CalPERS and its election vendor, K&H Printing, have implemented an illegal, non-secret ballot for the election currently underway, for the hotly contested retiree board seat. As we’ll describe, K&H Printing can readily see which candidate a voter has selected prior to treating the vote as having been submitted. This gives CalPERS the ability to discard mail-in votes for the candidate its executives and the majority of the board vehemently opposes, JJ Jelincic.
We’ve predicted that CalPERS’ culture of of casual lying would lead to criminal conduct, and it has finally occurred.
CalPERS is using ballot envelopes that allow anyone to see how a vote was cast. That makes it trivially easy simply to dispose of ballot envelopes that contain the “wrong” vote well before the envelopes are unsealed and the ballots are scanned and tabulated.
This abuse is not simply a violation of the California Constitution requirement that “Voting shall be secret.”1 If CalPERS proceeds with the scheme it has set up, its executives and employees, as well as their counterparts at K&H Printing, will be committing mail fraud, a Federal crime.
CalPERS’ top brass and its allies in organized labor have made clear that they oppose former board member JJ Jelincic, who is challenging incumbent Henry Jones for the retiree seat. Labor’s support for Jones is perverse given not simply that Jones has been substantively missing in action, but also that Jelincic is the former head of a major union, while Jones was a member of management.
CalPERS and union co-conspirators have gone to extraordinary lengths to try to undermine Jelincic, who has been and remains the favorite. The spending against Jelincic is off the charts by the standards of past CalPERS board elections. On top of that, many of the organizations pumping against Jelincic have failed to make required disclosures of their funding sources.
Even more troubling than the extent of dark money influence is the open, illegal electioneering against Jelincic by state Treasurer Fiona Ma, who sits ex officio on the CalPERS board, and CalPERS board members David Miller and Theresa Taylor. CalPERS employee Charity Joy Bowman and Gabriela Urdeneta have also campaigned illegally by sending out e-mails attacking Jelincic, signed as “CalPERS Team Member.” CEO Marcie Frost and General Counsel Matt Jacobs are complicit by failing to intervene when told about this misconduct.
Today’s post will focus on the ballot chicanery. We’ll discuss the other elements of corruption, that of covert funding and officials impermissibly electioneering in a later post.
Ma and Miller may feel they can safely flout the law in a one-party state like California, as witnessed by staff and board members’ regular criminal violations of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.
But mail fraud is an entirely different matter. The Department of Justice likes high-profile mail fraud cases because they are easy to prosecute and win. It’s not hard to imagine that the Department of Justice would see a mail fraud case involving CalPERS and potentially other California officials as attractive.2
Staff members at CalPERS and the employees and managers responsible for ballot processing at election vendor K&H Printing should think hard as to whether it’s worth wearing an orange jump suit or merely being found guilty of a felony and paying large fines to help CalPERS rig an election.3
And K&H Printing is clearly complicit. As Lambert pointed out:
I’ve bought printing. There’s no possible way K&H Printing could deliver a see-through ballot envelope without knowing exactly what they were doing. That’s their business: to know the effects of ink on paper stock.
CalPERS Blatant Election Rigging
CalPERS and the Taliban have a lot in common: both hate democracy.
CalPERS has repeatedly tried to rig its board elections. Recent measures include having an illegal, non-secret mail in ballot; implementing scripts for the “vote by phone” channel that clearly favored the incumbent; pushing insecure, tamper-friendly voting by Internet; making the elections impossible to audit properly; deliberately delaying the release of information unfavorable to an incumbent.
But this new way to tip the scale rises to a new level of brazenness and criminality.
Below are images of a completed and sealed ballot for the current election, taken at a Starbucks in indoor lighting. Even in a not-very-close up shot, if you look at the area below the return address immediately under the zip code, you can easily see the filled-in bubble for the second of two choices, which is for JJ Jelincic.
This image shows the ballot envelope held up to light. See how you can read all the words inside, and most important, the candidates’ names and the voter selection!
Note that if the ballot is put in the envelope with the text and voter selection facing the flap side rather than the address side, they are not quite as easy to read but still visible without holding the envelope up to a light.
We’ve discussed previously how CalPERS’ claim that the ballots will be counted in public is just a sham for the rubes, but this scam takes its contempt for its beneficiaries to a new level.
A bit of background: CalPERS’ election vendor for the printing, mailing, receipt, and scanning of the ballots is K&H Printing, which operates its
election rigging election counting side business under the DBA “Integrity Voting Systems”. Every week during the one-month election period, CalPERS publishes a tally of how many votes have come in and by which channel: mail in ballot, phone, and Internet. Paper ballots are still the most popular way to vote, despite CalPERS’ concerted efforts to push tamper-friendly Internet voting. Paper ballots are expected to be an even larger proportion of total votes cast in this retiree election.
The supposed public count of the ballots is no such thing. CalPERS allows the public to view what it misleadingly depicts as the official count. In reality, what they can see is the opening and scanning of ballots in the Everett, Washington K&H Printing facility. Admittedly, there is some value in having outsiders oversee the adjudication of ballots which aren’t marked clearly enough to be scanned or that get mangled by the scanner.
But in no way, shape or form does this activity at K&H Printing constitute a count. The scanned ballot images are then transmitted to a completely different site, where another party tabulates the votes from the scanned images. There is no public oversight of this tabulation, nor public access to the software to see if it is accurate and reliable.
In other words, there’s way too much “Trust me” at work, particularly given CalPERS’ history of acting in bad faith.
But now rather than run the risk of having a manual count of the ballots (which do get archived with the Secretary of State) expose election funny business, the see-through envelopes allow CalPERS to perpetrate a perfect crime. Have K&H Printing throw out a significant percentage of the ballots marked for Jelincic before they are logged as counted.
Keep in mind that the ballot envelopes get sent through an optical scanner so that K&H Printing knows who voted to ensure no double votes (say by people who voted by phone or requested a duplicate ballot) before they are even counted as “by mail” votes. It would not be difficult to use an optical scanner to sort the votes for JJ Jelincic and Henry Jones as they come in.
If you think that sort of process wouldn’t be used to disappear votes for Jelincic, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
How CalPERS Made This Election Fraud Friendly
CalPERS could easily have implemented typical procedures for absentee and mail-in ballots to assure voters that they weren’t cheated out of their vote. For instance, mail-in ballots usually include a tear-off portion with an identifying number. The voter can later check with the county registrar to determine if their ballot was received and counted.
There’s no such check with the CalPERS ballots. So CalPERS could readily publish election results that would show lower vote counts than actually were lodged, but voters would have no way to establish that a large number of votes submitted went poof.
Similarly, the see-through envelope was CalPERS’ doing. K&H Printing surely knows what weight of paper is needed to prevent the contents of a mailer from being read. And having heavy enough stock for mailed-in ballots would be a basic requirement in public elections, which represents the bulk of K&H Printing’s ballot printing business. Members of both major parties regularly have access to absentee ballots and observe them being opened and counted. Readers who have been involved in elections said there would be a hue and cry if anyone encountered see-through envelopes for mail in ballots.
We’ve embedded the section of the agreement with K&H Printing that describes the ballot and envelope printing. Note that it specifies the weight of the paper for the outbound mailer but not for the return envelope. The agreement does not require that the votes be kept secret, but it does make all the components of the mailing subject to CalPERS’ approval. So CalPERS can’t point fingers at K&H Printing for the see-through envelopes. This was clearly a feature, not a bug.
What Can You Do?
The multiple violations of law, both with the ballots, and with the illegal electioneering by state officials, which we’ll discuss in our next post, shows a level of desperation and recklessness that would seem to be out of proportion to the importance of a single CalPERS board seat.
What is striking about the vehement opposition to Jelincic is that during his tenure as board member, he stood out by asking the occasional basic question that any competent investor, let alone a huge and well staffed fiduciary like CalPERS, should have been able to answer. Note that Jelincic was severely constrained by the limits CalPERS places on how much floor time individual board members get as well as the stunning lack of interest among the rest of the board in doing basic oversight.
The fact that CalPERS executives were unable to handle softballs from Jelincic and routinely showed they could not get out of its own underwear was treated as a heinous crime, as opposed to a badly needed early warning that CalPERS was out of its depth and thus an easy mark for Wall Street.
Jelincic’s sin was exposing that the supposedly most sophisticated public pension fund was incompetent and asleep at the switch. The vehemence of the campaign against Jelincic suggests that exposing the low standards of public pension fund management and board oversight threatens a lot of rice bowls.
I hope readers will do what they can to combat official misconduct, and CalPERS behavior has been so egregious that it call for action. Please do as many things on this list as you can:
1. Please send this post to everyone you know in California, particularly CalPERS beneficiaries. Remind them that the state and local government bodies backstop the fund, and with CalPERS already underfunded, its tendency to toady to Big Finance as opposed to serve beneficiaries comes out of taxpayer pockets.
2. If you are in California, please send a link to this post with a suitable short and pointed cover note to the following officials:
Secretary of State Alex Padilla, whose office will have to certify this garbage barge of an election. Deny him the “I’m in charge and I know nothing” defense if the Feds take an interest.
California Secretary of State
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Contact form: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/
The heads of the Assembly and Senate pension committees: Jerry Hill (Senator.Hill@senate.ca.gov.; phone (916) 651-4013 or
(650) 212-3313) and Freddie Rodriguez in the Assembly (Freddie@FreddieRodriguez.com; fax 909-902-9761).
California State Treasurer
Post Office Box 942809
Sacramento, CA 94209-0001
California State Controller
P.O. Box 942850
Sacramento, California 94250-5872
3. Make the second image go viral on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Suggested headline: “CalPERS Management Prints See-Through, Not Secret Ballot for Hotly Contested Election.” Also be sure to post the image on any message boards or other channels that CalPERS retirees use.
4. Send a link to this post and a suitable short and stern cover note to your local or area newspaper, as well as any local or area news stations. Be sure to include one of the images of the see-through ballot envelope, preferably the second, which is vivid. Elected officials are very sensitive to in-state coverage.
5. Tell every CalPERS retiree to vote for Jelincic on paper. The more the system is overwhelmed with your votes, the harder chicanery will be.
Anyone this hated by Wall Street isn’t just on the side of beneficiaries. Jelincic has shown that he’s an effective enough advocate to have Big Money shaking in their boots.
1 The see-through envelopes also violate the California Elections Code but CalPERS has taken the position it is not bound by that legal code.
2 One path to mail fraud is through honest services fraud. If this scheme goes forward, some and perhaps many beneficiaries will have been deliberately cheated out of their vote. The Wikipedia overview is pretty good. Key section:
The statute grants jurisdiction to the federal government to prosecute local, state and federal officials. It is frequently used to fight public corruption because it is easier to prove than bribery or extortion. The term “honest services” is broad and open to jury interpretation, according to several legal experts. Prosecutions under the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) frequently use violations of the honest services statute, as mail and wire fraud are predicate acts of racketeering; therefore, two mailings or wire transmissions in the execution of honest services fraud can form “a pattern of racketeering activity.”…
The law is reportedly a favorite of federal prosecutors because the language of statute is vague enough to be applied to corrupt political officials’ unethical or criminal activities when they do not fall into a specific category, such as bribery or extortion….
Nevertheless, prosecutors must still prove all the elements of mail fraud or wire fraud in a case regarding a scheme to defraud of honest services.
3 It is not yet possible to discern whether the see-through ballot scam was devised at the senior levels of CalPERS and K&H Printing or at the operational level through union channels. Recall that Kim Malm, the CalPERS official responsible for the elections, publicly thanked union fixers Terry Brennand and Dave Low for their help in getting Internet voting approved. Given how tamper-friendly Internet voting is, and that CalPERS has refused to provide for a paper trail in their implementation, one has to wonder why these two major forces at CalPERS threw their weight behind it. Note that the Teamsters are represented at K&H Printing, which could provide a channel for influence.00 IVS Agreement Part II