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UC Regents urged to finish gun industry divestment

By Josh Richman
Thursday, May 21st, 2015 at 3:36 pm in education, gun control

Activists preparing to mark Saturday’s anniversary of last year’s murderous rampage in Isla Vista, in which six UC Santa Barbara students were killed and 13 were wounded, urged the UC Board of Regents on Thursday to finish divesting the system from any investments in the firearm industry.

Thousands of petition signatures were delivered to the board’s meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus by Allie Clement, a 2012 UC Santa Barbara graduate who hails from Newtown, Conn. — the site of 2012’s schoolhouse massacre. “I couldn’t believe that both my hometown and my college town were affected by gun violence.”

Bob Weiss of Thousand Oaks described to the board how his 19-year-old daughter, Veronika, was among those gunned down by Elliot Rodger that awful day.

“If this body is invested in the gun industry, that means you’re in the gun business, and if you’re in the gun business, I’m in the gun business. I don’t want to be in the gun business,” Weiss said, his voice breaking. “I don’t know how any of you can sleep at night with all of the students who have been killed.”

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the system divested itself of any direct gun-industry investments in 2013, and is now combing through its vast portfolio to see if any of its mutual funds have such stakes; any that are found will be sold, she said.

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AD16: Sbranti won’t run, joins Swalwell’s staff

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 6:01 pm in Assembly, Catharine Baker, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House

Former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a Democrat who lost November’s 16th Assembly District race to Republican Catharine Baker, won’t challenge Baker in 2016, he said Wednesday.

Instead, he’s ending his 17-year teaching career and starting work June 15 as deputy chief of staff to Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin – his former student at Dublin High.

Tim Sbranti“Everything comes full circle in life,” Sbranti said Wednesday. “He talks about how he learned from me, and now I learn from him. It’s actually kind of an honor to have a student who has done so well that I can now go work for him.”

Sbranti, 40, who has a 1-year-old daughter, said he’ll spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C., this summer getting oriented to the job; after that he’ll be based in Swalwell’s district office with trips to D.C. about once a month. He’ll be the main liaison between the D.C. and district staffs, with an eye toward ensuring the legislative team’s work is in line with the district’s priorities and “expanding our office’s relationship with the community,” he said.

Sbranti’s decision not to run against Baker in 2016 could start a mad scramble among ambitious local Democrats as the state party makes a priority of ousting Baker, the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker. Baker, R-Dublin, is expected to be vulnerable as the presidential election’s high turnout gives Democrats, who have a 7.3-percentage-point registration edge in the district, more of an advantage.

I hear that Sbranti made his intentions known a few weeks ago, but East Bay Democrats were so pre-occupied with the 7th State Senate District special election – in which party pariah and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, on Tuesday – that they’re only now pivoting to consider AD16.

Names mentioned in the past include former Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson, but the word on the street is that she’s not interested right now. Likelier candidates might include Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, who finished fourth in last year’s AD16 primary behind Baker, Sbranti and Glazer; five-term Orinda Councilwoman Amy Worth; and Danville attorney Jerome Pandell, a Democratic activist who ran for the San Ramon Valley School Board last year. Or, some in the party might be hoping for a businesswoman from outside the usual political circles – like Baker – to get into the race.

Sbranti said he’ll miss being in the classroom, though he’ll stay involved in education as a member of the governing board of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, which advises and assists school districts, charter schools and county education offices on meeting the goals set forth in their Local Control and Accountability Plans. And he also might keep helping out as a basketball coach at Dublin High as time allows, he said.

“I want to stay connected,” he said, “but at the same time I’m excited about what lies ahead.”

He won’t rule out some future run for elected office. “Not any time soon, certainly not in my immediate future, but I think it would be foolish to rule out at any point down the line that I would run for something. It’s just not on my horizon right now.”

Swalwell said he’s excited to welcome Sbranti aboard after nearly 20 years as a teacher, state legislative staffer, councilman and mayor.

“His work has produced results that have helped create jobs, protect our environment, and provide affordable housing. But his work is not done, and I’m lucky he wants to continue serving our community as my deputy chief of staff,” the second-term congressman said. “Tim inspired me when I was his student to go into public service. I couldn’t be more thrilled to now have his counsel as I work to serve the East Bay.”

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SD7: What they’re saying about Glazer’s win

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 11:43 am in California State Senate, steve glazer, Susan Bonilla

My esteemed colleague Matt Artz has full coverage of the 7th State Senate District special election’s denouement, in which Oridna Mayor Steve Glazer defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla by a whopping 9.2 percentage points.

From California Democratic Party Executive Director Shawnda Westly:

“Assemblymember Susan Bonilla ran as a progressive candidate who fought tuition increases for UC and CSU students and delivered balanced budgets.

“Her opponent claimed to be Democrat but ran a cynical campaign to appeal to Republican voters in a low-turnout election. We know that low-turnout elections favor Republicans. When Democratic voters show up and vote, Democrats win.

“We will not back down from races like this in the future, and Democrats will go to bat for our endorsed candidates who put the needs of working and middle class families first.”

From Independent Women’s Voice President & CEO Heather Higgins, whose group spent $8,600 to support Glazer:

“On behalf of Independent Women’s Voice, I want to congratulate Steve Glazer on his resounding victory in Senate District 7. This is a great victory for east San Francisco Bay Area families, who have made it clear that they want to move their state in a new direction.

“Steve Glazer realizes it’s time for change in Sacramento. Voters are ready for political leaders who are willing to hold government accountable, restore fiscal responsibility and stand up to powerful and moneyed interests, including the unreasonable demands of unions. It is crucial that we restore government to promoting accountability and economic freedom. The people of Senate District 7 have paved the way for that positive path forward in California.”

From Jon Youngdahl of the union-funded Working Families Opposing Glazer 2015 Committee, which spent $2.23 million to support Bonilla:

“This low-turnout special election was a special circumstance where a Democratic candidate was able to pander to Republican voters to gain an edge. Our opponent received less than 30 percent of the Democratic vote, which will not be sustainable in future elections in a Democratic-leaning district. His campaign was bankrolled by a record-shattering $5.1 million in spending; $2 million from a Los Angeles developer more and than $1.3 from a PAC funded in part from the tobacco industry plus millions more from corporate education interests that we were unable to match.”

“This election was not about the soul of the Democratic Party. It was a craven political strategy designed by corporate special interests and Republicans to clear the field of credible Republican candidates and then spend records amount of money to keep Democrats away from the polls.”

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Club for Growth founder joins Del Beccaro team

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 10:57 am in U.S. Senate

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Del Beccaro has added renowned conservative economist Stephen Moore, co-founder and first president of the Club for Growth, as an economic advisor to his campaign.

Steve MooreMoore’s addition helps Del Beccaro burnish his conservative bona fides, at least economically speaking – a clear effort to distinguish himself from the other Republican in the race, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, who’s seen as relatively moderate.

“I am honored and excited to have Steve join my team,” Del Beccaro, a former California Republican Party chairman from Lafayette, said in a news release. “He has fought for strong, sensible economic policies for years. Steve is a leading voice for the pro-growth policies that this country and California sorely need.”

Moore, in the same release, said Del Beccaro “has great economic ideas, especially in the area of taxes. He is a thoughtful proponent of the flat tax, which would create one low, flat income tax rate for everyone, regardless of income.

“This simplified, lower tax system would not only decrease the size and power of the IRS, but will also provide a much needed boost to the economy, create jobs and reduce poverty over time,” Moore said.

Moore, 55, was a budgetary affairs fellow at the Heritage Foundation from 1983 to 1987 before serving for a year as research director of President Ronald Reagan’s Privatization Commission and then starting a 10-year stint as a fellow of the libertarian Cato Institute. He also worked as senior economist of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee under Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas.

He co-founded the Club for Growth to support conservative congressional candidates – often mounting primary campaigns against more centrist Republicans – in 1999 and served as its president until 2004, when he was ousted by its board. He then founded the similar Free Enterprise Fund, but left in 2005 to serve on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board. He was a partner in Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics, but then rejoined the Heritage Foundation at the start of 2014.
http://www.arduinlaffermoore.com/

A Field Poll released Wednesday found 58 percent of likely voters are undecided about who they’ll back in next year’s Senate race. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, had 19 percent support; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, had 8 percent; Chavez had 6 percent; and Del Beccaro had 5 percent.

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CA17: Gentlemen, start your engines…

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 8:26 am in Mike Honda, U.S. House

It seems Ro Khanna will announce his widely expected 2016 rematch challenge to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District at the end of this month.

Khanna supporters received an email Tuesday inviting them “to hear his special announcement in person on May 30th! As a supporter of change and fresh thinking in Washington, you won’t want to miss it!”

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 30 at the Santa Clara Civic Center, 1500 Warburton Ave. An RSVP form has been added to Khanna’s campaign website.

Khanna, 38, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lives in Fremont, finished 3.6 percentage points behind Honda in November’s election after one of the nation’s costliest House showdowns of 2014. As I reported last month, Khanna raised about $800,000 in this year’s first quarter – or more precisely, in March, after CSPAN’s video of Honda, 73, dozing on the House floor Feb. 27 as his colleagues debated the Homeland Security Department’s funding.

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SD7: Open thread

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 at 4:31 pm in California State Senate

Well, ladies and gents, it’s almost over – in a few hours, polls will close in the 7th State Senate District‘s special election, and either Steve Glazer or Susan Bonilla could be declaring victory soon thereafter.

Polls close at 8 p.m., and if you haven’t voted yet, please get up off your keister right this instant and go cast your ballot. If you need to find a polling place, check online with the registrars in Contra Costa County and Alameda County.

Here’s your final chance to embarrass – er, assert yourselves with predictions and prognostications, credit and blame, or just expressions of relief that your mailboxes will no longer be stuffed chock full of ugly accusations. Post your comments below; keep it clean, don’t get personal.

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Rep. Mike Thompson is quite the marksman

By Josh Richman
Friday, May 15th, 2015 at 2:33 pm in gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House

House Democrats’ point man on gun control is a pretty good shot, it seems.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, named by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to lead the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force after 2012’s Connecticut schoolhouse massacre, won “Top Gun” honors at this week’s Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation annual shooting competition.

Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus joined the foundation and representatives from the sportsmen’s community Tuesday at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Md., to shoot rounds of trap, skeet and sporting clays.

Thompson, a Vietnam combat veteran and avid hunter, outshot 35 other members of Congress who participated to win the top individual prize. But in team competition, Republicans led by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., prevailed over Democrats led by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., with a score of 235-227.

“This annual shoot-out is a great event that brings together folks from both political parties for an afternoon of fun and comradery,” Thompson, a former two-time chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, said in a news release.“It was an honor to win the ‘Top Gun’ award, and I look forward to working with my fellow members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to advance conservation, recreation and safety issues that are important to us all.”

Thompson in March joined with Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., to re-introduce a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads. Their H.R. 1217, with only six other cosponsors, was referred to Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs subcommittees and hasn’t moved an inch since in the Republican-led House.

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House passes bill on NSA phone records program

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 at 3:10 pm in Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House

The House voted 338-88 Wednesday to pass a bill that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records, the Washington Post reports.

Supporters say the USA Freedom Act would keep phone “metadata” out of government hands and make other changes to surveillance practices; some critics say that it goes too far, others that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The Senate still must take up the bill amending Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which without congressional action will expire June 1.

Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, voted against the bill Wednesday, while the rest of the Bay Area’s all-Democrat delegation supported it.

“Congress may have changed the name but the USA Freedom Act is just a watered-down version of the Patriot Act,” Farr said in a news release. “I commend the bipartisan effort to adhere to the 2nd Circuit Court’s ruling and to develop more safeguards to protect our civil liberties. Unfortunately, this bill still contains too many provisions that threaten the privacy of American citizens.

“I cannot vote for a bill that does not protect the privacy rights enshrined in the 4th Amendment,” Farr added. “The risk of faulty information collection is not a risk I am willing to take with any American’s privacy. Upholding the Constitution is non-negotiable.”

But Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, issued a statement saying “our government has a responsibility to respect people’s civil liberties and protect our national security. This legislation does both.

“It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe,” Thompson said.

Records of phone numbers, call dates, times and durations would be kept by telecommunications companies under this bill, not by the government. Company employees could still search such records under a court order specifying a particular person, account or address, but not an entire phone or Internet company or a broad geographic region, such as a state, city or Zip code.

The bill has the rare combined support of House Republican leaders and President Obama.

“In order to stay secure in these dangerous times, we must have the tools to track terrorists and spies. But the American people have strong concerns about a big government watching over our phone calls, collecting our metadata, and possibly invading our privacy,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“So the House has looked at the facts on the ground and recalibrated our approach to keep America safe while protecting civil liberties,” he said. “The USA FREEDOM Act stops bulk data collection while still making sure those fighting terrorism have access to what they need so they can do their job and prevent future terror attacks. That’s what makes it a good, bipartisan bill.”

But in the wake of last week’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the NSA’s phone-records collection program as illegal, civil libertarians aren’t happy with this bill.

“Last week’s historic court decision makes clear that this bill must be strengthened to protect privacy rights,” Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, had said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Following the court’s ruling, the House should have amended the bill to prevent the government from amassing and keeping the information of innocent Americans. The Senate should not make the same mistake and instead remedy the bill’s many deficiencies, which have been criticized on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “Letting Section 215 expire would be preferable to passing the current version of this bill, which fails to adequately protect Americans’ information from unwarranted government intrusion.”

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Sanchez is NOT declaring Senate candidacy. Yet.

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 7:43 pm in U.S. House, U.S. Senate

The Sacramento Bee, Politico and other outlets reported Tuesday afternoon that Rep. Loretta Sanchez had sent an email to supporters saying she would announce her 2016 U.S. Senate candidacy Thursday morning in Santa Ana.

Loretta SanchezBut a short while later, the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Finnegan tweeted that Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, had told him that a draft announcement had been released mistakenly. “I have actually not made a decision,” he quoted her as saying. “That is the truth.”

And a short while after that, the Bee reported that a Sanchez campaign consultant had confirmed the email was sent out in error. I left a message with Sanchez’s office a few hours ago, but it wasn’t returned.

Sanchez has been busy in recent months meeting with Latino Democrats up and down the state, many of whom have been concerned that Attorney General Kamala Harris – the only prominent Democrat in this race so far – seems headed for a coronation that keeps their growing bloc out of the loop. And the timing seemed right, as Sanchez, Harris and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles – who also is contemplating a Senate run – all are scheduled to address the Chicano Latino Caucus at the California Democratic Party convention this Saturday in Anaheim.

But this “She has decided! No she hasn’t!” fiasco isn’t a good omen for Sanchez, said Larry Sabato, who directs the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“When a horse stumbles out of the gate, it almost never wins,” he said. “It’s highly embarrassing and it’s a terrible start to what will be an uphill challenge anyway.”

Sabato acknowledged this must be “a tough decision for her because she’s giving up a safe seat in the House for a chancy run at the Senate. She certainly will not be the frontrunner; Harris has lined up a remarkable team and war chest.”

It’s rare for a single candidate like Harris to essentially clear the field for an open seat in so big a state, but given Democrats’ strong advantage, this race “is over before it starts if there isn’t a strong second Democrat in the runoff,” Sabato said.

Sanchez and Becerra would be wooing many of the same Latino and Southern California audiences, he added. “I would be stunned if both of them ran, I would be a little surprised if neither of them ran.”

UPDATE @ 3:38 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Aaaaand now Sanchez IS indeed making “a significant political announcement” at 11 a.m. Thursday in Santa Ana. Full story here.

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Boxer, DiFi oppose fast-track trade authority

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 3:39 pm in Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Senate Democrats derailed one of President Obama’s major second-term priorities Tuesday, voting to hold up consideration of “fast track” trade authority unless related measures are guaranteed to proceed alongside it, the Washington Post reports.

Sixty votes were needed to begin formal debate of measures that would pave the way for approval of a complex Pacific trade accord and provide relief to unemployed workers affected by trade deals. The vote was 52-45, with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the only Democrat voting aye.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had said last week she would vote for trade promotion authority only if it was accompanied by other bills providing income support and retraining funds for workers displaced by international trade; more power to enforce trade agreements and punish violations; and a trade-preferences package for developing nations in Africa.

“Whether or not Congress should grant the president fast-track trade authority is important, but I believe the debate shouldn’t occur in isolation from these related issues,” she said at the time. “If this larger package of bills comes before the Senate, I look forward to its consideration.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., spoke against fast-track authority before Tuesday’s vote.

Barbara Boxer“The last major deal Congress approved cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, lowered the wages of American workers, and increased income inequality. And we are still dealing with the legacy of NAFTA,” she said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. (Boxer and Feinstein both voted against NAFTA in late 1993, too.)

“They say timing is everything in life. Well, if that’s true, the timing of this free-trade agreement could not be worse for the middle-class families who we are supposed to be fighting for,” Boxer said. “We should immediately put this legislation aside and take up legislation that will help the middle class.”

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement after the Senate vote saying “free and open trade means a stronger America with more jobs and opportunity.

“This is something that both Republicans and Democrats support, including the President,” McCarthy said. “History has shown that in times of divided government, positive changes can be made on behalf of the American people. Unfortunately, it is the President’s own party stopping progress. The decision by Senate Democrats to block this bipartisan bill from moving forward is disappointing and a step backwards for our already beleaguered economic recovery. The House will continue to work towards passage of free and open trade.”

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