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Archive for July, 2009

CD10: DeSaulnier asked to remove Tauscher name

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier

Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher

Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher

UPDATED 8:10 P.M. See DeSaulnier campaign manager Katie Merrill’s response below.

The U.S. State Department has asked 10th District Congressional candidate and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to remove all references in his campaign materials to his endorsement from former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who is now undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the U.S. State Department.

While a legal adviser to the U.S. State Department concludes that the endorsement broke no laws or policies, “Under Secretary Tauscher is committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, on behalf of Undersecretary Tauscher, I have asked Senator DeSaulnier to remove all references in his campaign material of any endorsement she may have made,” wrote James Thessin, deputy legal adviser and designed agency ethics official.

DeSaulnier campaign manager Katie Merrill said a few minutes ago that she had not seen the letter nor was she aware of the request but would get back to me tonight issued this statement:

“Former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher endorsed Mark DeSaulnier for Congress in March.  Mark and the Congresswoman have worked together on many issues of importance to this district, and he is proud to have her sole endorsement.

The Garamendi campaign filed this frivolous complaint out of  “sour grapes” because he asked for Congresswoman Tauscher’s endorsement and did not get it.

We said the complaint was frivolous at the time, and the State Dept. in this letter has confirmed that.

John Garamendi knows that his chances of winning this race are dwindling daily because he has little local support, few local endorsements, and doesn’t even live in the district.  So he has resorted to negative tactics like filing frivolous complaints and wasting valuable resources of the U.S. State Department that I would imagine could go to far better use than this.

I expect we will see more negative tactics and gamesmanship from the Garamendi campaign in the next 4 weeks.  It is how he has run his past campaigns, and that is unfortunate.

As for the request by the State Dept., the ballot pamphlets with Congresswoman Tauscher’s endorsement are printed, the TV ad on health care reform is running, and our brochures with her endorsement were produced months ago.  As for the things we can change, we have a number of questions for the State Dept. about what qualifies and what doesn’t under their request.  We will be in contact with them next week to get further clarification.”

It’s clear from the letter, though, that no laws were broken and DeSaulnier is under no legal obligation to cease his use of her endorsement, which is arguably one of DeSaulnier’s most valuable.

Tauscher endorsed DeSaulnier shortly after her name publicly surfaced as nominee to the State Department post. She has not participated in any campaign activities for DeSaulnier since she was formally nominated.

The letter I quoted was sent July 29 to Jason Bezis of Lafayette, who filed a complaint with the State Department about DeSaulnier’s use of Tauscher’s endorsement in his campaign materials.

Read on for the full text of the letter: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 31st, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election | 2 Comments »

Antioch official blasts DeSaulnier, strips endorsement

Antioch Councilman Brian Kalinowski

Antioch Councilman Brian Kalinowski

Antioch Councilman Brian Kalinowski delivered a scathing indictment of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson in the moments following city’s vote Tuesday night to cut another $500,000 from its budget. The cuts were necessary after the Legislature swiped local government dollars to close its own gaping budget deficit.

Click here to watch Kalinowski’s statements on the city’s website by scrolling to 2:50:54 into the meeting.)

But here’s a portion of Kalinowski’s statement:

“Some of our elected voted no on certain piecemeal items to (express) their dissatisfaction with certain actions. But true leadership come in the form of civil disobedience to the point where you ensure that a budget that is flawed from day one doesn’t go forward …

This staff, on the backs of the employees and to the detriment of the citizens it serves, addressed the (city’s) budget shortfall to the tune of $500,000 while our friends — or people we thought were our friends — voted us down the river and did us no favors …
I am livid at Sen. DeSaulnier, whom I pulled my support from for Congress, and Assemblyman Torlakson, who has been absent in his representation of this city … and that is where it stops. If that puts me on the outside of partisan politics, so be it. But at the end of day with an heavy heart, we continue to dismiss employees in this city and do a disservice to the residents of this community. It’s time for Sacramento to stand up and grow up.”

On the 28 30 budget bills up for a vote in the Senate on July 24, DeSaulnier voted no on 11 12 and yes on the other 1718. In the Assembly, Torlakson supported 22 of the 25 budget bills he voted on. (As a congressional candidate, DeSaulnier was clearly given more latitude to vote no at a time when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg desperately needed support in order to pass a state budget.)

Is this the unofficial start of Kalinowski’s run for the Legislature? Could be. He has often expressed interest in running for the Assembly.

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Under: General | No Comments »

Rebecca Kaplan gets biblical on Schwarzenegger

Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan went all Old Testament on the governator today during a rally to tout a “People’s Budget Fix” of criminal justice reforms.

“There are lies being told in Sacramento,” she said – specifically, the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s assertion that most Californians desire an budget solution based on nothing but cuts “until everyone is bleeding.”

Oakland residents just last week overwhelmingly approved a package of tax measures to help the cash-strapped city lessen the blow to crucial local services, she noted.

Then she whipped out a Bible to share what she described as some of her favorite scripture, wherein Isaiah says praying and fasting aren’t enough, and you’ve got to help those less fortunate than you if you want to please the Lord:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

“ Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

(That’s Isaiah 58:6-7, by the way.)

Afterward, Kaplan, 38, who just won election to the city council in November, showed me that it was her own bat mitzvah Bible from which she was reading. “I carry it all the time now,” she said.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear later today said this budget “contains the largest tax increase in the history of the state, enacted in February. Voters overwhelmingly rejected further tax increases to fix the budget in May. Like every business and family in California, the state must live within its means.”

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Rebecca Kaplan, state budget, taxes | 2 Comments »

Mark Leno enters national health care fray

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is rubbing elbows with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., today for events to promote single-payer universal health care.

Leno – author of the California Universal Health Care Act, SB 810 – is about to join Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to speak at a “Medicare: Made in America,” rally in support of Conyers’ HR 676, which creates a Medicare-for-all-style health care system. Afterward, he’ll be meeting with House and Senate members and staffers in support of a single-payer system.

“Our health care system is a failed experiment,” Leno said in a news release. “We don’t even have a health care system in this country, we have a risk management system, and the risk being managed is not the health of you and your family, it’s the profit margin of the insurance industry. People are realizing that insurance companies don’t provide health care – they ration it based on who can pay the most. A single payer system would put doctors and patients back in charge of health care decisions and is proven to save billions a year in wasteful administration. We need to build on systems, like Medicare, that we know will work.”

Later yet this afternoon, Leno will join Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, at a Congressional briefing on state-based single payer initiatives sponsored by the California Nurses, to talk about successes and setbacks in California’s own health-care reform efforts.

“California made history by passing a Medicare for all style health care plan – twice – only to have it thwarted by the Governor,” Leno said. “The single payer movement in California continues to grow quickly in every county of the state and our success has inspired other state legislatures. We won’t stop pushing until every American has access to health care.”

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Under: General, healthcare reform, Mark Leno | Comments Off on Mark Leno enters national health care fray

Pete Stark’s interactive stimulus spending map

Lots of lawmakers are quick to note the appropriations they’ve brought home to the district, especially those that come under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) economic stimulus effort. But the office of Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, has come up with a clearer, more interactive way of seeing the impacts in his 13th Congressional District: A tagged Google Map with clickable icons explaining each appropriation.

If you click through to a larger version of the map, there’s a scrollable list as well.

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Under: General, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

William Shatner recites Sarah Palin’s poetry

‘Nuff said.

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Under: Sarah Palin | 4 Comments »

Concord blog targets local GOP with petition, a local blog site where the authors are well known for their willingness to publicly smack around folks at the Contra Costa Republican Party, has posted a downloadable petition calling for a state and county investigation into party activities.

It’s yet another visible sign of reoccurring dysfunction in a local elected committee of Republicans fraught with internal conflicts and leadership struggles.

Critics say the elected committee has, among other things, illegally used its resources to favor one of the 10th Congressional District candidates, mismanaged its money and failed to to remove member Tom Del Becarro, also vice chairman of the California Republican Party, for missing meetings.

Some committee members have sent complaint letters to the state party but no one has paid them much attention. Now, it appears, they hope the Secretary of State and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will take note.

Here’s the petition:

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa politics | 23 Comments »

Marijuana legalization ballot measure proposed

Oakland-based activists filed a proposed ballot measure with the state Attorney General’s office today which would legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use.

Proponents Jeff Jones, executive director of the Patient ID Center (formerly known as the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative), and Richard Lee, founder and president of Oaksterdam University, submitted their “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” for the Attorney General to prepare the title and summary that will appear on the initiative petitions; that process takes about 60 days. After that, it’ll be forwarded to the Secretary of State’s office so they can start gathering petition signatures to put it on the ballot in November 2010.

It’s the latest omen of impending changes in California’s marijuana policy. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill earlier this year that also would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for recreational use, initially estimating his bill would raise more $1 billion per year for the state’s beleaguered General Fund; the state Board of Equalization pegged it at about $1.4 billion per year.

And Oakland voters, facing a hefty municipal deficit of their own, last week approved a 15-fold tax increase on the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, a move that garnered national media attention and could spark similar efforts in other California cities.

(Incidentally, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion – in which Richard Lee will be among the participants – on “Marijuana Economics: The Pros and Cons of California’s Cash Crop” at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, July 30 at the Commonwealth Club of California, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco; tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for non-members or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.)

“The momentum to end decades of failed marijuana prohibition just keeps building,” Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a news release today. Although his organization would prefer that such a measure wait until 2012 when support likely will be even greater, “we’d of course like to see it win. There’s simply no denying the intense groundswell for change.”

Lots more on differences between the proposed measure and Ammiano’s bill, and on the political implications of a 2010 vote on this measure, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Assembly, General, marijuana, Oakland, Tom Ammiano | 14 Comments »

CD10: Candidate forum set for Aug. 7

The Contra Costa Council and the Bay Area Council, an association of primarily businesses, will host a forum on Aug. 7 for the Democratic and Republican candidates in the Sept. 1 special election to replace former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher.

The five Democrats and six Republicans who have filed for the seat have been invited to participate.

Under special election rules, the top vote-getter in each party will advance to the Nov. 3 special general election unless one candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote. In the event that a single candidate receives a plurality of the vote, he or she will win the seat outright. But given the large number of candidates in the field, it is unlikely that a winner will emerge in the special primary election.

The forum begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 45 John Glenn Dr. in Concord. Contra Costa Times political writer and columnist Lisa Vorderbrueggen will moderate.

The breakfast forum is open to the public. For reservations, call 925-246-1880 or download the registration form at  The cost is $35 for members and $45 for nonmembers.

Participating candidates will be encouraged to remain after the event to provide additional opportunity to speak with attendees.

Sponsors of the event include Chevron, AAA of No. California, Nevada and Utah, Safeway and The Mechanics Bank.

For a complete list of candidates on the Sept. 1 ballot, read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election | No Comments »

HalfwaytoConcord says GOP ‘can’t stand’ CCT reporter



I’m shocked, just shocked. A poster over at says the Republicans in Contra Costa County don’t like me and cannot fathom why the party invited me to speak at a GOP bootcamp for candidates on how to manage the media.

Hey, get in line. Lots of people don’t like me.

But I’m okay with that. My husband likes me. My children like me. My grandchildren like me. And my cat likes me … most of the time.

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »