to expel three members who have been either convicted or indicted for crimes ranging from lying about place of residence to accepting bribes for votes and assisting supposed gun-runners. Instead, all three are under suspension, but with full pay, most likely until their terms end.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown — who could have stopped the Energy Commission grants had he wished, but might not have been able to influence the other recent episodes — took off on a Mexico trade mission accompanied by a full retinue of lobbyists and corporate executives whose contributions for the trip gained them better access than usual to Brown. Nothing is more important to special interest lobbyists and executives than access to power.

Nasty as all this appears, it isn’t very different from what’s gone on before. One of the key causes of the 2003 recall of ex-Gov. Gray Davis was the fact that he at least gave the appearance of trading favors for campaign contributions. The classic example came when an Oracle Corp. representative turned over $25,000 in putative campaign funds to a Davis aide within days of the company getting a $95 million state software contract without competitive bidding.

Of course, the recall and subsequent election of muscleman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t improve matters. He began by promising never to take special-interest campaign contributions, but accepted more than $5 million during the recall election alone. He promised to set up a special panel to investigate his own well-documented womanizing, but never did.

He ended his seven years in office by sharply reducing a murder sentence for the son of his buddy Fabian Nuñez, the former speaker of the state Assembly, leading to speculation about items for which this might have been payback.

Schwarzenegger also gave special treatment to oil companies that contributed to his campaigns, suddenly began backing liquefied natural gas imports after one of his top political consultants became a lobbyist for the Australian energy firm BHP Billiton and paid three of his top staffers from both his campaign committee and state funds. These items all came within his first two years in office.

There also was the fact that Schwarzenegger’s magazine contract partner, American Media — also publisher of the National Enquirer — paid one of his alleged former mistresses $20,000 for exclusive rights to her story and then deep-sixed it.

None of this stuff has been unique. It’s all the product of California’s very lax conflict of interest laws. Because governors and legislators have shown little interest for decades in tightening them, such corruption is to be expected and likely will continue, whoever may be in power.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Supervisors remove Saylor from First 5 Yolo Commission

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

     
    GPAS and test scores up for UCD’s newest undergrads

    By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A1

     
    Million Cat Challenge aims to rescue shelter felines

    By Pat Bailey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Everest visit fulfills judge’s lifelong dream

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    U.S., Cuba seek to normalize relations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Water officials fret over rain’s effects

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Bob Dunning: Not enough hours in the month

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Fatal Capay crash leads to driver’s arrest

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Yolo Crisis Nursery in full swing

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Creative women share food, friendship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Beer and film tour boosts bike group’s coffers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Overeaters get support at meetings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fibro Friends will update their journals

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Input sought on county’s facility needs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Have coffee with the mayor on Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Stockings brighten holidays for special kids

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Evening tai chi classes start Jan. 6

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Name Droppers: Law prof earns peace prize for nonfiction

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Community menorah lighting set Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Latest immunization data shows little improvement locally

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5

    School board will vote on repairs, new portables

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A6

     
    Study: National monument could boost local economy

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Round up at the registers for Patwin

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Parent/toddler art and music program offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Libraries will be closed around the holidays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Cloudy — yet safe — tap water adds to negative health effects

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Come Worship with Us

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Forum

    This ought to teach her love

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Language failed me that night, but not now

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A8

    Steve Sack cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

     
    Grand jury function clarified

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

    Defying Western academic norms

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

     
    Boycotters are our future profs

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

    Many thanks to The Avid Reader

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Sports

     
    UCD reveals a challenging softball schedule

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Tumey talks about state of Aggie athletics, where they’re headed

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Davis gets Rio Linda as Curry Invitational starts Thursday

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Westbrook, Durant lead Thunder past Kings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: Former Aggie Descalso inks deal with Colorado

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    Some vegetables just can’t be beet

    By Julie Cross | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6