Monday, May 25, 2015

"California Assembly leaders single-handedly dictate spending"

Great to talk to Fenit Nirappil of the AP for this piece.

“This allows one person to have complete power of the purse strings,” said Jessica Levinson, a government ethics expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"Arcadia City Attorney Responds to Criticism of Council’s Nonpublic Decisions"

More here

Jessica Levinson, a governance attorney and professor at Loyola University Law School, took issue with Deitsch’s policy versus procedural distinction.
“That’s not the distinction that we make to determine a Brown Act exception,” she said in an interview.
“‘In light of pending litigation’ is the hook as to why they should go into closed session, but it strikes me that the decisions they made, whether structural or procedural seem to be attenuated enough from the lawsuit that they could be discussed in a regular open session,” Levinson said. “The purpose [of exceptions] is to allow for a government agency to make litigation decisions in private so that they don’t have to tip their hand to other side, so that all of the normal evidentiary confidentialities can be maintained.”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Kevin de León called about job for daughter at nonprofit he helped with bill"

Good to talk to Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times for this article.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said de León's action appeared inappropriate for an elected official. "Parents pick up the phone for their kids all the time. But they are not leaders of the Senate who are carrying sponsored bills," said Levinson, who is vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

"Water district found itself drowning in steep legal fees"

Good to talk to Ruben Vives of the Los Angeles times for this piece.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who specializes in good governance, said public agencies need to do everything they can to control legal costs.

"You just don't get to take your eyes off the ball, especially when you've paid for an expensive ball," Levinson said.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Details Hidden on Legislative Lawyers Drafting Bills for Influential Groups"

Great to speak with John Myers of KQED for this piece

“Legislators are outsourcing their jobs to people in the shadows that we don’t know,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor of governance and ethics at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “I think the least they can do is give the public some information.”

"Hacked Sony Emails Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Political Dealings in L.A."

Good to talk to Robert Faturechi of ProPublica for this piece with Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times. 

In any case, election law experts said, if a donation is pledged but only publicly revealed after an election, it sidesteps the spirit of disclosure laws. "It deprives the voters of really important information‚...(about) what interests politicians may be beholden to," said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Indicted Paul Tanaka expected to ask for leave as mayor of Gardena"

Good to talk with Hailey Branson-Potts of the Los Angeles Times for this article.

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in good governance, said she does not expect Tanaka to step down as mayor.

“In this case, history has indicated that Paul Tanaka is not going to go quietly into the night,” she said. “My guess is it’s going to take a lot of political pressure for him to step down,” she said, stressing that controversy has not stopped him from seeking public office in the past.

Levinson said that it’s unlikely voters in Gardena, who elected Tanaka even as controversy swirled around him, are unaware of his history. As a result, she said, it remains to be seen whether an indictment would be enough to create a major push among residents to pressure the mayor to step down.

“There have been rumors and discussions and chatter of serious wrongdoing for a very long time, so it cannot be that the voters of Gardena were utterly oblivious to that,” Levinson said. “And they elected him anyway. My guess is that he has a lot of loyal voters who might think he was wronged and might say they want to see the process play out."

"Advocates push lawmakers to help social programs in California budget"

Great to talk to Judy Lin of the AP for this article.

“I don’t think the governor is in a handing-out-money sort of mood,” said Jessica Levinson, who has written about state budgets and teaches at Loyola Law School. “It’s a normal human response to say let’s spend the money. And I think time and time again, he’s hit the brakes on that impulse.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Land deal has been costly debacle for City of Industry

Great to talk with Paul Pringle of the Los Angeles Times for this one. 

"If elected officials steer work to companies in which they or their families have a financial interest, it could represent a misuse of public funds," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies public corruption.

"The mayor should only be making decisions that benefit his constituents, not himself," she said. "It raises a lot of questions about the potential misuse of his position."

"Bills ‘Sponsored’ in Sacramento by Outside Groups Usually Become Law"

Great to speak with John Myers of KQED for this. 

“Whenever people try to influence elected officials, I think it is better for the public to know,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in governance ethics. “When bills are sponsored, the key is to give the public as much information as possible.”

Open wide: California dentists pony up for state Senate candidate

Great to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle for this one.

Jessica Levinson, who teaches law and political ethics at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, said the dentists’ efforts on Bonilla’s behalf dramatize how state interest groups — just like big national players — rely on special expenditures to boost their legislative agendas.

“It’s the way we do business now in Sacramento. It’s the way we do business in city halls, county seats and the nation’s capital,” Levinson said. “Independent expenditure groups spend money ... because they think candidates will do something beneficial for them.” And for legislators who chair key committees, she said, “It’s 'I have this business before you — and you’re in control of a decision.’”