Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 28, 2012

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Fallbrook, California

Good Wednesday morning!

The California Legislature is in session.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

Governor Jerry Brown has some public events today.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s calendar today includes a California National Guard ceremony at which Col. Sylvia R. Crockett will be promoted to general.

It’s a milestone for the Golden State: She’s the first Latina to attain that rank in the California National Guard, according to the governor’s office.

Crockett, who’s now assistant division commander for the 40th Infantry Division as well as director of strategic communications for the California Military Department, started her career with the California National Guard in 1982. The ceremony starts at 11 a.m. in the the governor’s Capitol office.

Brown is also scheduled to speak with police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and others at the 20th annual legislative day of the Alliance of California Law Enforcement. That talk starts at 1 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

On to today’s California headlines:

Calif. Democratic treasurer perpetrated $7M fraud

Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee defrauded at least 50 candidates, officeholders and political organizations out of $7 million in a scheme that dates back more than a decade, according to a court filing made Tuesday by federal prosecutors.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento filed the additional charges in federal court, providing the most detailed account to date in a case that has left some Democratic candidates scrambling for campaign cash in an election year.

Such filings typically are a prelude to a plea, but prosecutors would not confirm such a development or offer any further details.

Durkee, who heads Durkee & Associates in Burbank, was arrested in September and charged with suspicion of mail fraud after millions of dollars disappeared from the campaign accounts of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, other Democratic members of Congress and several Democratic state lawmakers.

The filing details a complex shell game in which Durkee shifted campaign money to cover an array of personal and business expenses.

In one example, $23,000 taken from Feinstein’s account was used to help pay American Express credit card charges from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Amazon.com, Disneyland, Trader Joe’s and Turners Outdoorsman.

Magic Johnson group to buy Dodgers for record $2B

A group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion.

The price would shatter the mark for a North American sports franchise, topping the $1.1 billion Stephen Ross paid for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009.

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner.

The deal, revealed about five hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for an intended auction, is one of several steps toward a sale of the team by the end of April. It is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court.

“I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles,” Johnson said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, the Dodgers said McCourt and “certain affiliates of the purchasers” would acquire the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, including its parking lots, for $150 million.

Rallying around Brownley

As expected, the region’s Democratic establishment is rallying around Assemblywoman Julia Brownley of Oak Park in the 26th Congressional District as party leaders and activists seek to consolidate enough support behind a single candidate to ensure a second-place finish in the June primary.

The challenge has been discussed here before at some length: With four Democrats on the ballot, a strong Republican in Sen. Tony Strickland of Moorpark and a strong independent in Supervisor Linda Parks of Thousand Oaks, Democrats are in danger of not qualifying a candidate for the November election under the state’s new primary election system, in which only the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, make it to general election ballot.

California courts scrap $2 billion tech project

One of the largest public technology projects in California history is history.

Faced with mounting criticism about the cost, the state Judicial Council, the policy arm of the courts, on Tuesday voted to pull the plug on a $2 billion computer upgrade for California’s 58 trial courts.

The decision ended a 10-year quest to electronically unify the nation’s largest state court system, a goal that ballooned in price as California hit its worst budget crisis in years.

The council chose instead to give local courts the ability to choose their own tech improvements, setting aside $8.6 million to study that issue and perhaps salvage scraps from the abandoned project.

The computer upgrade has divided a judicial branch trying to weather more than $600 million in budget cuts over the past three years. With courts cutting hours to the public and laying off workers, the tech upgrade became a primary target of critics who said judicial leaders should abandon the project and use the money to restore or maintain other operations.

Hundreds of court employees from the Bay Area and elsewhere rallied outside the state building in San Francisco to press for an end to the tech project.

“It’s just not the right time to go forward with this project,” Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Herman, a council member who prepared a report on the upgrade, said after a nearly all-day hearing.

And, finally, Dan Walters on the California Judicial Flap:

Enjoy your morning!

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