Chinese political cash in Beverly Hills?

Sep 23, 2016

A flow of money into a Beverly Hills ballot battle over development has drawn the fire of a major labor union, which says Chinese cash is playing a role in the race.


From the LAT's David Pierson: "Unite Here Local 11, the Southern California chapter of a labor union that represents 270,000 workers across North America, accuses China’s Wanda Group of funneling cash to a campaign committee established by one of its U.S. subsidiaries to oppose an initiative in the November election.


The ballot measure would allow real estate investor Beny Alagem, owner of the landmark and union-friendly Beverly Hilton, to bypass the usual public review to build a 26-story high-rise that would be the tallest building in a city averse to big developments.


Opposing the measure is Wanda’s local subsidiary and its development partner, the Phoenix-based Athens Group. The two are building a $1.2-billion hotel-condominium project called One Beverly Hills adjacent to Alagem’s property on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards.


Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna are not only embattled over a congressional seat, they're now duking it out in the court room.


ERIC KURHI with Mercury News: "Congressman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, filed a lawsuit Thursday against re-election opponent Ro Khanna in the hotly contested 17th Congressional District accusing him and his campaign manager of illegally accessing his campaign files."


"The lawsuit charges Khanna campaign manager Brian Parvizshahi with violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by accessing a database for a consulting company he’d previously interned with that contained thousands of records of donors to the Honda campaign."


"This material was stolen — it’s theft,” said Honda campaign manager Michael Beckendorf, who compared it to a “modern day Watergate.”


Speaking of Mike Honda, the man also had a few words to say about an ethics investigation looming over him as the November election draws near.


CARLA MARINUCCI with Politico: "Embattled Rep. Mike Honda, speaking to voters about a House Ethics Committee probe that has shadowed him for months, said he does not expect the matter to be resolved before the November election and likened the alleged transgressions to “a teacher parking in another teacher's parking spot."


"The eight-term congressman, in a speech last month that was posted to YouTube, also expressed confidence that will still win the endorsement of a number of party leaders, including Democratic vice presidential candidate, who he mistakenly referred to as “Tim McCain."


"Honda's campaign spokesman Vedant Patel could not be reached for comment."


Gov. Brown has signed AB884 into law, making Assembly floor videos available within the public domain.


DAVID SIDERS with Sacramento Bee: "Ready to make some money off of Assembly floor session video?"


"With the Legislature facing a First Amendment challenge, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation repealing the state’s prohibition against using Assembly-generated video for political or commercial purposes."


"Assembly Bill 884, by Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, officially puts Assembly video within the public domain."


Dianne Feinstein is officially backing away from a bill that she co-sponsored after it raised worries of political backlash from foreign powers.


SEAN COCKERHAM with Sacramento Bee: "California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is joining a growing number in Congress who are reconsidering their support for a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged backing of the terrorists who committed the attacks."


"Feinstein is a co-sponsor of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The White House opposes the bill and has been lobbying senators, arguing it could prompt a diplomatic backlash and give other nations an excuse to sue American diplomats, service members and companies."


“I am having second thoughts about the bill because I think it launches a number of unforeseen happenings,” said Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee."


As the polls continue to update, support for cannabis legalization and gun control in California proceeds to grow.


PETER FIMRITE with Politico: "California appears poised to join a growing national embrace of marijuana, with a potent majority of people now supporting a November ballot measure to legalize recreational pot use across the state, according to a Field/IGS Poll released Thursday."


"Smoking a lawful doobie isn’t a radical notion anymore in California, the poll found, even after previous rejections of similar laws."


"Sixty percent of likely California voters said they would vote yes on Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would legalize use and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people 21 or older and establish regulations, licensing and taxation of the cannabis industry. Thirty-one percent said no and 9 percent were undecided."


READ MORE related to Polling: California gun control measure backed by wide margin of voters, new poll shows -- JESSICA CALEFATI with Mercury News


A recent state audit has suggested restrictions and reforms for the California Public Utilities Commission.


JEFF MCDONALD with San Diego Union-Tribune: "State utility regulators, already under criminal investigation for their ties to monopolies they oversee, should ban gifts and travel from energy companies and trade groups to avoid the appearance of improper relationships, a state audit released Thursday said."


"The 64-page report issued by California State Auditor Elaine Howle said the California Public Utilities Commission should increase transparency and accountability, and found that its contracting practices do not comply with state requirements or the highest industry standards."


"Howle called on state lawmakers to pass legislation to improve operations at the regulatory agency, something several legislators have sought for years."


The state will be making pay adjustments for government employees in managerial positions -- a change being attributed to retirement healthcare


ADAM ASHTON with Sacramento Bee: "About 27,000 managers in California state government are about to get a 3 percent salary hike and a new deduction from their paychecks meant to offset the costs of the health care they’ll use in retirement."


"The raises come first."


"They’ll kick in on Oct. 1, according to a directive published Monday by the California Human Resources Department."


Recent testing results for foster youth are showing a demographic learning at a much slower rate compared to non-foster classmates.


JOY RESMOVITS with L.A. Times: "For the first time, California education officials have separated out the standardized test scores of the state’s foster youth — and advocates now have sobering proof of what they long suspected: These students are learning far less than their peers."


"In 2014-15, the first year scores of the new, harder state tests were reported, 18.8% of students in the foster care system met or exceeded standards in English/language arts, compared with 44.2% of their non-foster peers statewide. In math, 11.8% of these students reached or beat the benchmarks, compared with 33.8% of non-foster students."


"Foster students also had somewhat lower rates of participation on the tests. In English, 27,651 foster students — or 89.8% of those enrolled — were tested, as opposed to 96.1% of non-foster students. In math, that number was 27,475, or 89.3%, compared with 96.3% of their non-foster peers."


A recent dispute in the cannabis campaign over funding has lead to a critique of the current systems in place that track campaign money.


BROOKE EDWARDS STAGGS in Daily News: "Earlier this month, one published media report said the campaign to legalize marijuana in California had raised $18 million. Within days, other major new outlets pegged the total at just one-third that amount, while a nonprofit campaign watchdog group said the figure was $11 million."


"Why the conflicting numbers?"


"It’s complicated. And it points to the growing difficulty of tracking funds in California campaigns, despite – and in some respects because of – election fundraising disclosure requirements that are among the most extensive in the nation."


A recent spate of sexual misconduct allegations in the National Park Service has now spread to Yosemite and Yellowstone


LISA REIN with Washington Post: "Complaints of sexual harassment in the National Park Service have spread to Yosemite and Yellowstone, two of the crown jewels in the system, lawmakers disclosed Thursday as they berated a top agency manager for failing to punish wrongdoers."


"At a hearing awash in denunciations by unified Democrats and Republicans that sexual misconduct is not taken seriously, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said 18 employees at Yosemite National Park have come forward with allegations of harassment, bullying, and a hostile work environment."


"Park Service law enforcement officials who investigated the cases before the Interior Department inspector general’s office took over wrote in an internal report, “The number of employees interviewed that described horrific working conditions lead us to believe that the environment is indeed toxic, hostile, repressive and harassing.” Chaffetz cited the report, which is not public."


Another day, another bullet train dispute


DANA BARTHOLOMEW with Daily News: "Los Angeles may be the latest opponent of a proposed bullet train route through San Fernando Valley horse country."


"Councilman Paul Krekorian has filed a motion to oppose an above-ground high-speed rail route fought by residents from Lake View Terrace to Shadow Hills, who say the foothills train would destroy the environment, kill horse-related businesses and put an end to an equestrian way of life."


"The motion was filed by Krekorian on Wednesday and is expected to go before a City Council vote early next month. It falls on the heels of a similar motion filed this week by Los Angeles schools Board Member Monica Ratliff to oppose the rail route over Big Tujunga Wash."


And now for a page from our "Hillarious Clinton" file ...


Hillary Clinton was recently none other than Zach Galifianakis, who also happened to receive a fond welcome from her security entourage before the questioning. 


POLITICO: "In a new episode of Web comedy show Between Two Ferns, Hillary Clinton jokes about what she should wear at next Monday's debate, attending Donald Trump's wedding and Chelsea Clinton's friendship with Ivanka Trump."


"Comedian host Zach Galifianakis asked the candidate a variety of (not surprisingly) irreverent questions — like what would happen if Clinton got pregnant in office and whether she ever thinks to herself, "Oh, maybe I should be more racist."


"The candidate also said she is "not down" with President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. She supported the deal as secretary of state but has opposed it more recently. Here are some highlights from the interview."


And for the person with the worst week in California, #WorstWeekinCA, how about Brian Parvizshahi? He's the campaign manager of congressional contender Ro Khanna, and he was forced to step down after a lawsuit claimed he illegally accessed donor data. Read about it here....

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