|Founder and Director:
|Lawrence J. McQuillan
|Adam B. Summers
|Policy Research Associate:
The California Golden Fleece® Awards are a series of in-depth reports from the Independent Institute that expose waste, fraud, and abuse in California on the state or local level. To receive this ignoble designation, a program, agency, policy, 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. On occasion, the awards also spotlight a federal program that disproportionately harms Californians.
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 2022
Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs)
For adopting automated license plate readers without proper safeguards to protect public privacy and public safety, jurisdictions and police departments with ALPR operations have earned the thirteenth California Golden Fleece® Award.
Oakland’s Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) Debacle, by Jonathan Hofer
Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark—ALPRs, by Jonathan Hofer
A Law Enforcement Officer’s Take on Independent Institute’s ALPR Report, by Elias Amezuca
Privacy vs. Public Safety: Eight of the Nine Coachella Valley Cities Use Automated License Plate Recognition Cameras California Golden Fleece® Awards cited in the Coachella Valley Independent 12/18/2023
More license plate readers are coming to Bay Area, but do they work? Research Associate and Editorial Coordinator Jonathan Hofer interviewed on KTVU-TV 9/28/2023Show More (10) »
|Winner: Winter 2022
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
For operating a dangerous, dirty, unreliable, and financially reckless public transportation system in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has received the twelfth California Golden Fleece® Award.
It’s Time to Rethink BART Expansion, by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hovannes Abramyan
BART Revamps Civic Center Station Senior Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, author of the California Golden Fleece® Award Crime, Grime, and Greed at BART interviewed on KTVU-TV 1/31/2024
BART system maintenance questioned as equipment and service problems persist Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, author of California Golden Fleece® Award Crime, Grime, and Greed at BART interviewed on KTVU-TV 9/24/2022Show More (9) »
|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.
Trump and Newsom Think Alike on Deadly Wildfires, by Lawrence J. McQuillan
If You Love Forests, Let Them Burn, by William F. Shughart II and Brian Isom
Bad Policy Assures a Perpetual Sense of Burning Crisis California Golden Fleece® Awards California Wildfires cited by The Brownstone Institute 6/13/2023
California Is Burning: Marxist Dreaming Is The Reason Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, author of California Dreaming interviewed on The Exceptional Conservative Show 10/11/2022Show More (35) »
|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.
California’s DMV Drives Us Crazy, Reforms Are Needed, by Lawrence J. McQuillan
Time for California’s DMV to Enter the 21st Century, by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Megan E. Sarsfield
Fixing Californias DMV Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece® Awards interviewed on KGO radios Chip Franklin Show 8/6/2019
California DMV Gets Makeover Designed to Tackle Long Lines, Faulty Computer Systems Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece Awards, quoted in USA Today 7/25/2019Show More (11) »
|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.
No More Tax Dollars Spent to Settle Sexual Misconduct Claims, by Lawrence J. McQuillan
Bureaucrats Play, Taxpayers Pay Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, director of the California Golden Fleece Awards quoted in the California Globe 8/9/2019
Your Taxes Pay for Politicians Bad Behavior Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, Director of the California Golden Fleece ® Awards appears on KOGO radio 12/5/2018Show More (5) »
|Winner: Summer 2018
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.
Catch and Release: Suspect in Viral LA Flash Mob Robbery Was Released on Cashless Bail One Day Before Heist Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan quoted in the Washington Free Beacon 8/30/2023
Karen Bass and The Law California Golden Fleece® Award California Property Crime Surge Is Unintended Consequence of Proposition 47 mentioned in City Watch LA 10/14/2022Show More (5) »
|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.
No More Patch and Pray—Privatize Oroville Dam, by Lawrence J. McQuillan, Hayeon Carol Park
No More Patch and PrayPrivatize Oroville Dam Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan and Policy Researcher Hayeon Carol Park Op-Ed in The San Francisco Chronicle 1/30/2018
Oroville Dam: Independent Institute Report Calls for DWR to Transfer Dam Ownership Independent Institute California Golden Fleece Award and Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan cited in The Chico Enterprise-Record and other MediaNews group newspapers 10/22/2017Show More (4) »
|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.
Cal Fire Must Prioritize Prevention, by Lawrence J. McQuillan
California Burning Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, Director of Independents California Golden Fleece® Awards appears on the Andy Caldwell radio show 8/23/2021
|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.
No Gas Taxation Without Better Representation Independent Institutes California Golden Fleece Award cited in the Orange County Register 12/7/2017
Repeal Californias Gas Tax increase, says GOP Candidate for Governor Independent Institutes Golden Fleece Award cited in Op-Ed in The San Francisco Chronicle 10/18/2017Show More (13) »
|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.
CA Gov. Newsom Slowing the California Bullet Train Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan appears on KAHI radio 2/28/2019
California: Off the Rails Sr. Fellow Lawrence McQuillan appears on KUHL radios Andy Caldwell show 2/26/2019Show More (7) »