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Archive for March, 2008

Super-duper delegate Stark isn’t budging

The feisty Rep. Pete Stark, the Fremont Democrat who frequently says things that even his friends wish he hadn’t said, is keeping his presidential preference to himself.

Like most of the undeclared “super-delegates,” the 796 people who will have a vote in the nomination of the the Democratic Party’s choice for president in Denver in August, Stark is being wooed by both sides. (The super-delegates are members of Congress and the national Democratic Party board.)

But the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama camps have had little success with Stark.

“I’m holding out for a new bridge or maybe even a new federal building,” Stark quipped in a light-hearted moment during a telephone a interview late Thursday. “So far, the biggest bribe I’ve been offered is dessert with Hillary (Clinton) in Washington, D.C. But I don’t eat dessert and I wasn’t available that evening. Is that the best they can do?”

Seriously, though, Stark says he will not endorse either Clinton or Barack Obama unless the delegates are unable to reach a deal on the floor of the convention.

“I think it’s got to be decided by the delegates,” said Stark. “We have millions of new people who participating in the process and they are not, as (California Attorney General) Jerry Brown said, going to put up with a bunch of old people going into a smoke-filed room and making the decision. We’ll disengage them.”

Let the delegates vote at the convention and if neither candidate prevails, then let the “delegates work the floor. Let them swap and bargain and if they can’t make a deal in two or three or four days and we (super-delegates) have to the tie-breakers, then we can do that,” Stark said.

Stark says he will take no part in any advance super-delegate meeting where the plan is to hash out the selection of a nominee prior to the convention. Some Democratic Party activists fear a convention bloodbath will make it harder for the eventual nominee to beat presumed GOP nominee and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

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

State releases June 3 certified candidate list

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen today released the certified list of more than 450 candidates who will appear on the June 3 primary election ballot including Congressional, state Senate and Assembly seats up for election.

Each of California’s 53 Congressional seats and 80 State Assembly seats is up for grabs, as are the 20 State Senate seats in odd-numbered districts.

The top vote-getter from each party’s primary will advance to the November 4 general election.

The official certified list of candidates, with ballot designations and contact information for each candidate, is available at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_cand.htm.

According to the state, in the June primary, decline-to-state voters may request an American Independent, Democratic or Republican ballot. Decline-to-state voters who do not request a specific ballot will be given a nonpartisan ballot containing only the two ballot measures, Propositions 98 and 99, and any nonpartisan local races.

The last day to register to vote in the June 3 election is May 19. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is May 27.

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary | No Comments »

Group wants feds to probe Berkeley Marines flap

Lawyers for the conservative group Move America Forward have written to U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello of San Francisco “asking the federal government to investigate whether the Berkeley City Council’s official anti-Marine position and encouragement of anti-war groups to ‘impede’ the work of Marine recruiters constitutes a breach of law,” according to MAF’s news release. “If the City Council violated the law, the letter asks the U.S. Attorney to prosecute the perpetrators.”

The release says the letter also voices concern that Berkeley Police were unresponsive and negligent to public safety during a protest MAF organized in Berkeley on Feb. 12, 2007. The letter’s original copy has already been mailed, but MAF leaders will hand-deliver another Monday morning at San Francisco’s federal courthouse and then hold a news conference right afterward.

“We have been fighting them all the way and this is simply the next step,” former KSFO conservative talk radio host and MAF cofounder Melanie Morgan said in the release, also reiterating her demand that Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates give a full, official apology to all troops, veterans, and their families, and rescind resolutions giving special treatment — a parking space and sound-permit rights — to CodePink, one of the groups protesting at Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting center in recent months. “Berkeley has got to realize that we’re not going away.”

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2008
Under: Berkeley | No Comments »

Candidates report fund-raising results

I’ve spent most of the day pouring through campaign finance reports for candidates running in the June 3 election.

Eeeh gawd, what a mind-numbing exercise! I’m all for public disclosure but I’m not sure the average voter has the stomach or the eyesight to wade through all this disclosure.

Nonetheless, it’s always interesting. It’s still a bit early and we haven’t seen the influx of independent expenditures likely to surface later on in the campaign.

But one of the themes of this campaign thus far is some of the candidates’ willingness to loan their campaigns big bucks.

Here’s a preview of a campaign finance story I’ve written for publication in the Contra Costa Times later this week:

Money is pouring into the contests for open Assembly districts 14 and 15 and the state Senate seat currently held by President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Alameda, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.

Candidates for two contested Contra Costa County supervisor seats are also raising cash, although one candidate had to send some of the money back.

Supervisor candidate Guy Houston, a soon-to-be-termed-out Assemblyman who is challenging incumbent Mary Nejedly Piepho, returned $3,850 he had transferred from several of his other campaign accounts. The money originated with political action committees and the amount exceeded the county’s contribution limit of $40,000 per election.

Houston reported $148,786 cash on hand as of March 17 and has collected $192,956 in contributions since the beginning of the campaign. He has transferred $108,000 of that figure from his Assembly and Board of Equalization campaign committees.

Piepho had $74,993 cash in her campaign account and has received $81,380 in contributions toward her re-election bid.

Four Republican challengers vying or the chance to replace Houston in the Assembly are sparing no expense even it means writing super-sized personal checks.

Retired automobile dealership entrepreneur Robert Rao of Livermore personally loaned his campaign another $150,000 as of March 17, according to reports filed this week. Rao has forked over a total of $359,069 from his own funds since he began the campaign.

Rao reported $299,477 cash on hand in his campaign fund, the highest among the GOP field. He has received $553,889 in contributions, including his loans.

San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson (he doesn’t have a web site yet) loaned his campaign $95,000, a step he took to jump-start a campaign he said almost didn’t happen after his father recently fell ill and passed away. He has received $199,927 in contributions.

Businessowner Judy Biviano Lloyd of Danville made a far smaller personal loan of $10,000 to her account, for a total of $17,112 from her own funds. She reported $211,173 in the bank as of the end of the filing period. She has received $304,708 in contributions.

Only optometrist Scott Kamena of Livermore has kept his wallet closed. He reported $283,566 in his campaign account in what appears to be a successful fund-raising appeal to fellow eye doctors. Since he started campaigning in 2006, he had received $412,433 in total contributions as of March 17.

On the Assembly District 15 Democratic ticket, San Ramon Valley School Board Trustee Joan Buchanan of Alamo is well ahead of her politically unknown opponent and Walnut Creek economist Ted Ford.

Ford reported $2,140 cash on hand and $4,030 in contributions, including a $2,000 personal loan.

Buchanan showed $122,475 in her account as of March 17, and has loaned her campaign $50,000.

Buchanan received $222,383 in contributions – including the loan – plus another $8,800 in contributions since the reporting deadline. The recent donations include $4,200 from IBEW and $3,600 from EMILY’s List.

In Contra Costa County, Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg maintained a substantial financial lead over his four challengers in District 5. That could change as several candidates entered the race just prior to the March 7 candidate filing deadline and haven’t time to raise any cash.

Glover reported $103,281 cash on hand, including contributions of $1,675 from former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg, $1,000 each from Conoco Phillips, Garaventa Enterprises and his former employer, Dow Chemical.

The incumbent’s closest fiscal competitor, Erik Nunn, had just $1,786 in the bank. Nunn, a chief financial officer and Oakley Planning Commissioner.

Businessman Don Parscal loaned his campaign $3,015 and received an additional $1,630 in contributions.

Antioch school board trustee Gary Agopian and former Antioch mayor Mary Rocha, who entered the field late, had nothing to report.

The four Democratic primary candidates in the Assembly 14 primary (there are no Republican candidates) have also relied on personal loans to bolster their campaigns.

The leading fundraiser is political novice Dr. Phil Polakoff of Berkeley. He reported $55,883 cash on hand and has collected $139,892 in contributions, although that figure includes $31,000 in personal loans.

Nancy Skinner, an elected member of the East Bay Regional Park board and a Berkeley resident, had $122,198 in the bank, and has received $132,768 in contributions. She has loaned her campaign $30,000.

Richmond Councilman Tony Thurmond had $53,494 in the bank and has raised $77,000 since he started his campaign. He has loaned his campaign $4,200.

Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington had $64,317 cash on hand. He has received $109,026 in contributions, including $22,000 in loans.

In the hotly contested state Senate race for Perata’s seat, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan of Alameda have banked substantial war chests.

Chan had $507,283 cash on hand while Hancock reported $406,107 in the bank.

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary | No Comments »

Hagee v. Hagee

Pastor John Hagee — the televangelist whose commentary has provided some headaches for the presidential campaign of John McCain, whom he has endorsed — today put out a video urging followers not to believe media accounts of his alleged anti-Catholic sentiments.

Here’s another point of view:

Judge for yourself.

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2008
Under: Elections, John McCain | No Comments »

DiFi grills Mukasey on corruption unit shutdown

mukasey.jpgU.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey will address the Commonwealth Club of California at noon tomorrow in San Francisco’s Intercontinental Hotel on “how he has made public confidence in government a priority, and highlight the Justice Department’s success in investigating and prosecuting public corruption.”

But color U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., underwhelmed with Mukasey’s dedication to rooting out public corruption. She sent him a letter today asking him to explain the decision made earlier this month to disband and eliminate the public-corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles; she worries whether pending and future cases of public corruption will be rigorously pursued given the reassignment of 17 lawyers away from this unit.

Of course, y’all could go ask Mukasey yourselves tomorrow. Tickets are available here; they’re $15 for club members or $30 for nonmembers, but premium seats in the first few rows costs $45 for members or $65 for nonmembers. The hotel is at 888 Howard St., and check-in starts at 11:15 a.m.; attendees will be subject to search, no bags or packages allowed.

UPDATE @ 1:35 P.M. THURSDAY: You can read Mukasey’s remarks as prepared for delivery here, on the Justice Department’s Web site. “Let me be clear: Politics has no role in the investigation or prosecution of political corruption or any other criminal offense, and I have seen absolutely no evidence of any such impropriety in my time at the Department, and would not tolerate it.”

Read the complete text of Feinstein’s letter, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Torlakson seeks to end two-thirds budget vote

State Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, has introduced legislation that would allow lawmakers to pass a budget and raise taxes with a majority rather than two-thirds vote.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 22 will let the Legislature pass a budget by a majority vote and send the spending plan to the Governor. It will bring California in line with 47 other states that pass budgets by a majority vote, Torlakson said.

The two-thirds protection is revered by conservatives and Republicans, whose only true power in the Legislature rests with their ability to block a budgets and new tax measures and thereby force Democrats to meet at least some of their demands in return for a deal.

But both sides have dug in their heels on how to close next year’s remaining $8 billion budget gap and many expect to see a bitter, drawn out fight that may lead to competing ballot-box budgeting measures in November. Democrats want a combination of cuts and new taxes while Republicans oppose tax hikes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed mostly cuts, including reductions in education.

Here’s what Torlakson’s press release said:

California is one of only three states that require a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. This “supermajority” requirement has repeatedly led to budget gridlock that delays funding to schools, colleges, health care for the elderly and disabled, and other vital services, said Torlakson, D-Antioch.

“When a budget plan is clearly crafted and approved by one party or the other, then that party can get the praise or the reprimand at the ballot box,” Torlakson said. “The current system leads to finger pointing and excuses for concessions made to one party or the other.”

SCA 22 also allows the Legislature to raise revenues with a majority vote.

California endured 52 days without a state budget in 2007, when Senate Republicans refused to provide enough votes to pass the spending plan. Only two other states – Arkansas and Rhode Island – require a two-thirds vote to pass state budgets. Congress and most cities and counties have a majority vote requirement.

Principal co-authors for SCA 22 are Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; co-authors are Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica and Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Martinez.

The two-thirds requirement in California started in 1933, when the vote threshold was tied to annual budget growth exceeding 5 percent. A 1962 Constitutional Amendment applied the two-thirds vote to all state budgets.

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Under: California budget, California Legislature | 16 Comments »

Lifejackets, anyone?

Political party operatives on both sides excel at snarky commentary but this press release from the California Democratic Party was just too good to pass up:

Assembly Republicans enjoy “luxury yacht parking” for the day

Perhaps the fumes from the engines on their power yachts finally got to them. That’s the only logical explanation we can think of as to why the Assembly Republicans, breaking their own record for political tone-deafness, would have chosen the swanky new boutique hotel Le Rivage as the location for their caucus retreat.

Nestled into the banks of the Sacramento River, Le Rivage offers “elegant surroundings, select accommodations, impeccable service, and unique amenities combine to create the finest luxury hotel in California’s capital.” What unique amenities, you ask?

How about – you guessed it — “luxury yacht parking, long term and short term.”

According to the hotel’s website: Le Rivage Hotel proudly hosts Sacramento’s premier yacht parking. Conveniently located adjacent to the luxury hotel and on The Sacramento River. Le Rivage Marina includes:

  • 25 permanent slips from 36-100ft vessels
  • Dual 50 amp service
  • Pump-out station
  • Boat catering
  • Short-term parking
  • Yacht sales
  • Use of hotel pool, whirlpool, and fitness center with berth rental

What better way for Assembly Republicans to celebrate their crowning legislative accomplishment of the new session thus far – their killing of the bill to close the “sloophole”?

And in case you’re wondering where the Assembly Democrats are holding their legislative retreat – the Dems will be at the low-cost, environmentally-friendly UC Davis Medical Center.

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Under: California Legislature, Democratic politics, Republican politics | No Comments »

Will Gerber go green on Earth Day?

Presumed GOP congressional nominee Nick Gerber of Moraga, a considerable underdog in the race against six-term Democratic incumbent Ellen Tauscher in a heavily Democratic district, is making up for what he lacks in cash with excessive creativity.

Gerber will host the free goGerber.org Earth Day Event on April 19, 11am – 3 p.m., in Civic Park in Walnut Creek.

Bring the kids, he says, for bead making, face painting, paper airplane contests, crafts and games, a raffle and a giveaway of 500 reusable grocery store bags.

He doesn’t mention it but I’m pretty sure Gerber wants you to bring along your checkbook, too.

This is the same guy who is raising money for charity at the same time he collects for his own campaign.

This is the same guy who also offered to shave his beard if his supporters raised $100,000 for his campaign.

But the last time I saw Gerber, he still sported quite a bit of facial hair. If he expects to get his face painted — a nice shade of green in honor of the day, perhaps? — he’ll have to step up that fund-raising.

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, campaign finance, Congress | No Comments »

Write your own state budget

If you’re fed up with the partisan budget gridlock in Sacramento, here’s your chance to write a new state budget with your priorities and send it on to state lawmakers.

The California Legislature must close an $8 billion remaining budget gap before July 1 and the two major political parties are deeply divided over how to solve the state’s poor, long-term financial outlook.

Next 10, a nonpartisan Palo Alto-based group that “focuses on innovation and the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life issues for all Californians” has unveiled its online 2008 California Budget Challenge.

The group calls its project an “online game that provides an annual examination of the state’s most pressing budget policy choices. Challenge users build their own state budget, selecting or rejecting many of the same policies that California’s state leaders are now considering. Since its launch in 2005, more than 50,000 Californians have taken the Challenge at www.Next10.org.

I haven’t had time to go through the exercise yet but if you do, let me know how you do and what you think of the end result.

Here’s what Next10 said in its press release:

This year with the deficits we are facing, the state of California will likely have to make some very tough decisions when it comes to the budget. Our goal with the Budget Challenge is to educate and engage the people of California. We all have a huge stake in the outcome of the budget, so it is important that we not only understand the process and the policies, but that we also affect the process and help shape the future of our state,” said F. Noel Perry, the founder of Next 10.

As a part of this year’s Budget Challenge launch, Next 10 is taking the Challenge on the road across the state to various organizations as well as government, economics, and general studies classrooms. Through this outreach effort, Californians are learning about the budget process as well as the current policy options being considered in Sacramento. To build their own budget, students are presented with policy options that they vote to accept or reject using instant-response clickers. Once all the policy options are considered, the votes are tallied and students are presented with a complete state budget based on their priorities.

“By working through the process and making some tough decisions about which programs to keep and which programs to cut, as well as deciding different ways to generate the necessary revenues to pay for these programs, students come to understand that the budget is not just a collection of numbers. The final product is a value statement by the students that reflects their priorities for the state’s future. They now know that budget decisions made in Sacramento impact their high school, their options for college, our taxes, the criminal justice system, and so much more,” said Dawna Linsdell, economics teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.

The 2008 Budget Challenge contains 17 updated policy options, with 65 choices, many of which are new this year. The Challenge includes such topical choices as:

· The level of funding for K-12 schools and how quickly student fees should grow for students at state colleges and universities.

· Whether the state should reduce Medi-Cal provider payments by 10 percent as proposed by the Governor in this year’s budget.

· Whether cost-of-living adjustments for the aged and disabled who receive SSI/SSP benefits should be suspended in order to help close the budget gap.

· Whether California should establish a system of surcharges or rebates on new cars based on their greenhouse gas emissions.

· Whether the state should transfer responsibility for supervision of low-level parolees to county probation departments, as recommended by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, as an alternative to the Governor’s proposal to reduce state prison spending by releasing non-violent, non-serious offenders from prison early.

· Whether the state should reduce certain tax credits, such as the dependent credit, or restructure other tax benefits, such as the mortgage interest deduction, to help close the budget deficit.

· Whether California should institute a carbon tax as part of the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The California Budget Challenge confronts users with some of the same choices policymakers in Sacramento are faced with. It helps them to appreciate the tradeoffs involved in putting together the state’s budget,” said Tim Gage, the former Director of the California Department of Finance and consultant to Next 10. Challenge users not only educate themselves about the budget, they also give state leaders feedback about the policies Californians think are important to the state’s future. With the click of a button, Challenge users can take action and email policymakers about their budget priorities.

The 2008 California Budget Challenge can be accessed through Next 10′s website at www.Next10.org.

About Next 10: Next 10 is an independent, nonpartisan organization that educates, engages, and empowers Californians to improve the state’s future. Recognizing the complexity of issues confronting California today, Next 10 is focused on improving the state over the next ten years, and the ten years after that. Next 10 was founded by F. Noel Perry, a venture capitalist and philanthropist concerned about California today and the California our children will inherit. www.Next10.org.

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Under: California budget, Environment | No Comments »