TOPIC: Official Corruption

After San Bruno explosion, trying to force regulators to do their jobs

San Bruno, CA October 2010

Assailing federal and state regulators, San Francisco’s city attorney is threatening to file a federal lawsuit both the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission for lax oversight, regulatory capture and a cozy relationship with Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to reporting by Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle.  “The public is at risk because the mandates of federal law have not been followed by PG&E or enforced” by regulators, [San Francisco City Attorney Dennis] Herrera said, adding, “it has become increasingly clear that regulators bear some fault here and were either asleep at the switch or too cozy with the industry they are supposed to regulate.”   Herrera said the goal of the suit he intends to file is to prompt regulatory authorities to do their job or be forced to do so — under court-ordered supervision. (more…)

Wells Fargo and foreclosures: There really is no place like home

Underwater homeowners facing foreclosure despite promises of federal aid disrupted a  meeting of Wells Fargo Bank shareholders in San Francisco yesterday, reports Aaron Glantz of The Bay Citizen.

Demonstrators called on the firm, a recipient of emergency taxpayer aid during the financial crisis, to institute a foreclosure moratorium. Eight were eventually arrested after refusing to leave the building. (more…)

At California utility, $35 million to leave his troubles behind him

San Bruno, CA – Sept. 2010

Federal prosecutors are apparently poring over documents related to last September’s natural gas transmission line explosion, laying the groundwork for possible criminal prosecution of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to John Upton of the Bay Citizen and Garance Burke of AP. Officially, however, the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco is only ‘looking into’ the events that led to the 2010 explosion that killed eight and leveled 38 homes in a San Bruno subdivision. (more…)

Talking about transportation (all of it)

California’s latest whipping boy, the state’s proposed High Speed Rail project, receives another lashing today from The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walter, who’s aghast at what he sees as blatant political patronage behind the award of another major federal grant just before this month’s election.

Walter connects the dots between US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s announcement that about a quarter of the funding for 56 high speed rail projects around the nation will go to California’s initiative and that the very first segment will be constructed in a swing district represented by Democrat Jim Costa, which until the dust cleared was thought to be a pick-up for Republicans. (more…)

Hope for water progress in California may be evaporating

Talks aimed at forging a compromise in California’s intractable water wars — in process for more than a decade — hit a potentially serious snag as the nation’s largest irrigation district announced it would no longer contribute to the cost of studies. (more…)

Guarding your taxes at the California National Guard

A report by The Sacramento Bee exposing up to $100 million worth of malfeasance and fraud within the California National Guard has prompted an investigation by the National Guard Bureau and a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, writes writes the Bee‘s Charles Piller in a follow up story to a piece that ran Sunday. Apparently, monies meant to provide college funds and other rewards for combat veterans were treated as a private slush fund and doled out to guardsmen, many of them officers and recruiters, who never served in combat. (more…)

Making real choices on high-speed rail

The nation’s biggest public works project could end up as the biggest boondoggle in history, according to Mike Rosenberg and Gary Richards of the San Jose Mercury News, who scour up a myriad of reasons why linking California’s major cities by high speed rail will be a colossal failure. (more…)


The Blagojevich scandal is being been turned into a placeholder for other anxieties in American politics.  The Republican Party, looking to distract itself and others from its November losses, calls the Blagojevich case a test of Barack Obama’s transparency pledges, though there seems to be very little reason to link Obama and Blagojevich even when they were both Illinois politicians.  Corporate interests working through the Center for Union Facts are tarring the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with the Blagojevich brush, with the stated goal of discrediting SEIU and other unions’ push for easier union entry rules in the workplace (the so-called "card check" approach to unionizing).  And Blago appears to be enjoying being at the center of attention, even though he may end up in jail and even though he supposedly has a state to run.  At a time when America has so many national and global challenges to face, president-elect Obama and other national politicians should hove to John McCain’s sound advice and pull together to solve problems instead of paying too much attention to someone as disreputable as Blagojevich. -NH


The FBI raided the headquarters yesterday of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates political interference in the bureaucracy. The raid appears to be a dramatic next step in an Office of Personnel Management inspector general investigation into Scott Bloch, director of the watchdog agency. The New York Times’ Phillip Shenon reports that Bloch is accused of intimidating employees and deleting computer records.

While Bloch may have committed ethical violations, he has also uncovered them. The Office of Special Counsel found that Lurita Doan, former head of the General Services Administration, violated the Hatch Act, the law that bans partisan politics in the bureaucracy. Bloch had been in the midst of investigating other possible Hatch Act violations. But the future of those investigations—and the agency—is now up in the air.  Read Shenon here.  MB


Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson told the Senate Banking Committee yesterday that he did not retaliate against Philadelphia Housing Director Carl Greene. Yesterday’s Washington Post suggested otherwise, reporting on e-mails from high-ranking HUD officials that discussed Green’s possible punishment for not rewarding Jackson’s friend a vacant lot in downtown Philly. (more…)