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Archive for March, 2008

Chan accuses Hancock of campaign money no-no

No sooner do I blog about the Loni Hancock versus Wilma Chan race for Don Perata‘s 9th State Senate District seat than the fireworks start up in earnest: Chan today asked the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate whether Hancock and her campaign violated rules by paying a Senate campaign staffer out of her 14th Assembly District Officeholder Account.

According to Chan’s news release, public campaign filings show Hancock has paid Terri Waller — listed in FPPC reports as a campaign consultant — $15,000 or more from the Officeholder Account since June 2007. FPPC regulations say officeholders can’t use officeholder funds to pay campaign expenses, Chan notes, and Waller has been introduced as Hancock’s campaign manager at one or more Senate campaign forums and is listed as the campaign contact on at least one candidate questionnaire. Read Chan’s full complaint here. [And scroll down through the updates for an expert's review.]

“A year ago, Loni Hancock was touting the virtues of campaign finance reform on her blog,” Chan spokesman David Chilenski said in the release. “Today, it looks like she could be misusing campaign funds and may be circumventing the rules for her Senate campaign. It’s ironic to see her champion clean money reform in her speeches and then turn around and act in a way that seems contradict these values.”

Waller is listed on Hancock’s office Web site as Hancock’s district coordinator, and a Web search shows she has served in that capacity for years. Campaign-finance printouts attached to Chan’s complaint show Waller was paid from the officeholder account for various office expenses, but also several times under the notation “campaign consultants.”

I couldn’t immediately reach Hancock’s campaign spokespeople, but I’ll keep trying…

UPDATE @ 9:35 P.M. MONDAY: And the word from Hancock campaign spokesman Cliff Staton is “bogus.”

“Terri Waller has been the Campaign Manager for the Hancock campaign since the beginning of March. The last period for which she was paid from the Officeholder Account ended in February. The East Bay Young Dems meeting was on March 6. The Nate Miley endorsement interview was on March 22,” Staton says. “This is another desperate attempt by the Chan campaign to distract attention from their big loss at the Democratic Convention over the weekend.”

In fairness, Staton got back to me quickly; this update has been delayed because I was out of pocket for a few hours.

UPDATE @ 10:15 A.M. TUESDAY: I just got off the phone with Staton, who explained that several “campaign consultant” payments made to Waller before she became Hancock’s Senate campaign manager were for various political but non-campaign functions she served while in Hancock’s employ.

“It’s simply the way that they list it on the officeholder account,” he said. “It’s not campaigning… It’s not about running for election, it’s simply that as a politician you’re in a political environment and there are things you have to do.”

So if Waller went to a purely political event on Hancock’s behalf – maybe a labor council dinner, for example – Hancock would pay her out of the officeholder account rather than from state funds, Staton said. “Loni has always determined those kinds of things are not part of the state, the taxpayers should not pay that.”

“They were on a fishing expedition,” he said of Chan’s complaint. “There’s absolutely no substance to that.”

Staton is angry that I posted this last night before he could get back to me with his comments; he said I’ve given Chan’s campaign fodder for a direct-mail hit piece. I responded that when a former lawmaker and current candidate files an official complaint with a state agency – a matter of public record, not just a verbal accusation – I think it’s newsworthy.

And if it turns out to be bogus, a cheap campaign tactic as Staton says, that’s newsworthy too.

Just so the process is clear: I received the release and complaint from Chan’s campaign at 5:47 p.m. I left voice-mails for Staton at his office and home, and e-mailed him at his office; I left a voice-mail and an e-mail for one of his associates; and I left a voice-mail for a Hancock campaign worker whose cell number I obtained from the campaign office. I had to be away from my phone and computer for a while, and updated the blog item as soon as I returned.

Staton also asked me to pull this item off the blog at least until I’ve “had a chance to evaluate its validity.” As I told him, it’s up to the FPPC to evaluate the complaint’s validity.

UPDATE @ 1:40 P.M. TUESDAY: One of the state’s top authorities on campaign finance, law and ethics has just told me that if there’s any violation at all here, it’s “trivial.”

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a complaint like this — I’ve never seen them complain about officeholder funds versus campaign funds,” said Center for Governmental Studies President Bob Stern, who authored the Political Reform Act of 1974 and was the FPPC’s first general counsel from 1974 to 1983. “It just seems like overkill, even if it were true.”

By state law, candidates who voluntarily choose to limit their spending in state Senate campaigns may spend no more than $724,000 in a primary election and $1,086,000 in a general election. Stern said Chan’s complaint would only have any consequence if Hancock accepted these limits (which she has, while Chan has not) but then used the payments at issue to dodge the limits. Judging from her campaign finance reports, it doesn’t look as if she’s anywhere near those limits.

Even then, Stern said, it would depend on whether Waller clearly represented herself before March 1 — at events for which she was reimbursed from the officeholder account — as representing Hancock as a Senate candidate rather than as an Assemblywoman. And even then, he said, “it’s more of a bookkeeping thing.”

“They have met the standards of saying there might be a violation, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a very earthshaking one even if the facts are true,” Stern said.

UPDATE @ 3:55 P.M. THURSDAY: Chan’s campaign filed an addendum to its complaint today with the FPPC.

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: California State Senate, Don Perata, Loni Hancock, Wilma Chan | 3 Comments »

Will FBI probe Berkeley recruiting stance?

As promised last week, conservative activist group Move America Forward delivered a letter to U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello today asking federal authorities to investigate whether Berkeley broke the law with its anti-Marine recruiting stance. Kristin Bender, our Berkeley reporter, has details:

A copy was hand-delivered today to Deputy U.S. Attorney William Frentzen, said Move America Forward spokesman Ryan Gill.

“He said it might be of interest to their civil division and that he’d personally contact someone at the FBI,” Gill said. He did not have further details or a time line for when the group expects to have a response.

Read Kristin’s full report, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: Berkeley | 42 Comments »

Houston embraces public safety initiative

Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, announced his support Monday morning for legislation and a ballot initiative that would guarantee public safety funding, create a new agency and expand sentences for drug and gang-rated crimes.

The two parallel efforts, Assembly Bill 2417 and the “Safe Neighborhoods Act,” calls for the creation of a commission to evaluate and disclose the effectiveness of crime prevention measures and a new Office of Public Safety Education and Information.

Houston, who is also running in the June 3 election for Contra Costa County supervisor against incumbent Mary Nejedly Piepho, held a press conference in Alamo with county Sheriff Warren Rupf to announce his endorsement.

The assemblyman’s public show of support is more likely to boost his supervisor campaign than help pass the legislation.

GOP Assemblywoman Sharon Runner of Lancaster introduced the bill in early March but the Democratic-controlled Legislature has little appetite for a high-priced “tough on crime” measure at a time when lawmakers face an $8 billion deficit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, ballot measures, California Legislature | No Comments »

Piepho, Gioia say, ‘Eat (local) fruits and veggies’

Contra Costa County Supervisors Mary Nejedly Piepho of Discovery Bay and John Gioia of Richmond will introduce Tuesday a new ordinance called “Buy Fresh, Buy Local.”

They say it’s a “farming sustainability program connecting East County farmers and their locally grown produce with West County communities and urban schools.”

Piepho, Gioia and representatives from the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust and the county’s Agricultural Advisory Task Force and local East County farmers will speak at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting at approximately 10 a.m. at 651 Pine Street in Martinez.

“The program will encourage public and private facilities in the county to purchase locally grown produce, improve access to West County communities and integrate the value of locally grown food and farm products into existing educational curricula,” according to a press release.

The pair said that “low income communities which have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables are at a higher risk of obesity and other health problems due to poor diet. Additionally, the new law would open opportunities for the Contra Costa Health Department to incorporate the importance of incorporating fresh locally grown produce into existing programs.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: Agriculture, Contra Costa County | No Comments »

Whatever will they do with all that money?

If you have a worthy cause, I know a couple of guys with some extra cash sitting around.

Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg dropped out of the June 3 state Senate Democratic primary contest, much to the disappointment of his fans. But in campaign finance reports filed recently, he still had $405,263 in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2007. Canciamilla has raised $568,210 since he started campaigning in 2006 and had not spent much of it.

Meanwhile, his opponent — now unopposed — Democratic Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier of Concord had $254,064 in his account as of March 17.

He had raised a total of $416,889 for what he expected would be a tough Senate primary fight. He transferred the vast majority of the money came from his Assembly re-election campaign fund, which he no longer needed after he opted to run for the Senate.

What will these guys do with all this money now?

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary | No Comments »

The advantage of incumbency?

hancock.jpgAssemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, reportedly has received the California Democratic Party’s endorsement to succeed state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, in the 9th State Senate District.

“As a lifelong Democrat, I am proud to have the sole endorsement of my party,” Hancock said in her own news release. “We have worked hard on the issues that face our state — combating global warming, fixing our health care system, and improving our schools. I look forward to continuing that work in the State Senate.”

The release said Hancock got with 90% of the vote from Democrats based in her region, needing only 60 percent to win the endorsement. That’s gotta hurt for Hancock’s opponent, former Assembly Majority Leader Wilma Chan, D-Alameda.

chan.jpgChan, term-limited out in 2006, just hasn’t had the kind of public face-time that Hancock — finishing her final Assembly term this year — has had by remaining in office. And note Hancock’s quote, regarding the “sole endorsement;” Perata had endorsed them both, which essentially negated any possible benefit.

But don’t count Chan out. As of March 17, the end of the last reporting period, Chan’s campaign had $507,283 in the bank compared to Hancock’s $406,108, although a glance at filings since then shows Hancock may have stepped it up in the last two weeks, collecting $34,200 to Chan’s $9,700. Lotsa money on both sides; watch your mailboxes for what’s sure to be a direct-mail deluge.

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: California State Senate, Don Perata, Loni Hancock, Wilma Chan | No Comments »

Democratic Party delegate deadline on Wednesday

Any registered Democrat in California still has time to run for one of the 241 up-for-grabs delegate seats for the party’s national presidential convention in Denver on Aug. 25-28. The deadline to file as a delegate candidate is Wednesday at 5 p.m.

The campaigns for presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will hold caucus elections on April 13 in each of California’s 53 Congressional districts. Based on the results of California’s Feb. 5 primary election, Clinton will receive 134 and Obama 107 delegates.

To be successful, a candidate must secure the winning number of votes at the caucus of his or her Congressional district. Many delegate hopefuls are already campaigning to bring their friends and neighbors out to the caucuses.

The balance of California’s 441 delegates include members of Congress, party leaders and a slate of mayors and other local elected officials who will be selected by the party in May.

All delegates must pay their own airfare, hotel, meals and other expenses, estimated to be about $2,500.

For information on how the process works and how to apply to become a candidate, visit www.cadem.org and click on “Become a Delegate!”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »

House Speaker Pelosi visits Concord

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke of the presidential race, the Iraq War and her new life as a national leader during a speech this afternoon in Concord at a packed luncheon fund-raiser for six-term incumbent Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo.

Pelosi made a similar fund-raising stop for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, late this afternoon in a reception prior to her appearance at this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in San Jose.

In Concord at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Pelosi charmed the crowd with her trademark mix of smart policy talk with warm personal touches. She called Tauscher “girlfriend” and spoke lovingly of the East Bay lawmaker’s teen-aged daughter, Katherine, who used to arrive at political events in her mother’s arms and is now college shopping.

Some folks may remember a few years ago when the two women quarreled over district boundaries and leadership votes. But those differences are clearly a thing of the past as the pair obviously enjoyed each other’s company. The women also delivered glowing commentaries about each other’s political credentials and skills, a typical but sincere activity at political fund-raisers.

On the policy front, Pelosi reiterated to the crowd what she has been saying on the national stage for months.

She said it’s time to elect a Democratic president who will safely and securely extricate the U.S. from the Iraq War, a costly conflict she says is leading the country into a recession.

But no, she didn’t let on which of the two potential nominees she prefers, referring only to the fact that America is ready for “something new” and “a change,” watchwords for every presidential hopeful.

Pelosi expressed continued concern about long-term political stability in Pakistan and called on the international community to redouble its efforts in Afghanistan before extremist forces gain a further foothold there.

Some folks also asked Pelosi as she mingled prior to her speech about what it was like to be Speaker of the House of Representatives.

She answered them from the podium, where she paused, smiled and said, “It’s absolutely fabulous.”

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a less than flattering missive about Pelosi’s appearance for McNerney later in the day. They characterized it as a reward for voting “in lock-step with Pelosi 96 percent of the time.”

The NRCC is backing McNerney’s presumed GOP opponent, former Assemblyman Dean Andal of Stockton. (Pictured on the right.) McNerney, a freshman who defeated Republican Richard Pombo in 2006, is one of the top Republican targets in the country.

Tauscher is also seeking re-election. Her presumed opponent is Republican Nick Gerber of Moraga (pictured on the right) but the political novice is considered a serious long-shot.

The NRCC hasn’t sent out a single email on Gerber’s behalf yet. What’s up with that?

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election, Congress | No Comments »

Foreclosure clinic set for Saturday in Richmond

Rep. George Miller, D- Martinez, will speak to struggling homeowners at a free Foreclosure Information Day in Richmond on Saturday, March 29.

Here’s Miller’s event advisory:

The bi-lingual, day-long event is being organized by a consortium of West County leaders, including Supervisor John Gioia, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, the City of Richmond and the Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency.

This seminar will offer advice on how to avoid a mortgage meltdown during the current credit crisis. HUD Certified Housing Counselors will be available to answer questions and information will be offered in English and Spanish.

As foreclosure rates in California and across the country continue to rise, Contra Costa County is experiencing the highest foreclosure rate in the San Francisco Bay Area. Studies show that more than half of homeowners do not seek help when they begin to fall behind on payments, but those who do seek help in the early stages of delinquency are more likely to avoid foreclosure. This seminar will address different ways through which foreclosure can be prevented and offer suggestions for where struggling homeowners can seek assistance.

WHEN: Saturday, March 29, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Miller will speak at 9 a.m.)

WHO: Congressman George Miller, Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Supervisor John Gioia, Mayor of Richmond Gail McLaughlin, Mayor of Hercules Joanne Ward, Vice Mayor of San Pablo Leonard McNeil,San Pablo City Councilwoman Genoveva Calloway, cities of Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito and Pinole, Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency, Neighborworks America, Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) , Countrywide and Wells Fargo Maria Benjamin, Program Director- Community Housing Development Corporation of North Richmond,

WHAT: West Contra Costa “Foreclosure Information Day”

WHERE: Richmond Recreation Center

3230 Macdonald Avenue,

Richmond, CA 94804

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008
Under: Congress, Political events | No Comments »

Saint Marys will host presidential handicapping forum

Two political veterans will offer their thoughts at a free Saint Mary’s College forum on what to expect from Democrats and Republicans in the general election as the presidential campaign reaches the end of the primary season.

The event is set for April 2 at 3:30 p.m. at Haggerty Lounge, De La Salle Hall, Saint Mary’s College of California, 1928 St. Mary’s Rd., Moraga

Here are more details from the college:

Who: Tony Quinn, an expert in political trends and demographics, is the co-editor of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of California’s legislative and congressional elections. He has 35 years experience with California state government, including four years with the Assembly Republican Caucus and as director of the Office of Economic Research in the Department of Commerce.

Tim Farley is director of community and government relations at Saint Mary’s College. He previously served two terms as a Democratic city councilman in Martinez and was district director for former Democratic Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla ’82. Farley was the Contra Costa Chairman of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996, and was a 1996 Electoral College delegate.

The event, free and open to the public, is moderated by Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Contra Costa Times political editor.

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election, Political events | No Comments »