The Power of Independent Thinking

←  PUBLICATIONS
Founder and Director: Lawrence J. McQuillan
Research Fellow: Adam B. Summers
Policy Research Associate: Jonathan Hofer

Every three months, the Independent Institute highlights a state or local government spending program, tax, or regulation that fleeces California taxpayers, consumers, or businesses. On occasion, the awards also spotlight a federal program that disproportionately harms Californians.

The California Golden Fleece® Awards expose waste, fraud, and abuse in California government. To receive this ignoble designation, a spending program, tax, or regulation must violate common-sense principles of responsible government, be considered wasteful by people of varying political philosophies, and must be well documented.

Submit a Candidate We encourage people—both inside and outside of government—to send us Fleece candidates. Public participation will help make the California Golden Fleece® Awards a more valuable resource for exposing government waste, increasing transparency, and holding government at all levels accountable when they swindle taxpayers or break the public trust.

California has some of the most protective whistle-blower and retaliation laws in the nation. Since the 1980s, the state’s whistle-blower laws encourage employees to report unlawful acts in the workplace without fear of retaliation (Diego v. Pilgrim United Church of Christ (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 913, 922). Protections extend to government employees who report violations of local, state, or federal law to outside bodies, including watchdog tip lines or websites such as ours. In February 2018, whistle-blower protections were also extended, for the first time, to legislative employees (Legislative Employee Whistleblower Protection Act).

 Winner: Summer 2020
California Government Technology Failures For failing to update antiquated technology and wasting billions of dollars and many years on doomed IT projects, the California Department of Technology and other departments responsible for upgrading state IT systems have been named recipients of the tenth California Golden Fleece® Award.
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 Winner: Winter 2019/20
California Housing Regulations For preventing housing development, which would alleviate sky-high housing prices and growing homelessness, California state and local politicians, government planners and regulators, and NIMBY activists have been named recipients of the ninth California Golden Fleece® Award.
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 Winner: Summer 2019
Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, and Other Government Agencies For pursuing faulty incentives that impeded fire prevention and the widespread adoption of scientific techniques to prevent, detect, and quickly suppress wildfires, several government agencies have been named recipients of the eighth California Golden Fleece® Award.
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 Winner: Winter 2018/19
California Department of Motor Vehicles For long lines, employees sleeping on the job, and severe mishandling of voter registrations, disability placards, driver’s licenses, and REAL IDs, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has won the Independent Institute’s seventh California Golden Fleece® Award.
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Time for California’s DMV to Enter the 21st Century, by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Megan E. Sarsfield
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 Winner: Fall 2018
Lawmakers and Government Employees Who Harass For using taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct claims and shielding the abuse from the public using special laws, offending lawmakers and government employees have been named recipients of the sixth California Golden Fleece® Award.
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 Winner: Summer 2018
Proposition 47 For unleashing a crime wave on property owners, California’s Proposition 47 has been named the fifth recipient of the California Golden Fleece® Award. To secure justice and restore public confidence, lawmakers should enact stiffer penalties for property crimes, and law enforcement should prioritize “smash-and-grab” vehicle break-ins and retail shopliftings. 
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 Winner: Fall 2017
The California Department of Water Resources For its reckless mismanagement of Oroville Dam—which caused a near catastrophe in February 2017—California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) has been named the fourth recipient of the California Golden Fleece® Award. Ownership of DWR dams should be transferred to responsible private parties as part of a modernization of the state’s outdated legacy water system.
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No More Patch and Pray—Privatize Oroville Dam, by Lawrence J. McQuillan, Hayeon Carol Park
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 Winner: Spring 2017
CAL FIRE The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection—CAL FIRE—has won the third California Golden Fleece® Award due to poor handling of fire safety and costs, severe lack of accountability to taxpayers and landowners, and numerous scandals.
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Cal Fire Must Prioritize Prevention, by Lawrence J. McQuillan
News coverage

 Winner: Summer 2016
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has won the second California Golden Fleece® Award for its waste of taxpayer money, while at the same time demanding more funding. Caltrans should be drastically scaled back as part of broader reforms to modernize California’s highways.
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 Winner: Spring 2016
California’s High-Speed Rail Authority The California High-Speed Rail Authority has won the first California Golden Fleece® Award for its lack of transparency and history of misleading the public about key details of the state’s “bullet-train” project, which no longer reflect what voters approved in 2008.
News coverage
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Events
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece® Awards to speak at Vistage Key Executive Leadership & CEO Network at Sonoma State University Dec. 16-17 Thu., Dec. 12, 2019
“Taxpayer Toolkit: Is the DMV really fleecing Californians? featuring Lawrence McQuillan” Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece® Awards speaks to the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association in Santa Clara, CA Thu., Jun. 27, 2019
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece Awards speaks at West Valley Republican Women Federated in San Jose, CA on Thursday, May 16 Fri., May. 17, 2019
Senior Fellow Lawrence McQuillan speaks on the California Golden Fleece Award to the Piedmont Area Republican Women’s Federation in Oakland, CA on March 13, 2019 Wed., Mar. 13, 2019
“California is Getting Fleeced” Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece Award speaks at the Piedmont Area Republican Women Federated in Piedmont, CA March 13, 2019 Wed., Mar. 13, 2019
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, creator of the California Golden Fleece Awards and author of California Dreaming speaks at the Sonoma Rotary Club, Sonoma, CA Wed., Sep. 26, 2018
Senior Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, creator of the California Golden Fleece Awards presents at the Rossmoor Republican Club on Sept. 17, 2018 Mon., Sep. 17, 2018
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan to speak at Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley about the California Golden Fleece Awards on November 2, 2016 Wed., Nov. 2, 2016
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, Founder and Director of the California Golden Fleece Awards to speak at the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association in Santa Rosa, CA on Thursday, July 21 Thu., Jul. 21, 2016
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, Founder and Director of the California Golden Fleece Awards to speak at the Economic Roundtable of San Francisco on Wednesday, July 20 Wed., Jul. 20, 2016
Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, author of California Dreaming to speak at the California Liberty Summit in Fresno, California Fri., May. 20, 2016





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