Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Jerry Brown's Cell Phone Fantasies

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Contrary to what you might think, it is a good bet Jerry Brown wishes he had more state cell phones to seize.

He may also wish there were I-pads, I-pods and government issued video game counsels he could take from state workers as well.

The governor knows the power of image.

While he continues to fight to extend hikes in the car tax, sales tax and income tax he must reinforce the image of a tight-fisted government that is battling waste and fraud to protect the public purse.

Voters have little stomach to pay more in taxes and the image of a bloated bureaucracy squandering their money will not help.

Which may be why we have heard so little about the effort late last year to sell off 24 state buildings.

This was part of the last-minute agenda of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzengger. On the surface the sale would make the state some money (at least in the short term) but the reality was much different.

Just ask Joseph Cotchett.

Cotchett is a well-known San Francisco attorney. He is also a Democrat and close friend to John Burton, the current chairman of the California Democratic Party.

It was Cotchett who filed suit to stop the sale of state buildings late last year, pointing out that while there would be some money made on the sale, far more tax money would be used to rent back the buildings over the next 20 years.

At the 11th hour an appeals court agreed and the sale was scuttled.

It was during that lawsuit that Cotchett discovered something sinister about the sale.

One firm called “California First LLC” had been chosen the buy 12 of the most prominent buildings. “California First” was made up of a number of out of state corporate investor groups… some of whom had political connections to the Schwarzenegger administration.

Then there was the phone call to state Treasurer Bill Lockyer from an official with the Orange County Democratic Party.

The caller had asked Lockyer about the sale by the state of the Orange County fairgrounds. Apparently a shadowy deal had been struck to grant Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido a $500,000 “finders fee” for lining up a buyer for the property.

Lockyer apparently was incensed and informed Cotchett about what appeared to be a political payoff. There were rumors other current and former politicians were also included in such “finder fee” schemes from members of both political parties.

A violation of state law?

Not sure. Worthy of an investigation? Definitely.

But don’t expect one anytime soon. There has been nothing from either the governor or the attorney general on the issue.

Perhaps they have more important issues to pursuit. Perhaps there are friends involved.

Then again… maybe it is a matter of timing. A high-profile probe of politicians lining their pockets at the public trough might not bode well for convincing the voters to send more of their money to Sacramento.

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