From the daily archives: Monday, February 8, 2010

By Mario Conde

An immigration reform for the United States was the subject of discussion last week at the SDSU Calexico campus were pro-immigration groups highlighted the importance of this reform.

A forum on immigration took place last Wednesday sponsored by the Committee on Diversity and Equity and spoke in length about Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s bill proposal Immigration Reform for American Security and Prosperity. President Barack Obama said on his State of the Union Address that the United States needs to fix its “broken immigration system” and said this reform will secure the borders, make sure the laws are applied, and a welcome to those who can contribute with the economy and enrich the nation.

One of the speakers that evening was Enrique Morones founder of Border Angels, a non-profit organization created in 1986 with more than 1,000 volunteers who try to prevent unnecessary deaths of people who cross the border through the Imperial Valley desert and the mountain areas of San Diego. Border Angels have various stations around the desert were food, clothing, and water is provided to reduce the numbers of deaths at the border. Morones said that since operation Gatekeeper started in October 1994 more than 10,000 men, woman, and children have died tragically trying to cross the border. Those deaths have been caused due to the high temperatures and some are results of racial crimes, according to Morones.

Morones said that this immigration reform has to be passed by the spring or this proposal will not have a chance to pass during the administration of Barack Obama.

“Every day we don’t have an immigration reform someone dies trying to cross the border.” Morones said.

Morones said that the immigration reform needs to be a bi-partisan and criticized the Republican Party for going to the extreme right and holding a racist mentality. “It’s very sad to see the Republican Party going into the dark with racist stands with people like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo. Even John McCain has changed its position on the immigration reform.”

When asked if the lost of the super majority that Democrats had in Capitol Hill will affect the approval of the immigration reform Morones said that any approval of the reform will be a positive one.

The event also had photography exhibitions, music, and poetry reading. The event was part of the Migrant March advocating a human immigration reform.

 

By Mario Conde

The successor of Arnold Schwarzenegger will be elected this November and the prospective candidates for governor are ready to battle for the nomination of their party.

The Democratic Party will try to regain California after seven years after being defeated in 2003 because of the recall of former Governor Gray Davis that led to the election of Schwarzenegger by a strong majority. Among the declared candidates for Governor that will try to get the nomination of the Democrats in 2010 are Richard William Aguirre, Jerry Brown, Stephen Rush, Edie Bukewihge, and Joe Symmon.

Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown is eligible to run for governor since the two-term limit on the office of Governor applies only to terms served after November 6, 1990, thereby Brown is still eligible to run again, as he served his terms from 1975–1983.

On the GOP side, Steve Poinzer, a highly successful entrepreneur, founded two successful technology companies in Silicon Valley. In 2006, Poinzer defeated form L.T. Governor Cruz Bustamante in the race for Insurance Commissionaire.

Meg Whitman, also running for the Republican nomination, was President and Chief Executive Officer of E-Bay from March 1998 to March 2008, when she stepped down from her role. She supports the expansion of employment and control of government spending.

State Senate District 40 seat will be open since term-out Denise Moreno-Ducheny will leave Sacramento this year. The two candidates looking for her seat are Assemblywoman Mary Salas from the 79th District and former Assemblyman Juan Vargas. Vargas is no stranger to the valley since he challenged Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) in 2006 in the Democratic primaries.

Manuel Perez  (D-Coachella) is up for re-election this year for the District 80 seat but no challenger has declared as of yet. El Centro Councilman John Edney considered challenging Perez but decided to drop out since he could not raise enough money to compete with the Manuel Perez.

 

Sacramento-Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today called on the nation’s two largest public pension funds-the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)-to “honor the state law” that requires them to divest from companies doing business in Iran.

“CalPERS and CalSTRS need to honor the state law requiring them to divest from companies doing business in Iran,” Brown said. “It’s time for our public pension funds to show some leadership and stop supporting companies that do business with a tyrannical regime.”

The California Public Divest from Iran Act was signed into law in October 2007 after the state Senate and Assembly passed the bill by unanimous vote. The law requires CalPERS and CalSTRS to annually report holdings in companies doing business in the defense, nuclear, petroleum, and natural gas industries in Iran and to divest from any company that fails to take substantial action to cease or limit operations in Iran.

Although CalPERS and CalSTRS both filed annual reports at the end of 2009, these reports fail to:

– Explain whether investments in companies with ties to Iran have been reduced;
– Describe when the funds anticipate fully divesting from these companies;
– Summarize investments transferred to funds that exclude these companies; and
– Calculate divestment costs or losses.

The full text of the California Public Divest from Iran Act can be read at: http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0201-0250/ab_221_bill_20071014_chaptered.pdf

According to the U.S. Department of State’s “Country Reports on Terrorism 2008,” Iran remains “the most significant state sponsor of terrorism.”

CalPERS is the largest public pension fund in the nation with more than 1.6 million members and more than $200 billion in assets. CalSTRS is the largest teachers’ retirement fund in the country with 833,000 members and more than $130 billion in assets.

Brown’s letters, sent today to CalPERS and CalSTRS, are copied below:

Anne Stausboll
Chief Executive Officer
California Public Employees’ Retirement System
Lincoln Plaza East
400 Q Street, Suite E4800
Sacramento, CA 95811

Re: Violations of Iran Act

Dear Ms. Stausboll:

We have reviewed the December 31, 2009 Iran Related Investments – Second Legislative Report issued by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). Unfortunately, in violation of state law, the report fails to explain why CalPERS continues to invest in companies that do business in Iran.

In 2007, the Legislature enacted the California Public Divest from Iran Act, declaring it “unconscionable for this state to invest in foreign companies with business activities benefiting foreign states such as Iran that commit egregious violations of human rights and sponsor terrorism.” This law, commonly called the Iran Act, requires CalPERS to report annually on its holdings in companies that are doing business in the defense, nuclear, petroleum, and natural gas industries in Iran, and to divest from any company that fails to take substantial action to cease or limit its Iranian operations.

Although CalPERS has filed annual reports, these reports lack enough detail to enable the public and CalPERS members to know whether CalPERS is complying with the Iran Act. On page 3 of its most recent report, CalPERS declares that it decided “to not divest shares . . . as specified in the Iran Act.” Apparently, this decision was based on a conclusion made by the Board almost a year ago that divestment would violate CalPERS’ fiduciary duty to its members. But the report utterly fails to explain how and why this is the case.

In addition, the report fails to include many of the Iran Act’s specific reporting requirements. The report merely lists 24 CalPERS holdings that do business in Iran (up four from the last report) and states-without analysis or elaboration-that “substantial progress has been made through the engagement process, in the curtailment and cessation of business operations in Iran.” Nothing in these general comments complies with the Iran Act’s requirements for CalPERS to explain whether it has reduced its investments in these companies, to describe when it anticipates fully divesting in these companies (or to explain the reasons for not divesting), to summarize investments transferred to funds that exclude these companies, or to calculate divestment costs or losses.

Please let us know as soon as possible what specific actions you plan to take to comply with the provisions of the Iran Act.

Sincerely,

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

——–

Jack Ehnes
Chief Executive Officer
California State Teachers’ Retirement System
100 Waterfront Place
Post Office Box 15275
Sacramento, CA 95851-0275

RE: Violation of Iran Act

Dear Mr. Ehnes:

We have reviewed the December 31, 2009 Response to Iran Risk Report issued by the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). Unfortunately, in violation of state law, the report fails to explain why CalSTRS continues to invest in companies that do business in Iran.

In 2007, the Legislature enacted the California Public Divest from Iran Act, declaring it “unconscionable for this state to invest in foreign companies with business activities benefiting foreign states such as Iran that commit egregious violations of human rights and sponsor terrorism.” This law, commonly called the Iran Act, requires CalSTRS to report annually on its holdings in companies that are doing business in the defense, nuclear, petroleum, and natural gas industries in Iran, and to divest from any company that fails to take substantial action to cease or limit its Iranian operations.

Although CalSTRS has filed annual reports, these reports lack enough detail to enable the public and CalSTRS members to know whether CalSTRS is complying with the Iran Act. The most recent report refers to several lists of companies with varying degrees of ties to Iran. The report neither identifies all of the companies nor states which ones are actually held by CalSTRS.

Nothing in the report complies with the Iran Act’s requirements for CalSTRS to explain whether it has reduced its investments in companies with ties to Iran, to describe when it anticipates fully divesting in these companies (or to explain the reasons for not divesting), to summarize investments transferred to funds that exclude these companies, or to calculate divestment costs or losses.

Please let us know as soon as possible what specific actions you plan to take to comply with the provisions of the Iran Act.

Sincerely,

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

 

Another year and another Carrot Festival. Enjoy these highlights from the 2010 Holtville Carrot Festival Parade.

 

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced today that Sharon Elyce Pearl, 52, of Oakland, the former Director of Real Property for the State Bar of California, has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after she “methodically embezzled” more than $600,000 from her employer to spend on spa treatments, designer clothes and other luxury items.

“As the State Bar’s Director of Real Property, Pearl methodically embezzled more than $600,000 to bankroll a lavish lifestyle,” Brown said. “Under today’s sentence, Pearl will spend the next two years and eight months in prison and will be required to repay the State Bar and the State of California in full.”

In April 2009, Brown filed seven criminal charges against Pearl in Alameda County Superior Court, including:

– One criminal count of embezzlement for violating section 504 of the state Penal Code.
– Six counts of filing false tax returns for violating section 19706 of the state Revenue and Taxation Code.

Pearl pleaded no contest to all charges in December 2009.

As part of today’s sentence, Pearl was ordered to pay:

– $615,790 in restitution to the State Bar;
– $167,422 in staff, audit and attorney costs to the State Bar; and
– $116,652 in taxes, penalties, interest and investigation costs to the Franchise Tax Board.

Pearl has already paid $393,212 of the $615,790 owed to the State Bar in restitution.

In 1999, the State Bar purchased an office building at 180 Howard Street in San Francisco for its headquarters. The State Bar inherited tenants who leased retail space in the building. As the Director of Real Property, Pearl handled building management and collected rent from the building’s tenants.

As early as 2002, Pearl began to embezzle a portion of the rental funds she collected. As part of her scheme, Pearl directed some tenants to make their rent checks payable to “PLOT-The State Bar of California.” Unknown to the renters, “PLOT” stood for the Piedmont Light Opera Theatre.

Pearl deposited the checks into accounts held by the Piedmont Light Opera Theatre. Because she was a signatory on the theater’s accounts, she could then transfer funds from the theater accounts to her personal bank account.

Pearl used the embezzled funds to pay for spa treatments, designer clothes, lavish meals and fancy hotel rooms. Because the State Bar did not track its rent payments, Pearl was able to continue her scheme for several years.

In 2008, the State Bar finally uncovered Pearl’s scheme when she requested a check for what she claimed was a tenant’s security deposit refund. Because there were no records that the tenant had ever paid a security deposit, the State Bar launched an internal investigation into the financial discrepancies.

The State Bar ultimately discovered that Pearl was maintaining two sets of books, and the investigation was referred to Brown’s Special Crimes Unit for prosecution.

The State Bar was created by the Legislature in 1927 and is a public corporation within the judicial branch of government, serving as an arm of the California Supreme Court. It admits attorneys for practice in the state, provides continuing education classes and conducts disciplinary hearings.

 
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