Obama leading in California by 22 points

San Jose Mercury News political reporter Mary Anne Ostrom reported today on Field Poll findings that Barack Obama leads John McCain by 22 percentage points.

That Obama is winning in California isn’t news, of course. But the potential margin of victory carries huge coattails implications for down-ticket Democrats such as Rep. Jerry McNerney, the Pleasanton freshman seeking re-election in a conservative-leaning district.

Here are the few few graphs of the story:

Barack Obama is poised to win California by the largest margin of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, a new Field Poll released today finds.

The Democratic presidential candidate leads Republican rival John McCain by 22 percentage points — 55-33 — among likely voters in California. If that margin holds Tuesday, he would set a post-World War II record for a presidential victor in the state. Not even landslide victories in 1980 and 1984 by Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, came close.


Conservative group targets Rep. George Miller with ads

An Iowa-based conservative group called the American Future Fund has spent $200,000 on a television ad plus more on two mailers targeting Democratic Rep. George Miller of Martinez.

The mailers began arriving in mailboxes in Miller’s district Wednesday (including mine) and the ad starting airing yesterday, as well. (See link to YouTube below.)

What is the American Future Fund and why would they spend $200,000 in Miller’s heavily Democratic district? It seems like a strange place to dump this kind of money.

According to various news accounts, the American Future Fund is technically a 501c(4) charity run by several well-known Republican strategists. Its web site says it promotes conservative, free market principles. It has spent scads of money on ads around the country in recent months, primarily targeting Democratic senators such as Mark Udall of Colorado for his views on oil-drilling.

The anti-Miller effort appears to be part of a larger nationwide campaign by business interests to defeat a controversial labor-related measure called the Employee Free Choice Act.

Miller is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and a key sponsor of the act. It passed the House in March 2007 but failed to win enough votes in the U.S. Senate to withstand a filibuster. Most expect this bill to resurface in the next Congress, especially if Democratic nominee Barack Obama wins the presidency next week.

While the Miller mailer focuses on $4.6 million in earmarks the congressman obtained for a local business, SecuriMetrics, that also contributed $16,090 to the legislator’s campaign committees, the TV ad says he supports the Employee Free Choice Act because he has accepted more than $1 million from labor unions.

The bill would add a second method by which employees could form a union. Under the current system, if 30 percent of the workforce petitions its employer for a union, the employer must hold an election and all the votes are taken in a secret ballot. The act states that if a majority of the workers sign a statement seeking a union, the union can be adopted and there is no secret ballot election.

Ironically, the American Future Fund accuses Miller of being in the pocket of corporate interests but no one knows where the fund gets its money.

A loophole in campaign finance law permits 501c(4) charities to spend money on “electioneering communications” without disclosing the names of the donors as long as political activity is not its major function.

Here’s the ad:


Boxer: Banks mustn’t hoard bailout bucks

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., fired a warning shot across the banking industry’s bow — and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‘s as well — while taking questions at her San Francisco news conference today.

She called for a crackdown on banks that are sitting on or misusing some of the money they got from the $700 billion public bailout of the finaincial industry; the bailout’s intent was to get credit flowing again, but that won’t happen if banks aren’t lending out the public money they just got.

U.S. taxpayers got preferred stock in these financial institutions, Boxer said, and she believes the investment eventually will come back. But she’s disappointed that the government didn’t use its investment to take voting positions in these institutions, and already there are reports that the money isn’t flowing as it should. Paulson must act, she said.

“There’s going to be this oversight, there’s going to be action if Paulson doesn’t do what he said he would do,” she said today, leaving the door open to further Congressional action. “What we giveth, we can taketh away.”


Barbara Lee to host hip-hop GOTV event

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is planning a “Get Out the Vote Hip-Hop Rally” from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. tommorow — Thursday, Oct. 30 — on Laney College’s quad, 900 Fallon St. in Oakland. Her campaign’s news release says it’s a “collaborative effort between Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Generation Obama and Charles Johnson of the Town Business Network … to educate and excite youth and young adults in the 9th Congressional District about the historic presidential election.” DLabrie, Ise Lyfe, Young Moses and Kev Choice are scheduled to perform.


Rules for polling place go up on big signs

No one can say he or she didn’t know the rules now. Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir has posted these two signs after a recent incident in which several women wore pro-Obama clothing or buttons and brought cameras into the downtown Martinez election office.

Oh, the sign should also say: “Keep your clothes on.”

One of the women also stripped off her Obama shirt when asked to remove the offending item. Please, don’t disrobe.


Receiver swap didn’t speed prison health-care fix

Watching Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson frown yesterday as a California deputy attorney general explained why the governor and controller might risk being held in contempt of court rather than fork over $250 million already earmarked for prison health care, I wondered if he’s had second thoughts about having replaced original prison health-care receiver Bob Sillen with current receiver J. Clark Kelso this past January.

Here’s what Henderson wrote in his Jan. 23, 2008 order replacing Sillen with Kelso:

While the current Receiver has successfully used his unique skills and bold, creative leadership style to investigate, confront, and break down many of the barriers that existed at the inception of the Receivership, the second phase of the Receivership demands a substantially different set of administrative skills and style of collaborative leadership. The Receivership must continue to maintain its independence as an arm of the federal courts established to take over state operations, but it also must work more closely at this stage with all stakeholders, including State officials, to ensure that the system developed and implemented by the Receivership can be transferred back to the State in a reasonable time frame. Such collaboration appears to be more important now than ever, given the current budget crisis faced by the State of California.

But by late this summer, Kelso had filed a motion asking Henderson to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Controller John Chiang in contempt of court for refusing to pay the bills for a plan to build seven facilities with 10,000 beds for chronically sick or mentally ill inmates by mid-2013, as well as to improve existing facilities at the state’s 33 prisons. Now, under an order Henderson issued yesterday afternoon, the state has until next Wednesday, Nov. 5, to hand over the $250 million already earmarked under AB 900, a $7.8 billion prison-expansion bill Schwarzenegger signed into law in May 2007. If the money isn’t made available to Kelso’s office by then, the parties must return to court Wednesday, Nov. 12 to argue whether Schwarzenegger and Chiang should be held in contempt of court.

It’s a genuine showdown — hardly the “collaboration” of which Henderson wrote in appointing Kelso, a Sacramento law professor with a reputation as a “fixer” capable of cleaning up government messes quickly and efficiently. Looks like Kelso’s softer touch didn’t pan out; maybe the steamrolling Sillen, with his extensive experience in big health-care system management, was what the situation really required after all.

On a related note, the following comment was attached to my article about yesterday’s hearing:

We have law abiding citizens that go without medical care…..but break the law, rape a baby, murder someone etc and you get the best care possible….what is wrong with these fatheads passing these ridiculous laws….lets protect the “good guys” for a stinkin change and pucish the lawbreakers

Sorry, no. Say what you will about so many Californians remaining uninsured or underinsured (I think it’s abhorrent), but that’s an entirely different, seperate issue from this prison health-care morass. The state was sued, and lost; it has admitted that prison health care in California is so bad that it qualifies as constitutionally impermissable cruel and unusual punishment. In many cases, the lack of adequate care — or any care at all — has turned a prison sentence into a de facto death penalty as inmates died from treatable illnesses or injuries. When we as a society lock people up, we as a society accept responsibility for providing them adequate medical care — not a gold-plated Cadillac health-care plan, just the constitutional minimum. And we’ve failed to do so.

Yet despite this admission, the state for years failed to take meaningful steps to fix the problem; only then was a receiver appointed. This current flap exists not because the state disputes the problem, but simply because the bill has finally come due after decades of neglect, and the state doesn’t want to pay it.