By Doug Porter
Allegations of pay-for-play proclivities by elected members of the Calderon family are shedding a negative light on the activities of faux education reformer Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization. Last month Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit revealed an FBI investigation of Sen. Calderon, including allegations he’d accepted $60,000 in bribes from undercover agents posing as independent movie executives.
Members of the Calderon family serving or having served in both branches of the legislature are considered to be a powerful political dynasty. A federal undercover investigation into state Sen. Ron Calderon has rocked Sacramento, “altering the dynamics of the Southern California region he and his political family have dominated for decades,” according to columnist Dan Walters.
Information is now emerging regarding connections between the Calderon family and education reformer Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst group. Her political action committee has spent $1.6 million in California in recent elections backing political figures that supported her agenda.
A 124 page sealed affidavit obtained by investigative journalists demonstrates a relationship between political donations from Rhee’s group and legislative support by two members of the Calderon family.
On Feb. 20, lobbyists for StudentsFirst met privately with Thomas Calderon, a well-heeled political consultant. Initially, Ronald Calderon was at the meeting but left at the suggestion of his brother, according to the account provided to Al Jazeera. Thomas Calderon and StudentsFirst representatives did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.
The next day, state records show, Ronald Calderon introduced a bill that would have adopted many of the education reforms advanced by Rhee and her nonprofit. Calderon’s legislation sought to increase the frequency of teacher evaluations and would have created a new rating scale to replace the state’s pass-fail system. The bill failed in committee.
State campaign-finance records show that StudentsFirst earlier invested heavily in the campaign of Democrat Ian Calderon, who won a seat in the California Assembly in 2012. Rhee’s political action committee provided $250,000 to support an advertising drive, the records show, and another $41,000 to sponsor a voter poll, among other expenditures.
The infusion of campaign cash was vital. Calderon, 28, the youngest member of the Calderon political dynasty, was in a tight primary race against Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, whose polls showed Calderon trailing.
Sen. Calderon’s bill would have potentially changed the education of 6 million kids attending California’s public K-12 schools.
Comparing ALEC’s “Teacher Evaluations and Licensing Act,” part of its “Indiana Education Reform Package,” approved at the 2011 ALEC yearly meeting ( “chapter 3″ of an omnibus bill) with Sen. Calderon’s SB 441, one sees similar phrases and words. As we know, ALEC is pushing forward across the U.S. with public K-12 school reform bills, using language that corporate lobbyists write and lawmakers vote on.
Last spring the Walton Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Walmart clan, made a cool $8 million “investment” in StudentsFirst.
Carl DeMaio’s ‘Gay Problem’
Our former City Councilman’s run for Congress has attracted lots of attention from Republicans nationwide and he’s collected a formidable war chest. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) political arm gave DeMaio $10,000 in June, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) donated $5,000 during the same month.
The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity has already broadcast TV ads asking voters to call the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Scott Peters, and demand the Affordable Care Act be replaced.
But not all Republicans are on board, according to an article appearing at Politico.com:
Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, a senior House Republican eyeing a powerful committee chairmanship, is causing friction with some of his colleagues by pushing the House GOP campaign arm to deny support for some of the party’s gay congressional candidates.
Forbes has waged a lengthy crusade to convince his colleagues and the National Republican Congressional Committee brass they shouldn’t back some gay candidates. His efforts on Capitol Hill were described to POLITICO by more than a half-dozen sources with direct knowledge of the talks.
The issue is particularly acute because House Republicans have two promising openly gay candidates in 2014 vying for seats held by Democrats. Richard Tisei, who narrowly lost to Democratic Rep. John Tierney in 2012, is running again in northeastern Massachusetts. And in San Diego, Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman, is trying to knock off Democratic Rep. Scott Peters.
Fortunately for DeMaio, the NRCC doesn’t get involved in campaigns at the primary level.
ALEC Declares War on Solar Panels
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was in the news earlier this year for their role in fostering the “Stand Your Ground” laws made famous via the shooting of high school student Marvin Trayvon by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman.
According to internal ALEC documents published by The Guardian, ALEC estimates they’ve lost around 60 corporate members in the past two years, in the fallout over their role in promoting Stand Your Ground, voter ID, and other controversial legislation.
Eight hundred state legislators and business executive types are currently meeting in Washington DC for a policy summit. Up next is what The Guardian calls “ a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy.”
After hearing some inspirational words from government shutdown leader Senator Ted Cruz, they’re returning to state capitols around the country with pre-packaged legislative proposals with goals ranging from penalizing individual homeowners’ solar panels, weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from shutting down a polluting frack site or oil industry facility.
ALEC’s legislative analyst John Eick told The Guardian they’ll be looking closely in the coming year at how individual homeowners with solar panels are compensated for feeding surplus electricity back into the grid.
“This is an issue we are going to be exploring,” Eick said. He said Alec wanted to lower the rate electricity companies pay homeowners for direct power generation – and maybe even charge homeowners for feeding power into the grid.
Checkout this excellent example of Republi-Logic™ in action:
“As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalized,” he said.
Keeping Tabs on Kreep-y Justice
Writer Dave Maass may have left San Diego’s City Beat for greener pastures, but he’s continuing to report back to the alt-weekly on the activities of San Diego Judge Gary Kreep.
The far-right zealot and political profiteer—perhaps best known for leading the “Birther” movement’s crusade against President Barack Obama—won a seat on the San Diego County Superior Court bench in the summer of 2012. In a series of stories, CityBeat drew back the skin of Kreep’s political machine, revealing a complex circulatory system of payments that may have run afoul of state campaign laws and the judicial ethics code.
Last month, the state watchdog that investigates political-ethics cases determined that Kreep broke the Political Reform Act twice when he failed to report payments he made to, and received from, a controversial campaign committee already under intense scrutiny from theCalifornia Legislature for its deceptive practices. The Fair Political Practices Commission, as U-T San Diego first reported, let Kreep off with a formal warning that the next time he’ll face a penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation. In exchange, Kreep amended his official reports to include the previously hidden transactions.
While the warning may seem like a slap on the wrist, the definitive finding could lend fuel to future investigations.
Check out the City Beat article for more delicious details.
Faulconer’s Walmart Money Machine
Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer’s campaign would like you to believe he’s a mellow kind of Republican. But Don Bauder over at the San Diego Reader is keeping track of his financial supporters, which just happen to include Walmart:
Retail giant Walmart, which is said to have big plans for its San Diego development portfolio, this Monday (Dec. 2) kicked in another $10,000 to the county Republican Party, according to a filing made yesterday with the California Secretary of State’s office
The GOP is expected to spend big to elect city councilman Kevin Faulconer for mayor.
Since 2007 through the end of last year, according to figures maintained online by the San Diego city clerk’s office, the Bentonville, Arkansas, retailer spent a total of $1,484,137 on San Diego city politics.
Bauder’s report also says that billboard company Capitol Outdoor is giving chunks of cash to both candidates. The company is hoping to cash in on electronic billboards via the proposed downtown San Diego Arts & Entertainment District.
War on Christmas Update
Those of us that follow the so-called War on Christmas have a very special place in our hearts for Fox News; when they can’t find a story, they just make one up.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes has stirred up quite the hornet’s nest with a report about an elementary school in Georgia confiscating Christmas cards.
He didn’t bother to check out any facts with the school or the local government. But there is a Facebook page up, created by local religious types in response to a complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State about excessive proselytizing at the school. And, as we all know, everything you read on Facebook must be true. So that’s where this all comes from.
A news crew from TV station WSAV toured the site on Monday, shooting footage of a school that obviously has no problem with Christmas trees. Or holiday artwork by students. Or Christmas cards. No one has been asked not to say “Merry Christmas.”
From the WSAV Report:
The Bulloch Co. School District is fighting back after they say a false news report was filed by a Fox News Radio commentator about Brooklet Elementary confiscating Christmas cards. The article alleges the teachers’ cards were removed by administrators as an act of censorship as the Bulloch County Board of Education is having ongoing conversations about religious expression in schools.
The Principal of Brooklet, Marlin Baker, said that is not the case. Baker said it’s a faculty tradition to hang staff Christmas cards up on a poster. Usually the poster hangs out in the hallway for students to see but Baker said one of the teachers had a privacy issue so the poster was moved into the faculty work room. School staff said when the poster was moved on Monday that it didn’t even have any Christmas cards on it.
“The decision to move the poster had nothing, absolutely nothing, at all to do with any type of religious conversation that is going on in the county,” said Marlin.
That information didn’t stop hundreds of angry Christian warriors from calling the Elementary School and Board of Education to make threats and swear at employees.
Tis the season!
On This Day: 1791 – Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Vienna, Austria, at the age of 35. 1955 – The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merged to form the AFL-CIO. 1979 – Sonia Johnson was formally excommunicated by the Mormon Church due to her outspoken support for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
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