Political Watchdog Agency Steps into Mountain Lion Kill Controversy

A mountain lion in Montana | Photo: USFWS Mountain Prairie/Flickr/Creative Commons License

This is a tale of the many dangers of mountain lion hunting -- kind of. Okay; not really, but how often do I get to use the phrase "mountain lion hunting" in the first line of blog posts about California governance and politics?

Recently Dan Richards, the head of the Fish and Game Commission, apparently did what one would expect the head of that commission to do: go hunting. Richards did what hunters do best; he killed an animal. And not just any animal, a mountain lion.

"But isn't that illegal in California?" you may ask. Well, yes, informed reader, it is. However, it is legal in Idaho where Richards' hunting expedition occurred.

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How did Richards get to Idaho? Who paid to get him there? Well, now we get to the part of our tale that leads us back to the main topic of my posts: governance and politics. Richards received the guided hunting trip as a gift. The gift was apparently worth almost $7,000. Richards has since paid for the cost of the trip, a decision that seemed to coincide with media coverage concerning his controversial excursion. His decision also came after a complaint was filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), California's political watchdog agency.

Under the California Political Reform Act (which is enforced by the FPPC) some public officials, including Richards, are limited to receiving gifts totaling $420 per year from one donor.

There seems to be little question that Richards violated the gift law. There is no question that he subsequently paid for his trip, albeit after the 30-day repayment window imposed by the Political Reform Act.

While the FPPC did not impose a fine on Richards, it did warn that it could impose penalties of up to $5,000 per violation for any future transgressions.

There are bigger fish to fry, so to speak. So, no harm, no foul?

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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Much ado about not much. Richards' perfectly legal mountain lion hunt in Idaho should have no bearing upon his commission duties here in California. Much of the controversy was politically- and ego-motivated.

There's a related and far more important story here: the re-appointment of Jim Kellogg to the Fish & Game Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, a political payback for financial support donated by Kellogg's 30,000-member plumbers union over the years. (More than 1.5 million dollars, reportedly, to Deukmejian, the Democratic Party, and Gov. Brown. See the August 2, 2010 article, "Ocean protector gets tossed overboard," in the Santa Rosa PRESS DEMOCRAT.) The union also reportedly donated $25,000 to Proposition 23, the oil industry-backed initiative that would have reversed California's law to reduce greenhouse gases.

Kellogg is required to be re-confirmed by the Senate Rules Committee, and should be rejected for a number of reasons. Only a couple of weeks back he declared the striped bass to be "a California native species." Not true! Worse, the non-native and invasive bass is a major predator of our endangered salmon and Delta Smelt. Mr. Kellogg also continues to claim that lead shot in the environment is not a problem for either condors or other wildlife. Again, not true. He also voted in favor of the continued use of the highly-unethical electronic duck decoys ("roboducks"), illegal in Pennsylvania. Mr. Kellogg has been on the commission for 10+ years, and opposed by any number of environmental groups all that time. Time for some new blood.
The Senate Rules Committee is chaired by Senator Darrell Steinberg. Other members are Senators Bob Dutton, Jean Fuller, Elaine Alquist and Kevin De Leon. EMAIL PATTERN FOR ALL IS: senator.steinberg@senate.ca.gov. All legislators and the Governor may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. Let 'em hear from you.
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