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Archive for November, 2010

Inside Don Perata’s mayoral election defeat

So former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata – who entered Oakland’s mayoral race with big-time name recognition and fundraising prowess, and who outspent all his rivals enormously – lost the race to City Councilmember Jean Quan. He conceded this morning.

This was Oakland’s first foray into ranked-choice voting, and there were 10 candidates in the field. Perata held the lead in every elimination round until the last, when City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan was cut and her supporters’ second and third choices broke almost three-to-one in Quan’s favor, catapulting her past Perata to win.

In the end, Perata’s somewhat polarizing personality and past may have proved to be his undoing, as many had predicted could happen. People tend to either love him or hate him, with not many in between; those who love him were quick to name him their top choice, and the rest were much less likely to write him in somewhere below.

John Whitehurst, a longtime Perata consultant who was one of three paid by the mayoral campaign, was still shaking his head later Thursday, and basically said his only mistake was not attacking Quan and Kaplan more.

“It’s still hard for me to swallow the fact that we won by 11,000 votes, 10 percent of the vote, and the person that won the election lost in 80 percent of the precincts,” he said.

But Perata didn’t “win” by 11,000 votes – he finished that far ahead in the first round, putting him nowhere close to the 50 percent mark he’d have had to exceed to win outright.

“The purpose of the ranked-choice voting was to make the campaigns shorter, less expensive and less negative and all three turned out to be completely false,” Whitehurst complained, saying that all the new method accomplished was to turn the election into an episode of the reality television show “Survivor,” in which candidates had to build alliances to outlast their rivals.

“Hindsight is always 20-20, and if I were to run the election again, I would’ve gone negative on Jean and negative on Rebecca the way that they went negative on Don,” he continued, noting none of Perata’s campaign literature attacked his rivals.

He acknowledged there were direct mail pieces sent out by independent expenditure committees that attacked Quan, but he said that of a dozen mailings that Quan sent out, 10 attacked Perata in some way.

“We invested a ton of money in field operations,” Whitehurst said. “Jean pretty hypocritically today said hers was a grassroots campaign, but she didn’t have a grassroots campaign, she put out 12 pieces of mail of which 10 were negative.”

Some might find it hard to see how Perata – who outspent Quan by far – was more “grassroots” than Quan, who had a smaller bankroll but still had a substantial number of volunteers pounding the pavement for her. Asked why Perata was paying three different consultants for the same campaign, Whitehurst replied he was only paid about $1,000 per month.

“I was cheaper for that campaign than a basic field organizer was, so don’t go there,” he said. “A campaign that does not have organizers is not a serious grassroots campaign.”

Whitehurst said he believes this outcome will sour Oakland’s electorate on ranked-choice voting. “This is the first time that instant-runoff voting has produced this result. It happened in San Francisco too, and I think you might see people taking another look at the system now that, in three elections, the first place winner didn’t win the race.”

“I think less than 5 percent of the people understand ranked-choice voting; walk outside the office and ask somebody how it works, I don’t think they’ll know,” he charged. “Choosing a leader is not about a game of ‘Survivor’ on TV, y’know? It’s just not.”

Posted on Thursday, November 11th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Don Perata, Jean Quan, Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan | 16 Comments »

CD11: McNerney declares victory, Harmer fights on

Incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, declared victory Wednesday evening in his race to retain his 11th Congressional District seat, saying the remaining ballots couldn’t possibly put Republican challenger David Harmer back on top.

“With the vast majority of votes tallied, the results are clear. Congressman McNerney now has an insurmountable lead,” McNerney campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release.

Not so fast, cautioned Harmer.

“On Election Night, when I led by thousands of votes, and supporters were congratulating me and calling me Congressman, I cautioned that it was too early to claim victory. Many votes remained to be counted,” he said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday evening. “That is still the case tonight. Just as it would have been premature to claim victory then, it would be premature to concede defeat now.

“As I said the day after the election, my objective is to ensure that every legitimate vote is accurately counted. Once that has been done, I will offer a statement about the results.”

As of Wednesday evening, McNerney led Harmer by 1,681 votes, or about seven-tenths of a percent of the almost 231,000 ballots counted. A previous update, on Tuesday night, had shown McNerney up by 2,269 votes, but Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties posted updates Wednesday.

Registrars in the four counties within the district continue to tally votes, and don’t expect to certify their final counts until at least Nov. 24.

McNerney — now seeking a third term in the House of Representatives — leads Harmer — an attorney from San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley area — in Alameda County by about 15.5 percentage points and in Santa Clara County by 8.2 points.

Harmer leads McNerney by about one-fifth of a point in Contra Costa County and by 4.3 points in San Joaquin County, the latter of which includes the largest chunk of the 11th District. San Joaquin County is also where American Independent nominee David Christensen fared best, with almost 7.1 percent of the votes cast; districtwide, he took about 5.1 percent.

McNerney’s campaign argued Wednesday that based on the trends so far, Harmer could close the gap by fewer than 300 votes from the 11,000 remaining provisional and vote-by-mail ballots in San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, while McNerney could expect to pick up more votes than Harmer from among about 700 still-uncounted ballots in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

Posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 59 Comments »

FPPC urges crackdown on ‘thinly veiled’ political ads

California’s political watchdog wants other states to follow it into the wiggle room it sees in a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits and disclosure rules on corporate and union funding of independent political ads in candidate elections.

Fair Political Practices Commission Chairman Dan Schnur sent a letter today to more than 150 state election and campaign-finance officials across the nation, urging them to look more closely at the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling; he says FPPC lawyers have found language in it that paves the way for increased disclosure.

Dan Schnur“Savvy fundraising professionals and campaign legal experts in both major political parties employ huge amounts of imagination and creativity to identify and exploit loopholes that allow their donors to avoid disclosure,” Schnur wrote in the letter. “I urge my fellow reformers in each state of the nation to use the same level of innovation to develop strategies, in an effort to close these loopholes.”

Previously, disclosure was required only when a campaign communication contained specific words or phrases, such as “vote for,” “oppose,” “elect,” etc. But earlier this year, the FPPC adopted a new rule requiring groups that send out campaign messages “expressly advocating” for the election or defeat of a candidate or ballot measure, to disclose who paid for the message – even when those messages do not contain the “magic words” but are “susceptible of no reasonable interpretation, other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate or measure.”

“It would be fundamentally unacceptable to interfere with the First Amendment rights of those who wish to have their voices heard on the issues of the day,” Schnur’s letter said. But the rights of the voters to know who is paying for those political communications are just as important, and I hope you’ll join me in the fight to protect those rights.”

“Make no mistake: the ongoing and escalating efforts to raise greater and greater amounts of political money and to avoid disclosing the sources of those funds are a bipartisan embarrassment,” he wrote. “One party’s advocates howl with outrage only when their opponents have seized a momentary advantage. The outrage is quickly stifled when the same partisans’ allies find their own opportunity to exploit the rules.”

California law defines two kinds of political speech: issue advocacy and express advocacy. Issue advocacy informs the public of matters unrelated to an election and are essentially unregulated; express advocacy urges a particular outcome in an election and is regulated. Those engaged in this latter, regulated speech must follow state rules requiring disclosure of who gave them money and how it was spent, and must identify within their ads that they paid for the political communications seen or heard by voters. This new disclosure applies to messages appearing in the 60 days before an election.

Schnur, now on leave from his post as director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, is a longtime Republican communications and strategy operative.

Posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Under: campaign finance | 2 Comments »

Pete Stark: Profitable insurers should cut premiums

Just as public opinion helped shape the battle over health care reform in 2009 and early this year, so will it affect Republicans’ upcoming effort to repeal the law that was passed.

Pete StarkRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, soon to lose his gavel as House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee chairman now that the GOP is set to take over the House in the next Congress, sent a letter today to the CEOs of 10 for-profit insurance companies to urge them to lower their customers’ premiums in light of higher profits.

The ten companies combined have announced a total of $9.3 billion in profits for the first nine months of 2010; that’s $2.1 billion higher than the first nine months of 2009.

“On average, your profits have gone up 41 percent from last year,” Stark wrote. “Health insurance premiums are eating up more and more of the budgets of working families. Over the past decade, premiums for workers and employers have more than doubled, while family incomes have remained stagnant. I call upon your companies to share the billions you are reaping in higher profits with your policyholders by lowering premiums. Please respond with your plans to pass these profits along to consumers. I appreciate your prompt response to this inquiry.”

“I haven’t heard back from any of them, I’m waiting anxiously for their reply,” he said dryly this afternoon. “We’ve been hammering on them just to hopefully embarrass them and show the public that the health bill features will in many cases force them to hold back their price increases, that’s one of the major benefits to the public at large.”

The Affordable Care Act in 2014 will establish a new competitive insurance marketplace including state-run health insurance exchanges where millions of Americans and small businesses will be able to purchase affordable coverage. Stark said that’s why some insurers want the new GOP House majority to repeal the bill.

“Guilt doesn’t work but the public’s indignation does,” he said. “They need to get the public to try to repeal the health bill and we need to keep the public from doing that. This is all about can we maintain the health care bill and benefits we believe it brings, that’s the basis for all of this … Now that were in the minority, I guess we’re fighting a different battle than we were six months ago, darn it.”

Stark wrote to the CEOs of WellPoint Inc.; Amerigroup Corp.; Healthspring Inc.; Health Net Inc.; UnitedHealth Group Inc.; Humana Inc.; Molina Healthcare Inc.; Centene Corp.; Aetna Inc.; and Coventry Health Care Inc. Some other insurers have acted more responsibly, he said, calling Blue Shield of California “an exemplary group, and Kaiser – Kaiser has been quite admirable. They’ve raised their rates but not unconscionably.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Under: healthcare reform, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

FPPC: No problem with Perata’s campaign loan

There’s no evidence that Don Perata violated the state’s campaign finance laws when he loaned money from his company to his Oakland mayoral campaign, the state’s political watchdog agency says.

Don PerataCalifornia’s Fair Political Practices Commission notified the former state Senate President Pro Tem in an Oct. 14 letter that it had “initiated an investigation of allegations that you may have violated the Political Reform Act when you made a loan of funds from Perata Consulting LLC to finance your mayoral campaign.”

But 12 days later, it sent him another letter saying that based on the FPPC’s review of his campaign finance reports, “we are closing this case with no further action.”

Because no sworn complaint was ever received, the FPPC won’t disclose the source of the allegations that sparked its investigation.

Perata Consulting – run by Perata and his son, Nick Perata – loaned Perata’s mayoral campaign $50,000 on June 30 of this year. The consulting firm’s major client over the past two years has been the California Correctional Peace Officers Association; the prison guards’ union’s committees have paid Perata Consulting a total of at least $468,893.81. CCPOA committees also have paid at least $57,548.75 to Liquid Logistics, a company run by Nick Perata.

Despite Perata’s record spending in this campaign, the Oakland mayoral race remains too close to call as the Alameda County voter registrar continues counting last-minute vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. This was Oakland’s first outing with ranked-choice voting, and although Perata led his competitors in a preliminary first-choice count, a subsequent, unofficial tally of second- and third-choice votes showed City Councilwoman Jean Quan in the lead.

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, campaign finance, Don Perata, Oakland | 5 Comments »

Poizner sues to further Iran divestiture

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner says he’s suing to challenge last month’s finding by the state’s administrative regulation watchdog that his efforts to stop insurers from investing in Iran amount to an “underground regulation.”

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit – in which Poizner is represented by state Attorney General (and Governor-elect) Jerry Brown – contests the California Office of Administrative Law determination – which had been sought by insurance companies – and seeks to clarify Poizner’s authority to address “insurer support of the Iranian terror regime and the solvency of insurer investment portfolios,” his office said in a news release.

“I intend to ensure that any insurance company licensed in California is not doing business, in any way, with the Iranian regime,” Poizner said in the release. “Insurance premium dollars that Californians pay should not end up supporting a regime that has shown time and time again its disregard for the concerns of the global community. The consensus is clear, as seen in the sanctions that the United Nations, the European Union, the U.S. government, and the California Legislature have imposed over the past two years — responsible businesses should not be doing business with Iran. Since companies doing business with Iran face financial risk, I have the authority to protect insurer portfolios from investments in those companies.”

Poizner’s release said recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicate divestment actions like this and other sanctions are “posing significant hurdles to the country’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.”

Poizner in June 2009 launched an initiative to identify Iran-related investments in the portfolios of insurers doing business in California, asking that the 1,300 insurers licensed here identify all investments in companies doing business with the Iranian nuclear, defense, and energy sectors. His department identified 50 companies, including the well-known corporations Royal Dutch Shell and Siemens, with ongoing business activities in Iran. This spring, Poizner requested a “moratorium,” calling on insurers not to make any new investments in companies on his list; more than 1,000 signed onto this moratorium.

Poizner’s release says financial reports that insurers file quarterly with his department show his initiative produced change: The insurance industry last year had invested nearly $1 billion in companies on his list, but that figure plummeted to $32 million in new investments during 2010’s second quarter of 2010, the first quarter in which the moratorium was in effect. The value of existing insurer investments in companies on the list declined by $337 million dollars in 2010, indicating that some insurers are moving beyond the moratorium and actually divesting Iran-related assets that had been acquired over the previous two decades.

“These numbers tell a promising story, both in the reduced involvement of California insurers in Iranian business activities and by demonstrating that insurers can drop companies on the Department’s list from their investment portfolios without adversely affecting their investment returns,” Poizner said.

UPDATE @ 4:14 P.M.: The Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, Association of California Insurance Companies, Personal Insurance Federation of California, American Insurance Association and American Council of Life Insurers just issued this joint statement:

“Our associations asked the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to review the Department of Insurance’s directives on insurer investments because we believe that the department, just like all other state agencies, must obey the law.

“When the Department of Insurance adopts regulations, it must follow the requirements that the Legislature established in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The OAL determined last month that the department should have followed the APA when the department issued its directives. We believe the OAL is correct.

“Our associations do not support or defend any insurer that makes investments that violate state or federal law, which prohibit investments in Iran and other terrorist regimes. We asked the OAL for a determination simply to resolve the issue of the Department of Insurance’s compliance with the APA.”

UPDATE @ 1:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY: OAL Director Susan Lapsley is not amused, according to a statement she issued in response to Poizner’s announcement. Read all about it, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Under: Iran, Steve Poizner | No Comments »

Cooley’s lead widens, but Harris isn’t worried

Republican Steve Cooley’s lead over Democrat Kamala Harris in the race for state attorney general has widened to 44,058 votes, or half a percentage point of all those cast, according to the secretary of state’s latest update at 9:14 a.m. this morning.

But Harris’ campaign warns against drawing any conclusions from the daily changes in the vote count.

“Basically what you’re looking at is heavily skewed reporting from good Cooley counties and a lot of our best performing counties have yet to report in any significant numbers,” spokesman Brian Brokaw said a few minutes ago.

Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties posted a lot of late returns over the weekend, he said. But while Orange County might account for 8 to 9 percent of the state’s vote total when all is said and done, it has accounted for about 25 percent of the late votes posted since Tuesday, pushing the numbers in Cooley’s direction.

So, Brokaw said, when big Democratic strongholds such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alameda counties finish counting their vote-by-mail and provisional ballots, Harris should regain the lead and finish on top.

UPDATE @ 4:01 P.M.: As of the 11:51 a.m. update to the secretary of state’s site, Cooley’s lead has been cut to 19,189 votes; Harris’ people tell me Santa Clara County helped her close the gap, and other Democrat-heavy counties are yet to come.

UPDATE @ 6:52 P.M.: And as of the 5:06 p.m. update, Cooley is up by 40,958.

Posted on Monday, November 8th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley | 22 Comments »

Cooley widens lead over Harris in AG’s race

Republican Steve Cooley has widened his lead of Democrat Kamala Harris in the race for state attorney general, according to the vote-counting update filed to the secretary of state’s website at 12:49 a.m. this morning.

Cooley is up by 24,276 votes, about 0.3 percent of votes cast in the contest. That’s a tiny lead, but wider than any that has existed since Tuesday night; Harris had been up for a few days, and then Cooley pulled into the lead on Friday by 16,095 votes.

Harris’ lead in Cooley’s home Los Angeles County has increased in recent days from about 259,000 to 261,255. But Cooley has benefitted more as additional returns come in from conservative strongholds such as Orange and San Diego counties, as his campaign had suggested would happen.

There still are many ballots to be counted, so this is far from over, but it must be excruciating for the candidates and those who worked so hard on their campaigns.

Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley | 10 Comments »

CD11: Court dispute continues Monday, McNerney holds small lead

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney inched his way toward re-election as updated counts today showed him with a slim 548-vote lead over opponent and GOP nominee David Harmer.

But the outcome is still a long way from settled.

The gap represents a tiny 0.3 percentage points of the 176,108 votes counted in the 11th Congressional District, which remains one of nine House races nationwide still too close to call. The four county elections offices within the 11th District are plowing through the uncounted mail-in and provisional ballots but thousands of votes remain to be processed.

The fiercely contested race also had its first day in court today, as Republicans sought to force Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir to allow their election-count observers to challenge the veracity of signatures on vote-by-mail envelopes.

A Contra Costa County judicial commissioner declined to sign a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the signature verification process but kicked the dispute into Superior Court, where it is set for a full hearing Monday morning.

Weir said state law specifically allows pollworkers to challenge a voter’s right to cast a ballot and those who present proof before the election that an individual who was issued a vote-by-mail ballot is ineligible to vote. Election count observers, he said, are permitted only to question whether workers are following established procedures.

Every voter whose eligibility comes into question has the right to answer the allegation, Weir said, and allowing casual observers to challenge a voter after the fact is “not going to happen,” Weir said. “If a judge orders it, then we’ll have to see what we do next.”

GOP attorney Charles Bell argued that observation alone cannot ensure election accuracy. He told the court that Weir has failed to provide adequate access to the signature-verification process and observers should have the right to challenge a signature that doesn’t appear to match the original signature in the county’s voter registration database.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

I also thought readers might be interested in the county-by-county breakdowns as of this afternoon:

ALAMEDA COUNTY (15.5 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 42.6 percent, 11,950 votes
  • McNerney: 57.4 percent, 16,086 votes
  • GAP: 14.8 percent, or 4,136 votes, in McNerney’s favor

CONTRA COSTA (24.6 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 50.4 percent, 24,070 votes
  • McNerney: 49.6 percent, 23,718 percent
  • GAP: 0.7 points, or 352 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (53.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 52.5 percent, 45,958 votes
  • McNerney: 47.5 percent, 41,612 votes
  • GAP: 5 points, or 4,346 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (5.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 45.6 percent, 5,802 votes
  • McNerney: 54 percent, 6,912 votes
  • GAP: 8.7 points, or 1,110 votes, in McNerney’s favor

TOTAL

  • Harmer: 49.8 percent, of 87,780 votes
  • McNerney: 50.2 percent, or 88,328 votes
  • GAP: 0.3 percent, or 548 votes, in McNerney’s favor

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 31 Comments »

Money map shows labor’s fatal flaws in ballot battles

Maplight.org has just produced its exhaustive and very helpful breakdown of the influence game that was played out on the ballot measure battlefield this fall, which you can access here, and some numbers are worth looking at briefly here.

First a backdrop: Propositions 25 and 26 were both approved, which means lawmakers will be able to pass budgets on simple majority votes but they won’t be able to raise revenues — fees or taxes – without a two-thirds vote. So, essentially, the majority Democrats now have all the responsibility of getting budgets on time without the ability to raise revenues to balance the budget.

If you look at the interests behind each ballot measure, it is no surprise that you’ll find Democratic constituencies — labor groups — behind Prop. 25 and Republican allies — business groups — behind Prop. 26.

Labor groups contributed a lot of money — $10.8 million of the total $12.1 million spent on behalf of Prop. 25, and it paid off. Voters approved the majority vote initiative by a 54.8 percent to 45.2 percent vote. 

But here’s where the strategy of labor organizations is confounding. For Prop. 25 to have any teeth, it was essential to defeat Prop. 26. Yet, while the proponents of Prop. 26 were spending $18.3 million to get voters behind it, the opposition could only muster $6.3 million to kill it.

The top contributor to the anti-26 campaign, the state Democratic party, put in $1.3 million, while the powerful California Teachers Association offered up a piddling $500,000 (in addition to the $1.3 million it contributed to the Prop. 25 campaign).

Where did the CTA put most of its money? Into Prop. 24, the ballot measure that would have rescinded $2 billion in tax relief to corporations. The CTA contributed $8.9 million to that effort, which went down in flames, with 58.5 percent of voters rejecting it.

That money would have been much better spent convincing voters that Prop. 26 is a threat to vital fees that cover, among many important functions, the cost of environmental cleanup (not to mention the needed flexibility for putting together a budget balanced by cuts and revenues).

Instead, the CTA and other labor groups went off on a vengeful hunt for corporate dollars, losing sight of the real prize.

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »