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  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
Former Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia).
Former Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia). (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

California’s political campaign watchdog panel voted Thursday to withdraw an advice letter its attorneys sent to former Sen. Tony Mendoza that indicated he could use contributions from supporters to a legal defense fund in connection with an investigation of sexual harassment.

Mendoza, a Democrat from Artesia, resigned his Senate seat last month under  threat of expulsion from the Senate after an investigation said he likely engaged in a pattern of harassment against female aides.

Mendoza denied wrongdoing and has sued the Senate, saying its investigation was flawed, but he is also facing a claim by another employee who says she was wrongly fired for reporting the harassment of others. Mendoza has lent his legal defense fund $125,000 from his Senate reelection campaign.

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A group of state lawmakers announced legislation Thursday to fight a proposed November ballot measure that would allow three national paint companies to hand California taxpayers the bill for cleaning up hazardous lead paint in homes.

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  • State government
The state Capitol
The state Capitol (Los Angeles Times)

At the request of California Gov. Jerry Brown, the state’s political watchdog panel on Thursday delayed action on a controversial plan that could transfer power from its full-time chairwoman to give other, part-time commissioners a greater say in key decisions.

The state’s five-member Fair Political Practices Commission is locked in a power struggle in which some part-time members, with support from attorneys representing candidates and elected officials, are proposing that Chairwoman Jodi Remke be required to share oversight power on budgets, court cases, hiring and policy changes.

Peter A. Krause, the governor’s legal affairs secretary, wrote to the panel on behalf of the governor that he appreciates that Commissioners Allison Hayward and Brian Hatch want the part-time panelists to have a bigger role in the agency’s operations.

A gymnasium in East Los Angeles is an odd setting for a Republican summit, but it offered the kind of symbolism former Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes is seeking these days: For the GOP to stay relevant in California, it has to try something new.

Civil rights lawyer Valerie McGinty founded a political action committee late last year to help boost the low numbers of women serving in the California Legislature. As it launches in Los Angeles, it will have an additional objective: backing women pursuing the seats left empty by men whose careers were ended by sexual harassment accusations.

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Republican businessman John Cox has nudged ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second place in California’s race for governor, while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has shored up his front-runner status among voters, according to a new poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Congressional candidate Harley Rouda, who was endorsed by opponent Laura Oatman after she dropped out of the race.
Congressional candidate Harley Rouda, who was endorsed by opponent Laura Oatman after she dropped out of the race. (Harley Rouda for Congress)

Calling for party unity, Democrat Laura Oatman on Wednesday dropped out of the race against GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and endorsed her opponent Harley Rouda.

Democrats across California have been worried about getting shut out of key congressional races this year because of the massive field of candidates challenging GOP incumbents.

It’s too late for Oatman to remove her name from the ballot, but she said in a statement that she hopes “all local activists … can now unite into one mighty force” behind Rouda, a fellow Democrat. She called on the other Democrats left in the Orange County race to drop out, too.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
(Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) was the only House member who reported using Cambridge Analytica for voter data during the 2016 election cycle.

The firm, which has been facing a storm of scrutiny for using allegedly ill-gotten Facebook data on millions of the site’s users, also provided data for the campaigns of two Republican senators. 

Walters’ campaign consultant, Dave Gilliard, said a $20,000 payment was made to Connell Donatelli Inc., an online advertising firm, which in turn paid the money to Cambridge Analytica. The payment was for “voter data for media ads,” according to Federal Election Commission records.

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  • California Legislature
A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student surveys a makeshift memorial to the Parkland, Fla., shooting victims.
A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student surveys a makeshift memorial to the Parkland, Fla., shooting victims. (Getty Images)

Armed law enforcement officers would be assigned to all school campuses in California at state expense under a measure that advanced Wednesday in response to a series of recent mass shootings across the country.

The measure by Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) was recommended Wednesday by the Assembly Education Committee, which eliminated a proposal that would have allowed private security guards to be used on campuses.

“Why not have these individuals at every school in the state to ensure that there will be someone there [to stop shooting incidents]?” Gallagher asked the panel. “We need to have a first line of defense.”

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
California Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is shown in her district office earlier this month.
California Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is shown in her district office earlier this month. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As she became the new leader of the California Senate, Toni Atkins used her remarks after taking the oath of office as Senate president pro tem to make a direct promise to change the culture of the statehouse when it comes to workplace behavior.

“True culture change — holding ourselves to a higher standard — requires the active, everyday enlightened participation of every person who works in and around this Capitol,” Atkins (D-San Diego) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “And I pledge to you, that will be our mission and our mandate.”

Atkins, 55, was elected on a unanimous vote of the Senate to succeed the former leader, Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who is termed out this fall. She becomes the first person since 1871 to have served both as leader of the Senate and as speaker of the state Assembly.