Bill will let you deduct Haiti aid from 2009 taxes

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said this morning she intends to introduce a bill this week that will provide tax relief to Californians donating money to Haiti earthquake relief efforts in January.

“Giving is one way for people to deal with the enormity of a catastrophe like this,” Bass said. “Many Californians have responded by giving even if it means taking on an extra financial burden in these tough times. This legislation makes it easier for more to give and participate in the relief effort that our neighbors in Haiti desperately need.”

It’ll allow individual and corporate taxpayers making cash contributions this month to eligible charitable organizations for relief Haiti earthquake victims to deduct these contributions in the 2009 tax year. The Legislature passed a similar measure in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.

Bass yesterday announced that her successor as Speaker, John Perez, D-Los Angeles, will be sworn into his leadership post March 1.


Campbell, Fiorina weigh in on deficit panel

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said this morning she opposes the creation of an 18-member “deficit commission” to study ways to both raise revenue and cut spending to get control of the nation’s rapidly expanding deficit – a proposal on which the Senate is expected to vote today.

“We don’t need a commission to study the federal deficit – what we need is a commitment to cut federal spending. We know why we have a deficit: Congress spends too much money, and for the last 26 years, Barbara Boxer has been complicit in perpetuating that system. It’s Congress’ job to address the deficit, and if they can’t – or won’t – then the people need to replace them with leaders who can fix it.”

“Raising revenue is politician’s code for raising taxes. Giving the government more money is in no way a solution to the deficit; in fact, it will only make the deficit worse. What we need is to cut spending and aggressively go after the waste and abuse in the federal budget, and we need leaders who are not afraid to take the steps to do it, rather than create a commission to avoid it.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Congressman, state finance director and Cal business school dean Tom Campbell said yesterday he favors creating the commission, so long as it doesn’t raise taxes.

“America’s economy will continue hurting and Americans will continue losing jobs until real action is taken to cut federal spending and dramatically reduce our nation’s $12 trillion federal deficit. Unless this happens, we will have sold our economic soul to other nations and mortgaged future generations of Americans, jeopardizing our national security and our leadership in the world.

“The proper approach is to get agreement on where to cut federal spending, much the way we approached the closure of military bases.

“I was a Member of Congress when the Base Closure and Realignment Commission was constituted and met. Indeed, I was one of the very few Congressmen to testify in favor of the base closures list, even though it included a base in my district — Moffett Naval Air Station. As difficult as this was, I supported it because I knew our nation’s good compelled that we embrace savings.

“The same approach should be taken to achieve savings more generally, throughout the entire federal budget. The idea of a commission is good. The idea of having it report for an up or down vote to the House and Senate is good. But its focus should be on identifying areas to cut spending. As presently proposed, the Commission goes beyond that, and even points to tax increases as part of the solution. I think that’s entirely wrong-headed.

“The solution to the budget deficit at the federal level is to constrain spending, not increase taxes. We should also re-establish the Gramm Rudman Hollings law that automatically cut federal spending across-the-board if Congress did not meet specific deficit-reduction targets.”

I’ve not heard anything on this from U.S. Senate candidate Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, who I see will be in Oakland for a fundraiser tomorrow night; perhaps he’ll be watching President Obama’s State of the Union address there?

UPDATE @ 12:44 P.M.: The Senate rejected the idea.


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.”


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.


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…
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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.