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Archive for June, 2008

Follow the money on the FISA vote

Berkeley-based MAPLight.org — a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks relationships between campaign contributions and Congressional votes — found some interesting figures related to last week’s vote on H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which makes changes to the 1978 law dealing with wiretapping of the sort in which the Bush Administration secretly engaged for several years. Despite criticisms that the bill gave telecommunications companies a free pass for having cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance, it passed on a vote of 293-129.

And although the House in March had passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for these companies, 94 House Democrats who’d rejected immunity back then decided to vote for last week’s bill.

Lo and behold, MAPLight.org finds that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint gave about twice as much money — $9,659 on average — to House members (105 Democrats and 188 Republicans) who voted for last week’s bill as the amount — $4,810 on average — that went to those who voted against it (128 Democrats and 1 Republican) from January 2005 through March 2008.

In the greater Bay Area, those three telecom companies gave $24,500 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; $11,000 to Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater; $9,000 to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and $2,000 to Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton — all of whom were among the 94 Democrats who voted against immunity in March but voted for last week’s bill.

Did anyone base their votes purely on campaign contributions? Almost certainly not, given those amounts; see my earlier post for Tauscher’s and McNerney’s rationales for supporting the bill. But the moniey couldn’t have hurt either, and when you look at the aggregate and see the “yes” voters got twice the telecom contributions as the “no” voters, you can see which way the wind blows.

Posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Under: Civil liberties, Dennis Cardoza, Ellen Tauscher, General, Jerry McNerney, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

As Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger stumps today with presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, let’s take a look at an alternate 21st Century in which “the finest men in America don’t run for President — they run for their lives.” It’s 1987′s “The Running Man,” loosely based on the Stephen King/Richard Bachmann novella of the same name:

It’s almost worth watching this generally awful movie just to see Schwarzenegger, as protagonist Ben Richards, utter the line, “I’m not into politics — I’m into survival.” Ironic? Prophetic?

Previous SVOTWs: June 17, June 10, June 3, May 27, May 20, May 13, May 6, April 29, April 22, April 15, April 8, April 1, March 25, March 18, March 11, March 4, February 26, February 19, February 12, February 5, January 29, January 22, January 15, January 8, January 1, December 25, December 18, December 11, December 4, November 27, November 20, November 13, November 6, October 30, October 23, October 16, October 9, October 2, September 25, September 18, September 11, September 4, August 28, August 21, August 7, July 31, July 24, July 17, July 10, July 3, June 26, June 19, June 12, June 5, May 29, May 22, May 15, May 8, May 1, April 24, April 17, April 10, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, March 6, February 27, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.

Posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger to appear with McCain tomorrow

The California Republican Party says Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will join presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain for a discussion on energy efficiency and conservation tomorrow morning in Santa Barbara, along with other panelists including former CIA director James Woolsey; Mike Feeney, Executive Director of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County; and Matt Tirrell, a UC-Santa Barbara professor and founder of the Institute of Energy Efficiency.

Off all the issues and all the venues where Schwarzenegger could stump with McCain, this seems an odd choice: They’ve just recently had a big public disagreement on whether to lift the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling, a proposal supported by McCain and President Bush but opposed by Schwarzenegger.

Democrats are seizing the opportunity. California Democratic Party chairman Art Torres; U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, held a prophylactic press teleconference this afternoon noting that Santa Barbara in 1969 was the site of one of the nation’s worst oil spills: an oil platform five miles offshore caused three million gallons of oil to mar 35 miles of coastline and kill thousands of birds, seals, dolphins and other animals. “John McCain has tried to portray himself as an environmentalist this election, but his proposals make it clear McCain offers more of the same failed energy policy and skyrocketing gas prices American families have suffered from under President Bush,” the California Democratic Party’s news release said.

Or, as Capps said last week when McCain and Bush called for lifting the moratorium:

“I find it disappointing but not exactly surprising that Senator McCain is now borrowing a page from the Bush-Cheney energy playbook. Oddly, Senator McCain was actually for the offshore drilling ban before he was against it. He has apparently abandoned his earlier position in an effort to pander to oil companies and roll out another political gimmick like his much ridiculed proposal for a ‘gas-tax holiday’.


“Senator McCain has missed an opportunity to push for real solutions to our energy needs such as enhanced efficiency and alternative fuel sources. Efficiency measures are the fastest, easiest way to lower gas prices and encourage energy self sufficiency, and we have to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. Despite the fantasy being spun by President Bush and Senator McCain, we simply can’t drill our way to energy independence when we have only 3% of world resources but make up 25% of world demand. As evidence of the futility of this way of thinking, in the last 8 years the Bush Administration has opened huge swaths of public lands to drilling already and dramatically increased the amount of drilling on public lands yet oil prices have continued to rapidly rise. Now the oil companies are sitting on nearly 70 million acres of public lands where they could be, but are not, producing already. One of the results of this dead-end strategy is today’s $4 a gallon gasoline.”

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Boxer, Democratic Party, Elections, John McCain, Republican Party | 1 Comment »

Dems blast budget cuts for elderly in Oakland

Bay Area Legislative Democrats did the latest installment of their roadshow this morning in Oakland to critique Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget-cut proposals.

Last month they were at Highland Hospital to highlight how the cuts will affect emergency medical care; they’ve also done events at local schools to underscore the impact of proposed education cuts. These are being replicated all over California as Democrats try to drive home the need for more tax revenue to help close the state’s $17 billion budget deficit.

Today they were at Las Bougainvilleas Senior Housing in Oakland’s Fruitvale District to talk about social services for the elderly, including a cut to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on which many seniors depend on to remain independent and in their homes.

Among those on hand were state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro; Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland; Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley.

Swanson afterward issued a news release saying the governor’s budget plan “will inflict irreparable harm on human service programs vital to many in California. his amounts to turning our backs on the elderly, the disabled, and the most vulnerable in our society. Such cuts are not only a bad moral decision, but a bad economic decision as well.”

Swanson’s release repeated one of the talking points from the Perata news release which had announced today’s event:

One program set to receive deep cuts is In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), which is set to be reduced by $266 million. IHSS provides medical care to low-income, disabled and aged Californians in their homes, which allows them to avoid more expensive nursing home care. The Governor’s planned cuts would result in reduced State reimbursement of wages for IHSS workers and lower hours of provided care, eliminating IHSS for an estimated 83,000 recipients.

Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger’s press secretary, begs to differ.

“That is inaccurate – it will not eliminate anyone from the program,” he told me a short while ago. “It will however reduce hours for about 83,000 recipients.”

McLear said state officials went case-by-case through the hundreds of thousands of Californians who rely on IHSS, identifying about 83,000 who could have their hours rolled back; on average, he said, the decrease would be from about 74 hours per month of in-home aid to about 52 hours per month. “But no one is being eliminated, and a vast majority of folks are not going to see a change in their service hours at all.”

McLear noted a quarter of IHSS funding comes from the state and a quarter from counties, with federal matching funds filling the rest. Counties could choose to step up and fill the gap left by state cuts, he suggested; I replied he’s risking angry phone calls from every cash-strapped county Board of Supervisors in California.

But IHSS has doubled in size over the past decade, he said, and couldn’t be entirely spared as the state grapples with its gargantuan deficit: “We can only spend the money we have, and this is a program that he reduced in his budget but we did it in a way that mitigated the effects of the cuts.”

As with all cuts, he said, “We don’t want to do this but we have to live within our means. This is exactly why we need budget reform – so we don’t have to go through this cyclical instability of the budget year after year.”

But Swanson said there’s not only a moral imperative to preserve IHSS – there’s an economic imperative as well. “As Chair of the Assembly Labor & Employment Committee, I am concerned about the effect of the Governor’s proposed cuts on jobs in our state. IHSS allows families to care for loved ones who need medical assistance, without jeopardizing their own ability to work. Furthermore, cuts to health services in general would force mass layoffs of health care workers. Such a move will further damage California’s economy at the absolute worst possible time.”

UPDATE @ 5:52 P.M. MONDAY: Here’s video of today’s event in Oakland:

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Don Perata, Ellen Corbett, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Bay Area mayors push high-carbon fuel resolution

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, while meeting this weekend in Miami, adopted a resolution challenging use of high-carbon fuels — such as tar sands, liquid coal, and oil shale — and calling for the creation of guidelines and purchasing standards to help mayors understand the greenhouse-gas emissions of the fuels they buy.

The resolution was submitted by Mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, Ore., and was co-sponsored by 10 other mayors from across the nation, including Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, Jennifer Hosterman of Pleasanton and Beverly Johnson of Alameda.

The mayors noted these fuels come from hardt-to-access, lower-grade raw materials, and production can emit two to five times more global warming pollution than conventional oil.

Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Susan Casey-Lefkowitz said U.S. mayors in recent years have been becoming vital leaders in the war on global warming. “Mayors see their residents’ needs every day, and they see the impact that global warming is going to have on their cities. That’s why over 850 mayors across the nation already have taken action on climate change. This resolution will help implement their commitment to fight global warming by giving mayors the information they need about dirty fuels such as tar sands oil.”

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008
Under: Gavin Newsom, Global warming | No Comments »

Ah, vacation!

It’s my last chance for a break before the general election season overtakes my every waking hour. I’m headed out for the wild blue waters and campgrounds of Northern California and the chance to get away from the blog, the phone, the email and candidates.

But it’s not an entirely politics-free trip. While I’m bobbing around a cove in the shade in Lake Shasta, I’ll have the latest books on hand authored by the two presumed U.S. presidential nominees, John McCain and Barack Obama. Maybe I’ll finish them. Maybe not!

I’ll be back July 6. Have a safe and great Fourth of July!

(Photo taken last year of me and my husband, Joe, in our Crownline ski boat at Lake Berryessa.)

Posted on Saturday, June 21st, 2008
Under: Blogging | No Comments »

Andal denies involvement in Brown Act violations

Congressional GOP candidate Dean Andal emphatically denied that he was the unnamed consultant listed in a San Joaquin County civil grand jury report who received confidential closed-session information in a case involving allegations of a Brown Act violation by several members of the Delta College Board of Trustees.

The report, released earlier this week and detailed in a Tri-Valley Herald story yesterday, said the “San Joaquin Delta College Board of Trustees has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and violated open government laws by discussing closed-session matters outside its meetings.” (Click here to read the grand jury report.)

The story said that day after a Feb. 9, 2006, “closed-session meeting (with Delta College board members), phone calls and a faxed letter indicated that one or more board members had relayed confidential information about the ‘breach of contract’ discussion to the developer and his consultant, Dean Andal.”

The grand jury report does not identify Andal by name although a college trustee who made the initial allegations had previously named Andal in Stockton Record story as the recipient of closed-session information.

Andal is, of course, a well-known consultant to PCCP Mountain House, LLC, a group led by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos, although he is far from the only consultant on the large project.

According to federal financial disclosure statements, Andal earned $217,589 in 2007 in consultant fees and salary from Kamilos, PCCP Mountain House and another PCCP development called Mariposa Lakes.

With respect to the grand jury investigation, the company was in discussions at the time with San Joaquin Delta College to provide the college with $14 million for infrastructure as the landowner and the college developed their respective properties in Mountain House, a master-planned community near Tracy. Mountain House and Tracy had been engaged in a well-publicized competition for the new college, which Delta College eventually agreed to build in Mountain House.

Andal said he lobbied at least one Delta College board member but said he never received any confidential, closed-session information from any elected official.

“If someone had tried to give me closed-session information, I would have stopped it,” Andal said. “I am very experienced with the requirements of the Brown Act.”

Andal called himself a staunch advocate of the Brown Act, a state law which spells out how publicly elected boards must conduct themselves in both public and closed sessions. Elected officials cannot disclose what was said in closed session and the law limits the topics under which they are permitted to hold discussions outside of the public eye.

Delta College Trustee Ted Simas, however, was quoted in a Stockton Record story of Aug. 21, 2006, saying that Andal had called him on the telephone several hours after the board concluded its Feb. 9 meeting and “had information that could have been obtained only by board members in closed session.” Simas said Andal told him that two college trustees had provided details of the closed-session negotiations to Kamilos. Andal was quoted in the same story saying that he did not remember the conversation.

Despite the conflicting accounts of this incident, watch for this issue to make its way into what will be a fierce general election campaign between Andal and incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. Andal is known as a veritable “Boy Scout” and these allegations could call that image into question if the Democrats are able to gain sufficient traction on the issue.

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Andal denies involvement in Brown Act violations

Congressional GOP candidate Dean Andal emphatically denied that he was the unnamed consultant listed in a San Joaquin County civil grand jury report who received confidential closed-session information in a case involving allegations of a Brown Act violation by several members of the Delta College Board of Trustees.

The report, released earlier this week and detailed in a Tri-Valley Herald story yesterday, said the “San Joaquin Delta College Board of Trustees has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and violated open government laws by discussing closed-session matters outside its meetings.” (Click here to read the grand jury report.)

The story said that day after a Feb. 9, 2006, “closed-session meeting (with Delta College board members), phone calls and a faxed letter indicated that one or more board members had relayed confidential information about the ‘breach of contract’ discussion to the developer and his consultant, Dean Andal.”

The grand jury report does not identify Andal by name although a college trustee who made the initial allegations had previously named Andal in Stockton Record story as the recipient of closed-session information.

Andal is, of course, a well-known consultant to PCCP Mountain House, LLC, a group led by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos, although he is far from the only consultant on the large project.

According to federal financial disclosure statements, Andal earned $217,589 in 2007 in consultant fees and salary from Kamilos, PCCP Mountain House and another PCCP development called Mariposa Lakes.

With respect to the grand jury investigation, the company was in discussions at the time with San Joaquin Delta College to provide the college with $14 million for infrastructure as the landowner and the college developed their respective properties in Mountain House, a master-planned community near Tracy. Mountain House and Tracy had been engaged in a well-publicized competition for the new college, which Delta College eventually agreed to build in Mountain House.

Andal said he lobbied at least one Delta College board member but said he never received any confidential, closed-session information from any elected official.

“If someone had tried to give me closed-session information, I would have stopped it,” Andal said. “I am very experienced with the requirements of the Brown Act.”

Andal called himself a staunch advocate of the Brown Act, a state law which spells out how publicly elected boards must conduct themselves in both public and closed sessions. Elected officials cannot disclose what was said in closed session and the law limits the topics under which they are permitted to hold discussions outside of the public eye.

Delta College Trustee Ted Simas, however, was quoted in a Stockton Record story of Aug. 21, 2006, saying that Andal had called him on the telephone several hours after the board concluded its Feb. 9 meeting and “had information that could have been obtained only by board members in closed session.” Simas said Andal told him that two college trustees had provided details of the closed-session negotiations to Kamilos. Andal was quoted in the same story saying that he did not remember the conversation.

Despite the conflicting accounts of this incident, watch for this issue to make its way into what will be a fierce general election campaign between Andal and incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. Andal is known as a veritable “Boy Scout” and these allegations could call that image into question if the Democrats are able to gain sufficient traction on the issue.

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Bay Area House members split on FISA vote

H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, making changes to the law that deals with wiretapping of the sort in which the Bush Administration secretly engaged for several years, passed the House this afternoon by a vote of 293 to 129. Some local House members panned it as a sellout of the Constitution; others praised it as a proper exercise of checks and balances.

Voting against it: Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Lynn Woolsey. Voting for it: Jerry McNerney, Nancy Pelosi, Ellen Tauscher. Pete Stark didn’t vote.

Read some of their rationales, pro and con, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: General | 5 Comments »

Baking their way to the White House?

Moveon.Org folks in Walnut Creek will host a bake sale Sunday as part of a nationwide “Hungry for Change” campaign kick-off event to raise bucks for presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

If you want to put a few dollars into the Democrats’ campaign or just have a hankering for a blueberry muffin, the bake sale will take place from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. near the Walnut Creek Farmer’s Market at the corner of Locust and Giammona streets.

Read more for the full press release: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »