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Archive for September, 2008

Barbara Lee: We’re not getting enough HUD help

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a formula that determines funding levels for communities decimated by the foreclosure crisis, with an estimated $10.3 million directed to Alameda County and $8.2 million of that reserved for Oakland.

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, isn’t happy.

“Though I am pleased we were able to secure this much needed funding for our communities being devastated by the foreclosure crisis, I remain concerned about the overall California allocation,” she said in a release issued this afternoon. “Several of my colleagues and I have written a letter to HUD Secretary Steve Preston calling for a review of the formula and asking that it be adjusted to recognize the devastating impact of the foreclosure crisis in the state of California.”

Under H.R. 3221, the Foreclosure Prevention Act signed into law July 30, HUD will disperse $3.92 billion in CDBG funding nationwide with $145 million in funding going to California; the money is to be used to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties that have been vacant for more than 90 days, as a means of restoring home values and reducing blight and crime in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Yet, Lee notes, California is slated to receive $12 million less of this CDBG funding than Florida.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson are on board with Lee’s call for a re-examination of the funding formula. (It’s not surprising to see all of them on the same page, as Lee, Swanson and Carson all worked for Dellums when he held the 9th Congressional District seat Lee now occupies.)

“With regards to the issue of foreclosures, anyone familiar with this crisis knows that the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda have been hit extremely hard,” Dellums said in Lee’s release. “Many of Oakland’s neighborhoods have been devastated by this crisis, and I join my colleagues in expressing our disappointment in what appears to be a fundamentally flawed and unfair formula.”

Said Carson: “California has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, second only to Nevada. The HUD allocation of $2 million does not adequately address the needs of working families in our communities who are struggling to hold onto their property.”

And Swanson agreed time is of the essence “in dealing with long-vacant foreclosed properties. Increasing blight attracts crime, bringing down property values, and straining local police services that are often stretched too thin already. Given the incredibly high rate of foreclosures in the State, it is imperative that HUD reexamines its funding formula to ensure that California receives the funds it needs to properly address this crisis.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
Under: Alameda County, Assembly, Barbara Lee, Oakland, Ron Dellums, Sandre Swanson, U.S. House | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

This week, a Brazilian television ad Arnold Schwarzenegger did some years ago for CCAA (Centro de Cultura Anglo Americana), which teaches English and Spanish:

So I guess we should’ve expected Schwarzenegger’s support of English immersion over bilingual education…

Previous SVOTWs: September 23, September 16, September 9, September 2, August 26, August 19, August 12, August 5, July 29, July 22, July 8, July 1, June 24, 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, September 30th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Wall Street money parallels today’s bailout votes

I’ve got an article up containing statements from Bay Area House members on why they voted for or against the $700 billion financial-market bailout bill today, but here’s a fascinating factoid.

The data-digging geniuses at Berkeley-based MAPLight.org — illuminating the connections between Money And Politics — found that over the past five years banks and securities firms gave an average of $231,877 in campaign contributions to each Representative voting in favor of the bailout today, compared with an average of $150,982 to each Representative voting against the bailout. That’s 54 percent more money given to those who voted for this legislation.

MAPLight found the 140 House Democrats voting “yes” received an average of $212,700 each, about twice as much as the average $107,993 for the 95 House Democrats who voted “no.” On the other side of the aisle, the 65 House Republicans voting “yes” received an average of $273,181 each, about 50 percent more than the average $181,688 for the 133 House Republicans voting “no.”

“Profit-driven companies wouldn’t be making campaign contributions if it didn’t buy them influence or access,” MAPLight executive director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Votes in Congress align with the river of money that flows through our political system.”

UPDATE @ 6:06 P.M.: The Center for Responsive Politics has a similar analysis going back even further, to 1989.

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2008
Under: U.S. House | No Comments »

Yes on 8 campaign launches first TV ad

The campaign for Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, launched its first television ad today:

Said Yes on 8 co-campaign manager Frank Schubert: “For weeks, the No on 8 campaign has had the field to themselves, with thinly veiled ‘issue advocacy’ ads and an outrageously biased rewriting of the ballot Title & Summary by the Attorney General. Despite this, internal polling for both campaigns shows the race is very much up for grabs. Now, with the launch of our first television ad, voters finally get to hear the rest of the story. The debate will begin to shift to the very real consequences to California because of the Supreme Court’s action.”

A Field Poll of 830 likely voters conducted Sept. 5-14 found voter opposition to the measure had increased since July, with 55 percent intending to vote no and 38 percent intending to vote yes; the poll had a 3.5-percentage-point margin of error. And a Public Policy Institute of California poll of 1,157 likely voters conducted Sept. 9-16 found similar numbers — 55 percent yes, 41 percent no 55 percent no, 41 percent yes — with a 3-percentage-point margin of error.

The No on 8 campaign launched its first ad a week ago.

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2008
Under: same-sex marriage | No Comments »

Pete Stark: Bush not worth ‘$700 billion gamble’

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, entered a statement today in opposition to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, the $700 billion financial-industry bailout bill cobbled together by Congress in recent days, and is voting against it even now. Here’s what Stark had to say:

“Madam Speaker, I rise today to oppose H.R. 3997, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

“President Bush tells us that we face unparalleled financial doom if this $700 billion bailout is not approved today. He and his Treasury Secretary — a former Wall Street fat cat — tell us that we have reached the point of ‘crisis.’ That is a familiar line from this President. It sounds like the disastrous rush to war in Iraq and the subsequent stampede to enact the Patriot Act. As I opposed the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, I stand in opposition to his latest rush to judgment.

“We are not in a sudden crisis. It has been building over the past 8 years of the Bush Administration. Lax oversight of the financial industry ballooned into a house of cards.

“Homeowners throughout the country have seen property values decline as their mortgage rates adjusted upward. As a result, millions of people across our country have already lost their homes to foreclosure and many more are on the way.

“It is easy to blame consumers for purchasing homes they couldn’t afford. However, these consumers weren’t informed of the extreme risk they were assuming. Creative financiers invented a market for these risky mortgages and preyed upon consumers by peddling the American dream of homeownership to make that market flourish.

“While those were poor choices by consumers, they pale in comparison to the irresponsible bets made on Wall Street. These mortgages and their declining collateral values are the root of this financial crisis.

“We now face a choice. President Bush tells us we must inject $700 billion into this market to avoid a total meltdown. He and Secretary Paulson say it is the only answer. Many economists — who don’t have a financial stake in Wall Street or an eight-year record of bad decisions — tell us it isn’t the only choice. An option would be to assist homeowners with their mortgage payments. By making sure these mortgages remain viable, the market should stabilize.

“The bill before us today is basically the same three-page Wall Street give away first put forth by President Bush. The fig leaf adjustments are not enough to outweigh the fact that no one knows if this bill is what’s needed. I’m not willing to make a $700 billion gamble that President Bush is right after eight years of seeing all that he’s done wrong.”

That’s a big break with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who was doing all she could today to get the bill passed. See her floor statement, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2008
Under: Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

This week in big-time campaign cash

Topping this week’s roundup of big ($25,000 or more) spenders on California campaigns and committees is the $1.25 million that Equality California dumped Wednesday into the campaign against Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Other notable No on 8 contributions this week included $500,000 Tuesday from GeoCities cofounder, venture capitalist and philanthropist David Bohnett of Beverly Hills; $250,000 Wednesday from the Service Employees International Union’s California State Council; $100,000 Monday from San Francisco’s Robert Haas, chairman emeritus of Levi Strauss Inc.; $70,000 Saturday from the National Center for Lesbian Rights; $50,000 Saturday from Anita May Rosenstein of Beverly Hills, a philanthropist and and founder of AR Asset Management Inc.; $25,000 Monday from Vinik Asset Management CEO Mark Hostetter of Boston; $25,000 Tuesday from Johnson Family Foundation chairman James Johnson of New York City; and $25,000 Wednesday from Angle Slate Inc. of Los Angeles.

Fieldstead & Co. — the personal philanthropic organization through which banking heir Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr. funds conservative causes — put up $300,000 Wednesday to support Proposition 8, bringing its total thus far to $900,000. Other contributions supporting Proposition 8 this week included $100,000 Monday from the Brea-based Evangelical Christian Credit Union; $100,000 Tuesday from Los Altos retiree Joseph Moran; and then $25,000 each Tuesday from former teacher Susan Facer of Rancho Palos Verdes, retired Safeway executive and former Oakland Mormon Temple president Lorenzo Hoopes, Atherton property manager Parley Livingston, and Jaquetia Zinn of San Jose. Laura Armstrong of Irvine gave $25,000 Wednesday to support the measure.

The Democratic State Central Committee of California gave a total of $288,473 Monday and Tuesday to Manuel Perez‘s campaign for the 80th Assembly District seat; $164,500 Thursday to Fran Florez‘s campaign for the 30th Assembly District; and $130,000 Tuesday to former Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson‘s campaign for the 19th State Senate District seat. The Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee kicked in $28,000 Thursday for Jackson’s campaign.

The Burlingame-based California Teachers Association gave $350,000 Monday to oppose Proposition 4, the proposed state constitutional amendment which would require doctors to inform the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before providing an abortion to that minor. That same day, the New Haven, Conn.-based Knights of Columbus gave $200,000 Monday to support the measure.

Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital anted up $347,812.50 Monday to support Proposition 3, which would authorize almost $1 billion in bonds to be repaid from state’s General Fund to pay for construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals.

The New York City-based Fund for Animals and the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States each gave $250,000 Tuesday to the campaign for Proposition 2, which would prohibit confinement of certain farm animals in ways that doesn’t let them turn freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs; Gil Michaels of Beverly Hills, owner of GNM Financial Services, gave $50,000 Monday, while retired hedge fund manager Michelle Thomson of Philadelphia and Merriman Curhan Ford & Co. of San Francsico each gave $25,000 Thursday. Ponying up against Proposition 2 this week was the California Grocers Association, which gave $25,000 Wednesday.

The Service Employees International Union’s California State Council gave $200,000 Tuesday to the joint campaign to defeat Proposition 6 and Proposition 9. Proposition 6 is a tough-on-crime package including adult prosecution for gang-related criminals 14 and up; annual criminal background checks for public housing residents; harsher bail conditions and penalties for certain crimes; and so on. Proposition 9 would expand crime victims’ rights including restitution.

The campaign for Proposition 1A, the $10 billion bond measure for high-speed rail, got two big contributions this week: $25,000 each Tuesday from the American Council of Engineering Companies California and from the Members’ Voice of the State Building Trades, a “section 527″ group set up by the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California.

And billionaire former Univision chairman and CEO Jerry Perenchio gave $25,000 Wednesday to the campaign for Proposition 11, the legislative redistricting reform measure.

Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2008
Under: Assembly, campaign finance, Democratic Party, Elections, General, same-sex marriage | No Comments »

Let the debates (CD11) begin

Dean Andal, GOP nominee, CD11

Dean Andal, GOP nominee, CD11

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and his Republican challenger Dean Andal of Stockton have agreed on two face-to-face showdowns.

As challengers do, Andal has been lobbying for months for debates while McNerney, as incumbents do, has been putting them off.

That’s all over now.

The pair will tape a half-hour roundtable on the evening of Oct. 3 as part of the traditional Contra Costa Times’ televised series in partnership with the League of Women Voters, Comcast, CCTV, Contra Costa County, East Bay Foundation and Lesher Foundation.

I am the moderator and will ask the questions of the two candidates in a roundtable format. The taping session isn’t open to the public because we’ll be inside a small CCTV Martinez television studio. But it will air repeatedly on CCTV and other area public stations until the election. The segment will also be available 24-7 online at www.ContraCostaTimes.com. (Check back on my blog for airdates and links to the video as soon we complete production and post it, probably on Oct. 6 or 7.)

An open-to-the-public candidate event opent sponsored by the Tracy Press will be held Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at Monte Visa Middle School, 751 W. Lowell St. in Tracy.  As a public service, the Tracy Press has organized candidate forums since the 1960s.

Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, Congress, congressional district 11 | 16 Comments »

Right-wing columnists target McCain/Palin

I know John McCain and Sarah Palin have been campaigning as much against the media as against Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but the past two weeks have heard even some very conservative media voices sounding against the GOP ticket.

First it was the New York Times’ David Brooks, last Tuesday, Sept. 16:

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

The next day, it was the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen:

What impressed me most about McCain was the effect he had on his audiences, particularly young people. When he talked about service to a cause greater than oneself, he struck a chord. He expressed his message in words, but he packaged it in the McCain story — that man, beaten to a pulp, who chose honor over freedom. This had nothing to do with access. It had to do with integrity.

McCain has soiled all that. His opportunistic and irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his political heir — the person in whose hands he would leave the country — is a form of personal treason, a betrayal of all he once stood for. Palin, no matter what her other attributes, is shockingly unprepared to become president. McCain knows that. He means to win, which is all right; he means to win at all costs, which is not.

The Washington Post’s George F. Will weighed in this past Tuesday:

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

And today it’s the National Review’s Kathleen Parker:

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

[snip]

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2008
Under: Elections, General, John McCain, Media, Sarah Palin | No Comments »

Election printing goof leads to black mark

A data processing error has Contra Costa County elections chief Steve Weir looking for a Sharpie. A lot of Sharpies.

As many as 200,000 ballot envelopes scheduled to be mailed on Monday depict the addressed voter’s party registration. It’s a violation of a new state law barring such designations on the outside of ballot envelopes used in general elections.

Weir caught it before the offending envelopes left the vendor, Ashland, Ore.-based IPCO Independent Printing Co. (It’s not the vendor’s error, Weir said. It was his office that failed to click the right button during the processing of the massive voter database.)

Weir’s plan of attack?

The vendor will deploy Sharpie-wielding clerks armed with black permanent markers. (Okay, I don’t if they will use actual Sharpies or some generic pen._

“We’ve tested it and we’re confident it will work,” Weir said.

“Project Mark Out” will not delay the mailing of ballots and voters shouldn’t worry if they see black line on the front of their envelopes that blocks out the disallowed verbage.

But unlike a problem of a few elections ago when the ballots came from the printer with a crease and Weir personally ironed thousands of crinkled ballots, he has no plans to go to Oregon and take a marker in hand.

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

The Rick Davis/Freddie Mac lie, compounded

Remember, I’ve resolved here to call a lie a lie, not a “spin” or an “exaggeration.” And this case, readers, sounds to me like a lie told to cover up a lie.

Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, responding to concern that his campaign manager and longtime political aide/confidante Rick Davis was paid for advocacy work on behalf of the now-wrecked Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae government-sponsored mortgage giants, told the New York Times a few days ago that Davis had no such involvement since 2005 — yet the Times found Freddie Mac had made payments to Davis’ lobbying firm through last month.

The McCain campaign posted a statement to its Web site yesterday attacking the Times’ reporting:

As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis has seen no income from Davis Manafort since 2006. Zero. Mr. Davis has received no salary or compensation since 2006. Mr. Davis has received no profit or partner distributions from that firm on any basis — weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual — since 2006. Again, zero. Neither has Mr. Davis received any equity in the firm based on profits derived since his financial separation from Davis Manafort in 2006.

Further, and missing from the Times’ reporting, Mr. Davis has never — never — been a lobbyist for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Mr. Davis has not served as a registered lobbyist since 2005.

Yet Newsweek reports Davis “has remained the treasurer and a corporate director of his lobbying firm this year, despite repeated statements by campaign officials that he had ended his relationship with the firm in 2006, according to corporate records.” Here’s one of those records, the firm’s 2008 annual report to the Virgina State Corporation Commission, listing Davis as an officer and director.

All of which is talking around the main point: These out-of-control mortgage lenders were shelling out paychecks to Davis and/or Davis’ firm for years merely because Davis is McCain’s top adviser. The Times’ sources “said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis & Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of Mr. Davis’s close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.”

And whether Davis has drawn a paycheck from his firm since 2006 isn’t the point. Does Davis contend he’ll never return to his firm after this campaign is done, a firm enriched in the interim by Freddie Mac? Certainly not. The fact is, the firm Davis helped found, of which he’s still apparently an officer and director, made about $500,000 from the failed mortgage giant based on Davis’ access to McCain and during the same time Davis has been working to put McCain in the White House (and all this after Davis undisputedly made about $2 million working on the mortgage lenders’ behalf from 2000 through 2005).

Having a top aide and/or his firm taking money from troubled mortgage lenders sounds not unlike the sort of “poor judgment” McCain showed in a scandal at the heart of the last big government bailout. And this series of lies to cover it up sounds like anything but “straight talk.”

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2008
Under: Elections, John McCain | 1 Comment »