Thursday, February 03, 2005

Shelley Testimony Postponed; Cal Legislature Auditions for King's Horses, Men

this is an audio post - click to play

Secretary Shelley sat on a wall . . .

As John Myers reported yesterday in his Capitol Notes weblog for KQED, California legislative leaders agreed to postpone scandal-ridden Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's testimony before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) about his oversight of the federal funds California received under the Help America Vote Act. Shelley's testimony is now scheduled for a Feb. 22 hearing.

According to legislative leaders, as Christian Berthelsen reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, the reason for the delay is that the investigation was moving forward too quickly, and that lawyers for the Democrats and Republicans have asked for more time to examine the relevant documents. That may be true, but it is also possible that party leaders are negotiating with Secretary Shelley behind closed doors to work out some kind of deal whereby Shelley can save (some) face and the Legislature will appear tough-nosed and diligent in their investigation of their former colleague.

Granting Shelley his innocence until proven otherwise, it is largely his doing that the Pandora's Box of allegations have been released against him. It doesn't do the people of California any good for its legislative leaders to try to stuff it all back into the box on behalf of their old buddy.

Here's why:

California will very likely hold a special election this November on a broad array of ballot initiatives. The deadline for qualifying signatures to be turned in to qualify a ballot measure for a November 8 election is April 19. Legislators need to recognize that while Mr. Shelley has every right to vigorously defend himself against the accusations and allegations leveled against him, Californians also have the right to a Secretary of State who can devote their full attention to managing their elections.

Another problem is that under a pact signed by leaders from both parties which limited the scope of the JLAC investigation to Shelley's oversight of HAVA funds, JLAC currently has no plans to investigate the laundered contributions to Shelley's campaign. Unless the same legislative leaders responsible for the delay tactics suddenly take a more forceful role in investigating the campaign finance allegations, they will not get broached. Meaning, not only are these guys stalling, but they're stalling on the wrong issue. Talk about your misdirection. (See Derek's column for more on this issue.)

It's not clear what the harm would have been if Shelley had testified today. If he had incriminated himself somehow, or revealed mismanagement or misconduct on his part, so be it. If not, again, where's the problem? Either way, JLAC could have brought him back to answer more questions if necessary.

The legislators should get their act together. If they don't, it may not be the reputation of their old pal Kevin Shelley that they are trying to put back together again, but California's elections instead.

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