Newsletter: Essential Politics: The case of the mysterious voter database


I’m Christina Bellantoni, closing out 2015 with our final Essential Politics of the year.

With just over a month before the Iowa caucuses and another Republican presidential candidate saying farewell, the major contenders seem to be just getting started.

Sen. Marco Rubio is deflecting attacks from super PACs in the key early nominating states. Donald Trump is invoking Monica Lewinsky. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton plans to campaign "River to River" in the Hawkeye State next week.

There are millions more to be spent, more debate stages to stand on and many voters whose voices will be heard. Our team will be there for every twist and turn, and in the meantime, California faces some voter issues of its own.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said his office is looking into claims that data on millions of California voters was publicly posted online "in an insecure manner by an unknown third party."

Security researcher Chris Vickery said he discovered the database on Dec. 20, and brought his findings to the website The data he found included names, addresses and dates of birth, Vickery said in an interview with Christine Mai-Duc.

The database appeared to have been last updated in 2014, Vickery said, and could have been viewed or downloaded by anyone on the Internet. Included was data on more than 17.8 million Californians, according to Vickery. There were 17.7 million registered voters in California as of February 2015.

The California Attorney General’s office declined to comment, citing the need to protect the integrity of any potential investigation. The FBI also would not comment. Get all the details here.


Since Patricia Arquette’s Oscars speech about gender equality when it comes to wages in the entertainment industry helped push along a new California law taking effect Friday, it seemed only natural to have the actress at an event championing the measure this week in Hollywood.

Javier Panzar was there, and has Arquette dishing on Jennifer Lawrence’s wage gap with Bradley Cooper and how the new law might change things.

Over the next few days, we’ll be detailing all of the new laws going into effect. We’ll have a nifty interactive to help you see how your life might change if you drive a car, own a gun, have a child in school or are conscious about the drought, to name just a few.


Sarah Wire reports that Rep. Michael Honda’s communications director Lauren Smith, 37, died Dec. 26 in Washington, D.C. Before working for the San Jose Democrat, Smith had also worked as communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento); and as communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton).

Honda wrote an op-ed in The Hill praising Smith days before her death, saying she "brightens up the office with a quick wit and cheery nature" and that he "can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart."

The op-ed hinted that Smith was hospitalized, but did not say why. Honda’s Washington and Santa Clara offices were closed Tuesday.


One of the Legislature’s most influential panels, the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee, appears to have a new chairman: Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), who announced the news on Tuesday. In Sacramento-speak, Utilities & Commerce is one of the "juice committees," nicknamed for their power to squeeze campaign cash from influential interest groups.

Gatto would replace Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), who is slated to be elected speaker of the Assembly in a couple of weeks. So what’s on the new chairman’s radar? Porter Ranch, for starters, and the ongoing saga of that community’s leaking natural gas well. Gatto says he plans to hold a hearing soon in hopes of figuring out exactly what went wrong.


Legislators return to Sacramento next week, and the list of things to watch runs the gamut — from the shifting balance of power, thanks to new legislative term limits, to debates over healthcare and transportation funding that went nowhere during fall special legislative sessions.

Sacramento bureau chief John Myers discussed those items and more on KCRW’s "Which Way, L.A.?" with guest host Barbara Bogaev on Tuesday night. You can listen online here.


The end of the year offers us time to reflect. This is the 74th edition of Essential Politics since we launched in mid-September. Thanks for your tips, feedback and occasional political poems along the way.

We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to appear in your inbox, and are looking forward to even more robust coverage in the coming election year. And hopefully it might even be a little fun too.

We’ll go dark the rest of the week, but the news won’t stop, of course.

So keep an eye on our politics page, visit Trail Guide for the latest in the presidential race and follow us on Twitter at @latimespolitics.

We’ll see you again on Jan. 4 as the Legislature returns to Sacramento.


-- Paige St. John takes readers inside Death Row.

-- Kurtis Lee finds that deep divisions among Nevada Republicans over a $1-billion tax increase pushed by the state’s Republican governor are helping to shape the battle between Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas to win this state’s presidential caucuses — the first nominating contest in the West. He writes the two freshman senators are actively trying to nail down the support of a key bloc of the state’s GOP voters: Mormons, who lined up behind Mitt Romney in the past two election cycles.

-- Cindy Chang details the dozens of inmates at Los Angeles’ North County Correctional Facility who were chained to the wall with their hands behind their backs, half-naked or even fully naked, sometimes with their feet shackled to the floor, as jail officials waited for them to expel contraband from their bodies.

-- BuzzFeed notices the reporters trailing President Obama’s vacation in Hawaii are having a good time writing their pool reports.


See you next year! Miss yesterday’s newsletter? Here you go. Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox daily. And keep an eye on our politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

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