Barbara Lee is in Haiti

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is part of a congressional delegation visiting Haiti today to examine recovery efforts following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. The trip comes just a week before the Haiti Donors Conference, for which the international community will gather at the United Nations in New York City to make long-term commitments towards Haiti’s reconstruction.

“Now, more than ever, the people of Haiti require the coordinated and sustained commitment of the Untied States,” Lee said in a news release. “As Congress prepares to consider the Haiti supplemental appropriations bill, this trip will give us an opportunity to survey ongoing recovery efforts and to determine what resources are still needed, both in terms of short-term relief in advance of the rainy season as well as long-term rebuilding.”

Lee in Haiti 3-26-10 (1)

(Lee’s staff, which provided this photo, says the man with the guitar is blind and singing something to the effect of “I am blind, give me some food.”)

“The people of Haiti have been courageous and resilient throughout this tragedy. However, we must ensure that the United States and the international community are doing all we can to not simply ‘rebuild Haiti’ back to what it was pre-earthquake, but to empower Haitians to transform their country into one that can sustain itself and provide for the basic needs and rights of its people. ”

Lee in Haiti 3-26-10 (3)

The Congressional Black Caucus, which Lee chairs, this week held a forum on Haiti entitled, “The Road to Recovery;” attending were USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph, and numerous other Haiti experts discussing the historical significance of U.S.-Haiti relations as well as policy prescriptions and opportunities for rebuilding.


Rocky road for another 9th Circuit nominee?

Just as things start heating up for Goodwin Liu, the Cal law professor whom President Barack Obama nominated last month to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the President has named another nominee to that same appellate bench: U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia of Arizona.

Mary MurguiaIf confirmed, Murguia, 49, would have a lifetime appointment to a seat vacant since Feb. 12, when Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of Arizona took senior status. Nominated to the federal trial court by President Bill Clinton, she is the first Latina to serve on the federal bench in Arizona.

Earlier, she was counsel, principal deputy director and then director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. from 1998 to 2000; a prosecutor in the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office from 1990 to 1998, the latter half of which she spent as chief criminal deputy; and a prosecutor in the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office in Kansas City, Kan. (of which she’s a native) from 1985 to 1990. She holds two bachelors degrees and a law degree from the University of Kansas. (Boo, jayhawks.)

The dockets are Arizona’s federal courts are heavy with illegal-immigration and drug-related cases, so that’s some of the expertise Murguia is presumed to bring. Her confirmation probably won’t be smooth sailing: her twin sister is Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group that many conservatives see as a far-left outfit. In fact, she recused herself last year from handling a racial profiling case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, whom the NCLR has blasted repeatedly for his immigration enforcement methods.

Federal circuit judges are paid an annual salary of $184,500. The 9th Circuit court is the nation’s largest, serving nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions, and reported 12,223 appeals filed in 2009.


‘A rose by any other name…’

I’ve never seen so much hue and cry about ballot designations – the two or three word titles appearing beneath a candidate’s name on the ballot – as I’m seeing this year.

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican candidate for state Attorney General, complains that GOP primary rival former Chapman Law School Dean John Eastman wants to call himself an “Assistant Attorney General” (he received the title last month when he agreed to represent South Dakota in a specific U.S. Supreme Court case) and that state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, wants to call himself a “Prosecutor/Attorney/Senator.”

It’s a local phenomenon, too – and in some cases, a circular firing squad. Alameda County Family Justice Center Executive Director Nadia Lockyer, seeking the county Board of Supervisors’ District 2 seat, announced Tuesday that someone is suing rival candidate former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol, for wanting to call herself a “job developer/educator,” when her job on the California Unemployment Appeals Board doesn’t involve either. The next day, another candidate in that race – Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling – filed a complaint against Lockyer for wanting to call herself a “county manager,” a title he says doesn’t exist; her formal title is “project director.” (For a while she was referring to herself on her Web site as a Deputy District Attorney, but that got scrubbed.)

And it’s happening in LA. And Orange County.

Last week I asked state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner why he wants to call himself a “businessman” rather than going by his current, elected title. Poizner told me nobody knows what the Insurance Commissioner actually does and the title requires too much explanation, and he has 20 years of experience in building businesses.

Now, it’s one thing for proponents and opponents of ballot measures to argue or sue (as is happening a lot this year, too) over the official title and summary and/or the ballot-pamphlet arguments – those words are all many voters ever learn about some of these measures, and so jockeying for the high ground there seems worthwhile. But do you think it’s the same for candidates and their ballot designations? Are those two or three words really so important, or is all this bellyaching more a matter of getting media attention now rather than voters’ eyes on election day?


Whitman up on air (again? still!) with new radio ad

Meg Whitman has an updated statewide radio ad out today, which hones in on her three-point plan for California: create jobs, cut Sacramento spending and fix schools. The minute-long spot allows her to elaborate a bit more than previous ads: she wants “targeted” tax cuts and to eliminate the sales tax on factory equipment; a “strict” spending cap (she’ll have to go the voters for that) and “new ideas” to use technology to eliminate waste and duplication. For schools, she wants to send more money directly to the classrooms and give parents “more choice.” A lot of buzzwords and phrases that have become like comfort food for the masses.

To give it all some heft, she pitches her 48-page plan “to build a new California.”


Aggressive TV ad phase begins for Poizner

The aggressive phase of Steve Poizner’s campaign is now upon us. The Insurance Commissioner, who is running 50 points behind Meg Whitman, billionaire ex-CEO of eBay, in the polls, is starting to hammer away at an issue he thinks will resonate among Republican primary voters: illegal immigration. Here’s his new ad, a statewide buy that will appear on broadcast and cable television.

The Whitman campaign’s response:
“Not only is Meg 100 percent against amnesty, but Steve Poizner is attacking the very policies that he praised in 2008,” said spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. “It’s dishonest and it’s just the latest reason Californians can’t trust Steve Poizner.”


Murphy: $46 million isn’t as much as it sounds like in a state like California

Mike Murphy, the chief strategist for Meg Whitman — yes, the same consultant who was listed under Bonaparte Films in Whitman’s spending report who’s been paid $495,582 since coming on board on Nov. 25 — says the media have it all wrong in our collective gasp over Whitman’s record $46 million spending spree.

His point is that for a state as large as California, the money Whitman has spent on advertising so far — about $28 million total — is not so far out of line when you index it by the number of registered voters.

Murphy pulled together an interesting chart showing that, for instance, Tom Daschle’s Senate campaign’s $20.3 million expenditure in 2004 in puny South Dakota was far in excess of what Whitman has spent, at $40 per registered voter. In contrast, Whitman has spent $2.72 per registered voter so far.

Others ahead of Whitman in per registered voter expenditures were John Thune ($30.59) in the same 2004 Senate race in South Dakota; Steve Poizner ($30.54) in his 2006 Assembly race; Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($24.34) in 2009; Al Franken ($8.89) in his Minnesota Senate race in 1008; and Senate Leader Harry Reid ($4.67) in 2004.

“While we are obviously a very well funded campaign, California is also a very big state and very expensive to campaign across,” Murphy wrote in an email. “For all the conventional wisdom about voters being bombed with ads at around $2 per voter, the average California voter has seen a pretty average number of ads for a political campaign so far.”

His point, he said, was that the contention that the large spending numbers have created “some massive onslaught on the voters … just isn’t true.”

At any rate, he said, “we make no apologies for spending enough to put our message out. Especially against incumbent office holders with taxpayer funded staff and power(ful) special interests on their side.”

That all may be true, but the simple fact is that we’re not even in April and Whitman has already shattered spending records for a gubernatorial race in California. And she doesn’t intend to slow down the cash flow.

A footnote on how Whitman listed Murphy in her spending reports. First, you had to put it together that Bonaparte Films was Murphy’s consulting firm. Fine. But you may not have thought much of his presence from Whitman’s first spending report covering 2009, filed on Feb. 2. Bonaparte Films got a relatively modest sum of $57,975 for a little more than a month’s work.

Once the report was filed, though, Whitman cut a $250,000 check to Murphy on Jan. 7. Was she just trying to hold off the day that we would see how extravagant her pay to one of her top consultants was? Murphy seems to have settled into a $90,000 per month arrangement since the New Year, which means that by the end of the campaign, he’ll have made a cool $1.5 million for his services.

That’s not much, if you index it by registered voters.