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California coastal regulator fined for conflict of interest in SeaWorld case

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A member of the regulatory commission that controls coastal development in California was fined by the state’s ethics watchdog on Thursday for voting on an expansion of SeaWorld’s San Diego theme park while his wife owned stock in the company.

Gregory Cox, who is also a longtime member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement Thursday he did not know that his wife had purchased 500 shares of SeaWorld stock in January of 2015 for her personal retirement account, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

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“When I discovered the purchase, the stock was sold and the facts were reported,” Cox said. “Both my wife and I deeply regret the oversight.”

About three months after Cheryl Cox bought the stock for $8,679, SeaWorld filed an application with the California Coastal Commission to expand a facility at which captive orcas, or killer whales, are held and shown to the public.

Cox introduced a motion to support the project with limitations on the number of orcas involved, voting ultimately to support an amended version calling for an end to SeaWorld’s orca breeding program. On Thursday, the California Fair Political Practices Commission voted to fine him $3,000.

The SeaWorld shows, which the park has since said it would end along with its orca breeding program, have been controversial for years, with public opposition growing after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel.

The criticism intensified after three orcas died at SeaWorld San Antonio within a six-month span in 2015.

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SeaWorld said last month that it would stop breeding killer whales in captivity, bowing to years of pressure from animal rights activists. The company has also said that it will phase out its signature “Shamu” killer whale shows in San Diego with modified presentations of the animals that focused on conservation.

Cox told the FPPC he discovered that his wife owned the stock in January while preparing his taxes and his annual disclosure of economic interests as a public official.

He asked her to sell the stock, and reported the conflict to the FPPC, documents show.

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But the FPPC said Cox and his wife, a former mayor of the city of Chula Vista who sold her stock for about $9,593, were longtime elected officials who “had a high level of awareness” of conflict of interest laws.

Cox should have known that he had a conflict, the FPPC said.

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(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bernard Orr)


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‘Flashback much?’: Senator mocked for saying IG report made him feel like he had ‘dropped acid’

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“About 25 percent of the way through it I thought I dropped acid. It’s surreal.”

A prominent Republican Senator is getting his own special due process on social media after using his precious time to question U.S. Dept. of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz by saying reading the 434 page report on the FBI's Russia investigation was like dropping acid.

U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) admitted to Horowitz on Wednesday that he had not finished reading the lengthy document but was about 70 percent done. He also appeared to be trying to make the infractions about FISA warrants committed by FBI agents to be seen as unprecedented and historically offensive, in an attempt to serve President Donald Trump by damaging the reputation of the FBI.

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Republicans are leaning towards a short impeachment trial in the Senate with no witnesses: report

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According to an exclusive report from Bloomberg, Senate Republicans are saying there's a growing "early consensus" that a short impeachment trial that could see the GOP-led chamber "vote on a likely acquittal of President Donald Trump without hearing from any witnesses" is the way to go.

"Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said a growing number of the Senate’s 53 GOP members want to simply let House Democrats make their case to impeach the president and then hear a rebuttal from Trump’s team before moving immediately to a vote on the articles of impeachment," Bloomberg's Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis report.

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READ IT: Court filing from Michael Cohen seeking a sentence reduction

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President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, but he's seeking a reduction in his sentence according to a recent court filing.

"Reducing the Court's previously imposed 36 month term of imprisonment, or, in the alternative, reducing it to a term of home confinement, coupled with a community service," the documents requested.

While Cohen cooperated with investigators, he didn't do so immediately, instead he remained loyal to his former client. After it became clear that Cohen was being thrown under the bus, however, he began to cooperate with investigators.

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