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Archive for May, 2010

‘Open Carry’ panel discussion set for East Bay

The Commonwealth Club of California held a panel discussion last night on California’s “open carry” policy – which lets gun owners carry unloaded handguns in plain sight in public places, unless pre-empted by local laws – and a pending bill that would make such behavior a misdemeanor.

Sorry you missed it? You’ll have another chance. The issue is hot enough that another panel discussion on “Guns in Public: Exploring California’s Open Carry Policy” has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17 at the Veterans Memorial Building, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette; tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, who authored AB 1934 to change the law and prohibit open-carry behavior, will be there to defend her bill, as will Karen Arntzen, California chapter services coordinator for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Arguing against Saldana’s bill will be Adnan Shahab, Republican candidate for the 20th Assembly District seat, and another panelist yet to be named. I’ll be the moderator.

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law.

Advocates of Saldana’s bill say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers who must check to ensure the guns aren’t loaded in accordance with state law.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved Saldana’s bill to end this practice April 20 on a 5-2 vote; the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved it May 12 on an 11-5 vote; and it’s now awaiting a vote by the full Assembly. If it passes that vote, it’ll still have to work its way through the state Senate and then get the governor’s signature in order to become law.

At last night’s forum at the club’s San Francisco office, Emeryville Police Chief Ken James – who has spoken for the California Police Chiefs Association in supporting Saldana’s bill – faced off with Gun Owners of California Executive Director Sam Paredes. Also participating was Cal law professor Franklin Zimring; San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz was the moderator.

Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Under: gun control, Public safety | 1 Comment »

CD11: Emken targets Harmer in nasty mailer

GOP primary 11th Congressional District candidate Elizabeth Emken has hit opponent David Harmer with a nasty mailer (post below) that paints him as a greedy credit card lawyer for a failed bank who profited from the federal bailout.

Emken and Harmer are in a tight, four-way primary race for their party’s nomination on June 8 and the opportunity to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney.

The other two Republican candidates, Tony Amador and Brad Goehring, have weighed in on the issue,  as well. (See their responses at the bottom of this post.)

The mailer contains the usual mix of truth and distortions. Here is an analysis of its contents and the Harmer campaign’s response:

WHAT IT SAYS: “Harmer took $485,779 in bonus and pay from a Wall Street bailout bank seized by federal regulators.”

IS IT TRUE? Yes and no. Washington Mutual, where Harmer was a first vice president and assistant general counsel in its credit card division, never received bailout money.

The FDIC forced Washington Mutual into receivership on Sept. 25, 2008, and orchestrated the a sale to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion.

A month later, JPMorgan Chase received $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. There is no evidence on way or the other that JPMorgan, which had already acquired Bear Stearns, used or needed TARP money to buy Washington Mutual. (A reader sent this link from BusinessInsider, where the author suggests documents show the federal government forced JPMorgan Chase and the other banks to take the bailout; that they didn’t want it.)

However, Harmer collected a salary, bonus and severance from JPMorgan Chase for a few months until the new owner shut down the division — it already had one — and he lost his job in January 2009.

Several banking industry experts say only JPMorgan knows if it used TARP funds to cover or enable its Washington Mutual acquisition costs, such as Harmer’s severance check.  There were no requirements that banks segregate and publicly identify how or if they spent TARP funds.

HARMER RESPONSE: “Harmer never took a single dime of bailout funding. It’s blatantly untrue. The piece is designed to distort the picture.”

WHAT IT SAYS: “Harmer took almost half a million dollars in bonuses and pay in the months leading up to his bank’s seizure.”

IS IT TRUE? Yes. Harmer earned $219,714 in salary and an $80,000 bonus in 2008. In the first few months of 2009, before JPMorgan closed his division, Harmer was paid $26,073 in salary and a $75,406 bonus.

He subsequently received an $84,586 severance check, for a total of $485,779 between Jan. 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009.

HARMER RESPONSE: “It’s meaningless. Everyone with a job has earned some amount of money in any given time period.”

WHAT IT SAYS: “After his bank was seized by federal regulators and sold to JPMorgan, taxpayers were on the hook for $25 billion in federal bailout money.”

IS IT TRUE? Yes. JPMorgan was one of 19 banks that federal regulators deemed eligible for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Congress authorized it Oct. 3, 2008, about two weeks after the FDIC seized and sold Washington Mutual.
JPMorgan has repaid the money plus with interest.

HARMER RESPONSE: “That fact that Washington Mutual failed or JPMorgan Chase bought it had nothing to do with Harmer. He worked in the credit card compliance division, where he did his job very well and he was rewarded.”

WHAT IT SAYS: “Then Harmer turned around and had the nerve to file a jobless claim and collected nearly $2,400 from California’s Unemployment Insurance Fund. Unemployment insurance should be reserved for people truly in need — not greedy lawyers …”

IS IT TRUE? Yes and no.

Harmer collected $2,395 in unemployment insurance through April 30, 2009. However, all eligible workers who pay into the unemployment insurance pool receive benefits regardless of whether they “need” the money.

The implication is that as a conservative candidate who opposes TARP and the other federal stimulus dollars, it looks bad for Harmer to collect unemployment while he runs for Congress.

HARMER RESPONSE: “It is insurance. David Harmer has paid in far more into the system than he has ever collected.”

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Click through to see Amador and Goehring’s statements on this issue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Congress, congressional district 11 | 6 Comments »

About the worker kerfuffle at Solyndra

KRON-TV reported today that union construction workers had been told to stay home today, losing a day’s pay, due to President Barack Obama’s visit to Fremont-based Solyndra Inc.’s not-yet-completed manufacturing plant.

The Republican National Committee and Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee jumped all over it — “Obama should be more focused on helping Californians get back to work, instead of keeping them from it,” said RNC spokesman Jahan Wilcox — but company spokesman David Miller says that’s not exactly what happened.

“After a tour of Solyndra’s Fab 1, President Obama met with union construction workers before his speech, photos of which can been seen on line from various news sources. Some of these construction workers shared compliments with Solyndra executives on being able to participate in the event. Further, in preparation for President Obama’s visit, there was significant overtime paid to construction workers.

“Due to President Obama’s visit and security for the event that was held, for several hours the construction work on the site was put on hold. Today, immediately after the event was over, construction work resumed. The workers are not losing a day of pay; rather the day will be made up down the road. The construction work that was put on hold during this shift still needs to get done. This is the same as what happens with a weather-related ‘rain-day’ construction site shut down.

“Please note the workers affected today work were subcontractors for Rudolph and Sletten, not employees of Solyndra.

“Finally, Solyndra hopes to build the second phase of its Fab 2 project, and is looking forward to enabling additional construction jobs for this project.”

Miller also noted that the $535 million loan guarantee that Solyndra received from the Energy Department under the Recovery Act to build this new factory has created 3,000 construction jobs, and the project has been running at least two shifts a day, six days a week since the groundbreaking last September, paying out more than $90 million in union wages.

I did see some Rudolph and Sletten workers wearing hard-hats at the speech, but there wasn’t room in the secured area to accomodate hundreds more.

Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Under: Barack Obama, Media, Obama presidency | 7 Comments »

Pete Stark, on what the President didn’t say

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, didn’t accompany President Barack Obama to a Recovery Act-supported solar panel manufacturing plant in his district today because he was stuck on Capitol Hill amid a steady flow of bills this week.

But he weighed in this afternoon on what the President did and didn’t say about making clean energy a centerpiece of the region’s and the nation’s economic rebound. Although the president spoke about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as an indicator of the nation’s need to wean itself from fossil fuels, Stark noted he didn’t speak about one important facet of that.

Pete Stark“My sense is that what he’s got to deal with is coal. ‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron, there is no such thing,” Stark said. “I think the tradeoff is nuclear. If we can find a reasonable storage disposal for the waste, then I think we have to become like other industrialized nations, a nuclear nation, and get rid of coal.”

“That’s a major, major change for this country, but I don’t see an alternative,” Stark continued. “He (Obama) doesn’t want to step on any toes, but I don’t think you can do the things he wants to do unless you take a stand. That would be my criticism of the current administration… We’re not moving forward.”

Stark today introduced a Defense Authorization Act amendment that would strike the additional $362 million that a House committee added onto the $9.9 billion that the Pentagon is seeking for a missile-defense system.

“I’d strike the entire thing if I could,” he said. “I think were spending too much on defense, anyway.”

“For years this missile defense thing I think has been a boondoggle, it’s a thing that doesn’t work. They’ve fussed with it at the Lawrence (Livermore National) Lab and it’s just a dream – they can do some stuff short range, but they just can’t hit anything.”

He acknowledged his amendment could have a tough political hill to climb. “The concept here, among conservatives in particular, is that they will fuss over anything we want to spend for Medicare or education or cleaning up the environment – all of that is wasteful – but the minute you mention the military, oh that’s patriotic and antiterrorism.”

This $362 million is money the nation “could spend on a lot of other things, hopefully not war-related,” he said. “Hopefully this will take a direct point at that, hopefully we’ll get enough progressive votes to make a difference.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Under: Barack Obama, economy, energy, Environment, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

President Obama’s speech, verbatim

I’ve filed my article on the President’s speech this morning at Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, and I’ll be adding to it shortly. But if you’d like to read it exactly as it was said, take a gander after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Under: Barack Obama, economy, energy, Environment, Obama presidency | 4 Comments »

CD11: Was Harmer bailed out?

David Harmer

David Harmer

Stockton Record columnist Michael Fitzgerald published today a very interesting piece on CD11 Republican primary candidate David Harmer.

By Michael Fitzgerald
Record Columnist
May 26, 2010 12:00 AM

Republican congressional candidate David Harmer denounces bailouts, the stimulus package and Obamacare. But did he accept a bailout of his own?

Harmer, a small-government conservative, is vying for the Republican nomination to run against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the 11th congressional district.

At his Stockton breakfast, as most campaign stops, Harmer blasted “the so-called stimulus that has not stimulated anything but government spending and federal debt.”

Declared Harmer, “We’re disgusted by it.”

Harmer’s brush with the bailout was more than ideological. Before flipping his hat into the ring for the 11th District seat, he worked for Washington Mutual.

An attorney, Harmer worked ensuring WaMu complied with federal credit regulations.

WaMu went belly-up in the mortgage meltdown. The bank was acquired by JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase received $25 billion in federal bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

JPMorgan Chase laid Harmer off.

Harmer received a $75,406 bonus.

He also received $84,586 in severance, according to his federal financial disclosure forms.

Click here to read the entire column.

Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 10 Comments »

Staffers preview Obama’s Fremont speech

White House staffers held a teleconference with reporters today to preview what President Barack Obama will say about jobs and the economy at a Fremont solar-panel manufacturing company tomorrow.

Air Force One is due to touch down at San Francisco International Airport in a few hours, and the President will be headed into San Francisco for a pair of pricey fundraisers to benefit the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Tomorrow morning he’ll be at Solyndra Inc., which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy – funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus package – to build a big new manufacturing plant just up the road from its existing facility.

Jared Bernstein, chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, told reporters today “we’re excited about what Solyndra is doing and about the president’s trip” as a chance to “get out of the beltway bubble” and see, hear and feel what’s going on in the economy, good and bad.

The Recovery Act has created or saved 2.5 million jobs, Bernstein said, but that’s not enough – the nation needs far more robust job growth. He cited the President’s recent comment that “the only economic news most people want to hear is ‘You’re hired.’ ”

Solyndra is not only about new jobs today, but also “about new industries tomorrow,” Bernstein said – a clean-energy industry that will protect the environment while reducing dependency on foreign oil. With the economy still shaky, unemployment still to high and credit still hard to get, government must continue to provide incentives for such progress, he said.

Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said tomorrow’s event is “a good opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come with the Recovery act, and where we’re headed.”

Solyndra is expected to produce 230 megawatts worth of solar panels per year, with the first product rolling off its new assembly line sometime this fall, Rogers said. This is an example of the United States re-establishing its leadership in clean energy high-tech manufacturing, an underpinning of the economy just as important as the innovation that makes it possible.

And “the good news will be compounded if you look just down the street from Solyndra,” he added, where Tesla and Toyota are partnering to produce electric vehicles at the recently-closed New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant. A staffer on today’s call couldn’t immediately say whether Obama will meet tomorrow with any Tesla or NUMMI-related officials.

Meanwhile, Republicans decried the President’s arrival for the San Francisco fundraisers. Read it, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, economy, energy, Environment, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

DA candidate Falahat vows to stop ‘sex club’ talk

Contra Costa District Attorney candidate Elle Falahat sure knows how to wake up the room.

After delivering a dull 10-minute drill last night on the history of jurisprudence in the United States to a group of criminal justice students at ITT Institute in Concord, Falahat mentioned, “Anal Sex Club.”

Whoa nelly! She had our attention now.

Among the reasons Falahat decided to run for office, she told the students, was the alleged super-sex-charged atmosphere in the District Attorney’s Office.

“There are sex clubs in the District Attorney’s office, anal sex clubs, to be specific,” Falahat said. “And also something that I, to be honest, didn’t know what was it means, I had to look it up, is ‘manscaping,’ and that senior management talk about it in the office.” (I had to look it up, too. My goodness.)

Falahat pointed the finger at both her opponents, Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Mark Peterson and private attorney and former Deputy District Attorney Dan O’Malley, saying they are members of the “good old boy club” who are unlikely to challenge the sexist culture.

Keep in mind, there is no sex club at the DA’s office. It was a bad, inappropriate joke that apparently circulated among some staffers who conducted a highly, informal survey on sexual experiences. It was more along the lines of the Mile High Club, as in, “Hey, are you a member of the Anal Sex Club?”

The allegations originated in court documents filed by the attorney for Michael Gressett, the former district attorney charged with the rape of another deputy district attorney.

Watch video of her speech below. If you want to skip past the jurisprudence history, the good stuff starts about 11 minutes, 20 seconds.

The videos of the other speakers are also posted below, including Peterson, O’Malley and sheriff candidates Brian Kalinowski and David Livingston.

Click here to read CCT reporter Robert Salonga’s story on the sheriff’s candidates.

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 9 Comments »

Campaign finance accusation in AG’s race

Chris KellyChris Kelly, the former Facebook chief privacy officer now seeking the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General, violated state law by taking a personal loan and using it pour $9.6 million into his own campaign without reporting the loan’s source, staffers for an electoral rival claimed today.

Lawyers and staffers for the campaign of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris held a conference call today to make the claim, citing a Los Angeles Times report this past weekend and the sworn statement of economic interests Kelly filed with the state. From that LA Times report:

The case of Chris Kelly, a Democratic attorney general candidate who amassed a personal fortune in stock options while an executive at Facebook, has some campaign finance watchdogs stumped.

Kelly has found a way to use his stock options in Facebook to bankroll his political campaign even though the company has yet to go public. He is selling his shares in Facebook to a group of investors in Delaware who are willing to pay cash for Facebook stock options, perhaps gambling that they will increase in value by the time the company goes public.

The question raised by Kelly’s strategy is whether the investors are paying the market price for the options or a higher price in order to do him a favor.

Kelly’s spokeswoman and the owner of the Delaware private equity firm FBI Investments, which bought his Facebook options, both deny that Kelly got any special deal.

The candidate sold his options at the going rate, and he has already disclosed everything the law requires, spokeswoman Robin Swanson said. “Anyone else could buy and sell Facebook stock options this very same way.”

But the law does not require Kelly to disclose how many options he sold or the price. In the absence of any disclosure requirement, voters have no way to confirm his statement.

Harris’ people filed a complaint yesterday with the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s campaign law watchdog. Harris campaign strategist Ace Smith said today it seems Kelly’s funding “is based upon receiving a noncommercial loan, essentially a shady infusion of money into his campaign.” Smith said it’s ironic that Kelly is funding his campaign through sales of Facebook stock even as he tries to distance himself from Facebook, now embroiled in privacy concerns.

“Anyone running for AG should be absolutely above question, absolutely above board, and fully transparent,” Smith said.

Harris campaign attorney James Sutton said Kelly’s Form 700 economic interests disclosure shows a loan of more than $100,000 – it’s unknown how large it actually was – from FBI Investments LLC, a Delaware-based private equity firm, “to facilitate stock option exercise.” Proceeds from the sales of that stock went to the campaign.

But “such a loan is illegal,” Sutton said. “The law is as clear as clear can be: that a loan is considered a contribution.”

The only exception would be a loan from a commercial lending institution in the course or regular business at terms available to the general public, Sutton said. FBI isn’t such an institution, and so the contribution should’ve been subject to limits set by law and reported on Kelly’s campaign finance reports.

Sutton said Kelly also didn’t report who bought the stock, and at what price; because Facebook is not a public company, its stock prices are set not by a public exchange but by negotiation between the buyer and seller. Knowing who bought the stock and for how much is crucial to determining whether these were arms-length, above-board transactions or a “sweetheart deal” in which someone was giving Kelly more money than the stock was actually worth.

Kelly’s campaign issued a statement this morning saying Harris’ campaign has “sunk to a new low, with her consultants coordinating a publicity stunt, and that “(i)t’s clear that Chris Kelly has followed the law, while Kamala Harris has failed to uphold the law and the Constitution.

“Last Thursday, a Superior Court Judge in San Francisco ruled that Kamala Harris systematically violated defendants’ civil and constitutional rights, facilitating the release of hundreds — and ultimately perhaps thousands — of criminals onto California’s streets,” Kelly said in this statement, citing the San Francisco Police crime lab fiasco. “This is merely the latest attempt to distract voters from the fact that she’s not qualified to be the Attorney General of our great state.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General, campaign finance, Chris Kelly, Kamala Harris | 1 Comment »

Another dramatic momentum shift in GOP gubernatorial primary?

Mike Murphy, the chief strategist for Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign, has been itching to release his own internal polling showing that his boss has resumed her dominance over her GOP rival, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

Campaign sources say that, with two weeks left in the race, he may gather reporters real soon for a conference call trumpeting Whitman’s internal numbers, now that polls appear to be consistently going her way.

Last week, Murphy had downplayed the Public Policy Institute of California survey showing Poizner closing to within 9 percentage points, saying it hadn’t captured a mood shift that was breaking Whitman’s way big time — after she’d blown a 50 percentage-point lead.

A SurveyUSA poll, released Sunday night, gave glimpse to that apparent momentum shift, with Whitman stretching her lead from 2 percentage points to 27 (54 percent to 27).

The SurveyUSA poll, which critics don’t much like because of the robo-call, push-button mechanics, had more certainty than one commissioned by Daily Kos, which gave Whitman a 10 percentage point lead and had more undecided voters. Murphy said the SurveyUSA poll matched up with numbers he’s seeing in other private polls. Republican primary voters, he said, are returning to Whitman after giving her a second look.

“Every private track and our own internals are showing similar numbers, give or take 5 or 6 points,” he said. “To me, that’s a confirmation that things are moving our way.”

Murphy said that a number of factors have turned the momentum around. First, Democrats’ attacks on Whitman have backfired. “Republicans are starting to understand that Jerry Brown is doing everything he can to help Steve Poizner. That’s the wrong kind of endorsement.”

Murphy said he is convinced that the much-maligned ad of Whitman speaking directly to the camera and complaining about Poizner’s attacks worked.

“It worked like a charm,” Murphy said. “People are starved for information. They like ads when candidates talk to the camera. So we did 60 seconds to break through the clutter and push back on two things bothering voters the most” about Whitman’s campaign, which were her position on immigration and her past endorsement of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Here it is:

Pivoting off that ad, the campaign put up new 30-second spots tearing into Poizner as a liberal, as seen here:

And the ads were supplemented by a heavy voter-to-voter contact effort — unanswered by Poizner: through the mail and by phone.

Poizner’s “one-note” campaign — hammering the anti-illegal immigrant issue (seen here:)

helped raise his profile, but “he hasn’t done anything” to fill out a larger picture of who he is and how he’d govern, Murphy said.

He noted that Poizner’s team, which  touted internal polls a couple weeks ago when it was riding a strong anti-Whitman wave, hasn’t been so loud about its internals lately.

Jarrod Agen, spokesman for Poizner, said that polls — internal and public — are showing “this race is much closer and that we’re within striking distance. The reality is it’s going to come down to the last two weeks and which candidate can convince more undecided voters.”

Poizner’s tough, bracing talk on illegal immigration is “cutting through” to voters and works better with primary voters than the establishment backing Whitman has played up, Agen said. Whitman on Monday released an ad with Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate (and her ex-boss), Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, and Jon Coupal, president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, showing their support:

“We think that’s a huge error on their part, showing other establishment Republicans endorsing Meg,” Agen said. “Last week, we saw everybody who used that method lost (in primaries around the country). We’re in a cycle of changing the status quo, reforming the establishment. And Meg is running as the establishment candidate.”

Poizner’s team doesn’t plan on showing internals any time soon, but not because they lack for confidence, Agen said. “When we released them last time, we were in a gap when there weren’t any polls out and we wanted to show people that things were shifting. With the PPIC poll just out and others to come out, there’s no reason to release another poll.”

Unless you’re Mike Murphy, and you have another momentum shift you’d like to share.

Posted on Monday, May 24th, 2010
Under: 2010 governor's race, Meg Whitman, polls, Republican Party, Republican politics, State politics, Steve Poizner, Uncategorized | No Comments »