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Bay Area lawmakers offer tix for Pope’s visit

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 at 5:20 pm in Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House

A few Bay Area House members are holding lotteries in which their constituents can win tickets to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit later this month.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is offering tickets for the pontiff’s address to a joint session of Congress on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, to residents of her 18th Congressional District; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is doing the same for her 14th District constituents; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is doing it in his 9th District. Ticket holders will be able to view the address from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via televised broadcast.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an opportunity to my constituents to take part in this historic event,” Eshoo said in a news release. “While not all who wish to attend will be awarded a ticket, my office is working to ensure the lottery is conducted fairly and make the process a good one.”

Speier said Pope Francis “has become a focal point across the world for prioritizing peace over war, care of the planet over consumption, forgiveness over accusation, and neighbor over self. I’m excited that 50 of my constituents have the opportunity to be on the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch the broadcast of the Pope’s address to members of Congress. My only regret is that I can’t make these tickets available to everyone.”

McNerney said it’s “sure to be a momentous occasion. This is the first time that the Pope will deliver an address to Congress, and I look forward to hearing his message for the American people.”

The deadline to enter McNerney’s lottery is tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4; the deadline to enter Eshoo’s lottery is noon Pacific Time next Tuesday, Sept. 8; and the deadline to enter Speier’s lottery is midnight next Thursday, Sept. 10. Only constituents of those districts may enter, only one entry is allowed per person, and each winner will receive two tickets.

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Past Bay Area ethics probes pale beside Honda’s

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 at 4:26 pm in Mike Honda, U.S. House

The allegations leveled against Rep. Mike Honda in an Office of Congressional Ethics report and made public by the House Ethics Committee on Thursday are arguably the most significant allegations any Bay Area House member has faced in decades.

The OCE in 2009 began investigating then-Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and four other lawmakers to see whether they had violated Maryland criminal tax law and House ethics rules by intentionally filing false applications for a Maryland homeowner’s tax credit. But the Ethics Committee in 2010 cleared Stark of any wrongdoing, and blasted the OCE for conducting “an inadequate review, the result of which was to subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations.”

In 2011, the OCE investigated whether support for the wine industry by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, had benefited his campaign donors or a vineyard he owns, as described in a New York Times article. But the OCE eventually decided unanimously against further review, Thompson’s spokesman later said; because the matter was never referred to the Ethics Committee, the OCE made no announcement.

Way back in 1983, the Ethics Committee probed whether then-Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, and one of his aides had used cocaine and marijuana. A special counsel investigated and found no basis for charges, so the committee took no further action.

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Ballot measure fee to rise from $200 to $2000

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at 5:44 pm in Assembly, ballot measures, Evan Low

It’s about to get a lot more expensive to submit a proposed ballot measure in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill by Assemblymen Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, that raises the fee for submitting a ballot measure from $200 to $2,000, effective Jan. 1, 2016. AB 1100 is freshman Low’s first bill to be signed into law.

“It has been over 72 years since this aspect of the initiative process has been updated. This reform is overdue,” Low said in a news release. “We live in California, the cradle of direct democracy, but we also need a threshold for reasonableness. And this bill will do just that.”

The $200 fee was established in 1943 to deter frivolous proposals and to cover some of the costs of analyzing and processing initiatives, but that’s not a lot of money today. Low’s office said $200 today is the equivalent of $14.80 in 1943 dollars.

The bill was inspired in part by the submission in March of a “Sodomite Suppression Act” that if enacted would’ve required the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled the proposal unconstitutional and it has been removed from consideration for next year’s ballot, but critics called for reform of the ballot initiative process nonetheless.

“If a proposal makes it to the ballot, the $2,000 fee would be refunded to the proponent,” Low noted. “If a proponent feels strongly about a measure, a true grassroots campaign will find the means to pay the filing fee and get their proposal on the ballot.”

Critics insist the bill raises a barrier for ordinary Californians to engage in the process.

“Direct democracy is a citizen’s right – a cornerstone of the checks and balances of democracy that have been protected passionately in California,” state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said in a news release. “Raising the fee by 900 percent is cost prohibitive.”

Only the state’s elite political class will be able to put their ideas on the ballot, he said: “Elected officials should increase voter participation, not discourage it.”

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George Miller to serve as lecturer at Cal

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at 5:13 pm in George Miller, U.S. House

Well, he did say he wanted to stay involved in education and education policy.

George MillerFormer Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who retired this year after 40 years in the House, will join the University of California, Berkeley as the Fall 2015 Matsui Lecturer at the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service.

That means Miller will spend a week in residency at the Matsui Center during October, speaking to classes, meeting with students, delivering a public lecture and taking part in campus culture. His public lecture – focusing on Congress, labor, and income inequality – is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19th in Cal’s Banatao Auditorium; registration for this free event is available online.

Matsui Center Director Ethan Rarick said Miller “was an extraordinary national leader with a long and distinguished record of service in Congress, but he is also deeply rooted in the politics and policy challenges of California.”

Miller, 70, called this “a wonderful honor,” especially given that the center’s namesake – the late Rep. Bob Matsui, D-Sacramento – “was not only a great friend but a passionate thinker and fighter for economic and social justice.”

“He fully understood the obligation, power, and the duty that the United States Congress has to assure that those less fortunate and in need of assistance are able to fully participate in the American society and economy,” Miller said. “Bob Matsui never stopped fighting for justice. He was a great role model for me and many other members of Congress who served with him. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the Matsui Center to engage Berkeley Campus students in the discussion of the critical issues of our time.”

Miller also currently serves as senior education advisor for the Boston-based education tech services company Cengage Learning, helping executives on issues ranging from public policy to business strategy. And he’s a member of a “Right Start Commission” launched in May by Common Sense Kids Action to explore ways to modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The Matsui Center, founded in 2008, is part of Cal’s Institute of Governmental Studies, California’s oldest public policy research center.

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Proposed measure would drop drinking age to 18

By Josh Richman
Monday, August 31st, 2015 at 5:00 pm in ballot measures

Terrance Lynn doesn’t see himself as the new patron saint of college keggers, but his proposed ballot measure to lower California’s drinking age from 21 to 18 might get him there nonetheless.

Lynn, 42, of Portola Valley, sees it as a civil-rights issue.

out of the shadows“There is no kind of ‘junior citizen’ status – you’re either an adult or you’re not” except when it comes to drinking, he said; 18-year-olds can be held criminally liable as adults and can volunteer or be drafted into the military, yet can’t legally buy a beer.

Alcohol enforcement, like the war on drugs, often has a disproportionate socio-economic impact, Lynn added: A Stanford student caught drinking a beer might get a pass or at least have an easy time clearing his or her record, while a poor kid from East Palo Alto could face more serious repercussions. And making it legal for college-age people to drink could help reduce binge-drinking by bringing campus consumption out of the shadows, he said.

Lynn acknowledged that while 18-to-20-year-olds would “obviously vote their self interest on this,” that age group usually doesn’t go to the polls in great numbers – though if this won’t bring them out, he can’t imagine what will.

This would run afoul of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which punishes states that allow those under 21 to drink by reducing annual federal highway funds by 10 percent. Lynn believes that with California’s clout in D.C. – its huge congressional delegation, and the fact that it pays a lot more in federal taxes than it gets back – “I can’t imagine that situation would last for long.”

Michael Scippa, public affairs director at San Rafael-based Alcohol Justice, said Lynn isn’t the first and won’t be the last to propose reducing the minimum legal drinking age, but “from a public health perspective, it’s extremely foolish and there’s no reason to do it.”

Scippa said there’s “an overwhelming body of scientific evidence… case after case, study after study” showing that barring drinking until age 21 reduces youth drinking and alcohol-related harm, especially on the roads. Reducing the age to 18 would mean “we’d start seeing a spike (in drinking) at 16,” he said. “We don’t want to go backwards here – it’s such a public health and safety success story. The only people who would benefit from this are alcohol producers.”

Lynn, a tech-company chief financial officer making his first foray into public policy, has submitted another proposed measure that would strip party affiliation from ballot designations so that it would be harder to see and vote a straight party line. “This labeling and partisan generalization is really hurting us in the national dialog,” he said. “It’s a tool of the powerful to control the ignorant.”

And he’s working on a third measure that would impose a 1000 percent sales tax on all political advertisements in California, with all revenue going to public schools; Lynn said it’s a way to counter the avalanche of money in politics since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (A true “sin tax,” some might say.)

There’s little chance of any of these making it onto 2016’s ballot. Lynn said he can’t spend much money on them beyond fees for filing and website-hosting: “Nothing beyond the bare minimum… I don’t have the wherewithal to do it, and I wouldn’t be inclined to if I did.” He’s hoping they’ll catch fire on social media and, once he’s cleared to start circulating petitions, will become a true grassroots signature-gathering campaign.

The public-comment periods for Lynn’s drinking-age measure and the party-affiliation measure last through Sept. 24.

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Gov. Jerry Brown creates cybersecurity center

By Josh Richman
Monday, August 31st, 2015 at 1:22 pm in Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order Monday to bolster California’s preparedness for cyber-attacks which could disrupt the Golden State’s economy and infrastructure or violate residents’ privacy and lead to identity theft.

The order directs the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to create a California Cybersecurity Integration Center (Cal-CSIC), responsible for strengthening the state’s cybersecurity strategy and improving inter-agency, cross-sector coordination to reduce the likelihood and severity of cyber-attacks.

The new Cal-CSIC will work closely with the California State Threat Assessment System and the U.S Department of Homeland Security to improve information sharing between local, state and federal agencies, tribal governments, utilities and other service providers, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.

Cal-CSIC will also establish a multi-agency Cyber Incident Response Team to serve as the state’s primary unit to lead cyber threat detection, reporting, and response in coordination with public and private entities across the state.

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Gavin Newsom & wife expecting fourth child

By Josh Richman
Monday, August 31st, 2015 at 10:45 am in Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made a big announcement Monday morning on Facebook: “Jen and I are excited to announce that we are expecting a baby boy this winter!”

Seems like they’re trying to populate their own little “Citizenville.” Newsom, 47, and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, 41, already are the parents of Montana Tessa Newsom, who turns 6 next month; Hunter Siebel Newsom, 4; and Brooklynn Newsom, 2. Papa is running for governor in 2018.

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CA17: Ro Khanna got married

By Josh Richman
Sunday, August 30th, 2015 at 5:19 pm in Mike Honda, U.S. House

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna got married Saturday in Cleveland.

Per the New York Times:

Ro Khanna and Ritu AhujaRitu Ahuja and Rohit Khanna were married Saturday in Cleveland. Pandit Ashok Bhargava officiated at Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Until April, Mrs. Khanna, 36, was a product marketing specialist in New York for Bulgari, the Italian jewelry and accessories company. She graduated from Georgetown and received a master’s in strategic communications from Columbia.

The bride is a daughter of Usha Ahuja and Monte Ahuja of Hunting Valley, Ohio. The bride’s father is the chairman of Mura Holdings, an investment firm, and is the chief executive of Transmaxx, an automotive transmission parts supplier, both in Solon, Ohio.

Mr. Khanna, 38, is the vice president for strategic initiatives in the Santa Clara, Calif., office of Smart Utility Systems, an energy-efficiency software company. He is also a lecturer in economics at Stanford University, and a Democratic candidate for Congress from Cupertino, Calif. From 2009-11, he worked for the Obama administration as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce. He graduated from the University of Chicago and received a law degree from Yale.

The groom is a son of Jyotsna Khanna and Vijay Khanna of Churchville, Pa. The groom’s mother retired as a substitute special-education teacher in the Council Rock School District in Newtown, Pa. His father retired as a chemical engineer in the Springfield, Pa., office of Rohm & Haas, a manufacturer of chemicals.

Khanna, a Democrat, is running again against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Honda defeated Khanna by 3.6 percentage points last November after a costly, sometimes ugly race.

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SF couple hosting John Kasich, Ben Carson

By Josh Richman
Thursday, August 27th, 2015 at 3:17 pm in 2016 presidential election, Republican Party

A San Francisco couple’s home seems to be becoming a key stop on the Republican presidential primary campaign trail.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was at the Nob Hill home of Christine Hughes and Abe Ostrovsky on Thursday for a reception with a few dozen members of the Lincoln Club of Northern California.

Hughes is the club’s vice chairwoman as well as chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party, president of the CalWatchdog Foundation, and a former vice president and board member of the conservative Pacific Research Institute. Ostrovsky is chief operating officer at Artkick. The Kasich event was free to club members and their guests.

Hughes and Ostrovsky also are scheduled to host Dr. Ben Carson for a cocktail reception at their home on the evening Tuesday, Sept. 8; tickets cost $250 per head, or $500 for those who want to attend a VIP photo opportunity first.

UPDATE @ 10:45 A.M. FRIDAY: I now hear that Kasich had a fundraiser yesterday morning at the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, with about 100 people in attendance and venture capitalists Ted Schlein and Floyd Kvamme offering remarks. Kasich reportedly spoke about his successes in Congress and as Ohio’s governor – the latter including a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act – and said Donald Trump helped all GOP candidates by drawing 24 million viewers to the first debate early this month.

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Carly at odds with HP heirs on Planned Parenthood

By Josh Richman
Thursday, August 27th, 2015 at 11:54 am in 2016 presidential election, Carly Fiorina

As Carly Fiorina joins the rest of the GOP presidential pack in calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the charitable foundations of the two families who founded the company she’s famous for leading remain among Planned Parenthood’s largest donors – to the tune of more than $138 million since 2001.

Carly FiorinaFiorina was CEO of 1999 to 2004, the first female CEO of a Fortune 50 business – a major part of the track record she now touts on the campaign trail. She has been an outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood since mid July, when the first of a series of covert videos were released depicting officials from the organization discussing procurement of fetal tissue for stem-cell research.

“I am pro-life. And I believe science is proving us right every day. But you do not have to be pro-life to understand the hideous nature of what is going on here,” she said at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 17. “This is about the moral character of our nation. When you can have employees who target poor communities, who are pushing women into later-term abortions so they can more successfully harvest body parts even though late-term abortions are demonstrably bad for women, you can only be horrified when you see employees picking over a Petri dish for body parts while they say, ‘Look, it’s a baby.’ There is no excuse – Planned Parenthood must be defunded.”

Meanwhile, the Menlo Park-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation since 2001 has given $86,580,945 to various domestic and international Planned Parenthood organizations and affiliates. And the Los Altos-based David and Lucille Packard Foundation since 2001 has given $51,883,238. (The Packard Foundation’s online grant database goes back only to 2010, but spokeswoman Felicia Madsen provided the total since 2001.)

There’s been no love lost between Fiorina and some of the HP heirs for quite some time. For example, Jason Burnett – the mayor of Carmel, the grandson of HP cofounder David Packard, and a member of the Packard Foudnation’s board of trustees – earlier this year told CNN that Fiorina shouldn’t work at any level of government: “She did damage to a great company and I don’t want to see her do damage to a great country.”

But Burnett said Wednesday that “there’s no particular reason why a CEO of a technology company needs to hold other policy views consistent with a company’s founders” such as on Planned Parenthood.

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