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September 24, 2013 | By Ralph Vartabedian
The cost of a proposed uranium processing facility for nuclear weapons in Oakridge, Tenn., has soared as high as $11.6 billion - 19 times the original estimate - even as critics accuse the Energy Department of overstating the need for spare bomb parts. Under a proposal unveiled in 2005, the manufacturing plant at the Y-12 National Security Complex would produce new uranium cores for the nation's stockpile of aging hydrogen bombs. But not long after the plan was disclosed, with an estimated cost of $600 million, the price tag began to climb.
September 23, 2013 | By Chris Megerian
Ann Ravel, California's top campaign finance watchdog, is heading to the Federal Election Commission after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Monday. Ravel, a Democrat, was approved alongside Republican Lee Goodman. The Federal Election Commission has been plagued by political gridlock, and the two nominees mark the first new commissioners on the panel since Obama first took office more than four years ago. Ravel is expected to serve at least one more month as chairwoman of California's Fair Political Practices Commission, according to Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown.
September 17, 2013 | By Chris Megerian and Melanie Mason
SACRAMENTO - After an anonymous $11-million donation from Arizona sent shock waves through California politics last year, the state Capitol seemed primed for new measures to tighten campaign finance rules. But several proposals fell by the wayside as lawmakers finished their work last week. Bills that would have increased the power of California's campaign finance watchdog, boosted fines for violations and forced greater disclosure of donors - among other measures - stalled in the Legislature.
September 9, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
SACRAMENTO -- A prominent government affairs firm and its high-profile employees have agreed to pay $40,500 in in fines for failing to register the workers as lobbyists. The fines will be paid by California Strategies LLC and Jason Kinney, former lawmaker Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox, who are partners in the firm. The state Fair Political Practices Commission investigators concluded that Kinney, Areias and Hickox qualified as lobbyists but failed to register with the state and disclose their lobbying activities.
September 4, 2013 | By Jessica Guynn
SAN FRANCISCO -- Privacy watchdogs are asking federal regulators to block proposed changes to Facebook policies that they say would allow the company to use the names and images of its nearly 1.2 billion users without their consent to endorse products in ads. In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and five other consumer groups said the changes would permit Facebook "to routinely use...
September 1, 2013 | By Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO - Let the frenzy begin. California legislators return Tuesday from a Labor Day break and begin a final rush to a Sept. 13 annual recess. They'll deliberate and vote on hundreds of bills that survived eight months of hearings, lobbying, votes, backroom deals and, of course, parliamentary maneuvering. On the agenda for business are bills relating to petroleum fracking, electricity rates, a possible increase in the minimum wage, and workers' comp benefits for athletes. It's also a time when good-government groups are on the lookout for measures that spring to life without being vetted by committees.
August 30, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
SACRAMENTO -- The California Republican Party violated state campaign finance rules by failing to properly disclose its contributions last year to a campaign against newly drawn state Senate districts, the state's ethics agency has concluded. In all, the state GOP provided $1.9 million in contributions, in-kind services and loans to the group Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR), which qualified a ballot measure to overturn the new state Senate redistricting maps. After the Supreme Court found the maps were properly drawn, FAIR dropped its opposition to the redistricting plan.
August 19, 2013 | By Jim Puzzanghera
WASHINGTON -- Resurgent bailout recipients Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been avoiding billions of dollars in potential long-term losses by delaying the use of new accounting measures that would require them to write off more delinquent mortgages, a government watchdog agency said in a letter released Monday. Despite a 2012 determination by their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, that the new accounting rules should be adopted, the agency has allowed Fannie and Freddie to delay implementation until Jan. 1, 2015, according to a letter from Steve A. Linick , the regulator's inspector general.
July 25, 2013 | By Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO -- Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog and the father of two children killed by a drug-abusing driver have taken the first step toward waging an initiative campaign to raise limits on medical malpractice "pain and suffering" jury awards. The proposed law, which was submitted for title and summary to the attorney general's office Thursday, needs petitions with valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters. Supporters hope to qualify for the November 2014 general election ballot.
July 23, 2013 | Michael Hiltzik
So much for the new, "tougher" Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC, as the agency is known, is in the process of negotiating a settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co., the huge New York bank that has been accused of serial frauds against California electricity customers and the state's electric distribution system. The reported size of the settlement price could be as high as $500 million, which would be a record penalty in a FERC proceeding. That certainly sounds like a big number.
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