One-Party Rule Leads to Corruption in California

Paul Krugman, the liberal Nobel Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, thinks California is making an economic comeback. 

He attributes this mostly to the Republican party’s steady decline in the state, which left Governor Jerry Brown “free to push an agenda of tax hikes and infrastructure spending that sounds remarkably like the kind of thing California used to do before the rise of the radical right.”  

But the results of Brown’s most recent tax increases are hardly relieving economic pressures on the nearly two million Californians that remain unemployed in the Democrat-dominated state, whose numbers are growing, not declining.

The truth is that the Democrats, who totally control policies in the state by virtue of "supermajorities" in both houses of the State Legislature, are making California increasingly poorer; the Census Bureau announced last week that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation for the second year in a row. Yet despite California's dreary economic conditions, some of California's Democratic lawmakers are making themselves or their campaign committees richer in a personal sort of "economic comeback," and, in some cases, they are doing so by breaking the law.

One recent investigation into payoffs in the State Capitol has been breathtaking. Powerful liberal Democratic State Senator Ron Calderon recently had his office in the state capitol building raided by the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad. According to the FBI’s search warrant, which was obtained and released by the Al Jazeera American Network, probable cause for the raid included allegations that the Senator had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for legislative favors, including: $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent; another $28,000 in bribes from a hospital executive; and tens of thousands of dollars more in bribes paid to the State Senator’s brother through a nonprofit organization.   

In other investigations, a Democratic Assemblyman from Watsonville was fined by the state’s campaign finance commission for illegally coordinating his successful election with an independent effort that spent tens of thousands of dollars. Another former Democratic State Senate leader faces “record fines” for misusing his campaign funds on concert tickets, fireworks, and expensive dinners.

Yet the revelations of Calderon’s alleged bribe-taking are the most serious and eye-opening. Calderon was a member of the California Film Commission, overseeing one of the state’s most important industries. Indeed, some of the alleged bribes he accepted had to do with establishing bogus tax credits for Hollywood film companies.

Members of the California Legislature have been scolded in some press accounts for their “pay-to-play” antics, and these usually involve Democrats. This is because business and other special interests that have a concern about government are simply wasting their money on helping otherwise like-minded Republicans since the Democrats have a total grip in the Legislature.

For example, when Adidas, a firm that had never been a big campaign donor in the state, sought legislation in 2007 to legalize the sale of kangaroo leather in its running shoes, they not so surprisingly donated $2,360 to the Democratic State Senator who authored the legalization bill; just two days after it was signed into law. Adidas contributed another $13,600 to the California Democratic Party a few months later. “Such is the way of Sacramento, enabled by politicians who control the town,” a Sacramento journalist observed. Yet no one was prosecuted when the Democrats legalized kangaroo leather shoes in California, and Adidas made their “donations.”

The difference in the case of Ron Calderon is that the FBI has apparently carefully documented the evidence of an illegal “quid pro quo” in the matter with the help of an undercover agent. The Calderon case also offers more than a penumbra of evidence that the current “one-party” political control in Sacramento is not a healthy thing for the state’s politics, let alone its policies. Liberals in the media like Paul Krugman might like to deride the “dysfunction and grid-lock” a competitive GOP presents to the ability of Democrats to achieve their liberal policies. However, fewer Republicans in the halls of power may also mean less oversight of those in charge, the potential for even more corruption, and not so surprisingly, reliance on curious, independent, and out-of-the-mainstream media outlets like Al Jazeera to help protect the public interest.

James V. Lacy’s first book, Taxifornia, is being published by Post Hill Press and will be in bookstores early next year.


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