$1B EDD inmate fraud — CLICK leaves NEWSOM admin — BIG TOBACCO submits FLAVOR referendum signatures — — CÁRDENAS makes DCCC bidNovember 25, 2020
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THE BUZZ: It took a pandemic to make “EDD” synonymous with “government failure.”
No California institution has fared worse during coronavirus than the Employment Development Department, which is responsible for extending financial aid to out-of-work Californians — a category that has become both larger and more politically resonant as the coronavirus and resulting lockdowns ravaged the state’s economy. Legislators have found bipartisan agreement in condemning EDD’s slowness, inaccuracy and overall inability to rise to the occasion.
Those woes got much worse Tuesday with headlines that tested belief: California has paid out as much as $1 billion in benefits to inmates in state prisons and jails, including infamous offenders like Scott Peterson. As POLITICO’s Katy Murphy reports, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said a multiagency investigation enlisting multiple district attorneys had uncovered a “staggering” scam that ballooned into “one of the biggest fraud of taxpayer dollars in California history.” The case of a hip-hop artist facing charges after rapping about fraud seems tame in comparison.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has faced questions and criticism for months about EDD’s stumbles, both over fraud and a massive backlog. Tuesday’s shocker had Newsom’s usual detractors again inveighing against the governor. Prosecutors described a dysfunctional, rigid agency that had not been responsive to their queries, and both state and federal prosecutors urged Newsom to step in. “We have asked and implored the governor to get involved himself to turn the spigot off,” Schubert said.
In response, Newsom announced a new task force. This comes after a previous “strike team” report led to a temporary “reset” and an admission that the backlog would likely persist until 2021. Those types of responses are unlikely to mollify the governor’s critics, some of whom have become frustrated with an administration they see as more likely to release reports than to act meaningfully (see the long-awaited, light-on-specifics economic recovery report that dropped last week). It’s not just Republicans — Democrats besieged by constituent complaints are also frustrated.
Make no mistake, this is a national issue, as labor agencies shovel out huge sums. The feds said last month that fraudsters had pilfered $8 billion in unemployment benefits. And EDD’s issues predate Newsom’s tenure. But stories about $1 billion going to inmates are the type to stick in the minds of voters, particularly as the governor fends off negative press about attending a French Laundry soiree. Newsom’s foes had a field day reminding people of both on Tuesday.
BUENOS DÍAS, good Wednesday morning. If you want to follow the ongoing EDD drama, follow POLITICO’s crack reporter @KatyMurphy. And a vote count update: Today’s the final day for county registrars to notify voters of challenged ballots. The next milestone, arriving next week, is the deadline for counties to certify results.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We know it’s not easy to say ‘no’ and it’s not easy to say ‘no’ to loved ones. … Just be really clear that the ‘no’ is a ‘no’, and it’s important.” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly repurposes Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug mantra in urging Californians to cut down on Thanksgiving guest lists.
TWEET OF THE DAY: Rep. @TedLieu: “There will be people who travel for Thanksgiving dinner, contract the virus and die before Christmas. If you or your loved ones want to take that risk, make sure your wills, living wills and insurance documents are in order.”
WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: California Playbook will not publish on Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27. We'll be back on our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 30.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Newsom communications director to depart, by POLITICO’s Carla Marinucci: Nathan Click is leaving his post as Gov. Gavin Newsom's communications director next week to start his own political strategy and communications firm focused specifically on “progressive causes and campaigns,” he told POLITICO Wednesday. ...
Newsom is naming press secretary Jesse Melgar, 33, to replace Click as communications director. Melgar joined Newsom's press office from the start in January 2019 and previously worked for Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
NEW VOTING NORMAL? — “How California reached historic voter turnout despite pandemic, distrust,” by CalMatters’ Lewis Griswold: “The experiment with voting by mail saw few glitches, little drama and, instead, might well provide a blueprint for future elections across the country.”
— “Denied Bar Leadership Post, Veteran Statehouse Lawyer Files $2.9M Bias Claim,” by Law.com’s Cheryl Miller: “Former statehouse attorney Fredericka McGee has filed a $2.9 million claim against the State Bar of California, alleging the agency’s leaders illegally backed out of an agreement that would have made her executive director.”
SCHOOL REOPENING — California health chief says all school reopening is local, by POLITICO’s Kevin Yamamura and Mackenzie Mays: Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said each district has unique considerations that make it important for local leaders to determine how to open schools.”
BACK TO THE CLASSROOM — “Local Schools Won’t Require Quarantine After Holiday Travel,” by CBS Sacramento’s Julie Watts: “Linden Superintendent Rick Hall says they’re getting conflicting information. … He’s one of many who point to the state’s school reopening framework and other school guidance which doesn’t reference travel at all.”
BUT NOT FOR EVERYONE — "Declining immunization rates for non-Covid illnesses means some students won’t be able to return to campuses whenever they reopen," by EdSource's Diana Lambert and Ali Tadayon.
DINING BAN — “L.A. outdoor dining ban survives challenges as COVID-19 outlook worsens,” by the LA Times’ Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II, Jaclyn Cosgrove and Sean Greene.
BUT IN SF... "San Francisco will keep outdoor dining for now despite COVID-19 surge," by the LA Times' Maura Dolan.
ENFORCING THE RULES — “Santa Clara County vows to enforce COVID rules amid holiday shopping,” by KTVU’s Azenith Smith: “Special enforcement is planned where businesses could be cited and fined without a grace period.”
NOT IN SAC — "Sacramento Sheriff’s Office Breaks COVID-19 Enforcement Commitment After Collecting Millions In Federal Relief Funding," by CapRadio's Scott Rodd: "But Jones had a different tune earlier this year, when he sought $104 million in federal coronavirus relief funds allocated to the county. According to documents obtained by CapRadio, the sheriff’s department indicated its employees would be “substantially dedicated” to addressing COVID-19, and therefore the money should cover their payroll and benefits."
— “Here’s a look at COVID-19 risk tools — and why experts say they shouldn’t guide your decisions,” by the SF Chronicle’s Kellie Hwang:“Experts say the tools can help policymakers and the public understand what’s driving the spread of coronavirus and how that relates to risk. But they also note the limitations of the tools and caution against using them to make decisions about specific behaviors.”
— “Judge rejects plea by restaurant group to block L.A. County ban on outdoor dining,” by the LA Times’ Lila Seidman.
— “Santa Clara County vows to enforce COVID rules amid holiday shopping,” by KTVU’s Azenith Smith: “Special enforcement is planned where businesses could be cited and fined without a grace period.”
— Q&A: Rep. Jim Costa touts his experience in seeking House Ag chair, by POLITICO’s Liz Crampton: Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) is making the case to other Democrats that his experience within agriculture and leadership in California and D.C., along with the demographics of his district, make him best suited for the job. A longtime member of the Agriculture Committee, he serves as chair of the subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture.
— Tobacco interests submit 1M signatures to overturn flavor ban, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White: An industry-backed group called the California Coalition for Fairness said Tuesday that it had submitted more than 1 million signatures in an effort to let voters overturn CA SB793 (19R), a recently enacted law prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in California.
CÁRDENAS IN SPOTLIGHT — Democrats look to next DCCC chief to avert 2022 disaster, by POLITICO’s Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick: Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Tony Cárdenas are jockeying to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee next Congress. The victor will not only be tasked with rebuilding the campaign arm after the party got wiped out in GOP-leaning districts across the map but also ensuring Democrats keep their grip on the House in 2022.
GOP CROSSROADS — “Even Deeper in the Wilderness, San Diego Republicans Face Major Choice,” by Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis: “By all measures, Democrats routed local Republicans, despite the GOP’s improved showing in other parts of California. … But rather than begin a conversation about how to regroup, [San Diego County GOP Chairman Tony] Krvaric seems determined to stoke a bitter grievance that threatens the peaceful transition of power.”
PROP 16 DEMISE — “Failure to bridge divides of age, race doomed affirmative action proposition,” by the LA Times’ David Lauter: “The survey, conducted by a coalition of community organizations, shows widespread support across racial and ethnic lines for diversity in education, public employment and contracting. At the same time, it showed broad skepticism about allowing government officials to use race, ethnicity or gender in making decisions.”
DIRE STRAITS — “Will California’s small businesses survive another COVID-19 surge without more help?,” by the LA Times’ Margot Roosevelt: “Without an influx of new federal aid, tens of thousands of California’s 5 million small enterprises face a bleak winter of government restrictions, dwindling customers and closures amid a slowing economic recovery. Many may not survive.”
— “Sacramento Sheriff’s Office Breaks COVID-19 Enforcement Commitment After Collecting Millions In Federal Relief Funding,” by Capital Public Radio’s Scott Rodd: “Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones has backed down from his department’s commitment to break up social gatherings and enforce social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus — a commitment that helped garner his department millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds at the start of the pandemic.”
— “Towns pay the price for living next to California's off-roading mecca,” by CalMatters’ Julie Cart: “The towns that are gateways to Oceano Dunes may get some economic benefit but they also bear the brunt of everything else the park’s off-roaders generate: choking dust and air pollution, violent crimes, thousands of emergency calls and hundreds of accidents every year.”
LABOR RIGHTS — “New California campaign aims to inform farmworkers about labor rights amid COVID-19 pandemic,” by the Desert Sun’s Rebecca Plevin.
— “Crisis of rising student homelessness worthy of immediate action,” by Joseph Bishop and Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez in CalMatters: “Our research at UCLA shows that more than 269,000 K-12 students are experiencing homelessness in California, the highest number in the country, and a figure so large it could fill Dodger Stadium five times over.”
SPORTS DIVERSITY — “‘We don’t have it right’: Bay Area sports teams struggle to diversify leadership,” by the SF Chronicle’s Ann Killion: “The Bay Area is a birthplace for sports activism, a region where barriers for inclusion are historically broken. But a look at its key franchises shows how little progress in diversifying the power structure has actually been made.”
BOARD DIVERSITY — “Latino group launches effort to measure CA board diversity,” by the Sac Bee’s Kim Bojórquez: “The California Boardroom Equity Scorecard and Tracker, which is publicly accessible, will keep tabs on the number of Latinos on boards of directors of public companies headquartered in The Golden State. The tracker will be updated on a quarterly basis.”
FIRE RISK — “Thanksgiving winds may reboot Southern California fire risk,” by the LA Times’ Joseph Serna.
— Trump's FCC nominee sought to enlist Fox's Laura Ingraham in anti-tech fight, by POLITICO’s John Hendel: Federal Communications Commission nominee Nathan Simington reached out to Fox News this summer in an attempt at “engaging” host Laura Ingraham to support President Donald Trump’s quest to make it easier to sue social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.
— “Roiled by Election, Facebook Struggles to Balance Civility and Growth,” by the NYT’s Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel: “On one side are idealists, including many rank-and-file workers and some executives, who want to do more to limit misinformation and polarizing content. On the other side are pragmatists who fear those measures could hurt Facebook’s growth, or provoke a political backlash that leads to painful regulation.”
— “YouTube temporarily suspends, demonetizes OANN,” by Axios’ Ashley Gold: “YouTube has barred One America News Network from posting new videos for a week and stripped it of its ability to make money off existing content after the Trump-friendly channel uploaded a video promoting a phony cure for COVID-19, YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi tells Axios.”
— “DoorDash settles with DC AG for $2.5 million over claims it misled users on driver tips,” by CNBC’s Lauren Feiner.
GET YOUR CHECKMARK — “Twitter verification will return early next year,” by the Verge’s Makena Kelly.
— “Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa top 2021 Grammy nominations,” by the LA Times’ Mikael Wood.
— “Latinos, Long Dismissed in Hollywood, Push to Make Voices Heard,” by NYT’s Nicole Sperling: “According to a Writers Guild of America West study issued in June, while Hispanic-Latinos account for 18.3 percent of the population, they represent only 4.7 percent of feature film writers and 8.7 percent of television writers.”
MORE CHRON BUYOUTS: The number of SF Chronicle staff buyouts is now reportedly at 20 to 24. Some of the other big names leaving the paper include Peter Fimrite, longtime editorial writer Marshall Kilduff, political writer John Wildermuth, Sports Editor Al Saracevic and photographer Paul Chinn. “It’s gutting the paper,’’ said one insider.
A measure of the experience lost: Wildermuth has been at the Chronicle for almost 35 years, starting in 1986, and spent more than 45 years as a full-time reporter for California dailies, beginning in 1975 at the Imperial Valley Press in El Centro.
— “In Stockton, A Dying Daily Paper And Disinformation Affected Mayor Michael Tubbs’ Reelection,” by Capital Public Radio’s Sarah Mizes-Tan: “[Motecuzoma] Sanchez has been open about his personal agenda against Tubbs. And some say the current news landscape of Stockton, namely a daily paper with few resources, has allowed for a site like Sanchez’s to flourish.”
— “Sacramento County probing 'toxic culture' under its CEO,” by the Sac Bee’s Michael Finch II.
— “San Clemente City Council Censures One Of Their Own For Speaking Out Against City Staff,” by Voice of OC’s Noah Biesiada.
— “Environmental groups sue San Bernardino County to halt church construction near Lake Arrowhead,” by the Palm Springs Desert Sun’s Mark Olalde.
— “How the Bay Area became the sports world’s epicenter of revolutionary thought,” by the SF Chronicle’s Scott Ostler.
— “19 Bay Area gifts for the food lover in your life,” via the SF Chronicle.
— “Report: Sacramento CA metro area shopping up in October,” by the Sac Bee’s Michael McGough.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez is 46 … Rachel Holt, co-founder and general partner at Construct Capital … Ben Stein is 76 … Lee Dunn, director of cloud policy for the Americas at Google Cloud … David Almacy, founder of CapitalGig … Albert Ahobim
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