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Archive for December, 2008

Following the money on the auto bailout

House members who voted for the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act last Wednesday averaged a lot more in campaign contributions from the auto industry in the past five years than those who voted against it, according to those wonderful number crunchers at Berkeley-based MAPLight.org.

But the industry’s contributions to most of the Bay Area’s House contingent — most of whom voted for the bailout — fall well below the averages, those statistics also show.

From January 2003 through October 2008, auto manufacturers, auto dealers and labor unions gave an average of $74,100 in campaign contributions to each Representative voting in favor of the auto bailout, compared with an average of $45,015 to each Representative voting against the bailout–65% more money, on average, given to those who voted Yes. The final vote to pass the bill was 237-170, with 26 not voting and one voting “present.” Senate Republicans immediately scuttled the bill, and the White House is now talking about finding money from the already-approved $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to bail out Detroit.

“Big-money interest groups investing in political influence see sky-high returns, while ‘we the people’ foot the bill,” MAPLight.org executive director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Votes in Congress once again align with the river of money that flows through our broken political system.”

Among House Democrats, the 205 “yes” voters received an average of $74,846 each, about 19% more than those 20 voting “no,” who received an average of $63,140. The 32 House Republicans voting “yes” received an average of $69,323 each, 63% more than the 150 voting “no,” who received an average of $42,598.

In the greater Bay Area, only Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, voted against the bill; Stark’s auto-industry contributions over the past five years totalled $36,500, while Cardoza’s totalled $53,700. As for the rest of the local delegation:

  • Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto — $32,000
  • Mike Honda, D-San Jose — $42,100
  • Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — $46,700
  • Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose — $22,500
  • Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton — $48,500
  • George Miller, D-Martinez — $122,800
  • Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — $127,500
  • Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough — $11,000
  • Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo — $22,050
  • Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma — $70,750
  • No big surprises here. House Speaker Pelosi and Education & Labor Committee Chairman Miller are magnets for contributions from any industry, and McNerney managed to outstrip most of his other peers here because he was a freshman incumbent fighting what was supposed to be a competitive challenge this year. And in all these local cases, most of the money came from unions, not manufacturers.

    Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008
    Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dennis Cardoza, Ellen Tauscher, General, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

    California donors to Obama’s inaugural committee

    The Presidential Inaugural Committee is now posting information on all donors who give $200 or more. Here are the Bay Area donors as of Sunday night:

  • James Campbell, Pohaku Fund, Kentfield — $50,000
  • Quinn Delaney, Jordan Real Estate Investments, Oakland — $25,000
  • Racheal Hunter, Mill Valley — $50,000
  • Wayne Jordan, Jordan Real Estate Investments, Oakland — $25,000
  • Mitchell Kapor, San Francisco — $50,000
  • Michael Kiechnick, Working Assets, Palo Alto — $50,000
  • Sharon Meresman, Los Altos — $50,000
  • Julia Parish, self employed, San Francisco — $50,000
  • Michael L. Parker, Loma Verde Properties, Berkeley — $50,000
  • Paul Rudd, Adaptive Analytics, San Francisco — $50,000
  • John Thompson, Woodside — $50,000
  • Carol Winograd, Stanford University, Stanford — $50,000
  • For the rest of the California donors, including some notable Hollywood types, follow me after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, General | 2 Comments »

    Today’s Congressional odds and ends

    Pelosi urges Bush to be tough on automakers: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, wrote to President Bush today amid reports that the White House will act by itself to bail out the automobile industry now that a group of Republican Senators have stonewalled the legislation hammered out by the House and the Bush Administration. “The Administration must now require, as a condition of receiving those taxpayer funds, the same tough accountability and shared sacrifice by all parties – executives, unions, suppliers, creditors, dealers, bondholders, and shareholders – mandated in the bipartisan legislation passed by the House this week,” Pelosi wrote. “As you know, that legislation contained tough accountability and strict timelines for the automakers to develop a comprehensive restructuring plan to place them on a path toward viability and competitiveness. Failure by the automakers and other stakeholders to act urgently in developing and implementing a restructuring plan would end taxpayer assistance and permit the recalling of all loans. These same strong taxpayer protections and tough conditions should apply to any assistance provided to the automakers by your Administration.” But for Californians, alas, Pelosi already gave up a key condition for the auto bailout: a requirement that would’ve barred car companies from pursuing lawsuits against California and other states that want to establish tailpipe emission standards tougher than the federal government’s. Threatened with a veto, House Democrats jettisoned that provision Wednesday before the bill even went to the Senate.

    More Barbara Lee book signings: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is doing more signings of her memoir, “Renegade for Peace and Justice,” this weekend. From 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, she’ll be at Network Coffee, 2708 98th Ave. in Oakland; at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, she’ll be at the Kwanza Holiday Gift Show in the Oakland Marriott Convention Center, 1001 Broadway.

    Go see Jerry McNerney: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will hold his next “Congress At Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, in Java Aroma, 2233 Grand Canal Blvd. #102 in Stockton. For all you 11th Districters who took part in McNerney’s “Holiday Cards For Our Troops” program, you’ll be glad to know he delivered some of your cards Thursday morning to soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and to sailors and marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He’ll take the rest to the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin next week to deliver cards to National Guard and Reserve soldiers. More than 9,000 cards (some of which are featured on McNerney’s Web site) were received and will be distributed; that’s almost 13 times as many as last year, he said, “and the fact that so many people from our region took the time out to write messages of thanks to our soldiers is encouraging. It’s this kind of effort that will help make a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served our nation.”

    Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
    Under: Barbara Lee, Jerry McNerney, Nancy Pelosi, President Bush, U.S. House | No Comments »

    The deficit that stole Christmas

    Apparently Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, is considering imposing an around-the clock Christmas week lockdown until lawmakers can come up with a plan to close the state’s staggering budget deficit. The plan, first floated by the Bay Area’s own Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, is OK with Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, he said today.

    “I am in strong support of the Speaker’s plan for a lock down. Our current budget short fall is at $14.8 billion and is growing each day. Frankly, we need to act like adults and take full responsibility in this time of crisis,” Swanson said. “Many working families in California will not have a Christmas at all. I have my red pajamas and am ready to be locked in until we get the budget done for the people of California.”

    Whoa. Is that what we’ve come to — legislators in their jammies? STOP THE MADNESS!!!

    (P.S. — Please send photos.)

    Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
    Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Karen Bass, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

    Pete Stark as Ways and Means chairman?

    As Republicans continue pressuring House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., to give up his chair due to alleged ethical improprites (and/or pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, to oust Rangel before the Ethics Committee completes its probe), speculation swirls around who would take Rangel’s place.

    And don’tcha know, the next-most-senior Democrat on that committee is the East Bay’s own Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who already chairs the influential Health Subcommittee which will play a pivotal role in whatever health-care reform the Obama Administration proposes.

    But some unnamed sources on Capitol Hill say Stark, an outspoken liberal, isn’t a palatable option as committee chairman. Per CongressDaily’s article last week (subscription required):

    Next in seniority to Rangel is Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Fortney (Pete) Stark, D-Calif., who is given virtually no chance. “The conventional wisdom is he would have a tough time getting elected chairman,” said a Democrat close to leadership. From suggesting Republicans were sending troops to Iraq to die “for the president’s amusement” to referring to a former GOP lawmaker as a “little fruitcake,” Stark is prone to gaffes, sources said. “The guy behind [Rangel] is just not tenable. Republicans would have a field day,” an industry lobbyist said, while noting the business community would “go nuclear. It would just be open warfare.” A more viable pick might be Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., who is next in seniority, although sources cautioned the cerebral Levin may be too deliberate for the high-profile job. Levin also appears to relish his duties at the helm of the trade panel. He is also seen as very much in tune with the labor movement, although industry sources said Levin was someone they could work with, as opposed to Stark. Also, the Democratic Caucus still largely respects the seniority system, the Democratic strategist said. “If you make the decision that Stark is too out there, then I don’t see how you go over Sandy,” he said. “He’s been a loyal member, and nobody would doubt he’s got the intellectual and legislative expertise for the job.”

    Some progressives are not happy at all with the idea of Stark being summarily skipped. Here’s what DownWithTyranny’s Howie Klein had to say, even using one of the East Bay’s relatively recently departed as an example:

    Do you recall any of the Inside the Beltway types viewing a Republican appointee to any job thru the lenses of how that person might be accepted by working families or by organized labor? Or did I miss the issue where CongressDaily suggested that Elaine Chao might be the world’s absolute worst Labor Secretary because she loathes working people and doesn’t recognize their aspirations as legitimate or worthy of her attention?

    Did anyone ever question whether one of Congress’ biggest corporate shills on environmental issues, Dirty Dick Pombo, would be unqualified to be Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee because he was unanimously loathed by every single environmental group in the country? And what about that issue of CongressDaily– or any other daily– that pointed out that maybe Joe Barton (R-TX) shouldn’t be chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce because the $1,315,660 in legalized reported bribes he’s taken from Big Oil over the years is far more than any other member of the House, more even than notorious Big Oil puppets like Don Young (R-AK- $964,763), Steve Pearce (R-NM- $804,815), Tom Delay (R-TX- $688,840), and Pete Sessions (R-TX- $582,264), and that all the green energy groups feel that Barton is an integral part of the energy problem in our country and decidedly not part of the solution? No, I must have missed it too.

    And, said David Dayen at Calitics (who gets a hat tip for this whole post):

    Pete Stark is open and honest about his views. He has paid his dues and he’s next in line for the job. His “radical” policy ideas include making health care accessible and affordable for every American and opposing a giveaway to the financial services industry.

    Ah… but does Stark even want the job?

    “We have people falling all over each other today to move up the ladder,” Stark told me today, whether it’s for an Obama Administration appointment or climbing within the Democratic Caucus’ ranks. “I’ve got people beating on me every day, ‘Will you vote for me for caucus vice chair?’ There is something in my colleagues that they can’t resist running. But there is absolutely, as near as I can tell, no interest expressed by anyone to replace Charlie.”

    “I automatically temporarily become acting chair if he steps aside,” he said, and while the House Democratic Caucus could vote to override that within 10 days of it happening, he doubts anybody would want the job on such an interim basis. “So if he steps aside, unless Nancy (Pelosi) doesn’t want me there, I would be acting chair and then God knows what would happen then.”

    Hopefully Rangel would be cleared of the allegations against him, or punished with some penalty short of giving up the chair for good, and could return to the job, Stark said.

    The only way he’d want the chair permanently is if Rangel freely chooses to retire from it – “I’m good at it; I may mouth off about George W. Bush or whatever, but I’ve put together some of the most complex bipartisan legislation, much of it for Ronald Reagan for chrissakes” – but now’s not the time for that, he said: “I’d lay my credentials on the table and see if I could get the job, but with all we have to do now, I don’t even want that to come up, it would be so distracting.”

    Stark said the first 100 days of the Obama Administration will be some of the busiest, and potentially most productive, that he’s seen in his 35 years in Congress — which is exactly why he believes Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, is keeping up a steady drumbeat for a leadership shakeup at Ways and Means, through which a lot of important legislation is about to flow. “If we fail, it helps them, so anything they can do to disrupt, I think they will.”

    “Under no circumstances do I think Charlie at this point should either step down or resign, for a host of reasons,” Stark told me. “I think all of the issues that he’s being charged with are sloppy bookkeeping at worst. I’ve known this guy a long time, I guess I’ve been on the Ways and Means Committee 34 years and I’ve sat next to Charlie all those years… If he’s guilty of anything, it’s probably over-exuberance in trying to help out disadvantaged people in his neighborhood.”

    Nothing’s likely to happen before January, he said, and “by then I suspect that the Ethics Committee will have some kind of a report and they may punish him in some way, but I can’t believe it would be in the nature of asking him to relinquish his chairmanship.”

    Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2008
    Under: John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | No Comments »

    Another of Don Perata’s legacies

    I know this’ll seem like piling on in light of the story I had in today’s editions, but I seem to recall blogging here several times before that Don Perata’s aborted attempt to recall state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, would go down in history as having accomplished nothing save lining his Perata’s favorite political consultants’ pockets and giving Denham more street cred with California conservatives should he ever run for statewide office.

    And, look here: Denham today officially announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. From his news release:

    denham.JPG“The status quo has failed. In order for California to be economically competitive in the 21st Century, and for our state government to operate efficiently and effectively, change is not an option, it is a requirement.

    “As a Senator, I’ve fought to make key changes to the budget process so we can limit future budget stalemates. I’ve been a strong supporter of our schools and a staunch defender of funding for K-12 and higher education. I’ve consistently opposed tax increases as burdensome to California’s businesses and unfair to taxpayers when there is still so much wasteful spending by state government. And I’ve always sided with law enforcement and crime victims over criminal offenders.

    “My priorities, my experience and my record are a perfect fit for the responsibilities of the Lt. Governor’s office.”

    Ah, but wait for it… Scroll down to the release’s “background” section and you find:

    In 2008, then-Senate President Pro-Tem Don Perata organized and funded a recall campaign against Denham for opposing passage of the unbalanced state budget. Denham won a stunning 76% of the vote and statewide attention for both his principled leadership against state deficit spending and his defeat of the Legislature’s most powerful member.

    Now, Denham might well have run for lieutenant governor in 2010 no matter what — he seems like an ambitious guy. But Don Perata’s ill-conceived recall gave him statewide name recognition of the best kind: The David-who-defeated-Goliath kind, the martyr-who-lived-to-tell-the-tale kind, the kind that sometimes tips the scales in contested primaries.

    Don Perata might’ve wanted to oust Denham, but he might end up being the best thing that ever happened to Denham’s political career.

    Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2008
    Under: California State Senate, Don Perata, Jeff Denham | No Comments »

    Barbara Lee helps release Darfur report to Obama

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, joined House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., today in releasing a report to President-elect Barack Obama on the House’ goals and recommendations in working towards peace in Darfur.

    “It has been over five years since Congress declared that genocide was taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan,” Lee said in a statement issued later today. “With hundreds of thousands killed, deteriorating conditions and no end in sight, we felt it important to release this white paper outlining our recommendations for the incoming administration on addressing this genocide.”

    “The U.S. must be leaders in the peace process in Darfur. President-elect Obama has already stated his commitment to addressing the genocide in Darfur, and we in Congress are prepared to work diligently with his administration towards a swift resolution to this dire situation.”

    Hoyer, Lee and nine other House members from both sides of the aisle signed the white paper, which among other recommendations urges Obama to appoint a full-time, senior-level envoy to lead the charge on a new round of peace talks; to conduct an immediate assessment of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the region; and to coordinate with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as soon as possible to give peacekeepers the authority and resources they need to save lives.

    Lee’s been very active on Darfur; she pushed successfully for a law letting states to divest from companies doing business with the government of Sudan (she’d introduced it as H.R.180, though it was U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s similar S.2271 that was eventually signed into law), and her resolutions calling for action from the League of Arab States and China to use their leverage with Sudan to end the genocide both passed in the House. She has gone to Darfur three times, most recently with Hoyer in April 2007.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, General, U.S. House | No Comments »

    McNerney lands an Energy & Commerce seat

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is crowing that he has officially secured a seat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which deals not only with those namesake issues but also has input on health care and consumer affairs and protection. McNerney, a wind energy engineer by trade, said he’s “thrilled.”

    “I’m anxious to delve into some of the committee’s issues, including the development of a new national energy policy that focuses on the use and production of renewable energy and addressing the need for affordable and accessible healthcare for all Americans,” he said in his news release.

    McNerney in his first term had served on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming; the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; the Veterans Affairs Committee; and the Science and Technology Committee.

    Spokesman Andy Stone said McNerney will probably have to relinquish one of those seats, given the fact that he already needed a waiver to let him serve on four committees at once.

    His new appointment became official today after a vote in the Steering and Policy Committee and then a ratifying vote by the entire Democratic Caucus. The vote and ratification also cemented last month’s palace coup staged by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, to replace Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., as Energy and Commerce’s chairman — a change which seems to be taking the panel in a much more liberal direction. Waxman is seen as more aligned with President-elect Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, on issues such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental concerns; Dingell, the panel’s top Democrat for close to three decades, was a staunch supporter of Detroit automakers and other big industries such as electric utilities.

    So, an interesting place for McNerney to be, at an interesting time.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
    Under: Henry Waxman, Jerry McNerney, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

    Go Raiders, go state parks

    Regular readers of the Blotter might recall my defense of California’s state parks against short-sighted budget cuts that would deprive this state of some of its most valuable natural resources.

    So you can imagine how I’m all about local institutions’ efforts to spread the word about the great recreational and educational opportunities the parks provide. To that end, I offer kudos to our very own Oakland Raiders, who’ve teamed up with the California State Parks and the California State Parks Foundation to promote family outdoor recreation during this coming Saturday’s home game against the New England Patriots.

    The California State Parks Foundation will be handing out giveaways to the first 5,000 people at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum’s plaza main gate, and the California State Parks will be giving away fleece picnic blankets to the first 375 children visiting the Kid Zone.

    “State parks and the Oakland Raiders are already connected through outdoor fitness,” said California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman said in a news release. “By working together to promote the state parks at the December 14th game, we will reach a wider audience and educate Raider fans about the importance of recreation and exercise while promoting state parks use.”

    “We are delighted to again collaborate with the California State Parks and the Foundation to promote, and to encourage everyone to enjoy, our State parks and Beaches — a tremendous California resource,” said Oakland Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask.

    This effort came about via the state parks’ Proud Parter Program, which works with businesses to reach out to the more than 70 million people that visit California’s 279 state parks each year.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
    Under: General | No Comments »

    Who’s the lame duck here?

    Congressional Democrats seem to want the the Big Three automakers, as a condition of getting government loans, to drop their legal opposition to efforts by California and 15 other states to enforce tougher tailpipe-emissions standards than those set by the federal government – something for which state officials as well as health, environmental and public interest groups have been fighting hard.

    But the White House opposes this, and given House Democrats’ track record so far on caving to President Bush’s demands on this auto-industry bailout, it’ll be interesting to see whether this proposal survives.

    What track record, you ask? Just check today’s Washington Post report:

    Democrats bent to the will of the president on several key demands, most notably in agreeing that the emergency funding would be drawn from an existing loan program aimed at promoting fuel-efficient technologies.

    [snip]

    Democrats had hoped to take the money from the Treasury’s $700 billion financial rescue program, but the White House objected. A breakthrough came Friday, when Pelosi dropped her opposition to tapping the loan program established by Congress this fall to help the automakers retool factories to produce more-fuel-efficient vehicles.

    The Democratic proposal makes no provisions to replenish the loan fund, as Pelosi had hoped. But aides predicted that she would have little trouble adding the cash to a massive economic stimulus package President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to sign soon after he takes office in January.

    [snip]

    Democrats flirted with the idea of naming a seven-member board to oversee the auto bailout but decided instead to have the president name an individual, as Bush had suggested. Frank said that the car czar is likely to be a government official who could get to work quickly, rather than an outsider, and that Obama could replace Bush’s appointee once he takes office.

    So it seems the Democrats are hoping the Obama Administration will put this deal right after the fact, but given the Bush Administration’s ability to take a ball and run with it — often in the wrong direction — with little or no time left on the clock, that seems risky.

    Sure, compromise is part of any government activity, but I see the Democrats giving a lot while the White House largely gets what it wants. If the deal does help California and the other states with the emissions litigation, that would seem like something in return; otherwise, what’s everyone getting for this $15 billion we’re about to shell out?

    As San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris put it in a letter sent today to Congressional leaders (and distributed to the press by her campaign for state Attorney General in 2010), “(t)he automakers aren’t the only ones needing a bailout — the people breathing our air need a bailout from pollution.”

    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
    Under: Nancy Pelosi, President Bush, U.S. House | No Comments »