Monday, April 25, 2016




          It was bound to happen once Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz began building their campaigns on a foundation of anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric and policy proposals:

          Many thousands of legal Latino residents all around the nation began seeking U.S. citizenship so they could become registered voters and cast ballots against either Cruz or Trump, should either become the GOP’s nominee.

          So far, the numbers are not staggering, the way they were in California after the easy passage of the 1994 Proposition 187, which sought to deprive the undocumented and their U.S. citizen children of taxpayer-funded services from public schooling to emergency room care and vaccinations.

          Even as federal courts were throwing out virtually all of that ballot initiative, which passed with a 2-1 margin, 2.5 million new citizens were minted by the end of 1997 – just three years after passage of 187.

          The reason, many told polltakers, was fear that if illegal immigrants could be targeted, legal ones might be next. Their only safety, they figured, was in citizenship.

          No similar movement occurred in other parts of America, where an estimated 10 million legal immigrants are now eligible for citizenship if they complete the application process.

          But something began to happen in the second half of 2015, as Trump, Cruz and other hard-line Republican candidates like Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Carly Fiorina made calls for deportation essential to their stump speeches and television debate mantras.

          The more they talked, even though most of them eventually dropped out, the more worried many legal Latino residents became. When Trump spoke of building a bigger and better wall along the Mexican border, many quietly began filling out naturalization papers. At the same time, almost all Latinos who already are voters decided to vote Democratic. One late-April survey showed only 11 percent likely to vote Republican.

          If this trend accelerates and enough legal immigrants follow through toward citizenship, they could change politics in states like Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia and Florida, just as the citizenship flood of the late 1990s turned California from a swing state and an election battleground into a solidly Democratic state not carried by any GOP candidate since George H.W. Bush did it in 1988.

          No one knows exactly how many new citizens have been registered to vote this year, but in the latter half of 2015, naturalization applications rose by 14 percent nationally over the previous year – or about 100,000.

          That number is nowhere near enough to change election outcomes in any state. But the increase began early in the presidential campaign, before anyone had yet voted for Trump. As the year started, 2.7 million immigrants from Mexico were eligible to apply for citizenship, just under one-third of the potential citizenship pool. Approximately 1 million more from Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala were also eligible. It’s far too late for very many of these possible future voters to register this year, but if they eventually do and if they act like their fellow Hispanics in California, the vast majority will become Democrats.

          Even though they can’t vote this year against either Trump or Cruz, they could change the future. In Texas, where elections are commonly decided by less than 1 million votes, the sudden appearance of about 1 million new Democratic voters could vastly alter things. It would take far fewer new Democrats to make swing states North Carolina and Florida firmly Democratic or to turn solidly Republican Georgia into a battleground.

       South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, an early dropout from the GOP nomination derby, summed it up this way: “We’ve dug a hole with Hispanics. We went from 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2004 presidential election to 27 percent in 2012, and it could be much lower this year... It’s because of the immigration debate.”

       Graham is dead-on right, and if Republicans, whose party nomination could be clinched in California’s June primary, maintain their focus on deporting as many of the undocumented as they can find, they might still win this year’s vote, but would most likely set themselves up for decades of future defeats in both presidential elections and those in many states they now count as their turf.


       EmailThomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The MostPromising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is nowavailable in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns,




          In more than a year since state Attorney General Kamala Harris declared she’s running for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer, Harris’ poll numbers have not changed much.

She pulled about 31 percent in the first public poll on the contest; she got 27 percent and 33 per cent in the two latest surveys, leaving her still the clear leader less than two months before the June 7 primary election.

          So far, no one has laid a glove on her, but her numbers are static.

          And very few seem to care. The latest California Field Poll found fully 48 percent of likely voters undecided in this contest as of early April. So most were not interested, many unaware there’s even a Senate contest underway.

          “Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have sucked all the air out of the room,” opined Democratic Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez the other day, referring to the presidential nominating races on the same June ballot.

          Sanchez polls second in the race, at 15 percent in early April, up from about 8 percent a year ago. Three Republicans in the race, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz and former state GOP chairmen Tom Del Beccaro and Geoge (Duf) Sundheim, had a combined 11 percent, splintered three ways.

          If the undecideds eventually break in the same proportion as those who have already made up their minds, the November runoff contest will feature two Democrats and no Republicans, under the top two primary system that puts the two leading June vote-getters into a November faceoff.

          But this so-far-sleepy race will soon become more heated. Harris has taken criticism in the last two weeks for having her office represent Gov. Jerry Brown in his effort to keep secret more than 65 emails between him or his staff and the state Public Utilities Commission from 2013 and 2014, when the PUC was deciding who would pay for blunders and disasters at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co. that saw the 2012 closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the deadly 2010 San Bruno natural gas explosion.

          Consumer groups claim it’s a conflict of interest for Harris to represent Brown when he or his chief of staff, former PG&E lobbyist Nancy McFadden, might become witnesses in Harris’ ongoing criminal investigation of apparent PUC collusion with the big utilities.

          Outside ethics experts agree it’s a conflict, and you can bet Sanchez will hit Harris on it soon. Harris refused to comment, but her office released a statement claiming there’s an “ethical firewall” between lawyers investigating the PUC and those representing Brown.

          Sanchez, meanwhile, will take fire in this mostly liberal state for voting to give gun makers immunity from lawsuits when their products are used in crimes.

          But Sanchez is not shy about answering her critics. To those who blasted her for saying between 5 percent and 20 percent of Muslims would like to see a world-wide caliphate a la the terrorist Islamic State, she says, “Those are the numbers. No experts give a number under 20 percent. I’ve spent 20 years on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and visited many foreign Muslim leaders and they say it’s a huge worry for them. I was just at West Point and they talked about this. It’s in congressional testimony.”

          But Sanchez says she, like many voters, knows little about the three Republicans in the race. “I don’t know them and the voters don’t, either,” she said. So she believes she will survive past June and move on to a hot challenge of Harris and the Democratic Party establishment in the fall.

          “I think the San Francisco Democratic Party establishment clearly told people other than the San Franciscan to stay out,” she said, referring to Harris. That city’s establishment has dominated California politics in recent years, giving the state leaders like Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sens. Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney.

          Meanwhile, the three Republicans each hope to make it past June, but none has nearly as much campaign cash as either Harris or Sanchez.

          It adds up to a potentially fascinating race, and one sure to become fiery as mail balloting begins in mid-May.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Tuesday, April 19, 2016




          The revolving door in Sacramento is decisively alive and well today, but there’s also a move afoot to crimp it at least a little.

          Nancy McFadden, chief of staff for Gov. Jerry Brown, is not the first to use the cycle that sends so-called “public servants” on a continuous and connected path between lobbying and government, but her case is the latest cause célèbre.

          McFadden, an aide to Brown during the 1970s and early ‘80s, also worked for ex-Gov. Gray Davis and a was Bill Clinton Administration official in Washington, D.C., before going to work for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. There, she soon became senior vice president and senior advisor to the corporate chairman, representing the big utility in Sacramento.

          After taking a $1.04 million “golden handshake” from PG&E, she went back to work for Brown when he returned to the governor’s office in 2010. She also held onto her PG&E shares and stock options for more years after getting back into government. She’s a classic example of the revolving door, especially since her agreement to take the big parting gift from PG&E prohibited her doing anything detrimental to the company.

          Then there’s former Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, a Democrat who represented Fresno for five years before taking a lucrative Sacramento job lobbying for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA. That’s the main lobbying arm of drug companies often collectively called Big Pharma.

          And there are former state Sen. Michael Rubio of Shafter, another Democrat, who moved to a job with Chevron Corp., and Bill Emmerson, a sometime Republican state senator from Riverside County now with the California Hospital Assn.

          The ex-legislators play a different role than McFadden, who sits in an extremely strategic place for helping her ex-employer. The former lawmakers’ job is to influence their buddies and recent colleagues still serving as legislators. It’s not as direct a role as McFadden can play, but it’s still the revolving door. The ex-lawmakers must wait one year before they can officially schmooze other legislators, but no one can prohibit them from playing golf together or watching televised sports or hoisting a drink or two near the state Capitol.

          Until now, there’s been no move against this sort of thing, which goes on even more frequently and flagrantly in Washington, D.C.

          But now comes Republican state Sen. Andy Vidak of Hanford with an effort to at least delay influence peddling a bit. Even though it might be against the future financial interests of some of them, Democratic lawmakers ought not to give this effort the automatic heave-ho often inflicted upon GOP-sponsored bills in Sacramento.

          Vidak, elected by a margin of almost 10 percent in a swing district in 2014, proposes a ban on ex-legislators lobbying their former co-workers and the governor until the end of the first legislative session beginning after the lawmaker leaves office. For statewide officials like the governor or secretary of state, he would extend an existing lobbying ban from one year to two.

          For Perea, this would have forbidden formal lobbying until at least three years after his departure, as the first full legislative session after his resignation starts next January and lasts two years. That might have made him not quite as hot a property for Big Pharma, essentially adding two years to his schmoozing moratorium.

          This, said Vidak, could “discourage legislators from leaving office in the middle of their terms to take a lucrative…job, which often leads to a lucrative lobbying career.” He noted that special elections to replace departing lawmakers cost counties many millions of dollars, “money that would be better spent on critical local programs such as public safety, transportation or health.”

          Vidak notes that since term limits for legislators began in 1990, 58 special elections have been held for lawmakers who resigned in the midst of their terms. Many left after winning higher office, but some became lobbyists.

          In terms of good government, there’s no question Vidak’s bill represents improvement. But in terms of the financial futures of the legislators who will vote it up or down, it’s a downer. Which means this is one good idea not very likely to become reality, even though it should.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, the Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          In election after election, California officialdom has been frustrated by low levels of interest among eligible voters. Just when they were beginning to feel like they had tried almost everything, the obvious solutions to the problem appeared spontaneously:

 Give eligible Californians exciting, meaningful contests and they will turn out. When they feel their votes matter, they will fill out ballots, either at home or in polling booths.

That’s why, instead of wringing hands and whining about irresponsible voters not performing their important duty, all of a sudden this spring state election officials are worried about seeing too many voters.

          That’s the clear upshot of an appeal by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California’s top election official, for more money to stage the June primary. In April, he warned of a turnout “surge” and asked Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature for an additional $32 million to pay for more and fatter election guides for the November election, plus added funds to help counties cope with an anticipated flood of voters both then and in June.

          The two presidential nomination races have produced massive turnouts so far this year across the county, and Padilla realizes California will be the same – in fact it may see a higher percentage increase than anywhere else.

          One reason is that in recent pre-Donald Trump, pre-Bernard Sanders days, there was little excitement or pizzazz in the state’s elections for 10 years, since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last run for governor in 2006. Even then there wasn’t much of a contest, as Democratic rival Phil Angelides essentially got swamped.

          Likewise, there was virtually no contest in 2014, when turnout dropped almost 25 percent from the presidential election voting levels of 2012. In that vote, Brown easily beat his Republican rival Neel Kashkari, a former Federal Reserve banker who has since taken a new role in the national central bank.

          The extreme low 2014 turnout did two things, causing the number of signatures required for putting initiatives onto the ballot to drop by more than a quarter and pushing officialdom to consider desperate measures.

          That low vote is behind a current plan to automatically register any U.S. citizen getting a drivers’ license as a voter. It also explains proposals to allow online voting, despite the hackable history of allegedly secure computer systems from credit cards to government records and national security secrets.

          The real way to spur turnout isn’t anything risky like that. Rather, it’s to make elections meaningful. California legislators could begin by moving the state’s presidential primary up permanently to a slot just after New Hampshire. True, other states won’t like that, because candidates would have to spend time in California rather than the much smaller South Carolina or Minnesota or Tennessee, all among states that voted this year either in mid-February or early March.

          It’s long been a situation of the tail wagging the dog, as for the last 44 years – since George McGovern used California to win the 1972 Democratic nomination – no California presidential vote has meant much, until this year’s.

          The rare happenstance of no candidate being sufficiently appealing to seal a party nomination until the very last day of the primary season – if then – is the reason California’s vote suddenly emerged as important. That hadn’t happened in 44 years. So leave the state’s presidential primary in June and California will mostly likely wander another 40 years in the desert of irrelevancy.

          Not every nominating season will be as exciting as this one: For one thing, the White House is about to be vacated by its incumbent resident, so both parties are nominating now. For another, unique personalities like Trump and Sanders don’t come along in every election cycle.

          The implications of all this for routine elections around California are also clear. Match exciting candidates against each other and potential voters will become interested enough to become regular voters. Allow elections to be virtually uncontested, as many have been, and interest will wane. The same when voters get the sense that certain candidates appear to be anointed.

          The bottom line: When voters feel their ballots matter, they will make casting them a priority. When they don’t feel that way, voters won’t bother.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, April 11, 2016




          It now takes fewer valid signatures to qualify an initiative for a statewide vote than at any time in the last 20 years – 365,880, almost 150,000 less than just two years ago.

          This fact, caused by the extreme low turnout in the midterm election of 2014, led many so-called experts to assume voters would be dealing with blanket-length ballots this fall. The November ballot will in fact be long and filled with interesting issues – not to mention colorful candidates. But the list of propositions will set no records this year despite the seeming ease of qualifying them.

          One reason: the plethora of initiatives put forward over the last 18 months has created intense competition for signatures, driving prices paid to petition carriers to near-record levels.

          If there’s one thing this clearly demonstrates, it is that a process originally designed more than 100 years ago to allow grass-roots action has more than ever become the domain of big-money interests. That’s what it means when the bounties paid for valid voter signatures rise to the $4 and $5 range, where they are today. At five bucks per John Henry, it costs almost $2 million to put a measure on the ballot, even if the number of signatures needed is relatively low. Not everyone has that kind of money, even if it only costs $200 to submit a prospective measure for naming and authorization to circulate.

          So…There will be no vote this fall on whether to require parents to be notified if their under-18 daughter(s) seek to get an abortion. This plan has failed in two other statewide votes, but anti-abortion activists wanted to give it another shot until they ran out of money.

          The notion of California declaring itself a sovereign nation (or almost) also won’t make the ballot, even if the idea is fun to contemplate. Nor will the notion of calling the state’s chief executive a president rather than a mere governor.

          There will be no vote on raising the homeowner’s property tax exemption. Nor will voters get to decide whether or not to ban sales or consumption of shellfish like shrimp. And there will be no attempt to raise some property taxes, as opponents of the landmark 1978 Proposition 13 have long sought. The Legislature will not be expanded by 100-fold, either.

Neither will there be a vote on using bullet train bond money for water projects.

          It’s uncertain whether Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to give judges more discretion in sentencing convicts will make the ballot. His petition carriers are reportedly getting $5 for each valid name they submit, eating up chunks of the huge war chest Brown retained after his low-budget, low-profile 2014 reelection campaign. But it is almost certain that one or more proposals to legalize recreational marijuana growing and use will get to a vote. And that a proposed 12-year extension of the tax increases passed in 2012 as Proposition 30 will make the ballot.

          Already on that ballot are measures to require use of condoms in all pornographic films shot in California, an expansion of a Los Angeles County law, and $9 billion in planned school bonds, much to be used for increased programming and not merely for construction.

          There was to be a vote on a gradual increase to $15 in the minimum hourly wage, but sponsoring labor unions withdrew that one after they made a deal with Brown and key legislators. One reason lawmakers were so glad to reach that agreement: multiple millions earmarked for a campaign around the minimum wage will probably now flow to political candidates. But no one is abandoning the fight over a proposal forbidding Medi-Cal and other state agencies from paying more than the federal Veterans Administration for prescription drugs.

          Also on the ballot, but placed there by legislators, is a measure to modify and virtually eliminate the ban on bilingual education passed handily by voters in 1998 as Proposition 227.

          Some have called all this a perversion of the initiative process, but if it is, it’s a distortion that began when payments for petition signatures became common in the 1970s. Attempts to ban those payments have been ruled unconstitutional several times, so if there’s to be reform, it will have to take some other form.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          Travel back in time to the mid-1980s, when California’s insurance rates for both cars and property were nearly the highest in America and climbing fast. Back then, the state insurance commissioner, who could have stopped much of the price acceleration, was appointed by the governor.

          Then, in 1988, a consumer group called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and its leader, attorney Harvey Rosenfield, changed all that. The group ran the Proposition 103 ballot initiative and turned the insurance commissioner into an elected official. Bingo! Since then, California insurance rates have risen slower than those in any other state, but coverage remains as good as anywhere.

          The corruption and safety scandals of the last few years demonstrate that it’s high time to regulate utility companies in this state as firmly as insurance companies, and to make utility regulators responsible to the public and the voters just like the elected insurance commissioner.

          For today, with California’s electric and gas utility prices eighth highest in the nation, trailing only the inaccessible likes of Alaska and Hawaii, plus a few northeastern states like New York and Connecticut, utility rates are climbing as fast as insurance premiums once did.

          No one can doubt anymore that Californians are beset by flawed utility regulation which even now favors big energy distributors over their customers. Corruption scandals come thick and fast for the state’s Public Utilities Commission, with power over both electric and gas rates and the safety of pipelines and power plants.

          So this commission has failed abysmally, especially in recent years when lax regulation allowed disasters like the recent months-long methane gas leak at Porter Ranch in Los Angeles, the 2012 failure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the fatal 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno. In each case decided so far, consumers have had to foot most of the bills for the shortcomings and blunders of their energy suppliers.

          But Gov. Jerry Brown, who appointed all five present utility commissioners, says not a negative word about his appointees past for present, nor has he tried to rein them in, even after some admitted conflicts of interest. In the last two years, about the only thing he’s had to say about the PUC came when former commission President Michael Peevey left office in disgrace at the end of  2014, just after his collusion with Southern California Edison Co. on who would pay for the San Onofre closure was proven. “At least he got things done,” Brown observed.

          Yes, and Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time.

          The PUC’s most recent pro-utility move: It refused even to read a request from the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group for a public investigation into the Porter Ranch gas leak, which forced a months-long evacuation of about 4,000 families. This was a blatant violation of the California constitution, which guarantees the right to petition public officials.

          In a sane world, all this would lead to taking the PUC down a peg or three from its exalted position, where members cannot be dismissed even by the governor who appointed them and their decisions can’t be questioned in ordinary courts.

          “This is as bad or worse than things were with insurance rates,” says Rosenfield, who still often represents Consumer Watchdog (new name of the outfit he started). “We need to make the PUC accountable to the public and not a puppet of the governor. Commissioners need to understand they work for consumers, not the utilities.”

          Added Jamie Court, now head of Consumer Watchdog, “I would like to recall the current commissioners, but that can’t be done. There’s no doubt the corruption at the PUC would not exist if commissioners were elected, or if there were just one elected commissioner.”

          So Court says he would support a 2018 initiative making the state’s utility regulator(s) elected, and would run the campaign for it “if we can raise enough money.” He says any such measure, like Proposition 103, would also need to impose other rules to open all records to the public and to make rate-case hearings more accessible.

          With a governor unwilling to say, let alone do, anything about the corrupt commissioners he’s appointed, the time has arrived for voters to take things into their own hands.

     Email Thomas Elias at Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Thursday, April 7, 2016




          There will likely be fights this fall over taxes, marijuana, education, water and possibly campaign donations. But if Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to reduce prison populations even farther by easing parole standards reaches the ballot, the biggest battle might be over crime.

          A major dispute already rages around the state over whether the combination of Brown’s prison realignment program and the 2014 Proposition 47 easing of crime standards has produced a large increase in criminal conduct.

          Realignment, forced on Brown by federal courts at the highest levels, put tens of thousands of former prisoners back on the streets, subject only to parole, in order to cut the prison populace to human levels. Proposition 47, passed by a 3-2 margin in 2014, reduced non-violent felonies like drug possession and thefts valued under $950 to misdemeanors, effectively leaving free almost anyone committing those crimes.

          One result seen this spring in an affluent Los Angeles suburb: A squatter with two prior felony convictions lived for weeks in a van parked behind a temporarily vacant house while he was on parole for a third, lesser, offense. He was eventually evicted by five gun-toting policemen and arrested for a parole violation. This repeat felon was not even held overnight. He returned to the backyard early the next morning, not even subject to arraignment for his latest brush with the law.

          “That’s just the state of the justice system these days,” said a detective on the eviction detail. “It’s essentially a revolving door.”

          Chances are it will become an even faster one if Brown should succeed with his proposal to end the firm determinate sentencing system he helped set up place during his first turn as governor in the 1970s. Brown says he will spend a good chunk of the $24 million in campaign funds he has on hand to undo his earlier action.

          The big question raised by his initiative campaign: Does the current revolving door for most crimes create increased danger? One corollary question: Do Californians pay for the many millions in prison cost savings with a reduction in citizen safety?

          The claim is widespread around California that the combination of realignment and Proposition 47 has not led to increased crime. A report presented to Orange County supervisors the other day claimed that one-fourth of the 8,000 felons so far released into that county by realignment have been convicted of another crime in the year after their release. Just over one-third offended again within two years.

          Those high rates, the report said, were just about identical to prior recidivism rates, meaning mass prisoner releases did not change much in that county.

          “Is California more dangerous as a result of realignment?” asked UC Irvine Prof. Charis Kubrin, co-editor of the study. “The answer is no.”

          But other statistics look different. Preliminary data released by the FBI about the same time as that study indicate crime increased in many California cities over the last four years.

          Among the 25 largest U.S. cities, three in California – San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles – had the three highest increases in per capita property crime rates during the first half of 2015, the most recent period for which numbers are available. In San Francisco, property crime rose by 667 cases per 100,000 population from the previous year. The increase in Long Beach was 146.5  property crimes per 100,000 and in Los Angeles just a hair less, at 144.9 more.

          The increase in violent crimes was not quite as sharp. Sacramento led the nation with an uptick of 77 violent crimes per 100,000 population during those six months. Los Angeles was third with a rise of 54.1 per 100,000 and Long Beach fifth with 45.8 more violent crimes per 100,000.

          Those numbers suggest to some in law enforcement that it makes no sense to ease sentencing further. The Public Policy Institute of California, which previously had issued a report saying crime in the state had not changed much, called the FBI numbers “discouraging.”

          Said Marc Debbaudt, immediate past president of the Association of Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys, “One thing is certain, the victims…represented by increasing crime rates will surely use a harsher word than (discouraging) to describe the soaring crime rate.”

          All of which foretells a ferocious fall battle over crime if Brown’s measure reaches the ballot.        

      Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit





          When they finally acted after months of dithering about increasingly frequent acts of anti-Semitism on their campuses, there was little doubt the University of California’s Board of Regents at long last did the right thing.

          Now action will be up to university administrators, who usually have done nothing in response to overtly anti-Jewish acts on campus.

          The regents struck a middle ground by banning frankly anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric, but left the door open for protesting Israel’s government policies, while also forbidding “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.”

          That last clause was especially needed after new national research showed campuses with the greatest number of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist protests also had the highest numbers of plain old anti-Semitic acts, like tagging swastikas onto Jewish fraternities or religious buildings and outright bigotry toward Jewish students. The study was conducted for the Amcha Initiative, which fights campus anti-Semitism.

          Regent Norman Pattiz, a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame who inserted the words “anti-Semitic forms of” into the university’s new policy when objections arose to a flat ban on anti-Zionistic acts and words, told a reporter “This is just Jews standing up for ourselves during a period where instances of anti-Semitism continue to be reported on college campuses.”

          Pattiz is right to imply that UC is far from alone in the trend toward anti-Jewish on-campus behavior. Northwestern University rated as the campus with the most such incidents. But four UC branches were among the top ten, with Berkeley second.

          One reason for this has been inaction by campus administrators. Now that the Regents who are their supposed bosses have declared that “Anti-Semitism…and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California,” no one knows what chancellors and deans who actually run the campuses will do. The same for UC President Janet Napolitano, who delayed the anti-Semitism resolution for months.

          Suggesting administrators might not take the Regents’ resolution seriously was their lack of immediate reaction to it. Contrast, for example, the lack of significant action by university officials on the anti-Semitism measure with what they’re doing about sexual harassment, also a big problem at UC, where one alleged case last month led to the firing of a top Berkeley assistant basketball coach.

          “Sexual violence is a serious crime that we will never tolerate,” said Napolitano. “We aim to be the national leader in combating sexual violence on campus.”

          She then created a task force to prevent sex offences on her system’s 10 campuses. She also ordered monthly personal reports from Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

          She did nothing like that in response to the new anti-Semitism policy, the most explicit such statement from any college governing board in America. So the Regents acted to fill the action vacuum. Last fall, they scuttled Napolitono’s earlier, toothless proposed anti-intolerance policy, setting the scene for the tougher one just adopted.

          This time the Regents set themselves up in a monitoring role normally delegated to campus officials, demanding regular reports from each campus on actions taken to prevent or respond to anti-Semitic outbreaks.

          Pattiz said the governing board deliberately left the phrase “anti-Semitism” undefined “so that campuses can handle cases as they (see) fit.” There’s also no list of quid-pro-quos, no prescription for responding in specific ways to particular acts.

          Napolitano offered no explanation on why she didn’t act similarly to her move against sexual harassment, when it’s plain UC should tolerate neither that nor anti-Semitism.

          Pattiz, said he has no problem with debates about what Zionism is or should be, but that UC should not put up with shouted epithets like “Zionist pigs” or exhortations to send all Zionists to gas chambers, both of which are redolent of classic anti-Semitic comments and actions. Both are among chants and graffiti seen and heard on UC campuses.

          Regents, then, were making it plain they’ve had enough inaction. They appear to be hinting to administrators that if they don’t act, someone might take actions affecting them, even including campus chancellors.

          All of which puts the ball squarely in the court of chancellors and deans who have wrung their hands about campus anti-Semitism while doing little. Now they know they’ll have to act or be held responsible, even if it wasn’t Napolitano telling them this, as she plainly could and should do.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit