The nonprofit investigative web site ProPublica says the state's independent, voter-approved redistricting commission was manipulated by Democrats when it drew the maps for next year's elections. Republicans in California say it reenforces what they always thought and Democrats say it's overblown and inaccurate.
From Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson: "In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates — members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines," according to another email."
"The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests."
"When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento."
The ProPublica account prompted immediate reaction. Here's a good reax piece, courtesy of KQED's John Myers: "It should come as little surprise that California's political class is all abuzz over a new and lengthy report on the state's first ever independent redistricting process, one that describes in great detail private machinations apparently employed to help influence the final placement of district lines."
"But the reaction has been so predictably partisan -- Republicans calling for a formal investigation, Democrats attacking the report as overblown hype -- that it's hard to discern the substantive jabs from the superficial spin."
"The report from the investigative nonprofit ProPublicadoesn't mince words: it alleges that California Democrats "fooled" the 14 members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission into drawing lines that -- unbeknownst to the citizen commissioners -- were just as Democrats would've drawn themselves if they had the chance..."
As always, California will greet the new year with a flurry of new laws. Capitol Weekly's Alisen Boada tells the tale.
"As California rings in the New Year, a fresh batch of laws will go into effect. Get ready to strap in your kids, avoid openly carrying guns, watch those tanning booths and savor the last round of shark fin soup."
"Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store for the state starting on Jan. 1."
"The first half of the long-contested California DREAM act goes into effect, qualifying undocumented students attending California’s public institutions of higher education for privately-funded financial aid. (AB 130; Cedillo, D-Los Angeles)"
"Public schools must now include positive lessons on the LGBT community and their contributions, as well as Native Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders and people with disabilities. (SB 48; Leno, D–San Francisco)...."
The gruff and profane Democratic Party Chair John Burton -- take a look at his reaction to the ProPublica tale, and you'll see what we mean -- has another side, too, and Capitol Weekly's Greg Lucas found it.
"Most press accounts about California Democratic Party Chair John Burton begin with references to his profanity. Following that, descriptions are offered like “bombastic,” “coarse,” “brusque” and, perhaps, a charitable “gruff.”
"These stories, which after Burton’s nearly 50 years in politics are legion, usually end with some leavening assessment that can generally be summarized as:
“But he’s got a good heart.”
"The 58,000 California kids in foster care – the highest number of any state in the nation – see the Burton who appears at the end of the profiles."
"Since 2005, Burton - and the foundation he created after being forced from the Legislature by term limits – has used his connections, fundraising prowess and powers of persuasion to improve the odds of success for the children and young adults in what’s often called California's most glaring public policy failure."