Paul Lebowitz – IT'S JUST FISHING

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Friday, March 2, 2012
Kayak Fishing Central
Monday, March 5, 2012

The latest chapter of the Dan Richards mountain lion controversy is a classic he said, she said. The he not being Richards, but Joseph Peterson, manager of the Flying B Ranch where Richards shot his cougar.

The woman is Kathy Bowler, a former executive director of the California Democratic Party, and apparently no friend of Richards (this is definitely not a case of politics making strange bedfellows - quite the contrary). Bowler filed an ethics complaint late last week alleging Richards has violated gift acceptance rules for the state's political set, alleging that his hunt was worth a cool $6,800.

For his part, Richards isn't talking other than to maintain he's done nothing wrong.

Ranch manager Peterson told WON over a week ago that Richards traveled to the ranch to hunt upland birds. The 5,000 acre ranch on private land has a lot of mountain lions, and they're decimating the local deer herd. "In the last year, I've seen 6, 8, 10 cats myself while I'm out working," Peterson said.

Peterson determined to cull three cats from the property. In Idaho, "some elk populations are down 85 percent," he said, explaining that deer herds have also suffered steep declines. While in the past he's allowed locals to hunt the ranch for deer meat for the table, in recent years he hasn't been able to extend the courtesy. 

Richards visited the ranch sometime in January. When ideal hunting conditions presented themselves, the wing-shooting plan changed. Richards would hunt lions with Peterson. "It was an extra favor to me. He was helping in wildlife management here on my ranch," Peterson said.

They successfully culled the three lions over the course of at least two days; it is unclear if Richards participated in more than one. "We saw a lot more; we let them go," Peterson added.

Richards hasn't addressed whether he paid for the upland game hunt. A little Internet digging reveals Flying B Ranch advertised rates of $3,200 for two days and three nights including lodging and no doubt gourmet meals - that's $1,600 a day. A 7-day, 8-night cougar hunt lists for $6,800, or $975 a day. If Richards paid his upland bird hunting freight, there's no gift. 

California limits most politicians to a maximum of $480 in gifts annually from sources other than family and other intimates. The California Fair Political Practices Commission website is a little murky when it comes to reporting requirements. The San Jose Mercury News reported Friday that Richards had thirty days to file a statement.

FFPC fines over unreported or misreported gifts to politicians are not exactly rare. In August 2011 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was fined $123,500 for a combined $41,849 in unreported gifts. According to the Sacramento Bee, in February 2010 31 California lawmakers were fined a composite $9,400 for nearly $5,400 in unreported gifts. The violations accumulated over an 18 month reporting period.

The FFPC has not returned a call asking for clarification of reporting time frames and potential penalties.

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