Cal-Access stuck in 2000 + CA pols on same-sex marriage vote + Bonta charity fraud warning

Renée C. Byer/rbyer@sacbee.com

Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert!

$39 MILLION LATER AND CAL-ACCESS IS STILL ‘FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER’

Via Lindsey Holden

California has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to upgrade its online campaign finance portal, yet it somehow remains stuck in the Y2K era.

This is the problem Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and the Senate Standing Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments addressed at a Tuesday oversight hearing. Committee assignments have not been set for the new legislative session that starts on Dec. 5, so Glazer and Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, were the only lawmakers present.

Cal-Access — an acronym for California Automated Lobbyist and Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Search System — is a website overseen by the Secretary of State’s Office that allows candidates and lobbyists to upload campaign finance information. It also serves as a tool for members of the public, government watchdogs and journalists seeking information about who is funding candidates for state office.

The state launched Cal-Access in 2000, but it has not seen substantial updates in more than 20 years. Although this gives the site a charming early internet appearance, it is also challenging for users and prone to outages.

Tristian Cormier, the Secretary of State’s chief technology officer, said Cal-Access experienced four outages this year that lasted more than 24 hours. The site also had four to five internal outages that lasted five to seven minutes, he said.

Cal-Access runs on old software code in different programming languages, some of which are no longer vendor-supported, Secretary of State Shirley Weber said at the hearing.

Previous Secretary of State Alex Padilla once called the website a “Frankenstein’s monster of code,” and it has remained so, even though the Legislature has appropriated money for an overhaul.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed several bills to fix Cal-Access, citing costs. He finally signed one from Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, setting in motion the Cal-Access Replacement System Project, or CARS.

That venture was to produce a new website and roll it out in June 2021. But Weber’s office, which took over the project when Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed her to the Secretary of State position, postponed it when it became clear the new version was not ready.

Members of Weber’s staff and the Legislative Analyst’s Office cited poor initial project management and issues with the contractor hired to design the new Cal-Access as factors in the delay and ballooning cost.

The Secretary of State’s Office ended up paying the contractor more than $3 million in a settlement, even though the company didn’t produce a usable site, said Dana Furby, Secretary of State’s senior staff counsel.

The Legislature has allocated more than $55 million for the Cal-Access project, and $39 million has been spent, according to Glazer.

There is no estimated roll-out date for the new site, but the latest timeline indicates it likely will not happen until after the 2024 election.

CALIFORNIA POLS REACT TO SENATE SAME-SEX, INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE VOTE

On Tuesday, 12 U.S. Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the Respect For Marriage Act, which protects the right of same-sex and interracial couples to marry even if the U.S Supreme Court overturns the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges or Loving v. Virginia decisions that established those rights as the law of the land.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla both praised their Senate colleagues, with Feinstein saying in a statement that the law “will guarantee legal protections for millions of marriages in the United States, ensuring that marriages entered into legally are given full faith and credit by every state and the federal government.”

Meanwhile, Padilla warned that the SCOTUS Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, necessitated Tuesday’s vote, saying in a statement that “we still have work to do to achieve full equality.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who is gay, praised the vote as a huge step toward protecting marriage equality, but also added that there is work to be done still in California.

“Yet, CA still needs to remove Prop 8 from our Constitution so Californians can always get married here, even if the Supreme Court goes rogue,” Wiener wrote in a tweet.

Proposition 8, passed by California voters in 2008, banned same-sex marriage in the state. It was preempted by the Obergefell decision.

Respect for Marriage, which originated in the U.S. House this summer, now goes back to that chamber for what is expected to be swift approval followed by President Joe Biden’s signature.

ON GIVING TUESDAY, BONTA WARNS OF CHARITY FRAUD

Tuesday marks one of the biggest days for charitable giving all year, but it also marks a prime opportunity for scammers.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta used the occasion of the philanthropic holiday to issue a warning about fraud.

“Charities rely heavily on the goodwill of Californians to operate and serve individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs,” Bonta said in a statement. “Sadly, as charity fraud becomes more common across the nation, it is crucial that Californians do their due diligence before they donate.

The state’s top law enforcement officer provided the following eight tips to making sure that the charity you’re giving to is legitimate:

  1. Check the registration status of the charity, something you can do here.

  2. Give to organizations that you trust.

  3. Don’t be pressured by telemarketers, but do ask questions before giving.

  4. Be wary of “look-alike” charities and fake websites or emails.

  5. Likewise, look out for charities with similar-sounding names, which may closely resemble legitimate organizations.

  6. Be wary of social media fundraising.

  7. Protect your identity.

  8. Be careful when making electronic donations.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We need a gay billionaire to step in and fund a defamation lawsuit, Thiel-v-Gawker style, that puts a stop to this.”

- Sex advice columnist Dan Savage, discussing a misleading tweet from conservative activist Charlie Kirk about Sen. Scott Wiener, via Twitter.

Best of The Bee:

  • As state regulators and legislators try to better understand what’s driving California’s high gas prices and weigh whether Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to tax oil company profits could be the answer, one thing is clear: they need more information and data from the companies producing and distributing the gasoline, via Maggie Angst.

  • The University of California and a union representing 12,000 student workers early Tuesday reached a tentative contract agreement that could help end a 15-day strike that has upended classes at all 10 campuses, via Maya Miller.

  • Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby is headed to the California Senate after her opponent conceded Tuesday, ending one of 2022’s most contentious legislative races, via Lindsey Holden.

  • Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby is headed to the California Senate after her opponent conceded Tuesday, ending one of 2022’s nastiest and most expensive legislative races. via Lindsay Holden