Thursday, November 08, 2007

More Investigation Needed Of Nunez Conduct

The questionable conduct of State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez does not yet reach the level of the scandal that caused State Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush to resign in the year 2000.

Quackenbush, it was definitely established, accepted contributions to a special "charitable" fund from insurers who were guilty of failing to pay just claims from the Northridge earthquake, and some of the funds went to a team his children were playing on. Quackenbush had also given $100,000 of the contributions to a campaign by his wife for public office, and it was clearly established there was a quid pro quo, meaning that specific insurers escaped liability for bad claims handling by contributing to the Quackenbush fund.

One day before a whistleblower from his own department was scheduled to testify before a legislative committee, Quackenbush resigned.

He and his family ended up living in Hawaii, and a man once thought by some to be a future candidate for governor is now in political oblivion.

Nunez, so far, has been shown to have lived high off the hog in Europe and South America, and made other questionable expenditures out of campaign funds. Some of the contributors also gave money to charities favored by the Speaker. But it has not yet been clearly demonstrated that there was a quid pro quo, that Nunez took specific legislative positions in exchange for the contributions.

Nevertheless, there should be more investigation, by the state attorney general, if the Legislature won't investigate itself.

This stinks to high heaven, and we need to know more about it. Certainly, the exculpatory column in the Los Angeles Times by former Grey Davis political guru Gerry South, a man noted for the bad political advice he gave Davis, is not convincing. South would have us believe these trips, during which thousands of dollars are spent on hotels and gala meals, were in pursuit of state trade rather than primarily personal pleasure.

Not at the level Nunez was spending money, however.

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Normally, it is unseemly for a newspaper to editorialize in favor of state expenditures in its own city, at the expense of others. But an editorial in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, November 7 complaining that the State Transportation Commission has not been treating the Los Angeles area fairly with respect to the disposition of the first several billions of dollars of funds voted by the electorate for highway bonds is quite appropriate.

The editorial points out that of the first $4 billion distributed, only 12% was distributed to projects in Los Angeles County, despite it having nearly one third of the population and the most traffic congestion. Now, new allocations are being readied for trade corridors, and the word is it will be done on the same unfair basis.

The Times concludes, "If L.A. gets stiffed again on transportation bond money, it will destroy voter confidence -- indeed, it would justify Angelenos never again supporting statewide infrastructure bonds." Amen!

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Near completion of the reading of back issues of the Times from my recent trip, I should commend two articles in particular from the issue of Monday, Oct. 29. First, moving the sub-prime mortgage crisis to Page 1, where it should be with great regularity, Business reporter E. Scott Reckard had an outstanding story on all the scandalously misleading mortgage pitches that are now coming to borrowers, along with a very useful graph pointing up the questions that should be asked about these offers.

Second, a story by Stuart Pfeifer, the lead in the California section, reports on the commendable efforts by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to stem gang killings in Compton by inserting 28 new deputies specially devoted to controlling weapons and gangs in addition to regular sheriff's forces in the city. The result is that the number of killings has been reduced to 29 so far this year, the lowest level in two decades. Especially given the criticisms I've expressed in the past of Baca, this effort deserves commendation. In saving lives, the sheriff is doing just what he was elected to do. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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