Shocker: California Group Warning About Identity Theft and Signing Initiative or Referendum Petitions Files as a Campaign Committee

Posted Posted in California, Identity Theft
An unusual radio in California warns voters against signing petitions for ballot initiatives on the grounds that signers might be exposed to identity theft. This ad is posted here because such ads tend to disappear after campaigns are over. In this case, the ad appears to be an effort to discourage signing of a “paycheck protection” initiative which would make it difficult for labor unions to use dues money for political campaigns.

Not really a surprise, now is it?

A labor-backed group running controversial radio ads urging voters not to sign initiative petitions has formally filed as a campaign committee.

Californians Against Identity Theft launched a website and radio campaign last week telling voters that signing petitions to qualify measures for state and local ballots increases the risk of identity theft.

The group has come under fire for both its claims of an identity-theft threat, which some consumer advocates have blasted as false, and a lack of disclosure of its backers. The secretary-treasurer of the effort initially declined to identify donors funding the spot, though the president of the state building trades union acknowledged last week that he had helped think of the idea and was providing funding.

State Building and Construction Trades Council of California President Bob Balgenorth told The Bee on Friday that he was not still directly involved in the effort, saying the corporation operating the campaign was formed by “some other people.” He declined to name the principals or other contributors, saying “I don’t know who all the people are.”

But Balgenorth is listed as a principal officer on the committee’s statement of organization, which identifies its primary sponsors as the building trades union and the California State Pipe Trades Council. The two other officers of the committee, who were listed elsewhere as the president and secretary of Californians Against Identity Theft, also have ties to the building trades union.

Liars, Liars, pants on fire. They don’t want voters to sign certain initiatives and are not worried about protecting voters from identity theft.

Pretty standard in politics – scare people and lie.

Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 3, 2011

Posted Posted in Amazon Tax, California, California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Flap's California Morning Collection, Internet Sales Taxes, Tea Party

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

For Central Coast Democrats, a prize and a problem

Democrats on California’s Central Coast were handed a rare prize last week when the Citizens Redistricting Commission created a Senate district with no incumbent and a 12-percentage point Democratic voter registration edge.

The race is already on to see who gets to claim the prize of becoming the party’s candidate, and it could be run on a track that is crowded, uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Three contestants have either reached or are approaching the starting line:

– Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, a former assemblywoman who lost a Senate race in 2008 by fewer than 900 votes in a district that was much less friendly to a Democrat. She says she’s “seriously considering” becoming a candidate. “I’m very much leaning in that direction.”

– Jason Hodge of Oxnard, a Ventura County firefighter and an elected commissioner of the Oxnard Harbor District. Hodge has been planning a run for the Legislature for months, has formed a campaign committee and begun raising money. He says he’s definitely running and has “a full expectation to raise $1 million for this primary.”

– Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, a former assemblyman and onetime member of the California Coastal Commission. He says he hasn’t made up his mind, but muses that the Senate district “almost looks like someone drew it for me.” Nava says that by Labor Day, “Everybody should have a sense of what’s real and what’s possible.”

None says he or she would shy away from a primary race in which there are multiple Democratic candidates.

Tea Party picks up steam, demands further cuts

National Tea Party leaders in California were thrilled about one by-product of the political bloodbath over raising the federal debt ceiling: The fight showed that after two years of rabble-rousing from outside the Capitol, the Tea Party has real power to shape the debate in Washington.

Their challenge now that President Obama has signed the debt limit law: Can the Tea Party transform its government-shrinking mantra into long-term power, or will it be a one-hit wonder?

They’re not stopping to think about it. This month, Tea Partiers will storm town hall meetings of Republican and Democratic members of Congress and demand even more cuts. It’s the same strategy Tea Party groups used two years ago to protest – and ultimately water down – the health care reform law when they burst on the national scene.

“You’re going to see a lot of heat at those meetings,” said Mark Meckler, a Grass Valley (Nevada County) resident and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, a national organization that called House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to lift the ceiling “an embarrassment.”

Tea Partiers say the debt deal didn’t cut enough federal spending, was crafted behind closed doors, and assigned responsibility for further cuts to a small, joint committee of Congress.

That heat will be stoked further on Aug. 27 in Napa, when thousands of supporters and at least two GOP presidential candidates are expected to attend a rally to start a Tea Party Express bus trip across the country. It will end in Tampa, where the group will co-host a Republican presidential debate with CNN.

Two years ago, the idea of the Tea Party co-hosting a debate with the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news” was unimaginable.

Dan Walters: Remapping of California districts still on a rocky road

So the state’s new redistricting commission, after countless hours of hearings, discussions and mind-numbing exercises in specific line-drawing, has produced its almost-final maps of 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

What now?

Partisan and independent analysts have cranked up their computers, and their scenarios generally agree that the proposed districts, which need one more commission vote this month, would result in a Democratic gain of congressional seats and give Democrats a strong chance to claim two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses.

Whether those conclusions become reality, however, would depend on what happens in “swing” districts – those potentially winnable by either party – in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. And their dynamics would be affected by the new and untested “top two” primary system.

It’s “would” rather than “will” because it’s uncertain whether the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s maps will actually go into effect, since they are subject to attack by those – Republicans, mostly – who believe they got the shaft.

Critics could challenge the maps by referendum – collecting signatures to put them on the 2012 ballot – and if a referendum qualifies, the state Supreme Court would adopt temporary maps for the 2012 elections.

It could simply decree that the commission’s maps be used for 2012 while voters decide their permanent fate.

That’s what the court, headed by Chief Justice Rose Bird, decided when a Republican referendum challenged the 1981 maps adopted by a Democratic Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown – a ruling that fueled a drive to oust Bird in the 1986 election.

Or the Supreme Court could draw its own maps, as it did to break redistricting stalemates after the 1970 and 1990 censuses.

Attorney general, FPPC asked to investigate identity theft ads

The state attorney general and California’s campaign watchdog agency have been asked to investigate a new labor-backed group telling voters that signing initiative petitions increases risk of identity fraud.

Carl DeMaio, a San Diego councilman supporting an effort to qualify a local pension reform measure, filed a complaint over the weekend with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Californians Against Identity Theft is running afoul of state disclosure laws and “knowingly using false information to alarm voters and stifle the constitutionally protected rights of individuals” in the radio spots and website it launched last week.

In a separate letter, DeMaio asked state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the ad and other activities he said are “undermining the initiative process” for San Diego voters.

As The Bee reported Friday, the organization behind the ads has received funding from the California Building and Construction Trades Council. The secretary-treasurer of the group, a retired attorney who formerly represented the union, declined to identify other contributors Friday. He said Californians Against Identity Theft, which has not filed a campaign committee, has been incorporated as a 501(c)4 nonprofit.

Californians Against Identity Theft’s 60-second radio ad, which is airing on stations in Sacramento and Southern California, urges listeners not to sign initiative petitions.Organizers say the effort is intended to educate the public about a need for more regulation of the initiative system, particularly the paid-signature gathering industry. But the ad came under fire Friday from good government and consumer advocates who said its claims were largely unsubstantiated and the timing sparked questions about whether the real goal of the campaign is to derail efforts to qualify measures circulating for local or statewide elections.

Attorneys for a statewide proposal to overturn a new online sales tax collection law have also taken aim at the effort, asking radio stations to stop airing the ad amid concerns that it is “filled with false and misleading statements.” The “Amazon Tax” referendum is one of several high-profile measures currently collecting petition signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot.

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 25, 2011

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Amazon Tax, California, California Citizens Redistricting Commission

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

However we vote, Amazon loses

A Times-USC poll last week showed a close contest. After registered voters were read some arguments on both sides, the so-called Amazon tax was supported by 46% and opposed by 49%.

Looking inside the numbers, two factors stood out, neither shocking.

A majority of Democrats (52%) favored collecting the tax online; the majority of Republicans (59%) opposed it. Independents were almost evenly split.

There was a generational divide: The younger the voters, the more opposed they were to online tax collections. The older, the more supportive. Specifically, 55% of people under 50 were opposed, 52% of the over-50 crowd supported it.

The conflicting political dynamic is this: The best bet is there’ll be a low turnout for the election. A low turnout normally benefits Republicans. Score one for Amazon. But younger people usually don’t bother to show up; older voters do. Score that for Wal-Mart.

Regardless of the outcome on election day, Amazon looks like a loser. First, it’s going to spend tens of millions — and probably scores of millions if it persists in fighting this tax issue in states all over the country.

More important for Amazon, its corporate brand will be smeared from one end of the state to the other. Get used to “tax cheat.”

Ask Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Mercury Insurance Group and Valero oil whether they’d again try to enrich themselves in California voting booths.

But at least this new ballot brawl should benefit one sector of the California economy.

Dan Walters: Higher California fees are the epitome of fairness

The fire fee is conceptually similar to a new requirement that local redevelopment agencies must share their revenue to remain in business. Those agencies have been skimming about $5 billion a year off the top of the property tax pool before funds are distributed among schools and local governments.

The state must make up about $2 billion of that diversion to schools. So in effect, all state taxpayers have been subsidizing local redevelopment projects.

And then there are those college fees. One commentator went so far as to claim that when Republicans refused to go along with Brown’s pitch for additional tax revenue, they were indirectly imposing a tax on college students.

Balderdash.

A fee is a fee, not a tax. Taxes are involuntary but fees pay for specific non-mandatory services, such as college educations.

Roughly a third of California’s adults have four-year college degrees, so they have enjoyed low-cost educations at the expense of everyone else.

One could argue, with great validity, that everyone has a stake in having a well-educated workforce, but even with the fee increases, college in California is still highly subsidized and still a very good deal.

California State University fees will still be among the lowest in the nation vis-à-vis comparable institutions, according to data from the California Postsecondary Education Commission. University of California fees will be about average. And our community college fees are still rock-bottom.

Fair is fair, and the new fees that are causing such angst are very fair.

Will ballot measures test vested pension rights?

A local ballot measure in San Jose and a statewide initiative, both only proposals at this point, would attempt to cut the cost of public pensions promised current workers, believed by many to be “vested rights” protected by court decisions.

The watchdog Little Hoover Commission, warning in February that soaring pension costs could “crush” government, said cuts to new hires would not yield enough savings and recommended legislation allowing pension cuts for current workers.

A key point: The commission and the proposed ballot measures would not cut pension amounts already earned by current workers through years of service. The cuts (in benefits or employer contributions) only apply to pensions earned after the change.

The Little Hoover Commission said the courts have held that public employees have a vested right under contract law to the pension benefits offered on their first day on the job, even if it takes five years of work to qualify for them.

But the commission said the rulings, which differ from private-sector pensions that can be cut for future work, have provided openings to modify benefits for current workers that must be clarified.

“Government agencies cannot generate the needed large-scale savings by reducing benefits only for new hires,” said the commission. “It will take years if not decades to turn over the workforce, and the government is hardly in hiring mode today.”

The backers of the proposed ballot measures are already hearing from defenders of the vested rights of current workers.

A paper on vested rights issued by the California Public Employees Retirement System this month suggests the giant system, which covers half the non-federal government workers in the state, would go to court to protect the rights of its members.

Independent commission finishes drawing new districts

California’s fiest-ever independent redistricting commission finished drawing 177 new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization maps late Sunday after a rare conflict over racial issues.

The new maps, which will be released to the public on Friday, are expected to generate a flurry of lawsuits and at least one referendum drive, all of which would, if successful, shift redistricting to the courts for final resolution before the 2012 elections.

Created by two ballot measures, the commission is doing a job that in the past had been done either by the Legislature or the courts. Overall, its districts – if finally adopted – are expected to give the state’s dominant Democratic Party opportunities to gain two-thirds majorities in the Legislature and increase its control of the state’s congressional delegation.

The 14-member commission – five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents – spent the entire weekend on final district-by-district reviews, making dozens of mostly minor changes that sometimes involved just a few people.

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Afternoon Collection: July 22, 2011

Posted Posted in California, California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Flap's California Afternoon Collection

An afternoon collection of links and comments about my home, California.

For redistricting commissioners, what’s a conflict of interest?

In the spring of 2010, when he applied to become a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Gabino Aguirre of Santa Paula described himself as a “community activist” who had been an “advocate for a variety of causes.”

Aguirre survived the rigorous screening process conducted by the State Auditor’s Office and was ultimately chosen as one of 14 commissioners selected from a pool that originally included 25,000 applicants.

Now, with the commission poised to adopt political district maps that are certain to displease many Californians, Aguirre, one of five Democrats on the panel, has become the subject of sharp attacks from Republican Party leaders who accuse him of being a community activist who has been an advocate for a variety of causes.

The attacks raise anew questions that the State Auditor Elaine Howle struggled with in 2009 as she developed guidelines and regulations for the selection of commissioners, a task with which she was charged under Proposition 11, the initiative that created the independent redistricting process.

Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said she believes the auditor “struck the right balance” in disqualifying those whose political connections were so strong as to make them potentially beholden to a particular party or politician while at the same time keeping the process open to those who had been engaged in civic activities.

“No one involved in crafting this commission expected you to have applicants who had zero political involvement in their history,” she said.

Indeed, a review of applications reveals a history of civic and political activism on the part of several commissioners. Some examples:

– Jodie Filkins Webber of Norco is a member of the Corona Norco Republican Women, and has engaged in voter registration and fundraising activities organized by the group.

– Maria Blanco of Los Angeles, a Democrat, was counsel to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund when it filed suit against the 2000 redistricting plan, alleging that it deprived fair representation to Latinos in the San Fernando Valley.

– Gil Otani was a member of the San Diego Planning Commission, appointed by a Republican mayor.

– Peter Yao of Claremont, a Republican and former City Council member, served on three Asian caucuses of organizations for local elected officials “because I found that Asians were poorly represented at all levels of government.”

There are parallels in all the above examples to the charges leveled against Aguirre: that he had the support of a Democratic elected official (Supervisor Kathy Long), that he had a history of advocating for increased political representation for a particular ethnic group (Latinos) and that he was associated with a civic group that took an active role in redistricting (CAUSE).

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Becarro Calls for Resignation of Redistricting Commission Chairman Aguirre

California voters made it abundantly clear that they want an open and transparent non-partisan redistricting commission process to redraw legislative lines. According to CalWatchdog, California voters aren’t getting what they asked for.

CalWatchdog launched an investigation into the past of one of the appointees to the commission, Dr. Gabianno T. Aguirre, and found that he has made multiple political campaign contributions to Democratic candidates and has a special “web of connections” with a special interest group that submitted its own redistricting proposals to the commission. This revelation comes amidst recent public criticism that the Redistricting Commission maintains a partisan slant.

In response, I have sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown and the Chairman of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission calling for Dr. Aguirre to resign or, if he fails to step down, for the Governor to remove him from the Commission. Because Dr. Aguirre has failed to disclose any of his political contributions, as well as his current advisory board membership with the Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy more commonly known as CAUSE, he has compromised the Commission’s integrity.

The California Republican Party has consistently been engaged in the redistricting process and has demanded accountability from the CRC every step of the way. We will continue to closely monitor the Redistricting Commission’s efforts and are prepared to take immediate action if their final maps do not meet the fair and competitive standards that voters expect after passing Props 11 and 20.

Being on list of tobacco money recipients pains some Dems

It’s an article of faith for most Democrats to avoid being associated with Big Tobacco.

Of the 77 Democrats in the Legislature, 54 (75 percent) have never received a single dime from tobacco companies or interests associated with them.

So, it was more than mere annoyance that Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, found his name on a list of Democrats who received tobacco money.

Yee is running for mayor in San Francisco, and the last thing he needs is to be labeled as the Big Tobacco candidate.

A study by the American Lung Association showed Yee as taking $4,300 from tobacco interests. But Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, insists that the report is wrong.

Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, sent Yee $3,300 in 2005-06 when he was running for the Senate. But Yee sent the money back, Keigwin said.

“He has a policy of not accepting tobacco contributions,” Keigwin said. “He never took any donation. They reported it as a contribution, but check our contribution filing and you’ll see he never accepted it.”

Still, there was the $1,000 he received from the California Distributors Association in the 2005-2006 election cycle.

“When he took that, he wasn’t thinking of it as a tobacco contribution,” Keigwin said. “I’m not denying they distribute tobacco. But his policy is to not take tobacco money. That means tobacco companies and manufacturers.

“If you try to include anybody with any connection with tobacco, that’s a bit extreme,” Keigwin said.

Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said that when he took $1,000 from the California Distributors Association in 2007-2008, he had no idea it has a strong affiliation with tobacco.

“I hate to say it, but I’m not as sharp on the PACs as others,” Beall said from his San Jose district office. “It’s not my priiority.”

Beall was called out on the contribution by a voter in his district, Linda York, who was outraged he’d taken the money.

Judge rules against SEIU in California fight

A judge ruled this week that the Service Employees International Union improperly coerced workers caught in the middle of SEIU’s high-stakes turf battle with a breakaway union in California, potentially invalidating a 2010 election involving 43,500 employees.

SEIU, the nation’s most politically influential union, has been engaged in a costly fight with the former leaders of a 150,000-worker California chapter that formed a breakaway union in 2009. The split followed clashes with then-SEIU President Andy Stern over his emphasis on growing membership even if it meant giving concessions to employers.

Last fall, SEIU won the biggest standoff, an election to represent 43,500 Kaiser Permanente workers in Northern California.

The vote was a big setback for the breakaway union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, leaving it with fewer than 10,000 members. But this week, Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke ruled that Kaiser had improperly withheld pay raises from workers in Southern California who had switched to the new union and that SEIU had then improperly threatened the workers voting in the Northern California election that they, too, could have raises denied if they made the switch.

It is now up to the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to call a second election, as the judge recommends.

Enjoy your day!

Shocker: California Businesses Voting With their Feet and Leaving the State

Posted Posted in California, California Economy, Gavin Newsom
The $5 Million a Year San Francisco Tax Break

Twitter notwithstanding, California for many years has not been business friendly and now the businesses are giving up and simply either leaving or expanding in other states.

Buffeted by high taxes, strict regulations and uncertain state budgets, a growing number of California companies are seeking friendlier business environments outside of the Golden State.

And governors around the country, smelling blood in the water, have stepped up their courtship of California companies. Officials in states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and Utah are telling California firms how business-friendly they are in comparison.

Companies are “disinvesting” in California at a rate five times greater than just two years ago, said Joseph Vranich, a business relocation expert based in Irvine. This includes leaving altogether, establishing divisions elsewhere or opting not to set up shop in California.

“There is a feeling that the state is not stable,” Vranich said. “Sacramento can’t get its act together…and that includes the governor, legislators and regulatory agencies that are running wild.”

The state has been ranked by Chief Executive magazine as the worst place to do business for seven years.

“California, once a business friendly state, continues to conduct a war on its own economy,” the magazine wrote.

That is about to change, at least if Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has anything to say about it. Newsom is developing a plan to address the state’s economic Achilles heels, and build on its strengths. It will be unveiled at the end of July.

“California has got to get its act together when it comes to economic development and job creation,” he said.

While not all companies investing elsewhere are doing so for economic reasons, some are shopping around for lower costs, lighter regulations, stable leadership and government assistance and incentives.

The most popular places to go? Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and North Carolina, said Vranich. All rank in the Top 13 places to do business, according to Chief Executive.

California has great weather and ample natural resources, but the far left Democratic nature of its politics is stifling to business.Unemployment is high and entitlement costs associated with this and rampant illegal immigration are a definite drag to business development.

I do not foresee the California business climate improving anytime soon. No matter what former Democratic Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom says or creates with Nanny State commissions, businesses are voting wit their feet and leaving.

California’s economy will stagnate much like Michigan’s with little or no growth and for the forseeable future.

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 1, 2011

Posted Posted in California, California Budget, Flap's California Morning Collection, Jerry Brown, Rick Perry

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Happy New Fiscal Year, California!

It is a happy day for most California taxpayers as the California Sales Tax has decreased one percentage point and motor vehicle registration fees have decreased, as interim tax increases expire.

It is not a happy day for hybrid automobile drivers since they will no longer have free rein driving in HOV – car poll lanes on California freeways.

But, oh well, I don’t drive a hybrid but do buy products subject to the sales tax.

California starts the new fiscal new year with a state budget which is unusual. But, alas, the budget is really a sham, full of gimmicks and slight of hand. But, hey, it passed California Democratic Controller John Chiang’s review and California Legislators will receive their paychecks. Just for your information, floor sessions are scheduled today so that our fair members of the California Assembly and State Senate can get their per diem for today and, of course, holiday pay for Monday.

It is all about the money.

With those happy thoughts it is onto the links:

Jerry Brown signs budget after making more cuts

California has a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins today, after Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed the spending plan to close what had been a $26.6 billion deficit when he took office in January.

The governor used his line-item veto to cut an additional $23.8 million from the state’s $86 billion general fund. He also cut another $234 million of spending from bond funds, largely the high-speed rail fund, in a move that could jeopardize BART’s plan to replace aging rail cars. Money also will be blocked from reaching Muni and Caltrain projects.

The governor also signed a bill, which is part of the budget package, that will take $130 million from cities across the state and could force some of those cities to disband.

At a low-key bill-signing ceremony that was closed to all but a photographer, a TV cameraman and a radio reporter, Brown praised lawmakers for doing “an extraordinary job with a budget nobody really liked anyway.” He went on to say, “It really does put our fiscal house in much better shape, but we’re not finished.”

Among the line-item vetoes the governor made in the general fund are a $22.8 million cut to courts. That money would have funded a part of the governor’s realignment plan to shift some inmates to county jails. The implementation has been delayed, and so court officials were expecting the cut.

The governor saved nearly $2 million by eliminating the California Postsecondary Education Commission, which he called “ineffective,” and cut $200,000 from the budget for the Commission on the Status of Women. Because of complicated accounting, some of the money doesn’t fall under the veto total.

Assembly Republicans celebrate ‘death’ of higher tax rates

Your wallets will start feeling heavier tomorrow.

That was the message from a handful of Republican Assembly members this morning as they applauded their resistance during budget talks to approving temporary tax extensions. The budget plan passed by the Legislature this week assures that those taxes will expire at midnight, which the legislators say will save the average Californian about $260 each year.

“This is a great day for California,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. “The death of these taxes is the rebirth of our economy.”

As the legislators gathered in front of a pair of SUVs at Downtown Ford in Sacramento, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said that someone buying a $20,000 car this weekend would pay $300 less in taxes and fees than if they bought the car today.

“We’ve held the line. We’ve not negotiated. We’re very happy that July 1st is coming,” said Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s original budget plan required at least two Republican votes each from the Assembly and the Senate. It would have held steady the rates for income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees. Instead, all of those rates will drop under the spending plan that Brown is expected to sign into law today.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wows conservatives in the OC: “Heavy on candor, light on pander”

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a whirlwind in the Golden State Thursday, racking up the miles, talking up his record — and meeting with potential supporters and donors.

And he’s not even running for President — yet.

Perry held a breakfast with San Diego insiders yesterday, and today hit Los Angeles, two events in Orange County and then flew to Sacramento.

We checked in with Jon Fleischman, publisher of the popular GOP website FlashReport, who co-hosted a grassroots meeting of 60 Republicans in Newport Beach for Perry with OC GOP chair Scott Baugh. He said the Lonestar State gov’s initial reviews from party activists and conservative stalwarts were strong.

“He was really, really impressive. He comes off as a very genuine — heavy on candor and light on pander,” said Fleischman. “Part of what we’re looking for is someone who has authenticity….who resonates, and has an ability to connect.”

“He’s got a very strong record of accomplishment that will appeal to GOP voters,” Fleischman said. “This is someone who isn’t going to have any problem going into meetings with major donors and blowing people away.”

So is he running? Bet on it, says The Flash.

UC Berkeley out-of-state student enrollment soars

The number of out-of-state students is soaring at UC Berkeley, with new figures showing more than a quarter of newcomers on campus – freshmen and transfer students – won’t be from California this year. That’s up from 23 percent last year, and 15 percent two years ago.

More important for the campus, the nonresidents pay nearly three times the tuition of in-state students, and will bring in $80 million this year, up from $54 million last year, spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said.

The trend is similar throughout the University of California, although Berkeley far outpaces other campuses in its zeal to bring in the lucrative outsiders.

Across UC’s nine undergraduate campuses, 14 percent of the freshmen and transfer students who plan to enroll this fall are from out of state, up from 11 percent last year, and 9 percent the year before, according to figures released Thursday.

Enjoy your morning!