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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… Continue Reading

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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: Continue Reading

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Pentagon torture lawyer now at Chevron

Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt, no fan of Chevron — whose refinery looms over the city of Richmond — on any given day, notes today in an e-mail to constituents that Chevron chief corporate counsel William J. Haynes II is a former Pentagon official who just took a beating from Congress this week for his role in approving the use of harsh interrogtation methods that some call torture.

A blogger at Think Progress described the scene that unfolded at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday as Haynes explained his role as general counsel to the Department of Defense in how detainees have been treated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. “As the lawyer, I was not the decision maker. I was the adviser,” he said. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, told Haynes that doesn’t cut it:

“You did a disservice to the soldiers of this nation. You empowered them to violate basic conditions which every soldier respects — the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention. … Don’t go around with this attitude of you’re protecting the integrity of the military. You degraded the integrity of the United States military.”

San Ramon-based Chevron doesn’t have a problem with Haynes’ history, per law.com: “Chevron spokesman Robertson says that while the company is ‘aware that there are peripheral issues surrounding Jim, they have not been a focus for us.’ “

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Upcoming political events around the Bay

Go on, get off your duffs.

    George Lakoff, the UC-Berkeley political linguistics expert and co-founder of the Rockridge Institute, will speak on “The Political Mind” at noon today at the Commonwealth Club of California’s office on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. The talk will be about how “language can be used as a critical tool in progressive politics, describing how our brains work in relation to society, why language is so important, and how Democrats can use this knowledge to their advantage to win the November elections.” It’s free for club members, $15 for nonmembers, with tickets available on the Club’s Web site.
    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will hold another one of his constituent meet-and-greet “Congress at Your Corner” sessions from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, June 21, at the Grocery Outlet, 825 W 11th St. in Tracy.
    Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan — 2008’s Mack Daddy of political memoir authors — will speak to the Commonwealth Club at noon Tuesday, June 24 in the Terrace Room of the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. in San Francisco. “He will share his views on where he thinks the President and his top aides veered off course on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, Washington’s bitter partisanship, and the last two contentious presidential campaigns. Reflecting on mistakes of the past, McClellan will look to the future and discuss the lessons Americans need to learn as they choose a new leader in the upcoming election,” the club says. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and are available on the club’s Web site.
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$100 million spent, says state campaign watchdog

Special interests have poured nearly $100 million of independent expenditures into statewide campaigns races since voters adopted direct candidate contribution limits in 2001, reports the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

So-called independent expenditures have grown significantly as outside groups seek to influence the outcome of elections without worrying about those pesky contribution limits.

“The emergence of independent expenditures has thwarted the will of the people, dramatically undermined California’s campaign finance laws and doubtlessly influenced the outcome of numerous statewide and legislative elections,” the FPPC report says.

The FPPC’s report, Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance, also offers details into the Top 10 groups when it comes to spending money on statewide campaigns. The list included groups advocating for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. It also includes political action committees for the California Chamber of Commerce, California Peace Officers Association, Indian tribes and other labor organizations. (This lovely gorilla picture comes from http://www.gotpetsonline.com/gorilla/gorilla-fact/gorilla-fact.html)

The $100 million does not, however, take into account the numerous independent expenditures in local races, which has become commonplace in East Bay contests and elsewhere in California has contribution limits have become more widely deployed.

Independent expenditures were made in the two Contra Costa County supervisor races, for example. Some candidates have even come to count on the influence of outside money even though they cannot, by law, coordinate or direct the expenditures of these groups.

Read more for the FPPC press release: Continue Reading

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Nejedly family lawsuit receives new hearing date

The next court date in a lawsuit challenging the disposition of the estate of the late Sen. John Nejedly has been set for Nov. 3 and in the meantime, the various parties have agreed to participate in mediation.

Nejedly’s eldest son, Contra Costa Community College Trustee John T. Nejedly, has accused his brother and sister, Contra Costa Central Sanitary District member Jim Nejedly and Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, of conspiring to turn his elderly father against him.

But according to court documents filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, the late senator intentionally stripped John T. of a share of the estate, which consists largely of a home on 13 wooded acres in Walnut Creek, after their relationship soured under the pressure of his son’s marital problems, drug and alcohol abuse. The senator also sought to keep the Walnut Creek property intact rather than see it subdivided.

John A. Nejedly died at age 91 on Sept. 19, 2006.