GOP sharpening knives for Cal judicial nominee

As predicted Wednesday, Senate Republicans are preparing to put up a fight against the confirmation of University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School Associate Dean and Professor Goodwin Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued this statement today:

Jeff Sessions“I am very disappointed by President Obama’s nomination of Professor Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — already an activist court that has handed down decisions striking ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance and finding Megan’s Law to be unconstitutional. I fear that Professor Liu will be an activist judge in this same mold.

“Instead of nominating an individual who has demonstrated an impartial commitment to following the Constitution and the rule of law, President Obama has selected someone far outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence. Professor Liu believes that judges should look to ‘evolving norms and social understandings’ in interpreting the Constitution, he has a history of advocating for racial preferences, and he served on the Board of the directors of the ACLU.

“Professor Liu’s record will be examined carefully and fairly, and I will withhold final judgment until after his hearing. But it seems to me that his judicial philosophy does not respect the American ideal of judges as neutral arbiters of the law. I hope my initial impressions are wrong.”


Hoffmeister bows out of CoCo supes race





Concord Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister will not run for Contra Costa County supervisor and will instead endorse candidate and Pleasant Hill Mayor Karen Mitchoff.

Hoffmeister is expected to make the official announcement tonight at a Mitchoff fund-raiser.

Mitchoff hopes to succeed incumbent Supervisor Susan Bonilla of Concord, who is leaving after one term and running for state Assembly in District 11.

The longtime Concord councilwoman’s departure is a major boost to Mitchoff’s chances. Hoffmeister is a popular, well-known official from the largest town in the supervisor district.

Hoffmeister and Mitchoff met for about an hour Wednesday night to talk about city-to-city issues and the Concord official informed her colleague about her intent to stay out of the supervisor contest.

Reached by phone, Mitchoff said it was Hoffmeister’s prerogative to make an her own announcement and she would wait for her fellow councilmember to speak publicly on the issue.

I put in a call to Hoffmeister but have not yet heard back from her.



The other declared candidate is Central Sanitary District board member Mike McGill.

The candidate nomination filing period closes March 17. (The period remains open an extra five days beyond the March 12 deadline because the incumbent is not seeking re-election.)


Newsom’s former advisor smacks him down

It seems like only a short while ago that I sat down for a cup of coffee with veteran Democratic campaign strategist Garry South so he could tell me how San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was going to clean state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s clock in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Of course, no. But now South works for Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s campaign for lieutenant governor, and now that Newsom is threatening to jump into that race and rain on Hahn’s parade, suddenly he doesn’t think Gavin’s all that anymore:

“I am surprised and perplexed that my friend and former client Mayor Gavin Newsom apparently has decided to jump into the lieutenant governor’s race at the last minute – especially against an already-announced candidate who would be the first woman lieutenant governor in California history.

“In every one of several conversations we had about the job while he was running for governor, the Mayor expressed nothing but disinterest in and disdain for the office of lieutenant governor. In fact, he was derisively dismissive of Gray Davis’s decision to run for and serve as lieutenant governor prior to running for governor (‘I’m not a Gray Davis,’ he said). On a couple of occasions, he directed me to repudiate publicly in the strongest terms that he had any interest in ever running for lieutenant governor.

“The Mayor himself told the Chronicle in October that rumors he may run for lieutenant governor were ‘absurd’ and ‘a complete lie,’ and angrily accused Jerry Brown of personally spreading false information to that effect. As recently as December, he himself said flatly ‘no’ when asked directly on a San Francisco radio show whether he intended to run for lieutenant governor.

“In addition, when he precipitously pulled out of the governor’s race in late October – against my advice – he said he couldn’t continue as a statewide candidate because he was a husband, a new father and the mayor of San Francisco. So far as I know, he’s still a husband, a new father and the mayor of San Francisco. So it’s pretty hard to see what’s changed over the last four months that would now allow him to run for another statewide office.

“If the Mayor does run, it is his responsibility to explain why he now claims to want an elected office he summarily dismissed publicly numerous times over the last several months, and which just earlier this year he called ‘a largely ceremonial post’ … ‘with no real authority and no real portfolio.'”

Maybe that first paragraph should’ve read “former friend.”


Ongoing spat over Pete Stark investigation

Smacked down last month by the House Ethics Committee, the independent, nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics today defended its investigation of Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont.

The OCE last year launched a probe of Stark and four other lawmakers to see whether they had violated Maryland criminal tax law and House ethics rules by intentionally filing a false application for a Maryland property tax credit.

“The evidence clearly establishes that Representative Stark did not receive a tax credit as a result of filing an application for the credit. The evidence also establishes that he did not file a false application for the Maryland property tax credit,” an executive summary of the Ethics Committee’s report stated. “Representative Stark did not seek out the Maryland property tax credit. The State of Maryland required every homeowner in Maryland to fill out a form to determine their eligibility for the tax credit. Therefore, Representative Stark did not violate House ethics rules. Nor did he run afoul of Maryland’s criminal or tax laws.”

But the Ethics Committee also concluded “that OCE conducted an inadequate review, the result of which was to subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations,” and that “(i)t’s apparent from OCE’s work that they treated Representative Stark inconsistently with the way they treated four other Members of Congress with similar situations whose cases were properly dismissed.”

Not so, the OCE insisted today in a response to the Ethics Committee.

“Three of the four other Members that the OCE reviewed did not apply for the homestead tax credit. The fourth individual applied for the credit but did not certify that s/he voted in Maryland. Thus, the information developed by the OCE regarding Representative Stark was unique among this group,” the OCE said.

The OCE also noted that an inconsistency between Stark’s testimony, information from Maryland officials and from Stark’s lawyer about Stark’s communications with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation remain “unresolved and unexplained.”

Also, a tax bill that the Ethics Committee – formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct – cited as evidence of Stark’s innocence wasn’t available until after the OCE’s review was finished, the OCE noted.

The SOOC claims that the OCE Board’s decision to refer this matter to the SOOC for “further review” was “in error.” Unfortunately, in reaching this conclusion the SOOC has misconstrued both the information developed by the OCE investigation and role assigned to the OCE Board by the House. When the time allowed for the OCE investigation ended, the information available to the OCE provided a substantial basis for the OCE Board to recommend further review by the SOOC. Accordingly, it referred the matter to SOOC by a unanimous vote. The OCE Board recognizes that the SOOC, in all cases, is empowered to reach its own conclusion on the facts before it. The Board also notes that the SOOC has additional investigative authorities, does not operate under the time constraints imposed on the OCE by the Resolution and, in many instances, including this one, conducts its investigation after the OCE concludes its work and, as a result, has the benefit of additional information not available to the OCE.

Stark’s office declined comment; I’ve reached out to the Ethics Committee, but haven’t heard back yet.

Members of the OCE’s board are appointed by the House Speaker and House Minority Leader. The current board chairman is former Rep. David Skaggs, D-Colo., and the co-chair is former CIA director and former Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla. The other members are former California Assemblywoman and former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke, a Democrat; Jay Eagen, a former Republican Congressional aide and former House Chief Administrative Officer; former Rep. Karan English, D-Ariz.; former Rep. Bill Frenzel, R-Minn.; George Mason University Assistant Professor of Law Allison Hayward, a former Federal Election Commission staffer; and former Democratic Congressman, federal appellate court judge and Clinton White House Counsel Abner Mikva. The OCE’s staff director and chief council is Leo Wise, a former Bush Administration Justice Department official.


Garamendi shares the love



Here’s a tidbit from the campaign finance files of the now-defunct John Garamendi for Governor 2010 account: He donated in December $1,000 each to the re-election campaigns of Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier.

These two were now-Rep. Garamendi’s fierce foes in last September’s special primary election fight to replace the outgoing Ellen Tauscher in the 10th Congressional District.

Ahhh, isn’t that nice?

It doesn’t quite compensate Buchanan for the $850,000 of her own money she put into the congressional campaign but heck, it’s the thought that counts.


Buchanan free health fair mailer draws ire



A Danville mental health clinic director is taking umbrage at Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s taxpayer-funded mailer that advertises Saturday’s free community health fair at the San Ramon Regional Medical Center in San Ramon.

“I run a small community for-profit behavioral health care business and I would love to have the California Assembly and tax dollars pay for some advertising for us as well,” said William Shryer, clinical director of the Diablo Behavioral Healthcare in an email.

The San Ramon Regional Medical Center is owned by Tenet Healthcare Corporation. While the screenings offered at the fair will be free, Shryer argues that Buchanan’s mailer amounts to taxpayer-funded advertising for a private company.

Buchanan is running for re-election and is expected to face a tough general opponent, San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson. I scanned the state campaign finance database, and she did not receive direct campaign contributions from Tenet in her first election in 2008 nor has she reported any dollars from the firm so far in her 2010 re-election campaign.  (That does not preclude the possibility that Tenet contributed to a PAC that gave her money.  I didn’t dig that deep.)

Yeah. Okay. But I’m not persuaded that the benefits to Tenet outweigh the benefits to folks who will have the a chance to obtain free screenings for heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure or diabetes. With all the people out of work these days, free health care is a pretty good deal.

Buchanan’s chief of staff Michelle Henry described the mailer as one of a series of brochures sent to residents of District 15 that advertise free community fairs such as a conference on how to recognize scammers that target senior citizens.

Her office is organizing several additional health fairs this spring and will host a job information fair in Livermore in mid-March.

All have or will involve mailing out fliers to district residents. They also send out emails but not everyone, especially the seniors and low income folks, have access to the Internet.

Access to publicly funded mail is all part of the power of incumbency and nearly every elected official in the nation takes advantage of it. I’ve seen legislator-sponsored  fairs on everything from preventing child abuse to averting mortgage foreclosure.

Unlike the San Ramon Regional Medical Center event, where the company is organizing the fair, Buchanan’s staff is bringing together he health care providers and other resources for the upcoming events.

“Since the San Ramon Regional Center was already putting on a fair, it meant we didn’t have to reinvent it,” Henry said. ”

Shryer says he called Buchanan’s office and asked about participating in Saturday’s event and was told that it was Tenet’s show.

It sounds as though he should call back and see about getting on the list for one of the other fairs.