AB 2299: The Duke Cunningham Transparency In California Government Act

Brian Brady Brian Brady 1 Comment

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Guest Commentary
by Brian Brady

On May 17, 2012, the California Assembly passed AB 2299, which exempts public safety officials from recording real estate transactions.

Why would the Assembly unanimously pass such legislation?  It contributes to  a two-tiered class system in California:  the men with guns and you.  On it’s face, it sounds noble but, like all unnecessary legislation, the unintended consequences can be catastrophic.

The Blaze exposed Brett Kimberlin, the convicted drug dealer and stalker who is making life hell for LA County’s Assistant District Attorney Patrick Frey, aka “Patterico“.  That expose is an interesting tale of a disturbed Leftist who terrorizes those who don’t think like him.  Kimberlin is savvy enough to have used public records for his terrorizing activities againt his opponents.  In another example, SEIU used public records to infamously protest in front of a bank executive’s home, to “protest” the bank’s collection policies (SEIU conveniently owes that bank an eight-figure sum).

The visions of angry union protesters and Soros-backed Occupiers, scaring their kids while they were in session in Sacramento, probably scared all of the Republican Assembly members into voting for this bill.  The ability to tell public safety union employees that they are ‘protected them from snooping citizens’ was probably too enticing for any Democrat Assembly member to ignore.

The Sacramento Bee sees two problems with this:  (1) The bad guys usually don’t use property records; they mostly follow the good guys home from work.  (2) Opacity in public records provides the very cover a corrupt public official needs to conceal graft.

We learned this with the Duke Cunnigham scandal.  Cunningham would have gotten away with his corruption had his scheme not been exposed through irregular real estate transactions. Public records have been at the center of most corruption exposes but our Assembly members have unanimously said that they want government employees to operate behind a golden curtain.

Lest you suggest that I’m extrapolating the reach of this bill, consider what Steven Greenhut at Reason Magazine sees:

One can be sure that the number of protected categories will expand rapidly and quietly. Even the original list is fairly broad. Within weeks, lobbyists for other public-sector unions will insist that code enforcers, billboard inspectors, and milk testers receive the same protections given the dangers these officials supposedly face. If you think I’m overstating this, then consider that the latter categories made that same argument to gain expanded “public safety” pensions.

It’s not just “the men with guns” who will be granted these privileges.  “Public safety creep” can be justified at any level.  Home health care workers (the former independent contractors who help old ladies take aspirin) now have to be licensed.  Union lobbyists and complicit elected officials could easily classify them as “public safety workers.”  If one of those old ladies encounters a rude aspirin dispenser, she might send a letter, expressing her displeasure to the aspirin dispenser’s home….and “they” can’t have one of “you” criticizing one of “them.”

More dangerous is the opportunity for corruption and graft.  Let me illustrate how some business people use the “men with guns” to eliminate competitors and how this “protecting the men with guns” bill encourages this racket rather than hinders it.  It starts with this premise; all legislation is enforced at the tip of a gun.  At face value, that isn’t such a bad thing.  If someone kills your daughter or steals your horse, you, or the agents whom you hire (government), are justified in meeting that force or fraud with force.  But if you hire “men with guns” to eliminate competition, we would rightfully call you a Mafia Don…and here’s how it happens:

State Senator Phillips (I just made up that name), lives in an urban condo but always dreamed of living in a beach cottage.  He has little equity in his condo and, on an State Senator’s salary, the beach cottage will be almost impossible to purchase.

Bill Smith owns a successful, state-wide chain of nail salons and is big enough that a labor union is trying to organize the employees whom perform manicures.  While Bill chooses to use full-time, statutory employees, the mom and pop shops who compete with him prefer to use independent contractors.  Bill is profitable but if he could eliminate more competitors, he wouldn’t have to compete that hard.  Bill takes his problem to the union organizers.

The union lawyers draft legislation to license all independent contractor nail technicians, but exempting union member, full-time employees from that licensing.  This legislation is drafted in the name of “public health.”  The legislation is controversial because a lot of the independent contractor nail technicians are immigrants.  State Senator Phillips has a lot of citizens who share the same ethnicity as those immigrants in his district.  He’s considering abstaining from this vote and it’s going to be a close one.

Smith and his new union buddies hatch a plan.  Police Officer Johnson buys State Senator Phillips’ condo for 20 percent over market value, netting Phillips the down payment for the beach property.  Assistant Fire Chief Jones sells his beach cottage, for 20 percent below market value, to State Senator Phillips.

Why would Officer Johnson and Assistant Fire Chief Jones intentionally lose money on those real estate transactions?  Smith makes Johnson’s wife and Jones’ wife partners in a a new downtown nail salon.

Smith’s chain of nail salons become union shops, the legislation is passed, and the downtown store thrives as all of the competitors get wiped out because they have no licensed nail technicians.  Smith hikes his prices and everybody wins…except the consumers.

And if anyone dares to manicure nails for long-time customers in their living rooms, you can be sure that “men with guns” will show up and knock on the “unlicensed” independent contractor’s door.

None of the transactions which enabled this Mafia-like behavior will be viewed by an inquiring mind because they will be cloaked under AB 2299.

Does my example sound crazy?  So did Duke Cunningham’s scheme.

On the surface, AB 2299 is offensive because it puts public servants above the law.  It creates two classes of people in California:  us and them (and they control the guys with the guns).  Lurking below the surface is an infrastructure for legalized graft and corruption and you won’t be able to do anything about it…because you won’t be able to see it.

I expect Democrat Assembly members to peddle this kind of product to their union buddies, but how could Republican Assembly members not see the dangers lurking below the surface?  Maybe they just don’t care because they are one of “them.”  Let’s hope the Republicans in the State Senate have the courage to do the right thing.

AB 2299 ROLL CALL:  Aye – Atkins, Block, Garrick, Harkey, Hueso, Jones.  Absent:  Fletcher

PS:  To add insult to injury, a provision which allows public safety employees to sue the County for up to $5,000, for unintentionally revealing property ownership, was added in the bill’s mark-up.  Of course, if one of “them” screws up, and “injures” another one of “them,” YOU end up paying the bill.

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Brian Brady is a small business owner who lives in Solana Beach.  He is a director for Stop Taxing Us, the taxpayer advocacy and tea party group.  There, he crafted the “Promise to California taxpayers,” a no new tax pledge candidates make.  He is a candidate for SDGOP Central Committee.

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