Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Park agency seeks to thwart Calvert development plan

By Susan Crabtree
A parks and recreation agency in Rep. Ken Calvert’s district is trying to stop the California Republican and his business partners from building a Dollar Storage facility on land they have long wanted to turn into a Little League field for the surrounding Hispanic community.

Last Thursday, the directors of the Jurupa Area Recreation Park District (JARPD) voted to write a letter to Riverside County’s Planning Department urging officials to delay indefinitely a zoning change that would let Calvert and his partners build a storage facility on the property, located in Mira Loma, Calif.

They also voted to offer Calvert and his partners $320,000 for the four acres of land, which he bought from a local water and sewer agency for $1.2 million. They made the offer in a letter sent to Calvert and his partners last week and asked for a response by Nov. 20.
“The people speaking at our board meeting are quite concerned that [the land] would be turned into a Dollar Storage facility,” said Dan Rodriguez, the JARPD’s general manager.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jurupa parks district offers $320,000 for disputed Calvert land

By SANDRA STOKLEY/The Press-Enterprise

GLEN AVON - Directors of the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District voted Thursday night to offer Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, and his partners $320,000 for 4 acres the partnership bought for $1.2 million from a local water and sewer agency in what some consider an improper land sale. The vote was 5-0

The park directors also voted to write a letter to Riverside County's Planning Department urging officials to indefinitely delay a zone change that would allow the Calvert partnership to build a storage facility on the property. Read more

Thursday, September 20, 2007

See who Calvert shares The 22 Most Corrupt List with...

McConnell, Rogers on ‘Most Corrupt’ list
Ronica Shannon/Register News Writer

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, R-5th District, have made it onto a national “Top 22” list that does not necessarily deem distinction.“Beyond DeLay: The 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (And Two to Watch),” was released Tuesday by CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington).

The third annual report can be viewed at The site offers short summaries of each member’s transgressions, full-length profiles and all accompanying documentation.Reports for McConnell and Rogers are similar in that they claim each was using his power in government to benefit themselves, their families and their campaigns.

Most of the report’s accusations against McConnell can be traced back to his former chief legal council, G. Hunter Bates, who served McConnell from 1997-2002.

Bates, of Louisville, is chairman of the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents.He later formed Bates Capitol Group LLC (or “Bates Capitol) and clients included: E-Cavern, Voice for Humanity, Appriss Inc. and Boardpoint LLC, all of which have received (funding) earmarks from McConnell, according to CREW’s report.“All of these companies have made substantial contributions to Sen. McConnell’s campaigns,” the report states.

It also accuses the Bates Capitol Group of hiring former McConnell staffers including: Holly Piper, wife of Sen. McConnell’s chief of staff Bill Piper, and former McConnell aides Patrick Jennings and Lesley Elliot. One thing that concerns Don Stewart, a press secretary for McConnell, is the timeline of the allegations.

“All the things they mention (in the report) are from 2002 or prior,” Stewart said. “It makes you wonder why this year, the year they happen to be up for re-election.“I think this list is made up of 18 Republicans and four Democrats,” Stewart said.

“My guess is that there is some kind of coincidence here. I think most of the people on (the list) are up for re-election.”The CREW report insists that “Rep. Rogers’ ethics issues stem from misuse of his position to steer millions of dollars in earmarks to campaign contributors, including a company that employs his son.”The full report includes these accusations: “In 2004, a Virginia-based company, BearingPoint, selected Senture, a call-center service provider, to set up a call center for a test of a prototype transportation worker card.

Just before the contract was awarded, Senture hired Rep. Rogers’ son John as a computer systems administrator.Then in 2003, Senture won an unrelated $4 million contract with DHS to field calls from truckers. Between 2002 and 2005, officials from Senture, BearingPoint and its lobbyist, Van Scoyoc, donated $41,989 to Rep. Rogers’ campaign committee and PAC.

”Rogers may have violated the bribery statute and/or received illegal gratuities and violated House ethics rules, according to the report.Rogers could not be reached Tuesday for comment.“

Every year CREW creates this compendium of corruption to expose and hold accountable those members of Congress who believe they are above the law,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “With the third edition of Beyond DeLay it has become abundantly clear that many public officials believe that the rules don’t apply to them.”

Along with McConnell and Rogers, others among the “corrupted” list include: Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.; Sen. Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M.; Rep. John T. Doolittle, R-Calif.; Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La.; Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.; Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif.; Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va.; Rep. Timothy F. Murphy, R-Pa.; Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa.; Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.; Rep. David Scott, D-Ga.; Rep. Don Young, R-Ark.; Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill.; and Rep. Heather A. Wilson, R-N.M.

See this article

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Inland delegation nails its share of earmarks

By BEN GOAD/Washington Bureau

Congressional earmarking is alive and well, and Inland Southern California's delegation is doing its share to keep it that way.

Led by Rep. Jerry Lewis, the five representatives whose districts cover most of the region have attached more than $180 million this year to spending bills to pay for more than 100 projects, primarily in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, a Press-Enterprise analysis shows.

Recent congressional scandals have cast a dark cloud over the federal spending process, and the mere mention of earmarks is bound to elicit scowls from some lawmakers and members of the public alike.

The term, taken from the 16th-century custom of marking one's cattle and sheep by cutting their ears, refers to the modern-day practice of attaching funding requests for specific projects to massive spending bills.

Negative connotations and increased scrutiny stem most notably from the conviction of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham who traded earmarks for bribes and is now in prison. That and other allegations of misconduct have prompted calls from Republicans and Democrats to reign in the process.

Read more about Calvert

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Familiar faces in Jurupa services race

By SANDRA STOKLEY/The Press-Enterprise

MIRA LOMA - Nine candidates will seek election to the Jurupa Community Services District board of directors in the district's first-ever election by division this November.

Several of the candidates cited the district's woes and the need for new leadership as the reason they decided to run.

The district's problems include a $5 million budget deficit and a potential water rate increase to reduce that deficit.

The directors came under heavy criticism when a Riverside County grand jury issued a report June 29 that found the district board circumvented state law in a land sale to Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona.

Read more

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Jurupa Community Services District puts little stock in grand jury's criticisms

By SANDRA STOKLEYThe Press-Enterprise

MIRA LOMA - The Jurupa Community Services District's draft response to a critical grand jury report expresses "disappointment" with the investigative body and asserts that directors did nothing improper when they sold land to Rep. Ken Calvert and his investment partners.

Read more of this story and hold your nose!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jurupa services board has some answering to do

The Jurupa Community Services District's Board of Directors isn't going to explain itself until it's good and ready.

But we expect the board to be ready to tell the public what it's been up to and why at its next meeting on Monday night.

Despite being slammed by a Riverside County grand jury report that found the board had violated the law in a couple of significant ways, the board majority has been mum - waiting instead for the general manager and the board's legal team to explain the board's actions.

The grand jury report makes it look like amateur hour down at the JCSD, pointing out legal and ethical violations that must have resulted from ignorance, inattention, or worse.

Read more of this article

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Board avoids talk of sale

Bids discussed, land dismissed
By Jesse B. Gill, Special to the Daily Bulletin

The Jurupa Community Services District board on Monday stayed away from addressing a land sale to Rep. Ken Calvert that the Riverside County grand jury said violated state law.

Read the rest of this article

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's money time on the Hill

Letter from Washington: Lawmakers jockey to bring home the bacon.


Washington Bureau Chief - Orange County

It's the spending season in the Capitol. And this year, the cloud of secrecy that has always surrounded the process by which lawmakers get money for their districts and states has been lifted – a little bit.

We probably have last year's elections and ethics scandals to thank for it.
The spending lawmakers are battling for are called earmarks. The term dates back to the 1600s. Back then, earmarks were cuts in the ears of sheep and cattle and served as a sign of ownership, like a brand. In legislative speak, earmarks are those things in a bill that are placed there at the behest of a particular lawmaker.

Up until this year, the earmarking process has been a totally secret one. There have been famous – or I should say infamous – earmarks over the years, most notably the bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Sen. Ted Stevens, probably the senator most known for his earmark prowess, succeeded in getting $223 million for a bridge to be built to Alaska's Ketchikan Island, where 50 people live.

These projects have traditionally appeared out of nowhere in these spending bills. You could find out the name of the project and how much money was being set aside for it. But there was no way to see which member asked for it, unless the member said something.

Most of the time lawmakers do crow about getting money for a local project. But not always. And rarely have they been willing to talk about the projects they couldn't get funded.

Some still aren't. This year, out of the six members who represent all or part of Orange County, Reps. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, John Campbell, R-Irvine and Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, released their earmark requests. Reps. Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar and Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, did not. And both of California's Democratic senators – Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein – said no.
Miller's office said he wanted to negotiate with the appropriators for which projects would be funded – not publicly through the press.

Sanchez told me she didn't want those cities whose projects didn't get submitted to have hurt feelings and didn't want to pit one community against another when it comes to the federal funding process. And, she said, she worried about raising expectations since only a fraction of requests actually get funded. Feinstein's and Boxer's offices said something similar about raising expectations.

Now for the first time in the House and Senate, the earmarks listed in the spending bills will also say which member or senator requested them. And both chambers have asked lawmakers to sign a statement saying they won't benefit personally from these projects.

The request lists are a window into a member's thinking about what is important and about how they believe federal money should be spent.

Take Campbell. He only asked for two earmarks. And both were for projects first supported by his predecessor – former Rep. Christopher Cox.
Campbell really doesn't believe in earmarks. In fact he told me he'd prefer not to see any at all, and he has been part of a small group of GOP lawmakers who have been trying – unsuccessfully – to slash them from the spending bills.

Campbell's views on spending, of course, will not endear him to House appropriators and probably make it difficult for him to get any funding. As it happens, he wasn't the only lawmaker seeking support this year for the Upper Newport Bay dredging project. Besides him, Calvert, Royce and Sanchez asked Energy and Water appropriators for that project. They got some money – $1 million – but that's far short of the $14 million they asked for.

The process the lawmakers follow on these earmarks is pretty standard. They and/or their staffs meet with representatives from the cities, universities, counties and other government entities they represent. They take all the requests and then decide which are most important and go on to the appropriations panels.

Most of the members said they received fewer than 100 requests each year. The senators get many more. Feinstein's office reported getting 1,600 pitches this year. They wouldn't say how many requests the state's senior senator ended up putting in. But they expect to get up to maybe 10 percent of what she asks for.

That's the formal process. But what really makes or breaks a lawmaker's request is whether they have a good relationship with the cardinal of the subcommittee who has sway over their request. If they do, they may have to enlist the aid of a fellow member to help push something through. It's the ultimate who-you-know kind of game. These cardinals are the chairs of the dozen subcommittees that make up the powerful Appropriations Committee. And they aren't named after the bird. They are called cardinals because of the power they wield over these spending bills.

The statement that lawmakers have to sign saying they won't personally benefit from any of the earmarks they are requesting has given some of them pause. Staffers report that sometimes it's difficult to decide what to do about a particular project.

If a member lives or owns property near a proposed new freeway ramp or grade crossing, should he or she not put in for that project?
Campbell, whose family owns car dealerships throughout the region, decided he would not put in any transportation projects lest there be an appearance of a conflict.

Calvert, who owns property in and around his congressional district, decided to put in a request, for example, for a Corona Transit Center project. But the Corona Republican wrote a letter to the House ethics committee asking whether it would be a conflict for him to do so. They wrote him back saying it would not.

Calvert is now a member of the Appropriations Committee and as long as he stays on that panel he can expect to be lobbied from both ends on spending bills – by those seeking projects and by fellow lawmakers who want money for their districts.

See this article

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Board silent on grand jury report

Sale to Calvert called illegal
By Jesse B. Gill,
Special to the Daily Bulletin
July 14, 2007

The Jurupa Community Services District board Monday night refused to address a grand jury report that said the district broke the law by selling a piece of land to Rep. Ken Calvert without first putting it up for sale to other public agencies.

Board members declined to respond to the report's recommendations at their meeting Monday night, instead opting to first closely examine the legal outcome of such a response.

"We want to wait because it's the prudent thing to do," said board member James Huber. "There are just some legal aspects that we need to have our attorney look over."

The board voted 4-1 to delay a response to the report, with board member R.M. "Cook" Barela the lone dissenter.

Read the rest of this article

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Illegal Calif. land sale does not deter Calvert, for now

By Susan Crabtree/The Hill
July 11, 2007

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) has not ruled out selling a disputed piece of land back to the organization that he and two investment partners bought it from, even though a grand jury last week found that it was sold illegally. Through a spokesperson, Calvert said he is only one of three partners and not involved in the day-to-day operations of turning the land into a Dollar Storage facility, as planned.

Read the rest of this story

Panel to focus on reproach

Jurupa leader promises action
By Mark Petix, Staff Writer

The Jurupa Community Services District Board of Directors will meet Monday to tackle a Grand Jury report that indicates the agency violated state law by selling four acres of public land without first offering it to other public agencies. The board's vice president, R.M. "Cook" Barela, is promising action and accountability. "We don't want it to drag out," he said.

The Riverside County Grand Jury report released Tuesday cites the services district for selling a 4-acre parcel off Limonite Avenue to Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside, and his business associates for $1.2 million.

The Grand Jury is recommending that money from the sale be given to the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District, which had long expressed interest in buying the land.

The Grand Jury also wants the services district to adopt and enforce specific policies requiring it to work with the county Economic Development Agency in future land sales.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday called on Calvert to explain the land purchase.

"Representative Ken Calvert is a land developer first - he put his business' profits before a public park for his constituents," said Jennifer Crider, DCCC spokeswoman.

Read the rest of this story!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Grand Jury Doesn't Buy Calvert's Land Sale Story
Posted by Brandon English
July 5, 2007
DCCC Press:

Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) has maintained that his purchase of public land from the Jurupa Community Services District was legal. This week the Riverside County grand jury that has been investigating the case found that the sale of public land to Calvert, with a no-bid contract, violated state law.

"Representative Ken Calvert is a land developer first – he put his business’ profits before a public park for his constituents," said Jennifer Crider, Communications Director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Representative Calvert needs to come clean and reveal whether he sought preferential treatment in securing a no-bid contract to purchase the land? Whether he used his influence as a Member of Congress to purchase this public land? Whether his Congressional office had any role in the land deal?"

In 2005, Representative Ken Calvert and investment partners in Calvert Properties purchased four acres of public land in a no-bid contract from the Jurupa Community Services District for $1.2 million in order to build self-storage units. Calvert owns a one-third stake in the property. [Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/18/06]

Read the rest of this article

Friday, July 6, 2007

Government entity's land deal with Rep. Calvert violated law

July 5, 2007
From Crew (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

The Jurupa Community Services District, the entity that oversees many governmental services for the unincorporated sections of Riverside County, California, arranged a land deal with a partnership including Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA).

Rep. Calvert was named by CREW as one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress, in part, because he used his position to earmark funds to increase the value of his own property. In other words, the earmarks benefited Calvert's own land deals. One of those land deals we questioned was with the Jurupa Community Services District. CREW raised the concern that Calvert received "preferential treatment" in that $1.2 million deal.
Now, a grand jury has determined that the deal with the District violated California law:

The Jurupa Community Services District violated state law when it sold 4 acres of public land to Rep. Ken Calvert and his investment partners without first offering it to other public agencies -- including the local park district that wanted it, the Riverside County grand jury concluded in a report released Tuesday.

The grand jury recommends that the water and sewer agency turn over the $1.2 million it pocketed from the sale, minus costs, to the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District.

Hat tip Think Progress.

To see this article

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Grand jury finds Jurupa agency violated laws

July 3, 2007
By SANDRA STOKLEY- The Press-Enterprise

RIVERSIDE - The Jurupa Community Services District violated state law when it sold 4 acres of public land to Rep. Ken Calvert and his investment partners without first offering it to other public agencies -- including the local park district that wanted it, the Riverside County grand jury concluded in a report released Tuesday.

The grand jury recommends that the water and sewer agency turn over the $1.2 million it pocketed from the sale, minus costs, to the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District.

The report, which concludes a five-month investigation, also found that:
Unnamed management officials used district credit cards to buy clothes, food and other personal items;

No-bid printing contracts were awarded to the relative of a district official, in violation of the California Public Contract Code;

Management recommendations for action were generally accepted without question.

The grand jury recommends that the district publish a policy and procedures manual to set out provisions for responding to such issues in the future.

The Jurupa Community Services District provides water, sewers, streetlights and graffiti removal to the unincorporated Riverside County communities of Eastvale, Pedley, Glen Avon, Sunnyslope and parts of Mira Loma.

Read rest of story

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

House Members Give New Meaning to "Chutzpah"

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Resident Scholar Norman J. Ornstein

For the past week I have been in Asia, going from China to Mongolia and then to Japan. I am attending an annual Asia Society conference that brings key leaders from across Asia together with a small number of Americans. I have been a regular attendee for several years and along the way have picked up a good deal of information about this part of the world. And much of it is relevant to Congress as it works on Asia-related issues on several fronts.

But it also was a way to step way back from my regular immersion in the day-to-day Congressional jousting and watch the goings-on from afar. My access has been intermittent, but I did get regular e-mail press releases from various Congressional leaders, including a slew from the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Let me start with the earmarks. The exemplary definition of chutzpah is the child who murders his parents and then pleads with the court for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. Maybe that definition can be supplanted.

We have a chance now to make constructive policy advances in education, immigration, energy, the environment, health, trade and many other areas. The failure to do so would reflect badly on both parties and move the country even further from resolving critical matters.

It has been an absolute hoot to watch the GOP leaders--who on their watch took a minor-league earmark system and deliberately orchestrated its explosion, gleefully presided over the massive expansion of government spending, and gave us examples such as former Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and California Reps. Gary Miller and Ken Calvert using the earmark route to make or supplement their personal fortunes--suddenly become ardent reformers. It has been an equal hoot to watch President Bush, who never raised a single peep when earmarks exploded and never vetoed an appropriations bill during his first six years, suddenly becoming a born-again fiscal watchdog.

But as one who appreciates politics performed at a high professional level, I have to admire their ability to turn on a dime and get away with it--to go on the offensive, gain the support of editorial boards and run rings around the House Democratic leadership. Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) has a compelling legislative explanation for why he decided to fold earmarks into the conference process. His decision was not a cynical ploy to keep the spotlight off individual earmarks, but an effort to manage a cumbersome process within tight deadlines. But, boy, was it a political gaffe. Give the minority credit for seizing on it and turning it to their own political advantage.

Republicans in the House have performed at a very high political level since this Congress began, showing no signs of depression at the loss of majority and adapting to minority status easily. Meanwhile, Democrats, even those who spent decades in the majority in a previous era, have had much more trouble adapting to being in charge. Some of this is the arrogance that comes with winning a big election victory. Some comes from the cynical reaction of some Democrats, such as Rep. John Murtha (Pa.), who saw the use of themes like the "culture of corruption" as nothing more than a ploy to win seats. But a good part of the reason for Republican artfulness and Democratic disarray is that Democratic leaders have been trying to live up to their promise to create a more open House with minority participation allowed.

In some cases, the willingness to reach out has had real payoffs, including the quite remarkable bipartisan cooperation on the first gun bill in a long time--a bill in which the Democratic leadership also managed to find common ground with the National Rifle Association(!).

Read rest of article

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

17-month ad blitz begins

By: Josh Kraushaar Jun 18, 2007

An early primary season in several states may also fuel the advertising campaigns. (Screengrab from YouTube)

There may be about 17 months until Election Day, but voters wouldn't know it by watching television or listening to the radio.

Throughout the country, third-party groups have been swarming the airwaves with advertisements attacking vulnerable incumbents while raising awareness of their pet issues.

This week, an environmental group is airing radio ads targeting three ethically challenged Republican incumbents. The National Republican Congressional Committee recently launched an ad blitz against 12 vulnerable freshman Democrats by tying them to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And an anti-tax group labeled a Republican Kansas congressional candidate as a tax-and-spend liberal -- with more than a year before the primary.

"It's just another extension of the permanent campaign," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. "The bottomless pit of political money encourages the trend. The interest groups have their usual big donors, and they are being supplemented by small donors culled from the Internet."

The Defenders of Wildlife Fund scored its biggest political success last year when it spent more than $1 million in ads attacking its chief nemesis, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), over allegations of ethical misconduct. Pombo lost to Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) in one of the election's bigger upsets.

The group is now seeking a sequel. Last week, it launched a series of radio ads against three GOP congressmen that highlighted their alleged ethical improprieties. The ads refer to Reps. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) as three of the "20 most corrupt members of Congress."

Renzi, Doolittle and Calvert each deny any wrongdoing.

"They have obvious ethical issues," said Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen. "They're way too close to the special interests."
In its radio blitz, the NRCC accused 12 Democratic freshmen of voting in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said the early advertising was "unprecedented" for the committee, representing a more sustained hit than in past cycles.

Read rest of article