Monday, October 30, 2017




          It’s not by accident that Jeff Denham, David Valadao, Devin Nunes, Ed Royce, Mimi Walters, Darrell Issa, Dana Rohrabacher and Steve Knight, all California Republicans now in Congress, have survived and thrived through multiple terms in spite of frequent indicators that they were endangered in their very disparate districts.

          Democrats downplay this political and personal reality this fall, as they gear up for hotly contested primary contests where the prize is the opportunity to take on one of those Republicans.

          The assumption among most Democrats is that because of sometimes-looney behavior and words by President Trump, next fall will see many, many Democratic victories, perhaps enough for them to take back the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, when Republicans won a sweeping majority.

          The GOP margin now stands at 241 members to 194, after Democrats gained six seats in 2016, still falling 47 shy of taking over. That means Democrats must flip 24 seats next year to regain control of the House, and they see most of those eight sometimes embattled California Republicans as ripe for the ousting.

          The have no such illusions about this state’s six other Republicans in Congress: the likes of Tom McClintock, Paul Cook, Doug LaMalfa, Kevin McCarthy, Ken Calvert and Duncan Hunter all appear safe from any sudden Democratic storm because they represent essentially rock-ribbed Republican districts. Not even their votes to kill Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act whose health insurance covers many thousands in their districts – are enough to threaten any of them.

          But things seem different in those other eight districts, one reason why multiple hopefuls have risen up in almost all those places in hopes of taking on long-established incumbents like Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Democrat Hillary Clinton carried his 39th District straddling parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties in 2016, putting a target on Royce’s back for the first time in many years.

          Rohrabacher’s coastal Orange County district was also long considered safely Republican, but his reputation as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “favorite congressman” renders him unusually vulnerable next year. Still, Rohrabacher has often won with very large margins, and the several Democrats seeking to take him on next November would be foolish to assume he’s a lame duck.

          The same for Issa, whose district covering parts of northern San Diego County and southern Orange County was long a safe GOP area. True, he won reelection by just 1,600 votes last year, the smallest margin of any Republican in Congress, but his car-alarm fortune has so far provided all the funds he’s needed to repel threats once he took them seriously. Issa, reputedly the richest man in Congress, is clearly scared. Yes, he voted for Obamacare repeal, along with all his California colleagues, but he also plumped for a plan of his own offering all Americans the same health insurance options open to members of Congress.

          He’s moderated other of his stances lately, too, becoming more of a physical presence in his district than he’s perhaps ever been.

          Meanwhile, the huge Latino pluralities in the Central Valley districts of Denham, Nunes and Valadao have never seriously threatened any of them, but could this time because of their health care votes. Nunes, the committee chairman,  also could be dogged by his forced recusal from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian involvement in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

          And Knight, a narrow winner last time in his Palmdale-Santa Clarita district, will face at least as formidable a challenge next year as in his last campaign, itself a close call, even though it’s uncertain who will be his runoff opponent.

          Each of these races is different, but all have the common theme of voters possibly wanting to crimp Trump’s power, while other voters will not forgive the incumbents for their health care votes.

          Still, every one of these Republicans has faced concerted opposition before, and none has lost yet. If Democrats assume they can easily oust any or all of them, they could be in for a surprise and another national defeat.

    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





          As disastrous and deadly wildfires raged through once-lovely residential areas in the Wine Country and other Northern California points this fall, there were signs that the aftermath could play out similarly to a scene that began almost exactly 10 years earlier in Southern California.

          Loud claims were heard this time that negligent maintenance of power lines and poles, together with insufficient brush cutting near them by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., were among reasons for the fast spread of those flames, which consumed well over 8,000 homes and buildings and took several dozen lives.

          If that’s ever proven, one state senator demanded, PG&E should be broken up. Said Democrat Jerry Hill of San Mateo, a persistent thorn in utilities’ sides, “If we find that in this particular case – and we don’t know the cause yet – then frankly I don’t think PG&E should do business in California any more,” he said. “They’ve crossed the line too many times,” he added, referring to the company’s federal negligence conviction in the multi-fatal 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. “They would need to be dissolved in some way, split.”

          Suspicions against PG&E result in part from what happened in October 2007, when winds up to 100 mph whipped arcing power lines owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Co., eventually starting a small fire near Ramona, in eastern San Diego County. Known as the Witch Creek Fire, this blaze grew exponentially and reached the San Diego city limits. It combined with two other fires, and burned down whole neighborhoods. More than 1,125 residences were destroyed as at least 197,000 acres burned in some of California’s highest-priced neighborhoods.

          Like this fall, evacuations were ordered over the almost three weeks those fires burned in cities like Oceanside and Encinitas, Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe and the heavily afflicted Rancho Bernardo. The evacuations eventually involved about half a million persons, still the largest ever in this state.

          But nothing untoward happened to SDG&E afterward. In fact, the state Public Utilities Commission right now is evaluating a rate case that could have consumers pay 90 percent of the utility’s $379 million in fire-related costs. The PUC’s long history of favoring utilities over consumers suggests the company will get at least a good part of what it’s asking.

          Like PG&E, the San Diego company is obliged to serve fire-prone areas, so it says having customers pay 90 percent of its costs is consistent with past PUC  rulings involving hazardous wastes and other problems.

          If PG&E’s equipment is eventually found to be a proximate cause for this year’s hugely destructive fires, don’t bet on it being punished any more heavily than it was over San Bruno, even if there proves to be truth to allegations that PG&E has helped stall a PUC effort to map where power lines pose the greatest wildfire risks.

          One newspaper’s review of documents from that mapping project showed utilities have repeatedly asked to slow down the effort, saying some proposed regulations would “add unnecessary costs to construction and maintenance projects in rural areas.”

           “The sad part,” Hill told one reporter, “is the (maps) didn’t arrive before these fires…It’s an outrageous example of negligence by a regulatory agency.”

          For sure, with knowledge from the Witch Creek Fire long in hand, there should have been no delays in mapping utility line danger points all around California and forcing power companies to mitigate them. But that didn’t happen, and the strict new regulations likely to follow completion of the maps do not yet exist.

          Meanwhile, PG&E officials weren’t saying much about these issues, instead insisting they’ve focused on restoring power to the hundreds of thousands of residents who lost electricity and natural gas service during the Northern California firestorms.

          The bottom line is that the PUC will most likely be exposed again as lax in its regulation of major utilities in this state. It’s probably too late in Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to expect him to suddenly start pressuring the commission to change course. But the next governor, to be elected in just under one year, should push major reforms, possibly even press to make PUC members elected officials and not political appointees.

    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, October 23, 2017




          Pity the poor California Republican Party. While its national brethren control both houses of Congress and the White House and might as well control the U.S. Supreme Court, chances are no California Republican will even make next November’s ballot in either of the top-of-ticket races
whose outcome will be known about one year from today.

          It’s quite the opposite for California Democrats, who exert even more control here than Republicans do in Washington, D.C. While it looks like the next year will be dreary for the state GOP, trying desperately to hold onto the meager 14 California congressional seats it now holds, multiple Democrats lead all polls and fundraising in the race to become California’s next governor – perhaps the second most powerful job in America. So far, only Democrats are among major prospects to oppose longtime California Democratic grandee Dianne Feinstein for the Senate seat she’s long held in what promises to become a classic intraparty spat.

          Even in down-the-ticket races, it’s similar. Example: It now looks like the November runoff for attorney general will match the appointed incumbent Xavier Becerra and current state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who did not flinch or drop out when Gov. Jerry Brown last year named veteran Congressman Becerra to replace new Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris.

          No significant Republican candidate has yet risen for any statewide office except governor, where Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen and Republican businessman John Cox both hope ballot initiative fights can propel them to the ballot.

          Allen seeks to ride a tide he believes will lead to repeal of the state’s new environmentally-motivated gasoline tax increase, while Cox is again pushing a measure that would expand the Legislature a thousandfold.

          No one knows yet if either putative proposition will draw the fervent support these men hope for, but others have ridden initiatives into office, an example being ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, who attached himself to the 1994 Proposition 187, which aimed to take almost all privileges away from undocumented immigrants, including emergency room service and public schooling. Most of its provisions were later tossed out by federal courts, but the vast majority of the 65 percent of Californians who backed 187 also voted for Wilson as he beat former state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, sister of the current governor.

          Because both Allen and Cox have polled in the vicinity of 8 percent in every major survey, if Republicans want a spot on the gubernatorial runoff ballot, they will likely need to convince one or the other to bow out. Things could get even tougher for them if Chad Mayes, the former leader of GOP members of the state Assembly, makes good on a hint he will also run.

In the land of political egos, though, it can be difficult to get determined candidates to quit a race merely out of party loyalty. Meanwhile, both leading Democrats in the race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, poll at least as much as Cox and Allen together. In the land of Top Two primaries, that almost guarantees an all-Democrat race even if one Republican drops out.

          Over on the Senate side, only Democrats so far have mounted anything like credible early campaigns against Feinstein. There is as yet no public polling on this race, but no Republican figure with name recognition akin to what Kevin de Leon acquired during three years leading the state Senate has entered the race. Meanwhile, Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer, mulling a Senate run, can write himself a check for however much he wants or needs.

          It’s true that largely self-funded candidates aside from muscleman movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger have not had much luck seeking California office. The defeated include former Northwest Airlines chief Al (Checkbook) Checchi, financier William Simon, Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and shipping heir William Matson Roth.

          Unlike them, Steyer, with the large mailing list of his NextGen environmental organization readily at hand, would have no trouble raising significant money from others.

          Put it all together, and it looks like many California Republicans will be mostly occupied in the next year staving off congressional challenges fueled by massive California hostility toward President Trump and anyone backing his agenda.

          This should keep the races for top offices largely in the hands of Democrats, who could have major intra-party warfare.

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. His email address is 




          The California Public Utilities Commission now says it wants closure on its most contentious, most questionable decision of the last few decades.

This comes more than four years after a clandestine meeting between the commission’s then-president Michael Peevey and officials of the Southern California Edison Co. set parameters for “settling” the division of costs for shutting down the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, on the coast near the Orange-San Diego county line.

          The so-called settlement among the PUC, Edison, San Onofre part-owner San Diego Gas & Electric and a so-called consumer group called The Utility Reform Network (TURN) saddled electricity customers with about 70 per cent of the expense of the 2012 shutdown, caused by an Edison blunder. That came to $3.3 billion out of the $4.7 billion total cost.

          Edison tried to recoup some costs of the shutdown by suing the maker of the failed steam generator that caused the problem, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for hundreds of millions. But the utility won only a fraction of what it sought. So a promise in the San Onofre settlement giving half the lawsuit proceeds to consumers became essentially meaningless.

          Even before that court decision, the commission in May 2016 conceded there may have been something fishy about the decision spurred by that secret meeting, which violated even the PUC’s own loose rules.

          It’s taken since then for the commission to schedule a new set of public hearings – the first ever in the case – at which consumers and others can speak out about the possibly illegal settlement, which came before any hearings on the issue could be held.

          “This matter is long overdue for resolution,” wrote current PUC President Michael Picker and PUC Judge Darcie Houck in the order setting up the hearings.

          You don’t say, Mr. Picker. Picker, then merely one of the five commission members, voted for the settlement, never saying whether he knew of the irregular meeting between Edison and Peevey, not coincidentally a former Edison president. He’s refused ever since to divulge why he voted yes.

          Now ordinary citizens can at last speak out. Between now and the end of January, opinions and new information can be sent to the PUC public advisor at 505 Van Ness St., San Francisco, CA 94102. Public hearings start in Los Angeles in February, with more the next month in San Diego. A supposedly final PUC decision will come later.

          Clearly, the commission wants this stain on its record to fade away at last, after it has inflamed public opinion about the agency for years. At the same time, Edison and SDG&E will fight to keep the settlement as is.

          The PUC also wants closure on the related criminal investigation that’s been hanging over it since subpoenas and search warrants were issued and carried out against it and Peevey in early 2014 because of their actions in this case.

The investigation began under former Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a U.S. senator, and may have continued under her appointed successor Xavier Becerra. Becerra’s office has refused to answer questions from this column and others about the investigation, not even indicating whether it is still ongoing.

          “The Attorney General’s office has sent mixed signals concerning the status of its investigation,” griped PUC lawyer Pamela Naughton in a court filing.

          Naughton is among the private criminal lawyers hired by the PUC at public expense of more than $10 million because it was up against the attorney general, who normally represents the commission. Neither the PUC nor anyone else has ever cited any law allowing the PUC to hire private lawyers with public money to defend actions by individual commissioners or staffers. This may be another PUC scandal waiting to break.

          But Naughton, no matter the legality of her retainer, is correct that the public deserves to know whether there is still an investigation. After all, no one has yet been punished, even though the sometimes comedic PUC did absurdly fine Edison $16 million in 2015 for not reporting meetings with the commission’s own members.

          The bottom line: Closure is long overdue on San Onofre, but not at the expense of whitewashing any part of this plainly unjust use of public authority and funds.

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. His email address is

Monday, October 16, 2017




          President Trump might want to play ostrich about climate change and place his head in the sand near his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida whenever the subject comes up, much the same pose he adopted toward white supremacists after their notorious rally in Charlottesville, VA.

          Regardless of his pose, there can no longer be any doubt that man-made, worldwide climate change is greatly affecting California and will affect it much more in the next half century unless there’s major action.

          It’s not merely the five-year drought this state endured before record rains replenished water supplies last winter. It’s not merely the run of record-level temperatures much of the state experienced last summer or the blast furnace of this month’s deadly, devastating fires in the Wine Country and elsewhere. And it’s not just the threat of low-lying coastal areas suffering repeated and perhaps permanent flooding if climate change persists.

          Even more pernicious are future prospects if the warming trend continues to be worst in equatorial areas. That could drive new waves of illegal immigration as residents of Central America, Mexico and the north coast of South America look northward, where the hotter temperatures California is already experiencing would look positively balmy.

          That’s when the “invasion of illegals” so often invoked by many of the far-right politicians and pundits who also deny climate change could become very real. In fact, the Pentagon reportedly long ago began war-gaming a variety of scenarios for beating back waves of immigrants attempting to storm U.S. borders when extreme heat drives them from their homelands of thousands of years.

          But this kind of extreme human event isn’t likely for decades to come.

          The far more immediate prospect is outlined in a new National Climate Assessment leaked to the New York Times by federal scientists who feared Trump administration climate change deniers would suppress it.

          The assessment, required by law every four years, was written in part by independent academics and scientists who have since left U.S. agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department as the Trump appointees now heading them accelerate efforts to subvert the intended purposes of those organizations.

          Here’s what the report sees for California, which may not be as seriously affected as some other parts of the world:

          Average annual temperature will rise across California by more than four degrees over 50 years if the current acceleration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues. If there is no action to stabilize temperatures, they will likely increase by as much as 10 degrees here by this century’s end.

          That would have major impacts on almost all areas of California life. It could reverse current trends toward increased population in inland areas where temperatures are highest and real estate prices lowest.

          It would likely spur major flooding in coastal areas currently at sea level, including places like Venice Beach, Malibu and much of the Orange and San Diego county coast. That would raise the price of already high-priced housing on nearby bluffs and hilltops.

          The federal report, produced by 13 agencies and approved by the National Academy of Sciences, says these trends may already be underway.

          “One of the clearest signals…is that California is already a warmer place than it used to be,” Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist whose work is mentioned in the study, told a reporter. “That’s not a future prediction anymore.”

          But President Trump’s appointees appear determined to prevent any action. Yes, California is fighting to stick with its climate change initiatives, like a strong mandate for renewable energy sources and tough auto and industrial emissions standards. But any good that does will be overwhelmed by gases the rest of the nation might produce if Trump appointees persist in delaying or canceling limits on coal-fueled power plants and other polluters.

          And there will be more drought. “It’s very clear that temperatures (here) are increasing the risk of severe drought,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University scientist. “During the recent drought,” he noted, the state had its warmest years ever, with its warmest winters and its lowest recorded snowpack. “These are all linked with high temperatures.”

          So it’s not merely at his own peril that Trump ignores the danger – yes, Mar-a-lago could become a flooding victim. But the consequences also figure to damage many other parts of the nation Trump now leads. As he might say, “sad.”


     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, go to





          They see her as road-kill, the younger California Democrats hovering over longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this month just before and just after she announced her bid for election to a sixth term.

          “She no longer reflects the experiences or core values of Californians…and she isn’t willing to step up and lead on resisting (President) Trump…” went one endorsing statement approved by state Senate President Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who will be termed out of his current job next year. Would he OK anything similar if Feinstein were 64, not 84?

The relative youngsters (aged 60 and under) might be surprised when  Feinstein turns out to be as fierce as a mother bear whose young have been threatened once her reelection campaign gets going. Her cubs: the things she says still need doing – ending gun violence, combating climate change and ensuring access to healthcare.

Feinstein is anything but new to challenge. Once a little-known San Francisco supervisor, she witnessed the 1978 City Hall assassinations of then-Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights icon, by another supervisor, Dan White.

Under horrendous circumstances, Feinstein assumed the mayor’s office by virtue of being the county board president. Her career in major office has lasted almost 40 years. She’s done it with achievement, from stabilizing the traumatized San Francisco to sponsoring new women’s rights, championing environmental and gun controls and crusading against government-sponsored torture.

Past achievement apparently means little to de Leon and others in her party; earlier this year, they almost handed its state chairmanship to a community organizer from Richmond who’s done little to make the party the dominant force it is today in California.

Feinstein, those folks claim, is a “DINO,” Democrat in name only, the abbreviation itself imitating Republicans who deride the few moderates in their own party as RINOs, Republicans in name only.

“On the big issues of our time, she’s been on the wrong side…,” griped Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna before Feinstein formally declared, failing to name a single objectionable vote in her last two terms. Neither did de Leon. Translation: Feinstein is too old for them. Khanna, of course, won his seat two years ago largely by making and issue of the age (75) of veteran Rep. Mike Honda.

The younger Democrats forget Feinstein pioneered women’s rights, that she stood almost alone against torture during the George W. Bush administration, protected abortion rights and large swaths of the California desert with equal fervor, while helping create several national monuments in the state. They pooh-pooh her decades of steadfast fighting for gun control, saying she hasn’t been tough enough. Plus they forget how strongly she’s fought climate change.

On all those issues, Feinstein has been tough enough to get things done by working with Republicans in the Senate, rather than so adamant that all GOP senators would reject anything she says – as they now do with the far younger California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris. Harris, as it happens, quickly endorsed Feinstein for reelection, just as Feinstein was one of her early 2016 endorsers. Harris also contradicted de Leon.

“Since joining the Senate, I have found few better allies in our fight to stop the radical agenda of Donald Trump than Dianne,” said Harris.

De Leon began his campaign by blasting Feinstein for suggesting that given some time, Trump might become reasonable. And after this month’s Las Vegas massacre, he tore into her for being soft on gun control – at virtually the same moment she introduced the first bill banning bump stocks like those used in that attack.

Nor does Feinstein’s record mollify potential candidate Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund mogul who is the national Democratic Party’s biggest donor and founded the NextGen organization to combat climate change.

“It is clear for all to see,” Steyer wrote a month after Feinstein’s August remarks on Trump, “there is zero reason to believe he can be a good president.”

Chances are Feinstein will match up next fall against one of those two, in the second consecutive all-Democrat Senate runoff election, no major Republican having yet stepped forward.

Then California voters can decide if they want bombast or achievement, a loud voice unlikely to get much done or someone who gets results even if she has some gray hairs.

    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, October 2, 2017




          Back in 2002, when California set its first statewide renewable energy goals, the petroleum industry and others said it would be impossible for 20 percent of all electricity to come from solar, wind, hydro power and other forms of green energy by 2017 – now.  But that goal was achieved long ago, with the state now getting well over 25 percent of its energy from renewables, and far more on many days.

          Then the goal was upped under former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to 33 percent by 2020, a mark that will easily be surpassed well in advance of the deadline. Again, that’s after industry said it would be impossible.

          Now those same natural gas and oil interests claim a legislative bill setting a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045 is unattainable. The bill was held up in committee last summer, but seems certain to be back in January’s new session.

          This whole scenario is reminiscent of resistance steadily provided by carmakers as California gradually cut its automotive emission standards over the decades starting in the 1970s. Each time a new standard was proposed, General Motors, Ford, Toyota and others resisted, claiming they just couldn’t do it.

          But they did it somehow, and in the process California and the world acquired a huge fleet of hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid cars, cutting gasoline consumption and cleaning many thousands of tons of smog from the air.

          There’s absolutely no reason to believe things will be any different in electricity generating than they have been with cars. Rather, there’s room for a lot of optimism.

          For example, long before the deadline for 50 percent of power to come from green sources, California in May experienced several days when more than 60 percent of its electricity came from such places. This figure did not even include energy from hydroelectric dams, one of the greenest of power sources.

          That period of sunny days enabling full use of both solar thermal arrays and photovoltaic panels demonstrated that the 2020 goal is well within reach and will be achieved despite all the industry whining when the goal was set.

          Another milestone came on March 11, when for a span of three hours, solar power alone met about half of all electricity demand across the state.

          All this makes it wholly sensible for the Legislature to adopt the 100 percent-renewables-by-2045 standard. The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon passed the Senate before getting delayed in the Assembly, where industry pressure can be stronger and more effective.

          One objection is that green energy often costs more than conventional power produced in California mainly from gas-fired generating plants. This is correct, but costs figure to drop as the scale of renewable energy production increases. The state will also need to develop better battery technology to store power produced by solar and wind facilities and not let it dissipate before it can be added to the overall power grid.

          And when the clean-power goals become reality, excess solar capacity could be re-purposed and used the way “peaker” power plants are now – fired up during times of the heaviest electricity use on the hottest summer days when the grid is taxed nearly to its capacity.

          The benefits, besides fighting climate change at a time when President Trump’s administration seems to want to encourage it, include things like tens of thousands of new jobs, less smog, less carbon pollution and more diversity in overall energy supplies, making California less and less dependent on foreign sources.

          This will come about through massive building projects, a process now well under way as the state has more than doubled renewable energy installations over the last four years, according to the California Energy Commission.

          Like zero emission electric and hydrogen cars, 100 percent renewable energy is an idea whose time has plainly come, no matter what the owners and fuelers of increasingly outmoded traditional energy sources may claim.


    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




          The well-documented corruption in various wings of California state government shows few signs of abating soon:

          Even though Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest questionable appointees to the state’s powerful Public Utilities Commission have been held up, no one has yet been penalized for several fix-is-in decisions there that are costing consumers billions of dollars.

          Energy Commission members who handed out many millions of dollars in hydrogen highway grants to cronies with conflicts of interest weren’t punished; they were reappointed.

          Nothing happened to University of California President Janet Napolitano and her aides who accumulated a $175 million slush fund while students were assessed about that same amount in tuition increases.

          And so on.

          Ask any of the three candidates now leading the polls in the run for governor about all this and you get encomiums to Brown and blanket vows to end corruption, but nothing specific and no sign that any of them understands the extent of sleaziness in state agencies.

          Said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor who has led the polls since the run to replace Brown began, “I will not be known for being timid about this or anything else. Gov. Brown says reform is overrated; I say it’s underrated.”

          Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, running second, noted that “As mayor, my very first executive direction was that city commissioners could not raise money for me or for city council members. Historically, it’s been the opposite.

          “I believe transparency in government is critical, especially in a time when people don’t trust the government, any government.”

          Noting that members of the state PUC cannot be fired during their six-year terms, even by the governor who appointed them, Villaraigosa added that “We should look at the ability of the governor to fire PUC members. I had zero tolerance for corruption on any city commission and that’s how I would be in state government, too.”

          And state Treasurer John Chiang, a former state controller best known for withholding pay from state legislators when they were late approving a budget, said, “The governor needs to set the high ground on matters of government integrity. We need to hold people accountable. When I’m governor and we find instances of corruption, people will get due process, but they will be responsible for what they and their agencies do.”

          Chiang, however, noted that a mere accusation of corruption doesn’t mean it occurred. He had some recent experience in this area, when the Sacramento Bee in August reported that a panel he chairs called the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee gave credits and funding to affordable housing builders who contributed to his campaign fund. That committee also includes state Controller Betty Yee and the state finance director, appointed by Brown.

          “That was untrue and utterly irresponsible (by the Bee),” Chiang declared. “It was sloppy journalism. Every credit approved during my two-and-a-half years on the committee has been based on a mathematical formula, with professional staff scoring this based on amenities and other features (of the planned housing). The three-members followed staff recommendations in every single case. No one deviated from the formula. I’ve worked hard to keep things completely fair.”

          But none of these candidates spoke specifically about any of the known cases of corruption in state government, nor did any of them commit to trying to ferret out more.

          If they can’t or won’t be specific about making fixes while they’re mere candidates, it’s anyone’s guess how they might behave if and when they take office.

          What’s clear is that the current corruption takes many forms, but does not often see state employees directly line their pockets. Yet, there are plenty of revolving-door examples, where regulators later go to work for the companies they’ve helped. There are also instances of cronies influencing state officials, as when former Gov. Gray Davis, a onetime Brown chief of staff, lobbied Brown to grant hydraulic fracking permits to his client, the Occidental Petroleum Corp., and those permits were granted after officials who originally sought to deny them were fired.

          So here’s one question each candidate for governor should be asked when debates begin before next June’s primary election: Exactly what will you do to change the climate of corruption that’s persisted for many years under several governors?

    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




          The California ballot has seen plenty of dangerous propositions over the years, and yet another one may face voters wherever they cast votes next November.

          Fortunately, virtually all such questionable proposals have been beaten at the polls or struck down by courts if voters acted irresponsibly. There was the AIDS quarantine measure put forward by crackpot presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche in 1986, which aimed to place everyone with the disease in remote detention camps. Would Ervin “Magic” Johnson be part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and president of the Lakers today if that one had passed?

          There was the 1994 Proposition 187, which sought to deprive undocumented immigrants of health care, schooling and anything else its sponsors could think of. That one passed handily, endorsed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, but was swiftly struck down by a federal judge. And so on.

          Now comes a danger of a different sort, embodied in a seemingly innocuous measure that’s about to begin circulating with hopes of getting a yes-or-no vote just over a year from now.

          It’s titled “The California Call for a Constitutional Convention,” and it contains some fine ideas, including calls for Constitutional amendments to ensure equal pay for equal work and limit corporate “personhood” to invalidate the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The initiative also calls for California to participate in a constitutional convention to push for creating a peaceful way for states to secede from the Union and/or negotiate treaties with foreign countries, and has a provision demanding that federal funding be distributed to states in proportion to what their taxpayers put into the federal kitty.

          Most of those aims are laudable, but there’s absolutely nothing to guarantee that any of these ideas would attain reality if this measure passes. Rather, there’s the definite possibility for major alteration to the Bill of Rights, which now protects things like free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and guarantees there will be no official state religion.

          How could this happen when the convention call includes very specific subjects to be taken up and none involves the Bill of Rights? Easy. Once you begin a constitutional convention, the delegates can take it where they like.

          That’s one reason why even though many states have officially called for a convention to enshrine a balanced-budget amendment, that call has never gotten support from three-quarters of the states, as required to get a convention started.

          There’s also little chance that even if California calls for a convention to take up its plentiful legitimate grievances, it will get the needed support from other states.

          The sponsors of the new initiative, which goes by the abbreviated term CalConCon, in effect concede this. They maintain on their website ( that any convention call ever issued by a state – even 100 years ago or more – can be included in the total needed now.

          That’s because just as the Constitution sets no limit on where delegates can take a convention, it also has no expiration date for convention calls, which now number 27. It’s an unfortunate omission by the Founding Fathers, who turn out to be fallible after all.

          Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, whose 2012 book California’s Next Century called for semi-sovereign status for the state and essentially began the Calexit secession movement that spawned this convention initiative, maintains there would be no “runaway convention.”

          But the campaign website notes that “the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of rescinding an application (for a convention) or limiting (it) to a single subject…”

          Still, says Ruiz, many academics have forecast a runaway convention would not happen. But how does anyone know where activists from Texas or Montana might take the meeting? Or whether there would be neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen among the voting delegates?

          It’s true California several years ago called for a constitutional convention to get rid of the Citizens United decision. Fortunately, in part because of the dangers involved, no such meeting occurred.

          Is it really worth risking free speech and freedom of religion or the right to bear arms for the unlikely possibility of winning the right to secede peacefully?

          The only rational conclusion is that sponsors of this measure are being shortsighted, concerned more for their immediate goals than about making sure Americans’ fundamental rights remain untouched.

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. His email address is