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Archive for May, 2010

Prop. 15 supporters hail court ruling on AZ law

Supporters of Proposition 15 – the “California Fair Elections Act, which would create a pilot program for public campaign finance in the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State – are applauding a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision issued Friday to uphold Arizona’s similar law.

Arizona’s law was challenged by six past and future candidates for Arizona political office who have, or plan to, run privately-financed campaigns, as well by as two political action committees who fund such candidates. They said the law’s matching-funds provision – which says a candidate opting for the public-financing system and receiving an initial grant and then would get more money from the state to match what an opponent outside the system spends – violates their First Amendment right to political speech by punishing them for making, receiving or spending campaign contributions above the threshold that triggers the matching funds. They also claimed that because the Act treats candidates differently based on whether or not they participate in the public financing scheme, it denies them the equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment.

A lower court had ruled for the plaintiffs on their First Amendment claim, so it never reached the 14th Amendment claim. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously Friday to overturn the lower court’s decision and reject the First Amendment claim, and sent the 14th Amendment Claim back to the lower court for adjudication.

“Based on the record before us, we conclude that any burden the Act imposes on Plaintiffs’ speech is indirect or minimal,” Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote for the panel, which also included circuit judges Andrew Kleinfeld and Sidney Thomas. No Plaintiff … has pointed to any specific instance in which she or he has declined a contribution or failed to make an expenditure for fear of triggering matching funds. The record as a whole contradicts many of Plaintiffs’ unsupported assertions that their speech has been chilled.”

“Plaintiffs bemoan that matching funds deny them a competitive advantage in elections. The essence of this claim is not that they have been silenced, but that the speech of their opponents has been enabled,” Tashima wrote. “We agree with the First Circuit that the First Amendment includes ‘no right to speak free from response — the purpose of the First Amendment is to secure the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources.’ ”

“The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals correctly held that the matching funds provision of the Clean Elections Act does not violate the First Amendment,” Grant Davis-Denny, a California Common Cause board member on the legal team that defended the Arizona law, said today in a news release. “In fact, matching funds actually promote speech while also reducing the potential for large private contributions to corrupt elected officials.”

Thomas Hiltachk, attorney for Proposition 15’s opponents, issued a statement today saying the ruling “was limited to a narrow free speech issue raised by Arizona’s law.”

“StopProp15.com has never argued that public campaign financing violates constitutional protections of free speech. While this is an important issue, it is one that will ultimately be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “The issues that are important to voters in California are jobs, taxes and moving our state’s economy forward. By inviting legislators to finance their own campaigns with General Fund dollars, Proposition 15 would add more pressure to a state budget that is over-extended by $19 billion. Voters must decide if giving tax dollars to politicians for their campaigns is a higher priority than vital services such as education, public safety, healthcare and transportation.”

But that’s not an entirely accurate assessment of how the public campaign financing would be paid for under Prop. 15; more on that after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 24th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, campaign finance | 2 Comments »

New candidate, old trick

Alameda County Superior Court candidate Louis Goodman’s website, as well as his direct-mail piece that’s hitting mailboxes all over the county, offer up the following quotes:

  • “We endorse Louis Goodman for Alameda County Superior Court Judge.” – Oakland Tribune
  • “Goodman’s experience as a volunteer judge [Judge Pro-tem] in the Alameda County court system – along with his experience as a criminal defense attorney and former district attorney – make him the best choice for the job.” – The Fremont Argus
  • “We are impressed with Goodman’s grasp of court procedure and what it takes to keep a calendar moving.” – The Hayward Daily Review
  • “Unlike his opponents, Goodman has actual experience…” – Tri-Valley Herald
  • “We recommend Louis Goodman for judge – Voters in Alameda County will be electing a new judge to the Superior Court in the June 8 election.” – Alameda Times-Star
  • It sounds like quite a cavalcade of media endorsements, until you realize that all these quotes came from the same endorsement editorial which was published in all of the papers, all of which are part of the Bay Area News Group – East Bay. What Goodman made to look like five endorsements is actually just one.

    He’s certainly not the first to pull this stunt; I wrote about Wilma Chan doing the same thing two years ago as she ran in a Democratic state Senate primary. It still smells pretty funny, though.

    Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Alameda County | 10 Comments »

    Study: Big Oakland marijuana grow = big bucks

    An economic-impact analysis prepared for a East Bay entrepreneur underscores one of the truths behind the “Tax Cannabis 2010” marijuana legalization measure on November’s ballot: It could make some people very, very rich.

    Jeff Wilcox of Lafayette, who sits on the ballot measure steering committee, in November formed AgraMed Inc., a nonprofit company that commissioned this analysis from Bay Area consulting firm Brion & Associates. According to an executive summary, the analysis examines AgraMed’s proposal to redevelop a big parcel near I-880 and the Embarcadero in Oakland – four buildings totaling 172,000 sq ft of space on a 7.4-acre site – as an industrial-scale, 24-hour-a-day marijuana-growing facility as well as manufacturing space for grow lights and other equipment; a bakery for edible cannabis products; a job-training center; a research lab; and some office and retail space.

    The grow operation would produce about 21,100 pounds of medical-grade cannabis per year, about 58 pounds per day on average, according to the analysis, with a wholesale price of about $2,800 per pound. And the analysis assumes that the City would impose a “production tax” similar to the special tax Oakland already has put on retail sales at the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

    Given various production and taxation scenarios, gross annual sales would range from $47 million to $71 million per year, with gross operating costs estimated at $31 million per year, the analysis says. That means Oakland could get $1.4 million to $2.1 million from a special production tax set at 3 percent of gross sales, not counting any other sales, utility, business-license and other taxes. Property taxes from the project are estimated at about $281,000 per year; because the project is in the Coliseum redevelopment project area, these taxes would accrue to the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. The business could cretate about 371 union jobs, of which a little less than half would be in the grow facility and the rest in the other facets of the business; the average salary would be $53,700, plus benefits.

    Assuming the project’s total construction and development costs are $17.1 million, the analysis projects an added $8.6 million direct and indirect benefit to the county’s economy.

    Remember, all of this is for a nonprofit company producing marijuana under the state’s existing medical-marijuana law. But what if voters approve Tax Cannabis 2010 in November, and Oakland subsequently exercises its new right to regulate and tax commercial production and sales of marijuana for recreational use?

    Already lucrative, a facility like that could be transformed overnight into a gold mine.

    “Hypothetically,” Wilcox agreed this morning. “We looked at the numbers and I couldn’t believe them … There’s a big cash basis for this.”

    Wilcox, 49, said he was in commercial construction and real estate until his health forced him to retire; he said he’s interested in this for a variety of reasons, including his belief that the current prohibition on non-medical marijuana is a hypocritical, costly failure that has made it easier for his teenage daughter to get the drug than alcohol. Better regulation will keep it out of kids’ hands; legalization will deprive criminals of a key money stream; commercial production will be a job-creating economic boost; and taxation will raise money for local governments, he said, echoing the Tax Cannabis 2010 talking points.

    “Anyone can get rich growing a lot of pot, but can we do it legitimately?” he said, venturing that he can if voters approve the measure this November. “I’m optimistic.”

    Given this week’s less-than-promising poll numbers on legalization, however, I’d guess he might have to stick to medical cannabis for a while – a gold mine, too, but not as deep.

    Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, marijuana, Oakland | 5 Comments »

    CoCo supervisor race heats up

    Contra Costa supervisor candidate and Pleasant Hill Mayor Karen Mitchoff is throwing a few elbows this week with a mailer targeting her opponent, Mike McGill.

    She plays off McGill’s clever ads that brand him as a glasses-wearing nerd, just the kind of guy a voter wants handling the books, right?

    Mitchoff hammers McGill, an elected member of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District board, for the agency’s sewer rate hikes and its generous retirement benefits.

    I’m not sure the mailer quite works, though. At first glance, it almost looks like it could be a McGill-sponsored mailer with its image of black glasses. A voter will have to take the time to turn the mailer over and read the details in order to get the point she is trying to make.

    Here is the mailer plus her companion, feel-good flier that went out.

    Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 5 Comments »

    President Obama to visit East Bay next week?

    Rumor has it that President Barack Obama – who’ll be in the Bay Area next week for a pair of Tuesday-night fundraisers benefiting U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer‘s re-election campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – will be in the East Bay on Wednesday.

    SolyndraI hear he’ll visit Solyndra Inc. of Fremont, which is using a $535 million federal loan guarantee it received through last year’s economic-stimulus legislation to build a solar-panel manufacturing plant. Solyndra makes thin-film, tube-shaped solar modules that maximize energy output while minimizing installation costs. The new plant, just down Kato Road from the existing one and twice as large, is projected to create 3,000 temporary construction jobs and an estimated 1,000 long-term production jobs.

    It would seem Fremont is being positioned as a green-tech capital, what with Solyndra’s boom as well as yesterday’s news that Tesla Motors and Toyota are partnering to build all-electric cars at the recently shuttered New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, creating more than 1,000 new jobs.

    I’ve got some calls out on this, and will update as more information arrives.

    UPDATE @ 2:10 P.M.: All true. See the full story here.

    Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010
    Under: Barack Obama, economy, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

    CoCo deputy sheriffs smack Mister Phillips

    The Contra Costa Deputy Sheriffs’ Association will drop a mailer today (see below) slapping around county supervisor candidate Mister Phillips over his run-in with law enforcement last year.

    Phillips found himself crosswise with deputies at a Montalvin Manor neighborhood murder-suicide scene and ended up in the pokie. Phillips subsequently complained about being mistreated at the county jail — too cold, TV too loud, dirty bathroom — but an investigation concluded only that the deputies swore at him.

    The sheriffs’ association is particularly incensed at Phillips’ statements during the arrest, in which he told the officers he was running for supervisor and arresting him was a “big mistake.”

    “This clearly showed a misplaced sense of importance and was an irresponsible act for a person who says he’s ready to lead,” said Sheriffs’ Association President Jim Bickert. “They are not the actions of a person we would ever support for county supervisor.”

    It is unclear why the association would bother going after Phillips. He has had plenty of controversy around his candidacy but few endorsements, little money and is running against a veteran and popular incumbent, John Gioia.

    And I can only speculate as to why an independent expenditure committee called the Contra Costa Coalition for Jobs would pay for the mailer. (See the small print on the bottom of the second page.) Its top funder is BI Land LLC, a company owned by Tassajara Valley landowner Samir Kawar.

    But the most obvious link is Tom Koch, who is working on Kawar’s development proposal for the Tassajara Valley. Business interests most likely want to make double-sure that voters’ anti-incumbent mood does not produce unintended consequences and place an unconventional individual into office.

    Side 1

    Side 1

    Side 2

    Side 2

    Posted on Thursday, May 20th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 4 Comments »

    CD11: Edwin Meese III speaks on Reaganomics

    Edwin Meese III, the former U.S. Attorney General and top adviser to the late President Ronald Reagan, spoke last night at a fundraiser for CD11 GOP primary candidate David Harmer.

    Watch video of Meese’s speech below.

    Yes, Meese praised Harmer. But if you aren’t a Harmer fan, Meese also talked about Reagan, conservative principles and his views on the current state of the political landscape.

    The event was held at the Clos LaChance Winery in San Martin. (It’s near Morgan Hill.) Meese was introduced by John Harmer, the candidate’s father, former state senator and lt. governor appointed by Reagan. (The Harmers met Meese when Reagan was governor.)

    Posted on Thursday, May 20th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 2 Comments »

    Don Perata keeps doling out the dinero

    So, here I was, researching some names and background to see why former state Senate President Pro Tem and current Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata’s “Hope 2010 Cure Cancer” ballot measure committee – ostensibly supporting the tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research measure he’s pitching for November’s ballot – gave a $50,000 “civic donation” in March to Avalon Village, an Alameda nonprofit providing concierge-like assistance to seniors living in their own homes.

    And up comes this story posted just hours ago by the East Bay Express’ Bob Gammon, the dean of Perata watchers, so I’ll let him do the talking. In short, this and another agency to which Hope 2010 gave money are headed by a former Perata aide and possible paramour.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, campaign finance, Don Perata, Oakland | 1 Comment »

    Video knocks assessor candidates for late taxes

    Two Contra Costa Assessor candidates who failed to pay their property taxes on time are the starring players in a new YouTube video.

    John T. Nejedly and Bob Brooks have both been late on their taxes. Brooks called it a tax strategy for Realtors while Nejedly said he was short on cash at the time. See my column on the subject here.

    I’m not sure who produced this video but the author alleges that the men bought expensive toys rather than pay their taxes, the same dollars that benefit schools.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 21 Comments »

    Lawmakers ride out-of-district money wave

    California lawmakers over the past three years raised 79 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts, according to a new study by the data-crunching wizards at Berekeley-based nonpartisan nonprofit MAPLight.org.

    MAPLight.org (that’s “MAP” as in “Money In Politics”) found California legislators serving as of Aug. 31, 2009 – 79 Assembly members and 40 Senators – raised $97.9 million in campaign funds from January 2007 through March 2010, with $77.5 million coming from outside the district. About $11.9 (12 percent) came from in-district, while the remaining $8.6 million (9 percent) couldn’t be definitively located.

    More than half of the lawmakers (68 out of 117 members, or 58 percent) raised 80 percent or more of their campaign funds from outside their districts; 19 lawmakers raised 90 percent or more of their funds from outside their districts.

    “Not a single legislator in California raised the majority of their campaign funds from in-district, where their voters live.” MAPLight.org Executive Director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy.”

    “With out-of-district fundraising at a staggering 80 percent, the problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel,” he said. “This report shows that our campaign finance system is broken. This remote control system works well for wealthy interest groups, but not for voters.”

    Here’s how the Bay Area delegation stacked up in percentage of contributions from out of district, and rank among the 119 lawmakers surveyed:

  • Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose – 94.0 percent (#5)
  • Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley – 92.7 percent (#10)
  • State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – 89.1 percent (#21)
  • Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco – 87.8 percent (#29)
  • Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark – 87.5 percent (#33)
  • State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – 85.5 percent (#40)
  • State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose – 85.4 percent (#43)
  • Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City – 83.2 percent (#54)
  • Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch – 82.9 percent (#56)
  • Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., D-San Jose – 82.5 percent (#59)
  • Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda – 80.4 percent (#64)
  • Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino – 80.0 percent (#68)
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – 79.2 percent (#72)
  • Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis – 76.9 percent (#79)
  • Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa – 74.7 percent (#85)
  • State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – 74.5 percent (#87)
  • Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael – 72.5 percent (#91)
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – 67.4 percent (#100)
  • State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto – 63.4 percent (#102)
  • Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – 62.1 percent (#105)
  • Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo – 62.0 percent (#106)
  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – 58.9 percent (#110)
  • State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berekeley – 57.9 percent (#112)
  • And, in case you’re wondering where the money comes from, the top 15 ZIP codes of contributions to legislators were:

    1 Sacramento, CA 95814 – $23,149,034 (23.66%)
    2 San Francisco, CA 94105 – $2,034,877 (2.08%)
    3 Sacramento, CA 95833 – $1,408,211 (1.44%)
    4 Los Angeles, CA 90020 – $1,395,635 (1.43%)
    5 Burlingame CA, 94010 – $1,280,137 (1.31%)
    6 Los Angeles, CA 90071 – $1,054,345 (1.08%)
    7 Newport Beach, CA 92660 –$972,717 (0.99%)
    8 Sacramento, CA 95811 – $843,928 (0.86%)
    9 Sacramento, CA 95816 – $839,730 (0.86%)
    10 Los Angeles, CA 90017 – $741,449 (0.76%)
    11 Oakland, CA 94612 – $698,200 (0.71%)
    12 Sacramento. CA 95834 – $669,150 (0.68%)
    13 Pasadena, CA 91101 – $625,373 (0.64%)
    14 Los Angeles, CA 90010 – $621,677 (0.64%)
    15 San Francisco, CA 94111 – $583,888 (0.60%)

    MAPLight.org is among supporters of Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, which would try out a system of public financing of election campaigns in the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State, funded by an increase in lobbyist registration fees.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, ballot measures, California State Senate, campaign finance, Elaine Alquist, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Joe Coto, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Tom Ammiano, Tom Torlakson | 3 Comments »