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Archive for July, 2010

Martinez mayor pops the question in Venice

Suzanne Hatch shows off her engagement ring

Suzanne Hatch shows off her engagement ring

Rob Schroder

Rob Schroder

Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder proposed marriage  in Venice Tuesday after sharing a gondola ride, dinner and wine with the object of his affection, Suzanne Hatch.

She said she would think about it.

Nah.

She said yes. And then she posted the good news on Facebook, where I saw it moments ago.

No word yet on the particulars such as a date.

But now that I think about it, Schroder was exceptionally enthusiastic about his upcoming European vacation when he told me about the trip a few weeks ago.

It is a local political merger of sorts.

Hatch is the daughter of Carol Hatch, the retired veteran district director for Rep. George Miller,  D-Martinez.

Schroder is the son of Republican and former Contra Costa Supervisor Bob Schroder. Rob changed his party registration from Republican to decline to state around the same time he started dating Hatch, a switch that reflects Schroder’s more moderate politics and ensured that he would be invited to the Hatch home for Christmas dinner. (The last part is a joke.)

Congratulations to the happy couple.

May they be as happy as I am. (My husband, Joe, and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary tomorrow. He proposed in Carson City, Nev., not as romantic as Venice, perhaps, but the outcome has been just as nice!)

Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 3 Comments »

DISCLOSE Act blocked in Senate

A campaign-finance disclosure bill meant to close the spending floodgates opened by the U.S. Supreme Court in January’s Citizens United ruling was blocked today in the U.S. Senate, bringing joyful statements from some extremely strange bedfellows.

The Senate voted 57-41 on the motion to invoke cloture on the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act; 60 votes were needed to end debate on the bill and bring it to a vote. Both of California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, voted for cloture; no Republicans did so; and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the lone Democrat voting “no,” a parliamentary maneuver that lets him revive the bill some other time if he thinks he has the votes. The House passed its version of the DISCLOSE Act in June.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it supports the disclosure of large contributions to candidates as long as that disclosure doesn’t chill political participation; it had urged senators to oppose DISCLOSE Act.

“The DISCLOSE Act would not improve the integrity of political campaigns in any substantial way but would significantly harm the speech and associational rights of Americans,” Laura Murphy, the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office director, said in a news release. “We can only truly bring positive change to our elections if we continue to respect our cherished free speech rights and, unfortunately, the DISCLOSE Act does not do that. We commend the Senate for rejecting this well-intentioned but overly broad legislation.”

Michael Macleod-Ball, the ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel, said small donors to small organizations risk losing anonymity under the bill while larger, mainstream organizations would be exempt from donor disclosure – a further distortion of campaign finance fairness.

Way over on the right, Americans for Limited Government celebrated the bill’s blockage too.

“The so-called DISCLOSE Act imposes arduous regulations on corporations and non-profits and is explicitly designed to intimidate dissent, all in violation of the First Amendment. Senate Republicans deserve the praise of all freedom-loving Americans who believe that free, unrestricted political speech is a basic and fundamental right under the Constitution,” ALG President Bill Wilson said in his news release. “This is intended to intimidate certain groups and individuals from saying anything at all and into giving up their First Amendment rights. It’s a cynical gag order.”

Open government and consumer advocacy groups such as Common Cause and Public Citizen had strongly supported the bill as a bulwark against the tsunami of money expected to flood this year’s general election season; for it to take effect in time, the Senate would have had to approve it before the August recess.

UPDATE @ 2:09 P.M.: Add the League of Women Voters to groups aggrieved by the DISCLOSE Act’s blockage.

“It is sad to see Senators cling to partisanship and obstructionism once again, instead of working together to find a middle ground on the DISCLOSE Act,” League national president Elisabeth MacNamara said in a news release. “This is a failure for which voters will have to pay this November when corporate and other special interests use secret money to influence our elections.”

“Opponents of the DISCLOSE Act have put forth various criticisms — some true and others based on misinterpretations — justifying their obstruction. But the bottom line is that voters deserve to know who is paying for election advertising. This is not only common sense — it is crucial if voters are to remain the cornerstone of our democracy,” she added. “We would like to know what these opponents have to fear from disclosure of election advertising. Furthermore, what is to prevent them from falling victim to the deceitful advertising which they are refusing to regulate?”

Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, campaign finance, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Poll: Boxer and her hair are in the lead

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is shopping around a new poll that shows incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., leading GOP nominee Carly Fiorina by nine percentage points – and Boxer’s hair leading Fiorina’s by five.

The Public Policy Polling survey found that although voters have mixed opinions about Boxer’s job performance – her disapproval rating outweighs her approval rating, 46 percent to 44 percent – Boxer since last month’s primary has brought shaky Democrats back into the fold while shoring up her position with independents.

Fiorina, meanwhile, since prevailing over Tom Campbell in the somewhat bruising GOP primary has 40 percent disapproval over 28 percent approval with 32 percent yet to form an opinion, the survey found. While both Boxer and Fiorina win 77 percent of voters from each of their own parties, independents now favor Boxer 48 percent to 38 percent.

“Over the past few months Boxer has been successful at reassuring voters that she is an effective advocate for California in the Senate and has steadily increased her lead over Carly Fiorina” said PPP President Dean Debnam, who’s firm surveyed 614 California voters from July 23-25; the poll has a four-percentage-point margin of error.

Does Debnam’s statement sound a bit like an official DSCC line? Perhaps that’s because Public Policy Polling is clearly a Democratic polling outfit. Other recent polls have showed a closer race, and although the Wall Street Journal, fivethirtyeight.com and Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal have given PPP relatively high marks for accuracy, others have noted the firm’s unswerving Democratic loyalties and sometimes – ahemincendiary questions.

Which brings us to the hair. Inspired, no doubt, by Fiorina’s didn’t-know-the-mike-was-hot gaffe last month, this PPPC poll included a question asking, “Do you have a higher opinion of Barbara Boxer’s hair or Carly Fiorina’s hair?” The results: 19 percent for Boxer, 14 percent for Fiorina and 67 percent not sure.

“Who frackin’ cares?” apparently was not among the options offered.

Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

NRSC moves to help shape Fiorina’s message

Brian JonesPolitico reports that Brian Jones, a former Republican National Committee communications director and senior communications advisor to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been tapped by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to give former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina a hand in her race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Jones – now a managing director at Mercury Public Affairs in Sacramento – also will be helping Nevada GOP senatorial nominee Sharron Angle in her race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and whichever Republican finishes in Washington’s Aug. 17 blanket primary.

Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports:

Just as Republicans need to win Nevada to have any chance of capturing the 10 seats they need to win back control of the Senate, their path to the majority almost certainly also must goes through California and Washington. The NRSC disclosed Monday that they were reserving $1.75 million worth of TV time in California — a signal that they’re serious about taking on Sen. Barbara Boxer. In Washington, Republicans think Sen. Patty Murray is vulnerable but the party must first settle on a nominee. Dino Rossi, who has twice run unsuccesfully for govenor, is the establishment favorite while former NFL player Clint Didier has some tea party support.

Jones is a seasoned press hand. In the 2008 cycle, he was initially the communications director for John McCain’s presidential campaign, where he worked closely with fellow top aides Terry Nelson and Rob Jesmer – both now top NRSC officials. Jones also worked on President Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Tauscher diagnosed with esophageal cancer

Ellen Tausher

Ellen Tausher

UPDATE: Those who wish to send a card or note may use this address: Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington DC 20520

Former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, a top arms control official in President Obama administration who represented the East Bay for 14  years, has been diagnosed with early stage cancer of the esophagus, according to ForeignPolicy.com.

ForeignPolicy.com published this morning a memo that Tauscher sent to her staff last week:

“I had not been feeling well for several weeks. Fortunately, instead of sending me home with some medicine, my doctors did test after test to figure out what was wrong,” she wrote in a July 21 memo to all the members of her “T” bureau. “Nothing is certain, but the prognosis is good.”

Tauscher, the former California congresswoman who has been leading the State Department’s nonproliferation and arms-control efforts, has been working non-stop since her appointment last year, including several trips to Russia and Eastern Europe. She’s been at the center of the administration’s efforts to revamp plans for missile-defense deployment abroad and negotiate Obama’s new strategic arms treaty with Russia.

A close friend of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she’s been given credit for restaffing, reorganizing, and revamping the arms-control bureau at State, which Obama administration officials say was neglected during the George W. Bush administration.

Tauscher started an aggressive treatment regiment, which will include surgery. She’ll continue on in her duties, albeit with a scaled-back travel schedule, with the goal being a full recovery by early next year.

The Web site contains a copy of her full memo to her staff.

My prayers go out to Tauscher for a full and speedy recovery.

UPDATE 7/28/10: Tauscher friend David Bowlby sent this comment over this morning:

“Ellen has been a very special, dear friend for many, many years. She truly is a strong, resilient and remarkable person. I know her loving husband, daughter, parents, siblings and her huge, deep circle of friends and colleagues will provide her with love, encouragement and support.”


Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Under: Congress, Contra Costa politics | 3 Comments »

Steinberg gets tough: fires consultant, fires back at Arnold

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg apparently wore his tough guy outfit to work Monday (replete with spurs and holster), firing a political consultant and then firing back at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for saying he wanted all his demands met in the budget.

Embittered over the defeat of Mary Salas in the open 40th District Senate Democratic primary, Steinberg fired Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman for engineering Salas’ loss at the hands of conservative Democratic ex-lawmaker Juan Vargas.

Kaufman worked with the Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, JobsPAC, which teamed with a handful of other corporate-backed PACs to spend millions, largely on attack ads against Salas this spring.

To ensure it wasn’t seen as a Republican-friendly interloper into a Democratic primary, JobsPAC enlisted Kaufman to do some of its hit jobs on Salas, paying her $194,000.

Only last week did Vargas emerge victorious from the June 8 contest, after Salas conceded that a recount would not overcome Vargas’ narrow lead.

Vargas also got help, about $400,000 worth, from the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees, which seemed more worried about punishing Steinberg for accepting harsh budget cuts last year than about whether Vargas, an insurance executive and former chairman of the Assembly Insurance committee, would shill for his corporate friends.

Kaufman had been working on Anna Caballero’s race in the critical 12th District, where Democrats hope to replace term-limited Republican Jeff Denham and get closer to a two-thirds majority.

By firing Kaufman, Steinberg was also, by proxy, paying back the California Teachers Association — typically a staunch ally of Democrats and a longtime client of Kaufman’s — for bankrolling a series of slams on him this summer, accusing Steinberg of not protecting education funding enough. School funding has dropped by 18 percent and $17 billion over the last two years.

The CTA is also sore at Steinberg for backing a bill that would gut protections for teachers. The bill, SB1285 would change how teachers are assigned, laid off and rehired. Steinberg also gutted and amended the bill, bypassing the standard path through committees.

“CTA members have been urging Sen. Steinberg and other lawmakers to focus their attention first on passing a budget that protects education funding rather than looking for ways to blame teachers,” a CTA news release said before their launched their campaign against Steinberg.

Schwarzenegger on Monday vowed that he wouldn’t sign a budget before he left office in January unless it included a number of his proposals, incuding a pension reform measure.

Here is what he said: “And if I don’t get all of the things that we need in order to be fiscally responsible and to make the changes, the tax reforms, the budget reforms and the pension reforms, I will not sign a budget and it could actually drag out until the next governor gets into office.”

That elicited Steinberg’s own vow: he’ll wait until next year to get the budget done.

“If the governor continues to insist on granting billions in corporate tax cuts financed by drastic cuts to public education and programs for working mothers and their children, I am prepared to grant his wish by waiting for the next governor.”

Schwarzenegger also said he opposed Proposition 25, the ballot measure that would allow budgets to get approved on a majority vote.

“It works well in the 48 states that use it,” Steinberg said, referring to the majority vote budget. “Why the governor opposes eliminating budget dysfunction in California defies explanation.”

Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Hedge fund mogul co-chairs, antes up for No on 23

The Californians to Stop the Dirty Energy Proposition committee that’s opposing Proposition 23, the measure on November’s ballot to roll back the state’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law, today introduced a Bay Area hedge-fund mogul and philanthropist as its co-chairman.

Tom Steyer (photo from CNNMoney-Fortune)Tom Steyer, 53, is the founder and managing partner of San Francisco-based Farallon Capital, a $20 billion hedge fund; he’s also a managing director and executive committee member at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based private equity investment firm.

Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, in 2009 gave $40 million to fund the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, where Steyer now serves on the governing board. The couple also founded OneCalifornia Bank, a sustainable community development bank, and the related OneCalifornia Foundation to support programs and grants to eliminate discrimination, encourage affordable housing, alleviate economic distress, stimulate community development and increase financial literacy. And the couple also helped found OneRoof, a social business designed to bring technology to rural India.

Steyer in 2008 ranked as No. 962 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of about $1.2 billion, but dropped off the list in 2009 and 2010.

His inaugural act as the No on 23 campaign’s co-chair is to pony up $5 million for the cause – a massive sum for a committee that reported having $649,221.08 in the bank as of March 31 and has shown $1.45 million in big-ticket contributions since then.

“I’m very honored and happy to be co-chairing this with (former U.S. Secretary of State) George Shultz, who obviously has an incredible background in government and the private sector and academia,” Steyer told reporters on a conference call this morning. “He and I co-chairing this executive committee is a continuation of the bipartisan nature of this effort.”

“I personally come at this issue as a business person who cares about the economic future of California, who cares about the jobs in California as well as the environmental and security issues here,” he said.

Steyer said that as a professional investor for several decades, he knows investors don’t want rules changed in the middle of the game, but rather insist upon seeing a consistent commitment. The capital that has poured into California’s burgeoning green economy in recent years and is projected to increase enormously over the next decade will dry up in a heartbeat if voters roll back the existing law, he said.

Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, campaign finance, economy, energy, Environment, Global warming | 1 Comment »

Perata likes Jerry Brown, local columnist doesn’t

Don and JerryOakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata gave $15,000 on Friday to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown’s campaign. Don’t worry – even with his own campaign to run this year, the Don isn’t strapped for cash, seeing as how the consulting firm he runs with his son has pulled down almost $349,000 from the state prison guards’ union since the start of last year. (On a related note, I’d not noticed before that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s Truth in American Government Fund – one of the two CCPOA funds that paid Perata consulting – also made a $50,000 civic donation in January 2009 to Avalon Village, an Alameda nonprofit providing concierge-like assistance to seniors living in their own homes. Perata’s Hope 2010 ballot measure committee, supporting the tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research initiative he’s helping to put on the 2012 ballot, gave $50,000 to Avalon Village this March; Avalon Village and another agency to which Hope 2010 gave money are headed by a former Perata aide and possible past paramour.)

Meanwhile, the Perata campaign continues its grassroots organizing: The candidate tweeted this morning to thank the 107 volunteers who took part Saturday in a cleanup of East Oakland’s Sobrante Park area, carting away 5,280 gallons of trash. The next Perata community cleanup is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday, July 31 at Shiloh Church, 3295 School St.; others are set for every Saturday in August.

But his electoral rivals are pounding the pavement as well. City Councilwoman Jean Quan held a community meeting in East Oakland on Saturday and a house party in North Oakland on Sunday; City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is holding a fundraiser this Wednesday evening at Everett & Jones Barbecue, 126 Broadway.

In other Jerry news, Oakland columnist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor has launched a “How Very Jerry” website collecting about 75 pieces he wrote about Brown’s Oakland mayoral administration, first for the now-defunct UrbanView newspaper and then for the Berkeley Daily Planet. Says Allen-Taylor in introducing the site:

Just like Jerry Brown, too many high-placed Democratic officeholders too often abandon the traditions and philosophies of the Democratic party when carrying out their official duties these days, hoping that progressives will keep quiet in the November elections to keep from giving aid and comfort to conservatives and Republicans.
But if we always keep quiet, how will this pattern ever end?

Oakland is my home town. I love the city and its people too much to keep quiet when its public officials abuse the power we have given them. And so I choose not to hold my tongue about the years of the Jerry Brown Administration in Oakland.

The columns speak for themselves, and no other explanation is necessary.

It is possible that this website might help the campaign of Republican Meg Whitman who, if anything, would be a worse California governor than Jerry Brown, in my opinion. That cannot be helped. Voters should always go into the booth with their eyes open. If Jerry Brown is to be our next governor, at least Californians should not be able to say that we have not been properly warned.

Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Don Perata, Jean Quan, Jerry Brown, Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan | 7 Comments »

Forum weighs pros and cons of AB 32, Prop. 23

The Bay Area Council held a terrific forum yesterday on AB 32, California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction law, and this November’s Proposition 23, which would suspend the law’s implementation.

The Council, a public policy advocacy organization representing the region’s largest employers, long has been a supporter of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and is already on record in opposition to Prop. 23, which would suspend AB 32’s implementation until the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.5 percent or lower for four consecutive quarters.

Still, the council invited not only opponents of the measure, but also a consultant to the Yes on 23 campaign to address three to four dozen businesspeople at Thursday’s forum in the downtown Oakland offices of the Wendel Rosen Black & Dean law firm.

The forum was lengthy and chock full of interesting but complex information, so this’ll be a long one. Follow me after the jump for the full readout…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, economy, energy, Environment, Global warming | 2 Comments »

‘No Plan’ ad builds on narrative that Brown has no purpose, but (surprise!) takes things out of context

Meg Whitman’s media team, ever on the prowl, digs into the Jerry Brown archives to find a couple of pearls from his vast treasury of quotes — in TV interviews, no less, the elixer of the visual-based reality we live in — to help further along one of the narratives they’ve been building: that he has no plan for pulling California out of its economic disaster.

Aptly, the newest of their statewide TV ads is titled, “No Plan,” and has Brown himself saying, in a pair of interviews in the mid-90s, that he “had no plan for California.” Nicely wrapped up, courtesy of the ever-unbridled Brown.

Here’s the ad:

A slight problem, as always in these 30-second ads, and increasingly and particularly in Whitman’ ads: context.

The first quote is pretty stark. It’s hard to get around the full force of “I had no plan for California.” It sounds like he walked into his first term as governor empty-handed, unprepared and, even more importantly, without purpose.

One person close to Brown conceded that “Jerry occasionally uses language that obscures his meaning. He thinks out loud in that Jesuit-educated way of thinking, where he makes a point not to advance an ideology but to weed out the truth. He likes being bombastic at times.”

The point that Brown was making, said campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford, was that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, particularly for first-time candidates. You think you have a plan, and when you’re confronted with the realities of governing, what you had wasn’t workable.

“Legislative teams are a good example.”

Clifford’s last comment referred to Whitman’s widely-panned idea to create legislative teams to tackle various issues, something that committees already do.

Brown’s second remark that suggested he had “no plan,” was referring to his flat-tax proposal he carried as a presidential candidate in 1992.

Here’s part of the quote, in a 1996 interview on CNN’s Crossfire in which he was asked about Republican candidate Steve Forbes’ own flat tax plan, which gives better context to what he was saying:

“But he’ll find out the flat tax is not enough. You need a real plan, something I’ll acknowledge I did not have, Forbes does not have, nor do I think either Clinton or Dole (have). There is a tremendous skepticism out there. People are looking for somebody they can trust who really knows what needs to be done and can communicate the sense that he’s about to do it. Forbes is an early morning glory here where, whom I think will have a very tough time sustaining it.”

As for whether Brown has a plan now, the Brown campaign has not yet released a 48-page splashy photo-heavy marketing circular to match Whitman’s and may never. But it does have an eight point rewneable energy “action plan” that promises to creat a half million jobs, posted on its website.

Whitman spokesman Dan Comstock called the ad 100 percent accurate.

“Jerry Brown has a 40-year career in politics where he has never had a plan. When he ran for governor, he didn’t have a plan. When he ran for President, he didn’t have a plan. When he ran for Mayor, he didn’t have a plan. And now as he runs for governor, Jerry Brown continues to not offer a plan for California. In the words of Jerry Brown, ‘the plan is the process.’”

Posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »