Month: December 2008

Comment: No Right to Secret Campaign Gifts

FREE SPEECH — A post on the Lincoln News Messenger blog attacks the argument that disclosing financial contributions to state ballot measures like Proposition 8 improperly invades the donors' privacy and speech rights. The argument is as pernicious as it is disingenuous.    It holds that mandatory campaign finance disclosure laws limit freedom of speech and of political action and that anonymous donations have traditionally protected groups, like the NAACP (they from government harassment, not from public accountability, which the columnists neatly ignore), and that public pressure to disclose donors who choose to not remain anonymous will accomplish what regulations already provide (yeah, right).    This is not just another wingnut attempt to protect wealthy corporate milch-cows. It's a full-tilt attempt to undermine California's campaign finance disclosure...

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Nail Salons Frequently Cited for Health Hazards

PUBLIC RECORDS REVEAL . . . that while San Diego County is home to about 3,640 salons—five times the number of local gas stations.—from exclusive spas to discount shops, many are putting customers at risk, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis. Between July 2003 and June 2008, inspectors cited more than half the local salons for at least one health violation and fined them a total of $1.35 million. The most common problems were failing to throw away dirty items and not storing disinfected tools in clean, covered and labeled containers.    There is nothing that says how often salons must be inspected, and many go without scrutiny for years.    The state's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology currently employs 22 inspectors, who are responsible for scrutinizing 44,921 establishments statewide. That's about one inspector for every 2,000...

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Lab-Tainted DNA May Incriminate Innocents

PUBLIC RECORDS REVEAL . . . That DNA testing in criminal labs is not foolproof and may incriminiate the innocent, reports the Los Angeles Times. Through the California Public Records Act, the (Los Angeles) Times obtained documents from five state-run and three county forensic labs reporting scores of laboratory errors or "unexpected" results over a five-year period ending in 2007. Labs must track these outcomes and keep them on file under state and federal rules.    (An expert) who reviewed the records for The Times, said that "on a regular basis, laboratory personnel make mistakes that could lead to false identifications" of suspects.    The records show, for instance, that between 2003 and 2007, the Santa Clara County district attorney's crime laboratory caught 14 instances in which evidence samples were contaminated with staff members' DNA, three in which samples were contaminated by an unknown person and six in which DNA from one case contaminated samples from...

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Column Access a Reportable Campaign Gift?

FREE PRESS — You're a local newspaper columnist who runs for city council and wins.  Was your free access to the press during the campaign a reportable campaign contribution? According to a report in the Vacaville Reporter, somebody thinks so. Although the election is over for the Dixon City Council, some allegedly questionable campaign practices have risen to the surface in a recent complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.Former Councilman Mike Smith filed the complaint Dec. 17 against newly elected-Councilman Michael Ceremello, former Councilman Steve Alexander and former mayoral candidate Dave Scholl.    The Reporter has not received official documentation of the complaint, but Smith explained that the complaint has a lot do with writing and campaign ads that ran in the Independent Voice, a local newspaper owned by Scholl.    Ceremello is also a regular contributor to the articles and columns published in the newspaper.    "It makes it very hard to run a fair campaign when a paper, that is distributed to everyone, is biased," Smith...

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A.G. Appeals Sought on Cable Access Sunset

FREE PRESS — Jayne Lyn Stahl writes in Huffington Post that, with respect to a plan by Time Warner Cable to shut fourteen public access cable TV studios in Los Angeles two days from now, The response from those who abhor monopolies, and the ability of media conglomerates to strongarm the community must be swift, and decisive. Whether you live in Santa Monica, New York City, Boston, or Des Moines, Iowa, should Time Warner prevail on December 31st, what happens in Los Angeles will affect you.    Those who share this concern for protecting the integrity of the First Amendment, independent programming, and preventing a media shark from swallowing all the little fish, must act quickly by contacting California Attorney General Brown at: [email protected], and urging him to seek injunctive relief under the California Business and Professions Code 17200, Section 3, Unfair Business Practices. See previous post.  Leslie Dutton, whose Full Disclosure program would be ended with the shutdown, comments: It is important to note that the DIVCA legislation enacted in 2007 provides for the Cable Franichise Fees to continue to flow to the Cities. In Los Angeles that is estimated at $25 million. With DIVCA now shifting the responsibilities for providing the public access studio/channel system to the Cities, there is an additional 2% or $5 million to be made available for such a purpose. The City of Los...

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