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Sep 16 2011

Flap’s California Morning Collection: September 16, 2011

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The California Republican Party’s three day Fall Convention starts today in downtown Los Angeles. I will head down on Saturday afternoon after my Los Angeles Marathon training in the morning at Venice Beach and Santa Monica, California.

Rep. Michele Bachmann will speak at dinner tonight, before she heads off to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (actually the show is taped and she will probably be with Jay before the convention – unless she has a helicopter to get her to Burbank).

There will be a Presidential Straw Poll on Saturday afternoon which is meaningless but a fundraiser for the party. Here is a rundown on the speakers.

Presidential candidates Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan will speak at the Lincoln Clubs breakfast. Lunch features Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista and radio talk show host Dennis Prager. Dinner speakers include Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, Board of Equalization member Michelle Steel, state Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, and Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare.

Several California Republicans of late have talked up courting the Latino vote, and the party’s chairman, Tom Del Beccaro, will join several others, including Univision’s “Voz y Voto” host Santiago Lucero, at a Latino town hall, starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

The convention will be held at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, 900 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, near Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. If you will be in the area and want to meet up, direct message or reply to me on Twitter – @Flap or message me on Facebook or Google Plus.

On to today’s headlines:

Offices searched in San Bernardino County public corruption probe

FBI and IRS agents Thursday morning executed nine federal search warrants that appeared to be related to an ongoing public corruption investigation of a Rancho Cucamonga development and its handling by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

[Updated: 3:40 p.m.: Among the offices searched were those of Jeffrey Burum, a managing partner at Colonies Partners of Rancho Cucamonga, and O'Reilly Public Relations in Riverside. One of the properties is associated with GOP operative and former state Sen. James L. Brulte. ]

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the identities of the targets of the warrants were under court seal and that the nature of the investigation could not be disclosed.

“We’re prohibited from commenting about them,” Eimiller said.

In May, former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Antoine Biane and Burum were named in a 29-count indictment that includes charges of bribery, extortion and misappropriation of public funds.

James Erwin, a former assistant assessor and former chief of staff for Supervisor Neil Derry, and Mark Kirk, a former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, were also named in the indictment.

The corruption case involves a $102-million settlement between the county and Colonies Partners in 2006, four years after the developer filed suit challenging the county’s easement rights over a flood control basin in the middle of a large retail and housing development in Upland. The Board of Supervisors, acting against the advice of county counsel, voted 3 to 2 to approve the settlement.

In August, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge dismissed five of the seven charges against Burum. Charges of misappropriation of public funds against the other defendants also were dismissed.

[Updated: 5:35 p.m. Jason Kinney, a spokesperson for Jim Brulte, issued the following statement:

"Senator Brulte has cooperated fully and freely with any and all law enforcement entities which have contacted him during the Colonies investigation.

Today, his home and office were searched by federal authorities. It has never been alleged by any authority that Jim had any direct connection to any improper activities, he's never observed any improper activities, and he's already provided complete testimony to two different grand juries.

He will continue to cooperate fully and voluntarily with all law enforcement inquiries. It's worth noting that Colonies was Jim's client for only four months in 2004 and 2005, well before any of the alleged improper events occurred."]

GOP group sues to block new state Senate maps

Arguing that California’s newly drawn Senate districts are unconstitutional, a Republican Party-backed group filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the California Supreme Court to kill the new maps.

“We believe there are serious constitutional flaws in the maps produced by the redistricting commission, and these are matters that the Supreme Court should look at immediately,” said David Gilliard, a Sacramento-based GOP political consultant leading the effort.

Gilliard said his group, Fairness & Accountability In Redistricting), also has collected about 100,000 signatures in a referendum drive aimed at asking voters to reject the newly drawn Senate districts.

If the group can collect 504,760 valid signatures by Nov. 14, the state Senate lines will be put on hold until the referendum is held in the June 2012 election.

Charles T. Munger Jr. puts more than money into California Republican politics

Charles T. Munger Jr. isn’t your run-of-the-mill Republican donor.

The wealthy Stanford physicist is gaining prominence in a state Republican Party now regularly in search of money needed to win in blue California. But Munger’s involvement in the state GOP goes beyond writing checks.

His influence will be on display this weekend as California Republicans gather in Los Angeles for their fall convention and begin discussing a Munger-inspired platform that downplays traditional GOP positions on gun rights, abortion and same-sex marriage.

The bow tie-wearing Republican has spent recent months shepherding a behind-the-scenes effort to adopt a more moderate California Republican Party platform.

The combination of his deep resources and reputation as a “details guy” willing to delve into the nitty gritty of internal party politics has bolstered his influence at a pivotal time of rebuilding after the party’s 2010 losses, friends and associates say.

“Not only has he put his money where his mouth is, he puts his time and energy into it as well,” said GOP consultant Rob Stutzman. “He’s more than a donor – he’s an activist and he’s had a huge impact because he’s combined his activism with his ability to contribute money to his causes.”

Feinstein weak in poll, but no GOP challenger yet

Two years ago, two major Republican campaigns swarmed the California GOP fall convention, confident that they could drum up the support to beat three-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, who was considered vulnerable because of her low voter-approval ratings.

This year, as 1,000 GOP activists gather today in Los Angeles for their fall convention, things are different, as even the California Republican Party chairman has no idea who will take on 19-year-incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year – and no major candidates have stepped up.

But the landscape may change soon, analysts said, given Feinstein’s recent campaign money problems and a Field Poll released today that gives one of California’s most consistently popular politicians a 41 percent approval rating, the lowest of her Senate career.

One person considering a run, The Chronicle has learned, is Michael Reagan, a former conservative talk-radio host and the son of former President Ronald Reagan.

Enjoy your morning and hope to see you at the California GOP Convention tomorrow.

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