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Archive for January, 2010

DiFi has Ben Bernanke’s back, but not Boxer

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., this morning expressed her support for Ben Bernanke’s re-confirmation as Federal Reserve Chairman:

“I believe it would be a mistake not to reconfirm Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. To blame one man for the financial implosion is simply wrong. It is up to the government to change the law, and I believe the Volcker Rules – all of them – should be moved through Congress promptly.

“Prudent regulation of the financial sector, combined with expanded authority for the Fed, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission, is vital.

“Ben Bernanke has been helpful to the recovery and, for reasons of stability and continuity, should be reconfirmed. I support him fully.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Friday had taken a more populist, anti-bank stance by saying she’ll oppose the re-confirmation:

“I have a lot of respect for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. When the financial crisis hit in late 2008, he took some important steps to prevent what many economists believe could have been an even greater economic catastrophe.

“However, it is time for a change – it is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed. Dr. Bernanke played a lead role in crafting the Bush administration’s economic policies, which led to the current economic crisis. Our next Federal Reserve Chairman must represent a clean break from the failed policies of the past.”

Per the Wall Street Journal, Bernacke needs at least 60 Senators’ support because at least four senators have used a Senate rule to object to a vote. “According to a Dow Jones Newswires tally, 26 senators have said they will back him; 15 have said they will oppose him. The remaining 59 haven’t said what they will do. Under Senate rules, the earliest a vote could come is Wednesday.”

Posted on Monday, January 25th, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 14 Comments »

PG&E puts $3 million more into ballot measure

PG&E put another $3 million today into the committee it created to push a measure on this June’s ballot that would make it harder for communities to start or expand their own public utilities – essentially, to choose power other than PG&E’s.

unpluggedThe rather euphemistically named “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” would require local governments to get the approval of two-thirds of their voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved, or before providing electricity through a community choice program, if any public funds or bonds are involved. Critics say PG&E is playing on populist themes in order to block local governments from abandoning the utility giant in favor of power contracts with smaller, greener energy producers – a movement that’s been gaining steam in recent years.

The power giant’s latest ante – almost doubling the $3.5 million it had put into the committee from July through October to qualify the measure for the ballot – comes at the end of a week in which several California newspapers published editorials (the Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee ran slightly differing versions of the same piece, and the Redding Record Searchlight had its own) taking aim at the measure, saying it’s anything but what its title implies.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Jan. 12 that the measure had qualified for the ballot – here’s a tally of the signatures gathered – and so clearly the company is now making ready to spend whatever it’ll take to protect its profits.

Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2010
Under: ballot measures, campaign finance, energy | 12 Comments »

California reactions to the SCOTUS ruling

There’s a lot of California buzz about today’s 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that government can’t limit corporations, unions and organizations from spending to support or oppose political candidates.

They still can’t give money directly to federal candidates or national party committees, but they can now put as much money as they want, whenever they want into “independent expenditures” for or against a candidate. Critics say the ruling let moneyed special intetests do as they please to drown out dissenting opinions.

For example, Courage Campaign Executive Director Rick Jacobs said that the court not only has “announced that democracy is for sale to the highest bidder,” but that Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence indicates a desire to eliminate campaign finance disclosure laws, too – and he used California as an example…

Clarence ThomasAmici’s examples relate principally to Proposition 8, a state ballot proposition that California voters narrowly passed in the 2008 general election. Proposition 8 amended California’s constitution to provide that “[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Any donor who gave more than $100 to any committee supporting or opposing Proposition 8 was required to disclose his full name, street address, occupation, employer’s name (or business name, if self-employed), and the total amount of his contributions.
Disclaimer and disclosure requirements enable private citizens and elected officials to implement political strategies specifically calculated to curtail campaign-related activity and prevent the lawful, peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights.
Now more than ever, [disclosure and disclaimer rules] will chill protected speech because – as California voters can attest – “the advent of the Internet” enables “prompt disclosure of expenditures,” which “provide[s]” political opponents “with the information needed” to intimidate and retaliate against their foes.
I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in “core political speech, the ‘primary object of First Amendment protection.’”

Today’s majority chose to leave disclosure requirements in place, but Jacobs said Thomas’ take “is extremely troubling. His opinion effectively attempts to hide the true beliefs and intentions of the forces behind Proposition 8 from the American public. This can only help the many anti-equality organizations seeking to use unlimited financial resources to take away fundamental rights at the ballot box. We aren’t going to let them get away with it.”

“The Courage Campaign is participating in the boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, partly in response to Doug Manchester’s large donations to the effort to get Proposition 8 on the ballot,” Jacobs continued. “We believe that such actions are a form of protected speech and are legitimate politics. We intend to launch other, similar campaigns against corporations that try to use their wealth to distort our democracy.”

Lots more California feedback on the Supreme Court’s decision, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Under: Anna Eshoo, campaign finance, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Campbell crows, Fiorina spins over poll

Now Republicans are even starting to use the “Remember Massachusetts!” meme on each other.

As I’d hinted at the end of my story in today’s editions, the Field Poll this morning released a survey showing former Congressman, former state finance director and former Cal business school dean Tom Campbell – who just last week jumped from the Republican gubernatorial primary to the Republican U.S. Senate primary – now leads his GOP rivals, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine.

Specifically, among GOP primary likely voters, it’s 30 percent for Campbell, 25 percent for Fiorina and 6 percent for DeVore with 39 percent still undecided. In general-election match-ups with incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer, Boxer leads Campbell 48 percent to 38 percent; Boxer leads Fiorina 50 percent to 35 percent; and Boxer leads DeVore 51 percent to 34 percent.

Field did this survey Jan. 5-17 among a total of 958 likely voters in November’s general election – with a 3.3-percentage-point margin of error – and 202 likely voters in June’s GOP primary, with a 7.1-percentage point margin of error.

Fiorina’s campaign, until now in the primary lead, says the numbers are… encouraging!

“We continue to be encouraged by the polling in this race, which shows that Carly is a strong candidate both in the primary and in the general election and that voters are highly dissatisfied with Barbara Boxer’s continued support for bigger government and higher taxes,” Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. “Tom Campbell is a career politician who has now run for statewide office three times, so one would have expected that his high name identification would come through more strongly in this poll. But once voters learn that Tom has spent the last five years supporting increased government spending and higher taxes and now refuses to commit to voting against more tax increases in the Senate, we expect his numbers to fall fast – just like Martha Coakley’s did in Massachusetts.”

“Just like Martha Coakley?” Jeez, way to call Campbell a Marxist.

But Campbell’s camp is over the moon as it drills down into the poll’s numbers – he does equally well with strongly conservative voters (29 percent) as he does with moderates (30 percent), which seems to belie Fiorina’s spin. They also note he’s more popular among female GOP likely voters (28 percent to Fiorina’s 19 percent and DeVore’s 6 percent), negating any gender advantage Fiorina might claim in taking on the female incumbent.

And, they note, Campbell’s favorability rating among November’s likely voters is at 22 percent to Fiorina’s 16 percent, with 64 percent having no opinion of Campbell and 66 percent having no opinion of Fiorina – which makes it seem about the same ratio of voters already know both, to Campbell’s advantage.

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore, Republican politics, Tom Campbell, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

GOP loves DiFi/Boxer disagreement

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is crowing this morning over a pair of instances in which California’s Democratic U.S. Senators seem to have parted ways on the best path forward in Congress.

First the NRSC cites a San Francisco Chronicle article in which Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says it’s time to “go slow on health care. People do not understand it. I t is so big it’s beyond their comprehension. She also tells the Chron that climate-change legislation is basically dead: “A large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

Of course, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is a leader in shepherding that climate-change legislation, and has been an outspoken advocate of even stronger health-care reform than the Senate has proposed.

Then the NRSC turns to Politico, where Feinstein repeats her claim that the climate-change bill is dead and digs deeper into health-care reform: “In my view, when people are earning, when their home is secure, when their children are going to school and they’re relatively satisfied with their life, then [when] there’s a problem like health care, they want it solved. It doesn’t threaten them. The size of this bill threatens them, and that’s one of the problems that has to be straightened out.”

All to Republicans’ liking.

“Evidently Dianne Feinstein understands that Massachusetts was a wake-up call for the Democrats, and Feinstein realizes that Californians don’t want a burdensome cap-and-tax bill or massive health care plan that has been crafted behind closed doors,” NRSC spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson Marchand said. “So why has Feinstein’s California colleague, Barbara Boxer, failed to come to this same conclusion?”

“The contrast between Feinstein and Boxer’s positions on these critical issues simply underscores why Barbara Boxer is facing the toughest re-election battle of her life. Californians want Senators who will listen to them – not another partisan rubber stamp for Harry Reid and President Obama’s unpopular agenda in Washington,” Marchand said.

Lots of Democrats seem to believe Massachusetts was a wake-up call, but one that means Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration must stop striving for a veneer of bipartisanship, take off the gloves and start accomplishing their agenda despite GOP obstructionism, so that they don’t go into November’s midterms looking like milquetoast hand-wringers who trade away core principles or just give up entirely at the drop of a Republican hat. Not too many of those Democrats seem to be in Congress, however.

As for what Massachusetts’ election does or doesn’t mean for Boxer, see my article today.

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Global warming, healthcare reform, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Democrats resurrect single-payer health care bill

With federal health care reform on life support, California Democrats this morning quietly moved to  resurrect a state-based single-payer health insurance system with an estimated $200 billion annual price tag.


The Senate Appropriations Committee voted without comment along party lines, 6-3, to lift from suspense — the dead file — Senate Bill 810 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

The bill is almost identical to former Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s 2008 single-payer bill that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed.

Voting in favor of moving the bill forward this morning were Democratic sens. Christine Kehoe of San Diego, Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, Leno, Carol Liu of Pasadena, Curren Price of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco.

In opposition were GOP sens. Dave Cox of Fair Oaks, Jeff Denham of Merced and Mimi Walters of Tustin.

The legislation would create a state insurance program for Californians at an estimated cost of $200 billion a year.  Leno’s bill does not spell out how the financially strapped state would pay for the program; that would be left up to an appointed panel to determine. Kuehl’s bill would have imposed a variety of payroll and other taxes on the wealthy to fund the program.

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Under: healthcare reform | 38 Comments »

Lee and Pelosi speak on Haiti resolution

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, were among those who spoke on the House floor today about the post-earthquake humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Lee introduced a resolution today expressing condolences for and solidarity with the people of Haiti in the earthquake’s aftermath; commending the efforts of U.S. and international relief efforts; and calling for a long-term sustainable recovery effort and debt forgiveness. The House is set to vote on the resolution tomorrow.

Pelosi spoke in support of the resolution.

UPDATE @ 2:27 P.M. THURSDAY: The House this afternoon approved Lee’s resolution, H.Res. 1021, on a 411-1 vote. As is often the case, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., was the lone dissenter; he says he won’t vote for any legislation that’s not expressly authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Under: Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Cindy McCain speaks out for same-sex marriage

Cindy McCain - NoH8Yes, that Cindy McCain – wife of 2008 Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. She posed for a photo as part of the NoH8 (“No hate,” get it?) campaign begun by photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley of North Hollywood to build public support against Proposition 8, the voter-approved California constitutional amendment now being challenged in a federal trial in San Francisco.

“The McCains are one of the most well-known Republican families in recent history, and for Mrs. McCain to have reached out to us to offer her support truly means a lot,” the NoH8 organizers wrote today on their Web site. “Although we had worked with Meghan McCain before and were aware of her own position, we’d never really thought the cause might be something her mother would get behind. We have a huge amount of respect for both of these women for being brave enough to make it known they support equal marriage rights for all Americans.”

This, a day after Republican San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders testified at the Prop. 8 trial about his own support of same-sex marriage.

But while these and some other Republicans are splitting from the GOP dogma on the issue, those hoping to promote same-sex marriage at the ballot box still shouldn’t be looking for a lot of support on the aisle’s right side. Consider this, from the Field Poll’s “August 2009 California Opinion Index: A Digest Summarizing The Changing California Electorate:”

When examining the changes in voter attitudes on these social issues by party, Californians’ greater acceptance of same-sex marriage over the past thirty years has come entirely from the ranks of registered Democrats and non-partisans rather than Republicans. Democratic voter views about allowing same-sex marriage have shifted from greater than two to one opposition in 1977 to greater than two to one support this year. Similarly, while a five to three majority of non-partisans opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry in 1977, they are now in support by a five to three margin.

Republicans, on the other hand, have not changed their views on this issue, and if anything, are now more opposed than they were thirty years ago. A nearly three to one majority of Republicans (68% to 23%) currently opposes allowing same-sex marriage in California. This is marginally greater than their 65% to 30% opposition found in a 1977 Field Poll.

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Under: Republican politics, same-sex marriage | 5 Comments »

Tomorrow is National Angel Island Day

Angel IslandPresident Barack Obama has proclaimed tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 21, to be “National Angel Island Day,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of the former immigration station in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Y’know, Angel Island State Park — one of the parks that the feds threatened to seize last summer after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing it due to budget cuts? Yeah, that one.

ANYhoo, President Obama used the proclamation as an opportunity to reflect upon immigrants’ contributions to the nation. Read the full text, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Immigration, Obama presidency | No Comments »

John Yoo to tout book at SF appearance

John YooIf those activists who’ve dogged Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – still can’t find where he’s teaching his current class, at least they’ll know where he is for a few hours next week.

Yoo will speak to the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush,” at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 27 at the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Tickets are available online and cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid ID; I predict the tickets will sell out and – no, really, I’m a little bit psychic – that the club’s security will be expecting protestors to try to disrupt the event.

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Under: Civil liberties, War on Terror | 3 Comments »