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Archive for October, 2011

Dellums a Democratic sellout? Not really.

There’s no denying Ron Dellums ended his Oakland mayoral term last year under a cloud, his long legislative legacy having lost some of its luster, but new criticism that he has “sold his soul” by working for a former GOP congressman’s company seems like a stretch.

KTVU reported that Dellums, 75, a lifelong Democrat and a liberal lion during his decades in the House, has gone to work for Watts Partners, a lobbying and consulting firm co-founded and chaired by former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla.

“It feels that he’s betrayed the party. He’s betrayed the public. He’s betrayed his ideals,” KTVU quoted Democratic activist and former Oakland City Council candidate Nancy Sidebotham as saying. “The bottom line with the economy the way it is today you’ve got to look for where the dollars going to come in and he’s hurting for money and that’s why he sold his soul.”

But while Watts and Elroy Sailor, the firm’s co-founder and CEO clearly are Republicans – Sailor worked for Republicans including Michigan Gov. John Engler and U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich. – there were Democrats on the firm’s senior staff long before Dellums joined up, bolstering the firm’s home page’s boast of “over 100 years of bipartisan experience.”

For example, managing partner Steve Pruitt previously worked as a senior aide and committee staff director for House Budget Committee Chairman and Majority Whip William Gray III, D-Pa. Senior advisor Tammy Boyd worked for Democrats including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. And senior associate Jaimon Jackson formerly worked for Democrats including Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Md., and Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening.

Considering that Dellums went stumping for President Obama in 2008 (albeit only after having endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary), hiring him seems like a strategically sound choice for further beefing up Watts’ firm’s Democratic connections.

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Under: Ron Dellums | 7 Comments »

NRCC launches Solyndra ad against Garamendi

The National Republican Congressional Committee is going after Rep. John Garamendi with a television ad that attacks him for supporting the Obama Administration policies which brought about the loan guarantee to now-bankrupt Fremont solar manufacturer Solyndra.

It’ll be playing for about two weeks on cable channels serving the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District in which Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is seeking re-election next year. The NRCC in recent years has run such ads in the Bay Area only against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – the only local member the national GOP has seen as vulnerable.

But the NRCC believes redistricting has left Garamendi much more vulnerable than he used to be. They say that his new district will vote far less partisan Democrat; that when he ran statewide for lieutenant governor in 2006, he lost this area; and that – as I wrote Monday – GOP challenger Kim Doblow Vann raised more money than he did in the third quarter of this year, with more money in the bank as of Sept. 30.

Here’s the script:

OFF SCREEN CHARACTER: “My name is Nancy and I have a problem.”
OFF SCREEN GROUP OF CHARACTERS: “Hi Nancy.”
ANNOUNCER: The Washington politicians need some therapy for their addiction.
OFF SCREEN: “Hi Barack.”
ANNOUNCER: They have an addiction to wasting government money and gambling on risky loans.
The government just lost millions on a bankrupt solar energy company called Solyndra.
President Obama blamed the loss on a gambling philosophy.
OBAMA: “That’s exactly what the loan guarantee program was designed by Congress to do, was to take bets.”
ANNOUNCER: Take bets? With tax dollars?
The Obama administration loaned money to Solyndra even after they’d been warned it was financially unstable.
OBAMA: The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.
ANNOUNCER: John Garamendi supported the Obama policy that loaned Solyndra money.
Garamendi backed Obama’s failed stimulus economic policy.
John Garamendi and President Obama are making our economy worse.
DISCLAIMER: The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

I’ll post comments from Garamendi as soon as I get ‘em; check back for updates.

UPDATE @ 8:18 A.M. WEDNESDAY: Garamendi sent me his response to the ad this morning:

“If we’re going to make it in America, we need to Make It In America. By drastically cutting our nation’s investments in clean energy manufacturing and research, Tea Party Republicans would prefer to destroy jobs in the United States and encourage the outsourcing of American jobs. Imagine where our country would be today if we just gave up after early setbacks in the space program, the Internet, and medical research. The quitters were wrong then; they’re wrong now.

“The Solyndra loan guarantee didn’t pan out, and that is unfortunate. It is even more unfortunate that the Republican Party is using this as an opportunity to malign investments in clean energy manufacturing at a time when we need to come together for the good of our nation to Make It In America again. In California alone, six large solar facilities that received loans from the same Recovery Act program as Solyndra are on track to create 4,000 good construction jobs over the next five years. There are more than 100,000 solar jobs in America, double the number that existed in 2009, largely thanks to government investments. Jobs and American recovery will not come from surrendering entire industries to China.”

UPDATE @ 12:38 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Apparently this was previously scheduled, but now it’ll be another opportunity for Garamendi to hammer his point home – he’s doing a news conference tomorrow with the BlueGreen Alliance at PG&E’s Vaca-Dixon Solar Station near Vacaville, to emphasize the importance of passing legislation to invest in clean energy research and American-made manufacturing.

“The number of jobs in solar energy has doubled to more than 100,000 since 2009, largely thanks to smart public investments in our clean energy future,” he said in a news release today. As with GPS, the Internet, and medical breakthroughs, government can spur innovation that allows new industries to blossom and enables businesses to employ millions of Americans.”

The Vaca-Dixon Solar Station, a two-megawatt solar pilot project completed in June 2010, is part of PG&E’s five-year plan to promote development of up to 500 megawatts of medium-sized solar photovoltaic projects in its service area; the company says this will help meet California’s AB 32 climate-change goals. The solar panels at the facility were assembled in America.

UPDATE @ 3:20 P.M. THURSDAY: The final update (I hope). Garamendi is now raising campaign money off the NRCC ad, with an e-mail alert that went out today. It said, in part:

We knew it would come to this. Washington Republicans are now running outrageous attack ads against me for supporting American-made clean energy investments.

Republicans are using these misleading attack ads to distort the truth about clean energy. If the Tea Party has its way, we will surrender our clean energy future to China and other competitors.

So long as I’m in Congress, I’ll do all I can to stop them. We need to Make It In America if we’re going to make it in America. But, we need urgent Rapid Response funds to fight back and spread the truth about their misleading attacks. We have set a goal to raise $10,000 before Monday for our efforts. Will you help us with an urgent gift today of $25, $50 or more right now?

Contribute $25. $50 or even $100 or more today before Monday’s urgent Rapid Response deadline…

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
Under: John Garamendi, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Obama nominates Cal alumnus to 9th Circuit court

President Obama today nominated a Cal alumnus and former federal prosecutor to serve on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Paul Watford, 44, of Pasadena, is an appellate litigation partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles, where he has worked since 2001. A registered Democrat, his work spans administrative, antitrust, consumer class action, state and federal constitutional, and securities law issues, and he has authored or edited briefs in nearly 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Paul J. Watford has displayed exceptional dedication to the legal profession through his work and I am honored to nominate him to serve the American people as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals,” the president said in announcing the nomination. “He will be a diligent, judicious and esteemed addition to the 9th Circuit bench.”

An Orange County native, Watford earned his bachelor’s degree in 1989 from the University of California, Berkeley and his law degree in 1994 from the UCLA School of Law, where he graduated Order of the Coif and served as an editor of the UCLA Law Review.

Watford then served as a law clerk to 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, and then – from 1995 to 1996 – as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

He first joined Munger Tolles as an associate in 1996, working on trial and appellate matters, but then became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in California’s Central District in 1997. There, he prosecuted federal. He joined the firm of Sidley & Austin LLP in Los Angeles as an associate in 2000 before returning to Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP the following year and becoming a partner in 2003. Watford also served as a lecturer in law from 2007 to 2009 at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, teaching an upper-level course in judicial opinion writing.

Watford will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before the lifetime appointment is his. Circuit judges earn an annual salary of $184,500.

Posted on Monday, October 17th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency | 11 Comments »

California Medical Assoc. calls for legalizing pot

The California Medical Association has adopted an official policy recommending that marijuana be legalized and regulated, the first statewide medical association in the nation to take this official position.

The policy is based on a white paper which concluded doctors should have access to better research, which isn’t possible under the current federal ban. The association’s board of trustees, a representative body of physician delegations across the state, adopted the policy without objection.

“CMA may be the first organization of its kind to take this position, but we won’t be the last. This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds,” CMA President-elect Dr. James Hay said in a news release. “As physicians, we need to have a better understanding about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis so that we can provide the best care possible to our patients.”

Marijuana is currently listed on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, a list of drugs that “have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” The CMA policy says it should be rescheduled to a less-restrictive status.

“There simply isn’t the scientific evidence to understand the benefits and risks of medical cannabis,” CMA Board Chair Dr. Paul Phinney said. “We undertook this issue a couple of years ago and the report presented this weekend is clear- in order for the proper studies to be done, we need to advocate for the legalization and regulation.”

The CMA Council on Scientific Affairs developed medical cannabis recommendation guidelines for physicians indicating the limited conditions for which the medical use of cannabis may be effective, but current literature is inadequate, dosages aren’t well standardized and side effects may not be tolerated.

But the CMA’s new policy also calls for regulation and evaluation of recreational marijuana use.

“We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients,” Phinney said. “Currently, medical and recreational cannabis have no mandatory labeling standards of concentration or purity. First, we’ve got to legalize it so that we can properly study and regulate it.”

Doctors in California can merely “recommend” medical marijuana, not prescribe it, due to the conflict between state and federal laws.

Posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Under: marijuana | 3 Comments »

Jerry Brown’s ‘Steve Jobs Day’ proclamation

Here’s the proclamation issued this afternoon by California Gov. Jerry Brown, declaring tomorrow – Sunday, Oct. 16 – as “Steve Jobs Day,” honoring the late entrepreneur and Apple cofounder, chairman and CEO.

In his life and work, Steve Jobs embodied the California dream. To call him influential would be an understatement. His innovations transformed an industry, and the products he conceived and shepherded to market have changed the way the entire world communicates. Most importantly, his vision helped put powerful technologies, once the exclusive domain of big business and government, in the hands of ordinary consumers. We have only just begun to see the outpouring of creativity and invention that this democratization of technology has made possible.

It is fitting that we mark this day to honor his life and achievements as a uniquely Californian visionary. He epitomized the spirit of a state that an eager world watches to see what will come next.

NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim October 16, 2011, as “Steve Jobs Day.”

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Civil rights icons kick off lecture series in Oakland

Two renowned civil rights activists who worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will speak Thursday in Oakland, the debut of a lecture series intended to inspire new activist leadership.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced that Dorothy Cotton and the Rev. C.T. Vivian will be the inaugural speakers of the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series, produced by Merritt College and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center.

Cotton served with King as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s education director; after King’s assassination, she worked with Coretta Scott King in organizing and constructing the King Center in Atlanta. Vivian served with King on the SCLC’s executive board and played a key role in the historic Freedom Rides into Mississippi as well as in organizing the 1963 March on Washington where King delivered the “I have a dream” speech. Vivian now heads a leadership institute in Atlanta addressing the academic gap based on race and economic standing in public education.

The lecture series aims to foster an exchange of ideas that will inspire new “servant leadership.” Organizers caution it’s not just meant as a history lesson, but as a message to inspire new organization and activism around today’s American struggles and the pain caused by the economic crisis – job losses, increased poverty, a rise in foreclosures and loss of buying power.

“A servant leader is someone who is first a servant, one who accepts the responsibility of being in the world, and so he or she contributes to the well-being of the people and the community,” Roy Wilson, the King Freedom Center’s director, said in a news release. “Extrinsic and material rewards are important, but without a focus on the essential human values inherent in the principles of service and community we help create chaos.”

Cotton and Vivian will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Oakland Marriott City Center hotel and convention center. Tickets are $10, or $5 for students and seniors, and are available by calling the King Freedom Center at 510-587-7896. Cotton and Vivian also will present a free lecture earlier Thursday for Merritt College students and faculty.

Th lecture series will continue in February with Bob Zellner, formerly of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Jack Hunter O’Dell, formerly with the SCLC Voter Education Project. And in April, there’ll be a lecture by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who as the SNCC’s director worked with King to integrate youth and students into the civil rights movement.

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Real (fire)men wear pink

Kudos to Central Contra Costa Fire Chief Daryl Louder for giving the go-ahead for firefighters to wear pink shirts while on duty in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Excellent.

Central Contra Costa Fire District fire personnel at Station 14 in Martinez. From left to right: engineer Paul Silva; firefighter John Lane; and Captain Martin Dunlap. The district is celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo courtesy of Confire Chief Daryl Louder.

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 6 Comments »

Cash-strapped courts offer traffic-ticket amnesty

How hard up for cash are California’s courts? So much that they’re granting partial amnesty to traffic scofflaws.

The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts announced Thursday that Superior Courts in all 58 counties are offering a 50-percent-off discount on some old unpaid traffic tickets – a limited-time amnesty program” for certain outstanding court debt.

Only traffic tickets that were due to be paid in full before Jan. 1, 2009 are eligible, and parking tickets, driving under the influence (DUI), and reckless driving cases are not eligible. To qualify, you have to have either failed to appear in court or failed to pay in full; you can’t owe restitution to a victim on any case within the county where the traffic case was filed, and you can’t have any outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants in that county.

The courts estimate more than six million cases statewide could qualify.

“This is a win-win,” Ronald Overholt, the interim administrative director of the courts, said in a news release. “People have an opportunity to clear their traffic tickets at a reduced cost, and the courts and the counties will get an injection of much-needed funds to help maintain critical services for the public.”

The program will begin Jan. 1 and end June 30, 2012; contact your county’s court during that time for further details.

The amnesty program was authorized by AB 1358 by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, which the state Senate approved unanimously and the Assembly approved 77-1; Gov Jerry Brown signed it into law Sunday.

California’s courts are facing an unprecedented financial crisis.

“This year, the judicial branch budget is only 2.4 percent of the state budget and we also unwillingly contributed $1.1 billion back to the General Fund,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the State Bar of California at its annual meeting last month in Long Beach. “That’s 2.4 percent of the state budget to protect the constitutional rights of 38 million Californians, to provide a place for the resolution of civil disputes, to protect public rights, and to protect the rule of law.”

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011
Under: state budget | 2 Comments »

Center for Governmental Studies is shutting down

A prominent California political think tank headed by the godfather of the state’s political watchdog reforms is shutting down, a victim of the recession.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies issued a news release Thursday night saying it will be closing its Los Angeles offices “after 28 years of service in the public interest.”

“The recession has depleted our funding, and we cannot continue to operate CGS in its present form,” wrote President Bob Stern and Vice Chair and CEO Tracy Westen. “The CGS board and leadership have therefore reluctantly concluded that it is necessary to close.”

Stern, Westen and a few former staff members will finish a few projects before moving on to other ventures.

Stern – a former attorney for the Assembly Elections Committee and then for the Secretary of State’s office – was the principal co-author of California’s Political Reform Act of 1974 and became the first general counsel of the Fair Political Practices Commission. He also was a principal drafter of Los Angeles’ ethics and public campaign finance laws in 1990. The release said he expects to continue work as an expert consultant, public speaker and political commentator.

The center’s website will remain live, as will as its PolicyArchive, Video Voter and ConnectLA sites.

Stern’s and Westen’s statement said the center has been guided by the principle “that 21st century democracy can only be improved by efforts both to reform the underlying structures of government and to use new communications technologies to inform citizens and help them participate in their governments.”

Read about some of the center’s past projects, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Fox targets Rep. Miller but gets its facts wrong

CHECK OUT MY FULL STORY HERE. POSTED 4:40 PM OCT. 17, 2011

Fox cable pundits such as Sean Hannity are naming Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and his lobbyist son, George IV, as unholy kingpins in SunPower’s successful bid for $1.2 billion in federal loans to create jobs in Mexico. (See update below.)

It’s provocative but all untrue.

George Miller IV is a California lobbyist and a partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller. Yes, SunPower retained the firm but only for state-level lobbying activities. Its state lobbyist is Bob Giroux. No, George IV is not a federal lobbyist. And he told Media Matters for America, a web site where much of this stuff has been debunked (see more about this site below), that he has never even worked on the SunPower state account.

More important, no one needs to lobby Congressman Miller to support solar projects. He has been a vocal advocate for alternative energies for decades.

SunPower’s is headquartered in San Jose but it has a research and development facility in Miller’s district in Richmond. In October 2010, he toured SunPower’s R/D facility in Richmond along with Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and SunPower CEO Tom Werner.

In July 2009, Miller and Werner were among many sponsors of a meeting of the Council on Competitiveness Energy Summit held at Moffett Field.

Media Matters found no evidence that SunPower is likely to  go the way of  Solyndra, another Silicon Valley-based solar company that gained massive notoriety and triggered a federal investigation when it suddenly defaulted on its Department of Energy loans. In fact, they found the opposite. Media Matters noted that analysts in a New York Times piece found SunPower “srongly placed” in the market. Other experts have said there is little chance SunPower will default.

Media Matters also refuted the allegation that the federal dollars will be used to create jobs in Mexico. The loan guarantee is for the construction of a 250-megawatt solar farm in San Luis Obispo County.  Yes, the company is building a manufacturing facility in Mexico but it is also building one in Milpitas, neither of which will require the use of  federal dollars.

How did this all get started with the Millers?

The first mention of Miller and his son, George IV,  in connection with SunPower appears to have been in Human Events, a conservative web site.  From there, the story spread to the cable shows with apparently little effort to verify the information. Even a local blog, Claycord.com, posted a Hannity video clip with a lead-in that says the congressman is involved in a “scandal.”

The story has also spawned concern in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, which signed a contract with SunPower for the installation of solar panels on school facilities.

Reasonable people may disagree on the merits of federal investment in the alternative energies market but there is no scandal involving the Millers and SunPower.

UPDATE 9:40 AM FRIDAY: Critics have rightfully noted that I failed to state that Media Matters is a web site dedicated to debunking statements made by conservatives. But honestly, Media Matters’ motives are irrelevant. If I only listened to entities that had pure motives, I would listen to almost no one.

I linked to this site because it contains a long list of direct links to articles elsewhere that contain the facts, not opinions by Media Matters, which are clear:

  • Congressman Miller’s son, George IV, is not a SunPower lobbyst and he played no role in the company’s receipt of a federal Department of Energy Loan.  If he had been a SunPower lobbyist, I would have written an entirely different post.
  • Numerous financial experts quoted in reputable news organizations such as the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have found SunPower to be a viable business and unlikely to default on its federal loan guarantee.

In further reporting late yesterday, a colleague who covers business in the Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News confirmed that SunPower is using the federal loan guarantee to build a solar farm in San Luis Obispo, not open a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

And I just got off the phone with the congressman and he tells me that his involvement in SunPower’s application for a federal loan guarantee consisted of a letter of support he and Rep. Zoe Lofgren wrote to the Department of Energy recommending its approval.

Again, there is no scandal involving SunPower and Congressman Miller.

If there was a scandal, you can bet I would be all over it because reporters love scandals. We live for them.

But I am also cognizant of the fact that as public confidence in all forms of government continues its devastating downward spiral, I have an equal responsibility to challenge inaccurate accusations. The utter disregard by people on both ends of the political spectrum for facts is downright scary.

Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Under: Congress, Environment, George Miller | 14 Comments »