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Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud after Camp Fire

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Scott Morris

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Pollution Profiteers

Inside California’s Toxic Hauling Industry

Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric accused two of its former employees of accepting bribes to funnel business to a waste-hauling company after the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.

This story was originally published by ProPublica.

One supervisor for PG&E allegedly had his driveway paved on the power company’s dime. A subordinate is accused of having received a bribe in an unorthodox property transfer of a multimillion-dollar house in a wealthy suburb of San Francisco.

A new court filing by PG&E alleges that in exchange for these kickbacks, the employees provided lucrative clean-up jobs to Hayward-based Bay Area Concrete Recycling.

The allegations track closely with the results of an investigation last year by ProPublica and the Bay City News Foundation, which found that PG&E had overlooked numerous warning signs when it hired Bay Area Concrete. The company is owned and managed by the husband-wife team Yadwinder “Kevin” Singh and Preet Johal, according to local and state documents. The firm was tied to illegal dumping on federally protected wetlands and had engaged in a long conflict with regulators in the city of Hayward, where Bay Area Concrete operates a dump. Later, the news agencies revealed a suspicious real estate transaction that connected Singh and one of the PG&E employees. Singh did not respond to requests for comment.

PG&E’s filing is in response to a breach of contract lawsuit filed against the utility in October by Bay Area Concrete. Dawn Sweatt, an attorney for Bay Area Concrete, said her clients “vehemently deny” the allegations by PG&E. “The allegations are patently false and not supported by the evidence,” she said. “The litigation process will make this clear in time.”

The accused PG&E employees, Ronald Huggins Jr. and Ryan Kooistra, did not respond to requests for comment. Huggins retired, and Kooistra sold his home and moved out of state after being confronted by PG&E investigators, the counterclaim by PG&E said.

In a statement, PG&E spokesperson James Noonan called the alleged actions of Bay Area Concrete “completely unacceptable.”

“We will pursue every available action to …read more


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'Democrats will lose in 2022': Anger Grows as Biden bows to un-elected parliamentarian on $15 minimum wage

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

After the Democrats in the House approved a far-reaching Covid-19 relief package early Saturday with all but two members of the caucus on board, progressive anger and despair escalated over the Biden administration’s refusal thus far to make sure the $15 minimum wage increase remains in the bill as it heads to the U.S. Senate.

As journalist David Sirota, founder of the The Daily Poster and former staffer for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, put it on Saturday: “If you were writing a Dickensian novel, it would be about millions of desperately poor people being promised a $15 starvation wage, and then watching their millionaire senators tell them that a parliamentary adviser in the palace said no.”

While Biden and his administration have made clear they will not move to use Harris’ authority as presiding officer of the Senate to disregard or overrule the Parliamentarian’s determination, the anger on the progressive left—both inside and outside of Congress—has only grown since Thursday.

Winnie Wong, political strategist and another Sanders campaign alumnus, said the choices for Biden and Harris are now quite stark and suggested the stakes are much higher than many top Democrats appear to understand or acknowledge:

On Sunday morning, the national advocacy and organizing group Women’s March tweeted:

Addressing the issue Saturday morning on MSNBC, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Democrats have no choice but to “muscle it through” the Senate given the campaign promises made to voters leading up to last year’s elections.

“We can’t back to voters in two years,” explained Jayapal, “and say, ‘You know, we made you a promise—you delivered us the House, the White House, and the Senate—but a parliamentarian …read more


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Former CPAC chair: 'The Republican party really no longer stands for any kind of principles'

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Aldous Pennyfarthing

It’s fitting that this year’s CPAC conference is being held in Orlando, a land of make-believe where thousands of folks travel each year to gawk at a surly, splotchy whale flailing around with no real purpose other than to wow a small cross-section of Americans who’ve grown bored with taunting the three-legged goat at their local petting zoo.

I mean, one of the speakers is a high-profile member of a right-wing Japanese cult that believes its leader is the reincarnated spirit of an alien from Venus who created all life on Earth millions of years ago. Sure, that’s still less bonkers than believing Donald Trump was a good president, but it gives you some idea of the kinds of people they’re letting in these days.

I mean, larval-stage Brundlefly would have given a better speech than Ted Cruz did Friday, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t welcomed with open arms. (Okay, with icy stares, sneering contempt, and the bemused expressions of weary, forlorn souls who are more or less resigned to getting odd, clammy hugs from Batboy‘s less photogenic uncle, but he was there. That says a lot.)

But while you’re sure to find an enthusiastic cohort of EverTrumpers in Orlando this weekend, what you won’t find much of is reality—as evidenced by the conference’s seven panel discussions on the “stolen” 2020 election.

In fact, they’re so far off the deep end these days, a former CPAC chair even slammed the conference and its slouch into death cultism in an interview on Friday.

Huffington Post:

Mickey Edwards — who led the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event, for five years until 1983 — ripped Republicans attending this year’s CPAC in Orlando for their devotion to former President Donald Trump.


“The Republican party really no longer stands for any kind of principles, conservative or otherwise,” Edwards told [CNN's Erin] Burnett on Friday.

“The party seems now to be completely following the lead of one man wherever he goes, which is the definition of a cult,” he continued. “Now all that matters is, ‘Trump is for this, we’re …read more


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Devin Nunes bizarrely suggests Kamala Harris is behind secret plot to 'eliminate' Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By David Edwards

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Sunday floated a conspiracy theory claiming Governors Gavin Newsom (CA) and Andrew Cuomo (NY) are being “eliminated” by the Democratic Party so that Vice President Kamala Harris can run for office unopposed in 2024.

Nunes made the claim during an interview with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo.

“This whole throwing Newsom, throwing Cuomo under the bus from Democrats, you say that is a larger theme,” Bartiromo asked.

“I think it’s real easy,” Nunes explained. “The Democratic Party is really a socialist party with a politburo system. That’s how it runs out in California.”

“You know, Kamala Harris never really had to run for anything,” the Republican lawmaker continued. “So, what they’re doing here, what I believe they’re doing here is that Cuomo and Newsom are expendable now. They’re a threat to the politburo system, they’re a threat to Harris.”

He added: “This is all about eliminating the opposition so that she has a free run in 2024 and isn’t challenged by, you know, prominent governors from two of the biggest states.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” Bartiromo agreed.

Watch the video below from Fox News.

Devin Nunes floats conspiracy theory that Kamala Harris is trying to ‘eliminate’ Cuomo and Newsom

…read more


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Wisconsin Republicans in a panic over possible loss of Ron Johnson's Senate seat: report

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni

According to a report from NBC, Republicans in Wisconsin are looking at the 2022 election, when the Senate seat held by Sen. Ron Johnson (R) will be on the ticket, with no idea who will be their nominee that year.

And that has them worried.

With Johnson — who has closely allied himself with ex-president Donald Trump — staying mum over whether he will run for a third term, the Wisconsin Republican Party is weighing their options for a new candidate when many of the stars of the party in the state have moved on or suffered defeat in recent elections.

“The uncertainty weighs heavily over a state party transitioning from its glory days to a post-Trump era,” NBC’s Henry Gomez wrote. “Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential nominee and speaker of the House, decamped to the private sector in 2018. Scott Walker, whose fight with public-employee unions made him a hero on the right, joined him there after losing a bid for a third term as governor.”

The report notes that those two politicians –along with Johnson — were part of the Republican “Cheesehead Revolution of the 2010s” and there isn’t much of a bench for the party to turn to in a state that went for Joe Biden in 2020.

One possible option might be Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman and, briefly, White House chief of staff to Trump.

His candidacy, should Johnson choose to not run, would also have the unpopular Trump looming over it.

“Johnson is one of Trump’s most ardent defenders. As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, he indulged Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen. And in a recent radio interview, Johnson said the deadly Jan. 6 riot that Trump supporters led on the Capitol to block certification of the election results ‘didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,’” the report states before adding, “It’s difficult to assess who besides Priebus or Johnson might draw Trump into the race with an endorsement or disruptive presence. In past elections it was good enough to be closely aligned with Ryan or Walker.:

According to Andrew Hitt, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, the state “has been a very close, purple state for a long time now,” with Ben Wikler, his counterpart with the Wisconsin Democratic Party, adding: “It’s pretty clear that …read more