Did state Senate Democratic leaders call Sen. Leland Yee onto the carpet behind closed doors last week after Yee spoke out against their proposal to water down the California Public Records Act?
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he didn't dress down Yee. And Yee won't discuss it.
But two reliable sources -- a good-government policy advocate and a state Capitol expert we spoke with -- say that's exactly what happened. They said Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was none too pleased that Yee, D-San Francisco, spoke with this newspaper for an article about budget trailer bills that would've let local governments opt out of key parts of the public-records law.
Bad blood between Steinberg and Yee reportedly dates back to their Assembly days, as both jockeyed for leadership positions and influence. In the Senate, Steinberg has stripped Yee's name from a few bills in recent years -- including a 2009 bill to restore funding for domestic violence shelters and a 2010 bill providing relief after the San Bruno explosion -- and stripped Yee of his title as assistant pro tem in 2010, in part because Yee opposed the Dems' budget deal.
So Yee's public criticism of Steinberg, Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno and other Democrats who'd voted to water down the Public Records Act shouldn't have come as a surprise. But Steinberg and other Dems reportedly were miffed nonetheless that Yee had hung them out to dry in public.
"God forbid you vote your conscience, and then tell people why," said the state Capitol expert we spoke with. The source added it would've been foolish for anyone to think Yee -- a longtime government-transparency activist who's running for secretary of state next year -- would either vote for the bill or remain silent about it afterward if called by a reporter.
Yee would only say through a spokesman that "we're just glad the CPRA is being protected."
Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund insisted Yee wasn't dressed down over the records act dispute, which he added was more about whether state or local government pays for the cost of fulfilling requests than about providing records.
"Senate Democrats all strongly support the Public Records Act," Hedlund said. "What we now have is a fair compromise that offers a short-term solution, while allowing the people of California to constitutionally enshrine CPRA protections and to ensure that state taxpayers don't pay for what local governments should be doing on their own."
San Jose council members dole out pots of money
One of the quiet little benefits of being a San Jose City Council member is distributing a pot of money -- generally around $36,000 a year per member -- to cultural, educational or recreational groups. This money, known as the "HP'' grants, comes to the city as part of the naming rights for the arena, which are expected to continue under the new SAP name.
We summoned our inner geek here to look at the council members' giving over the 2012-13 fiscal year in four broad categories: arts, sports, education and ethnic groups that reflect each elected official's own heritage (OK, we're a melting pot, but there are still lumps in the stew).
In the arts, the leaders were council members Pierluigi Oliverio, who gave $6,750 to arts groups, followed by Sam Liccardo, who donated $4,950. In sports, the hands-down biggest giver was Councilman Don Rocha, who gave $5,000, including $2,000 to the West Valley Slammers, a girls' fast-pitch softball league. In education, the most generous council members were Kansen Chu, who gave $7,400, and Pete Constant, who made a single contribution of $7,000 to the Moreland School District.
And that ethnic category? Constant, a proud Greek-American, gave $4,000 to Greek-American causes. Madison Nguyen, who like Constant is considered a mayoral candidate next year, gave $6,500 to Asian-American causes. See the whole spreadsheet of giving at www.mercurynews.com/internal-affairs.
Holding a fundraiser? Go to Schumb's house
Prominent San Jose attorney and Democrat Chris Schumb has been keeping busy on the political party circuit, recently hosting multiple fundraisers for Democrats and a Republican.
He threw open his Willow Glen home Wednesday night to help Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, who is running for her fifth term in 2014. Smith is being challenged by Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Jensen, who is rumored to be a favorite of the Deputy Sheriffs Association and the local chapter of the California Peace Officers Association.
On Thursday night, the Schumbs hosted a fundraiser for incumbent District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who may be challenged by one of his deputy attorneys, Charles Gillingham.
On Saturday, Schumb was planning yet another fundraiser, this one for seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who is being taken on by former Obama administration official Ro Khanna. The political upstart had $1 million on hand at the end of 2012.
Some may wonder what's behind the urgency to collect cash in June for races a year off. But campaign finance reports are coming due. So candidates want to show they have serious fundraising potential to ward off rivals.
17 candidates are tardy with campaign reports
Speaking of campaign contribution deadlines: Seventeen local candidates or committees blew the Jan. 31 semiannual deadline to file papers disclosing their campaign donors through the end of last year, according to the Registrar of Voters office.
All received two warning letters -- in March and in May -- from the office, asking them to comply. Of the 17, only one -- Evergreen school trustee Vince Soncayawon -- has finally done so. The Registrar's office said it fined him $100 for tardiness.
The issue is at the center of former Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.'s downfall after years of failing to file his campaign forms. Investigations of his missing campaign forms ended in his guilty plea to criminal charges of misusing campaign funds.
The supervisors last week voted to adopt a 10-day deadline, meaning that certain county elected officials and all county measure committees who ignore campaign finance deadlines must now be reported to local and state authorities. While it doesn't become effective until mid-September, the Registrar's office -- criticized for not alerting authorities for 11 years about non-filers like Shirakawa -- is now apparently on the job.
The Registrar's office on June 10 sent a letter listing the 17 delinquent filers -- candidates and political action committees -- to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, as well as a May 24 letter to the District Attorney's office.
Among the campaign committees the Registrar's office called out: West Valley-Mission college district trustee Adrienne Grey; Franklin-McKinley school trustee John Lindner; Kris Wang, who ran unsuccessfully last year for Supervisor Joe Simitian's seat; and a county educators PAC supporting Anna Song and Dave Courtright for the county board of education. And of course, Mr. Shirakawa.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Josh Richman, Scott Herhold, Tracy Seipel and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.