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Archive for April, 2010

GOP goob primary heating up

If you didn’t think the GOP gubernatorial primary campaign was heating up as Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner tune up for their final televised debate on Sunday, you will after watching this ad, which is running statewide (at a $2 million per week burn rate):

Some political observers say GOP underdog Poizner’s ad risks offending some Republicans, who might not agree with attacking capitalist titans. That it’s an issue that plays well with Democrats but not so with Republicans.

Others say it reminds Republicans that his GOP rival Whitman will be carrying some heavy baggage into the general election if she wins the primary. Others of the Tea Party variety are said to be just as turned off by the greed and avarice that Goldman Sachs represents, and could turn against Whitman in the primary in the same way independents and Democrats would in a general election.

Whitman flack Tucker Bounds countered, “If I was running 30 points behind with 39 days left, I’d stay away from circling vultures in my ads.”

Less slick but as effective is this nearly two-minute long video produced by a newly emboldened Poizner team:

It’s running on YouTube, and has only had 405 views, so the obvious impact will be made with the TV ad. In either case, Whitman is reeling from a crushing week, hounded daily by stories about her ties to Goldman Sachs.

She’s tried to frame it as old news, saying the stock “spinning,” in which she gained nearly $2 million in quick turnaround profits but had to return after eBay shareholders sued her, took place 10 years ago. But she has untold millions from her personal wealth currently tied up in investments with Goldman Sachs, and the imagery of her sitting there with a handful of board members on the compensation committee handing out multi-million dollar bonuses to Goldman Sachs’ corporate execs is freshly relevant as the public’s anger over such perks continues to seethe.

The Poizner team is hitting her hard on her support of the highly unpopular (among Republicans and Democrats alike) bank bailout during the 2008 presidential campaign, accusing her of looking out for her own interests. If the firm had been allowed to fail a la the Lehman Brothers, she would have lost a fortune, said Jarrod Agen, spokesman for Poizner.

“She was a vocal voice in favor of the bank bailout,” Agen said. “That she was tied to one of the companies that was bailed out is not a positive message for Republican primary voters. She took an active role in a bailout of a company where she would have taken a huge financial loss if Goldman Sachs went under.”

Poizner’s campaign knows the race is tightening, Agen said, by the pushback ads Whitman is running. This is titled “Cliff,” which takes Poizner’s own ad imagery and plays it against him:

Still, Poizner’s team says it’s feeling a shift in momentum.

“The strategy we’ve been talking about for months is working,” Agen said. “And we’re getting the added benefit of Goldman Sachs as a significant issue. The Goldman Sachs controversy calls into question the personal strength Whitman had, her business sense. The fact she was on the board of a company entwined in scandal does not look good.”

Bounds dismisses talk of momentum shifts and Goldman Sachs negatives.

“At the end of the day, voters realize that Meg’s business experience is a California success story of growing eBay from 30 employees to 15,000 in building a cornerstone employer in Northern California. The fact that she was on (Goldman Sachs’) board for 15 months nearly 10 years ago, that that’s the most salacious TV ad they could put together — voters are too smart. They’ll see through this.”

Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

What the gulf oil spill means (or doesn’t) for CA

The disastrous oil spill still in progress in the Gulf of Mexico has further fueled the already-hot debate over drilling off California’s coast, with some significant disagreements on what lessons we should take.

Pedro NavaAttorney General candidate and Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, hosted a field hearing of his Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee today in Hermosa Beach to talk about public health and environmental threats posed by oil drilling. Testimony was given by representatives from regulators, the oil industry, environmental and community groups and local governments.

“Today’s hearing further highlights the need for the State of California to provide enhanced protections for the public from the dangers posed by oil drilling in California,” Nava said in a news release. “Many parts of the state are impacted by oil development and drilling. Whether it is Hermosa Beach and Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles County or Santa Barbara (the proposed location of the first new drilling in California Sanctuary Act waters in 41 years), it is imperative that the public is protected. We must make sure that we do not expose Californians to the type of catastrophe that is currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Nava said information today will be used to improve state regulations and close gaps in the existing permitting process, and will be the basis for protecting the California environment and public from abusive oil industry practices.

Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina today said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” that while she might not be of Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill” ilk, “what I would say is I believe that the United States of America needs to take advantage of every source of domestic energy we have. We ought to take advantage of oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and, yes, sun and wind and all the rest of it. But if we are serious about growing our economy and lessening our dependence on foreign oil, then offshore drilling has to be part of that equation.

Carly Fiorina“And I would hope that people wouldn’t use this tragedy — it’s both an economic tragedy and an environmental tragedy — to politicize the notion and say, ‘See, see, it can’t be done safely.’ The truth is it is being done safely in many places,” Fiorina said.

She called the gulf spill “a very troublesome situation. And while I support offshore drilling if it can be done in an environmentally safe way — and most of the time it is — certainly technology has come a long way. An accident like this shakes people to the core, no question. I believe it should be up to the voters of each state. Interestingly, in the last five years, the voters of California have come to favor, by a majority, offshore drilling.”

Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Assembly, Attorney General, Carly Fiorina, energy, Environment, Pedro Nava, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Round-up: Political calendar

Check out these upcoming political events in the East Bay:

San Ramon

Republican Congressional District 11 primary candidates will speak at a Tuesday night event sponsored by the Contra Costa Republican Party and the Conservative Forum of the East Bay.

Candidate include Tony Amador, Elizabeth Emken, Brad Goehring and David Harmer.

The free forum begins at 7 p.m. at the San Ramon Golf Course banquet center, 9430 Fircrest Lane, in San Ramon.

For information or questions, call 925-930-9551 or visit


State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Cal State-East Bay political science professor David Wiggins will speak Tuesday on “California Politics: Fractured?”

The event is spnosored by a new partnership betweenthe League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley and Cal State-East Bay’s Scholar-Oilli program.

The lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. at the college’s Concord campus, 4700 Ygnacio Valley Road in Concord. Attendees are advised to park in the afculty-staff parking lot.

Admission is $5 for thepublic and free to members of the league and Scholar-Olli


The East County Democrats for Action will host selected candidates at its Thursday evening meeting.

Speakers include Assessor candidate Bob Brooks, who will appear on the June 8 primary ballot, and two Antioch councilmembers seeking re-election in November, Reggie Moore and Martha Parsons.

Tique Le Caul with the Antioch chapter of the Boys and Girls Club is also on the agenda.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Carpaccio Ristorante, 2741 Lone Tree Way in Antioch.

For information, email


The Lamorinda Democratic Club will host a May 13 forum for Democrats seeking nonpartisan Contra Costa County elected posts.

The club will ask Democrats running for Assessor, District Attorney, Sheriff-Coronor and Tax Collector to present their platforms.

The event begins at 7:4 5 .m. at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette

Admission is $5. Students are free.

For more information, call 925-567-3367 or visit


Republican Secretary of State candidate Damon Dunn is the featured speaker at the May 21 evening meeting of the Ygnacio Valley Republican Women Federated.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Oakhurst Country Club, 1001 Peacock Creek Road, Clayton.

The cost is $35 per person at the door. For reservations, call 925-672-5061 or e-mail

Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Political calendar | No Comments »

And these are just the ones we know about

The Administrative Office of the U.S Courts reported today that 2,376 federal and state applications for orders authorizing the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications – what you and I would call wiretaps – were filed in 2009.

Federal authorities sought 663 orders, states sought 1,713 – and none were denied.

Breaking it down further, wiretap applications in California, New York and New Jersey accounted for 71 percent of all applications approved by state judges; 24 states had wiretap requests in 2009, up from 22 in 2008, but requests were also made in the District Columbia and Virgin Islands.

The state wiretap with the most intercepts was conducted in New York County, New York, where a 543-day wiretap in a corruption investigation resulted in the interception of 11,000 incriminating messages. The average length of an original authorization was 29 days.

The most frequently noted location in wiretap locations was “portable device,” a category that includes cellular telephones and digital pagers, and 86 percent of all applications for intercepts cited illegal drugs as the most serious offense under investigation.

As of Dec. 31, a total of 4,537 persons had been arrested and 678 persons had been convicted as a result of interceptions reported as terminated.

Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2010
Under: Civil liberties, Public safety | No Comments »

Contra Costa supervisor debate set

Candidates vying for Contra Costa County District I and IV Contra Costa Board of Supervisors seats will debate the issues  at a Monday luncheon meeting of the Contra Costa Council.

The candidates include District I incumbent Supervisor John Gioia and challenger Mister Phillips.

In District IV, the two challengers are Karen Mitchoff and Mike McGill. The incumbent, Susan Bonilla, is running for Assembly and not seeking re-election.

The forum is set for Monday at the Hilton Concord Hotel, 1970 Diamond Blvd., in Concord. Registration starts at 11 a.m., with the program and luncheon beginning at 11:30 a.m.

I am the moderator. I will ask a few questions of my own and we will take audience questions.

The cost is  $35 for council members and public officials and $45 for nonmembers.

For more information, visit the Council website at or call the council at 925-246-1880.

Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Political calendar, Political events | 2 Comments »

FPPC posts financial disclosure reports

Great news for advocates of government sunshine: The California Fair Political Practices Commission is now posting elected officials’ statement of economic interests, called Form 700s, online.

Until now, most Form 700s forms were available only over the counter. Initially, the FPPC will provide the forms for state constitutional officials, state legislators and county board of supervisors. It will eventually post all Form 700s.

Here are the details from the FPPC:

The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s campaign finance watchdog, today began posting on its website the Statement of Economic Interests (SEI or Form 700) of California’s elected officials. Initially, the SEIs of Constitutional officers, Insurance Commissioner, legislators and County Supervisors will be available, with the ultimate goal of including all elected officials within the state that file their SEI with the Commission.

“This is an ongoing effort of the Commission to assure that public information is actually available to the entire public,” said FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson. “It does no good for someone in San Diego to have to come to Sacramento to get a Form 700 of their legislative representative.”

Statements of Economic Interests are an important means for the official that files them, the media, and the public to help gauge where potential conflicts of interest may exist. The state mandated forms include information about the sources of an official’s income, investments, business positions, real property holdings and gifts. Merely reporting an economic interest is not a conflict in itself; a conflict arises when an official governmental decision, made by the official, impacts their economic interests.

One of the key themes of the Political Reform Act of 1974, is that documents such as SEIs and campaign statements are filed at the most decentralized level. This made sense at a time when it was easier to walk down to the City Clerk’s office, but with the Internet, there is greater access to these documents if they are maintained on a single website.

Due to privacy concerns and out of an abundance of caution, the SEIs posted on the Commission’s website will have the address, telephone and signature blocks redacted. The forms may be viewed at

Posted on Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Under: campaign finance | 1 Comment »

New study shows pluses, minuses of open primaries

The nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles has released an excellent analysis of the impacts of Proposition 14, the open primary initiative on the June 8 ballot.

The authors’ chief conclusions support proponents’ arguments that open primaries could generate more competition, increase the number of moderates in elected office and boost the impact of nonpartisan, or decline to state voters.

But the experts also agree that it could hike the cost of campaigns and the role that money plays in elections.

Click here to read my news story.

Proposition 14, if voters pass it, will eliminate the party primary system in California. Voters could choose among all the candidates, regardless of party registration. The top two vote-getters would advance to the general election, also without regard for party affiliation.

A reluctant Legislature placed the measure on the ballot in exchange for then GOP state Sen. Abel Maldonado’s vote in favor of the 2009 California budget.

Predictably, the political parties hate it.

But proponents hail the measure as an essential governance reform that could lead to the election of more centrists and ease the political ideological polarization in Sacramento.

To read the 113-page report, visit The report contains a concise and very readable executive summary for the less wonky readers.

Posted on Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Abel Maldonado, Election reform | 4 Comments »

Bay Area firms land energy research grants

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced 10 California projects – including nine in the Bay Area – will get $34.5 million for research that could change how the nation uses and produces energy.

The grants are part of a total $106 million handed out to 37 projects in 17 states through the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“Thanks to the Recovery Act, dozens of cutting-edge research projects with the potential to dramatically transform how we use energy in this country will now be able to get underway,” Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the awards. “By investing in our top researchers, we’re not only continuing in the spirit of American innovation, but helping build a competitive American clean energy industry that will create secure jobs here at home for years to come.”

The California grants announced today include:

  • $4,996,311 to the PolyPlus Battery Company of Berkeley to develop rechargeable Lithium-Air batteries for electric vehicle use;
  • $4,657,045 to Codexis Inc. of Redwood City for research in using enzymes and certain techniques to capture more carbon dioxide from the discharges of coal-fired power plants;
  • $4,373,990 to Applied Materials Inc. of Santa Clara for development of a new, low-cost manufacturing process for ultra-high energy lithium-ion batteries;
  • $4 million to the University of California, Los Angeles to use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to let microorganisms use electricity instead of sunlight for converting carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels that can be high-octane gasoline substitutes;
  • $3,948,493 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to engineer a common soil bacterium to produce butanol and hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and hydrogen and produce its own hydrogen by splitting water in the presence of electricity;
  • $3,665,000 to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop synthetic small-molecule catalysts that greatly speed up the absorption of carbon dioxide, allowing for g advanced solvents that bind the gas less tightly and so reduce the energy needed to release the gas afterwards;
  • $3,663,696 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to use robotic instrumentation tools and computational algorithms to speed development of metal organic framework materials to better capture carbon dioxide at coal-fired power plants;
  • $3,204,080 to Pellion Technologies Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a the world’s first cheap, rechargeable commercial magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric cars;
  • $1,000,000 to Stanford University to develop an “All-Electron Battery,” a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric cars; and
  • $1,000,000 to Recapping Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a novel energy storage device – a high energy density capacitor – based on a 3D nanocomposite structure.
  • A third round of ARPA-E funding opportunities was announced in March with project selections to be announced this summer.

    Posted on Thursday, April 29th, 2010
    Under: economy, energy, Environment | 1 Comment »

    Contra Costa Council hosts water forum

    The Contra Costa Council hosted today a water panel, featuring some of the state’s foremost voices in California’s effort to implement sweeping water legislation adopted last year.

    Watch video of the hour-long discussion below. The panelists presented mostly a status report of where the implementation process sits and an outline of the key issues.

    Panelists include California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Lester Snow, Delta Stewardship Council Chairman Phil Isenberg, Delta Protection Commission Executive Director Linda Fiack and Contra Costa Supervisor and Delta Protection Commission member Mary Nejedly Piepho.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
    Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, water | No Comments »

    TEA Party will boycott San Francisco

    Let’s get this straight.

    San Francisco is boycotting Arizona over its immigration crackdown. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has even put the kibosh on all those city employee golf, er, business, trips to Phoenix.

    Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wants California to follow suit.

    And now, California TEA Party groups  are boycotting San Francisco with a protest march in …  San Francisco.

    President and founder of the Pleasanton/NorCal TEA Party, Dr. Bridget Melson, sent out an announcement of the May 1 event, which will start at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center at 24th and Mission streets.

    “I say spend your money anywhere else than in San Francisco, vacation elsewhere, dine elsewhere — if you protest (in San Francisco), bring your own food, coffee and water,” she said in her news release.

    I guess that means they won’t be stopping for a sourdough bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf?

    Read on for the full news release:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
    Under: San Francisco politics, tea party | 50 Comments »