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Archive for February, 2012

Californians among Obama campaign’s co-chairs

Several Californians – including a tech mogul, a statewide elected officer and a big-city mayor – are among President Obama’s national campaign co-chairs, the ambassadors who’ll advise the campaign and help mobilize voters.

On the list are Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff of San Francisco; Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo; California Attorney General Kamala Harris; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; actress Eva Longoria of Los Angeles; and actor Kalpen Modi, a former White House Office of Public Engagement aide who’s now pursuing a graduate certificate in international security at Stanford University.

“The President’s National Co-Chairs will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history,” said Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager. “They each share the President’s vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”

Benioff had opened his opulent home for a $35,800-a-head fundraiser for the president’s campaign last April. “His focus on American jobs and support for companies that create jobs here in America are just what we need to keep this recovery moving,” he said in today’s news release.

Harris was active in Obama’s 2008 campaign, building ties that stood her in good stead when she ran for her current office in 2010.

“Since taking office, the President has worked tirelessly to provide relief for struggling middle-class families and to lay a foundation for a strong economy that’s built to last,” she said in today’s release. “The President’s leadership and vision for the future will continue to move the country forward, rather than taking us back to the failed policies of the past.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a …

Cowboy Libertarian blogger Patrick Dorinson pens an essay on how government operates on the Scarlett O’Hara Theory of Government:

Our current crop of politicians operates according to the Scarlett O’Hara Theory of Government based on the main character in Margaret Mitchell’s 1938 classic “Gone with the Wind”.

 Its main tenet was expressed neatly by Scarlett at the end of the movie when she said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow because after all tomorrow is another day!”

 Meanwhile, the bills keep piling up, the debt is left untouched and the train wreck of the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare grow worse by the day.

Posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Under: political humor | 2 Comments »

Pete Stark & Eric Swalwell face off in Dublin

Rhetorical sparks flew tonight as Rep. Pete Stark crossed paths for the first time on the campaign trail with his Democratic challenger, Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell.

The Tri Valley Democratic Club’s candidates’ night drew a capacity crowd of about 200 people to the IBEW hall in Dublin, with most there to see the 15th Congressional District faceoff between Stark, 80, and Swalwell, 31. Though the two candidates have a lot in common on the issues, there were elbows thrown aplenty.

Swalwell won the straw poll at the end of the evening, 32-19 – unsurprising given that this is his home club, in which he’s been active for years. The outcome was foretold by the much louder applause and cheering he got compared to Stark’s earlier in the evening.

Stark, D-Fremont, had won the coin toss, but chose to have Swalwell go first. Swalwell led off by touting his local roots and said he has worked on behalf of working families and small businesses as a Dublin city councilman, but quickly turned the lens toward his opponent.

“We need new energy and new ideas, we need someone who is going to step up and lead,” he said, noting Stark has been in the House for nearly 40 years. “I respect that, but 40 years is a long time and if you do not stay sharp, you can become out of step, out of touch and out of sight.”

That’s the case with Stark, he said, who lives in Maryland and doesn’t visit often; he also said Stark blocked all media from one of his town hall meetings last weekend. (Actually, Stark holds a series of three such town-hall meetings just about every month, and barred a television camera from last weekend’s event, not all reporters.)

Asked by an audience member how he intends to stay in touch with this community if elected and sent to Washington, Swalwell replied, “I’m not going to live there.”

Stark’s fiery and sometimes controversial rhetoric has rendered him ineffective, Swalwell accused, as evidenced a few years ago when the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee came open and Stark was the most senior Democrat. “Our party’s leaders had to step in when Congressman Stark was slated to become the chairman of one of the most powerful committees in Congress.”

And Stark missed more than one in five votes in the last session, he said. “If Congressman Stark does not live here and he is not voting in Washington, D.C., it begs the question where is he, what is he doing and how can he help us in these tough economic times?”

“I imagine that Congressman Stark and I will agree on many issues,” Swalwell said, both of them being Democrats. It’s not about who moves the district to the left or the right, he said, but about who can move it forward.

Stark, in rebuttal, said “the Stark family has been here well over 40 years doing things for this community,” and he has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Democratic party and the often-needy people it’s supposed to represent.

In response to Swalwell’s barb about his residency, he said, “It would be just about impossible until we have some kind of rockets… to represent you in Congress and not live in the Washington, D.C. area.” He said that he’s here in the district every other weekend, and that he missed some votes due to his hospitalization for pneumonia, but also needs to consider the needs of his 16-year-old son and 10-year-old twins.

Stark likened the situation to deciding whom you’d choose to do your heart surgery: a student fresh out of medical school or a seasoned surgeon with many operations under his belt. “Only in politics have I heard that having no experience is better than having some experience.”

During the Q&A, Sergio Santos – a United Auto Workers local president from the former NUMMI plant in Fremont – said Stark has been anything but out of touch with auto workers, to whom he gave great support following the plant’s closing. They will support him now, he said.

Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman Robin Torello noted Stark has the party’s endorsement as well, and that Stark has been a champion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Stark said Republicans are putting those programs at risk, and trying to undo President Obama’s health care reforms.

“Their policy is to not see the president succeed at anything,” Stark said. “It’s pure politics.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are concerned with helping those unable to help themselves, he said.

Swalwell went to the front of the room to shake Stark’s hand when both were done.

Club President Ellis Goldberg said it was the most crowded meeting he could recall. Amid that sea of Democrats was indepdendent 15th District candidate Chris Pareja, 39, of Hayward, a Tea Party conservative.

“Eric came off as much more aggressive than the typical Pete,” Pareja obersved afterward, adding he thinks district voters want to hear less about age and residence and more debate on issues such as fiscal policy and overencroachment of government on private rights. He said both Stark and Swalwell appeared willing to engage in a three-way debate with him sometime soon.

The evening’s undercard included speeches from Democratic incumbents without Democratic challengers this primary season: state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; and Alameda County Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley. County supervisorial seats are nonpartisan, but Miley is a lifelong Democrat while Haggerty switched from Republican to Democrat in 2009.

Posted on Monday, February 20th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 38 Comments »

The great Stark-Swalwell smackdown, this Monday

They oughta sell programs and popcorn at this one: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and his Democratic upstart challenger Eric Swalwell will both be at the TriValley Democratic Club’s candidates night this coming Monday, and I’ll be surprised if some sparks don’t fly.

Pete StarkThe event begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20 in the IBEW Local 595 hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin; it’s open to the public. Each candidate will have a few minutes for an opening statement and then answer questions from the audience; a straw poll will be taken after all the candidates have spoken.

Stark’s office recently confirmed to me that he’ll be there; Swalwell says he will, too. I’m not aware of the two of them having crossed paths since Swalwell – an Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin councilman – declared his candidacy in September.

Eric SwalwellStark, 80, is known for his plain-spoken and occasionally… [ahem] colorful dialogue; Swalwell, 31, has been pounding the pavement trying to portray Stark as having been in office so long that he’s far out of touch with voters. Each says he’s best qualified to serve the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, but this club is Swalwell’s home turf. I’ll be curious to see what they say when they’re face-to-face.

Invited candidates for offices not contested by other Democrats include Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; state Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; and Alameda County Supervisors Nate Miley and Scott Haggerty.

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Campaign touts Obama’s record on manufacturing

The Obama campaign held a conference call Friday to tout how great the president’s policies have been for manufacturing growth and job creation in California, but the call’s headliner never showed up and few California-specific examples were offered.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was supposed to be on the call, which was meant to mark the third anniversary of the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. Organizers later said a scheduling problem prevented Newsom from joining in.

Ro Khanna of Fremont, a former Assistant Deputy Secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce – and the guy we recently noted is raising money like gangbusters for an eventual run in the 15th Congressional District – told reporters on the call that “this president will be known as the manufacturing president.”

While President George W. Bush’s administration presided over the loss of almost five million U.S. manufacturing jobs, almost 400,000 have been added since Obama took office, Khanna said. The president’s initiative to double American exports by 2015 is on track after its first two years, he added, and the president is following through on infrastructure investments, immigration policy for skilled workers, research and development, simplifying permitting processes and streamlining regulations.

Khanna cited Union City’s SimpleWave’s “inshoring” of its kitchen bowl production from China back to the United States – a story my competitors at the Chronicle already had today.

California Democratic Party Vice Chairman Eric Bauman introduced Rob Carpenter as a prime example of a California business owner who’d benefited from the president’s policies. Carpenter said the Small Business Job Act of 2010 allowed a flood of new investment into his e-commerce company, Hollywood-based FriendGiftR, which led to 1500% year-over-year growth. “It’s not time to return to the policies of the past, its time to continue to support the policies of the future,” Carpenter said.

When I asked Carpenter if he was the same guy who had worked in the White House Office of Political Affairs, he acknowledged he was. But Bauman quickly noted that Carpenter’s White House service had been during the Bush Administration, and yet he’s now speaking out on behalf of Obama. After the call, I checked and found that Carpenter is, in fact, registered to vote as a Republican.

Bauman cited a string of non-California-specific stats to bolster his pro-Obama case: 23 straight months of private-sector job creation, the explosive resurgence of the auto industry, and a national supply chain for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that the president was touting today in Everett, Wash..

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
Under: economy, Obama presidency | No Comments »

How they voted on the payroll tax cut extension

The Bay Area’s House delegation wasn’t in lockstep on today’s 293-132 vote approving a compromise to extend the payroll tax cut: Most felt it was a vital move, but a few said it’s just not good enough.

Among those voting for the bill were Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. Here’s what Miller said:

“Passage of this bill is critical for working families in our country; people who will get to keep on average an extra $1,000 in their paycheck this year, the unemployed who will continue to get insurance benefits, and for Medicare patients who will continue to see the doctor of their choice. Republicans opposed extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits but in the end they succumbed to public pressure. But this is not a perfect bill. Democrats fought for a small increase in taxes on people who earn more than $1 million per year to help pay for the cost of this bill. The Republicans refused – once again – to ask people who earn more than one million dollars a year to shoulder any burden in our struggling economy. Democrats will continue to fight for a fair and balanced solution to our economic problems, but today’s bill is an important victory for working families, the middle class, and seniors. We’ve got a lot of work to do to rebuild the economy so everyone benefits and this bill keeps us on that path.”

Honda seemed more conflicted:

honda.jpg“Today, I was faced with one of the more difficult votes in my Congressional career. While our economy is fragile, and Congress must use every tool within our arsenal to keep the recovery on the right track, we are faced with the realities of a split Congress and a Republican controlled House of Representatives. Months ago, Democrats put forth a proposal to extend the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance, and SGR for the entire year by simply asking the wealthiest among us to pay a fraction more. Republicans, bent on ideological extremism, did not allow this bill to go through. That is how we got to today’s vote.

“The compromise deal before me today was supported by 9 Democrats and 8 Republicans of the conference committee. In order to move forward, each party had to accept provisions that we oppose. I was particularly disappointed to see offsets that imposed additional costs on federal employees and curtailed health care access. A Democratically-controlled Congress would have not relied on services and benefits for lower and middle class Americans to move our economy forward. Make no mistake; these are the aims of Republicans in Congress, and they were placed in the conference report because of a Tea Party agenda; one that continues to finance short-term solutions by cutting long-term programs that critically affect the future of our nation. I remain committed to fighting for all Americans, both private and public sector employees. I remain committed to affordable health care, for families of all economic backgrounds. And I remain committed to strong economic recovery.

“Today’s vote puts $1,000 in the pockets of 160 million American workers, extends unemployment benefits for millions of those that have lost their job through no fault of their own, and ensures that millions of seniors will have access to their doctor through Medicare. It will also finally authorize much needed spectrum auctions that will provide essential space to innovative Silicon Valley companies to create a new generation of technologies. Governing requires tough decisions, and on the whole, this tough decision required me to support this bipartisan deal, even when there were portions with which I vehemently disagreed.”

But Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, voted against the deal. Here’s what Lee said:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, I voted against the conference report for H.R. 3630 because it reduces unemployment benefits, cuts preventative health care programs, and unfairly targets federal employees’ retirement. This bill was intended to provide relief to American families by allowing workers to keep more of their paychecks. This bill was intended to provide support to the unemployed by extending critical unemployment benefits. I have grave concerns that this deeply flawed and disappointing package of extensions does not do enough during these tough economic times. While I believe we must approve vital extensions of unemployment benefits, quickly extend the payroll tax holiday, and extend the Medicare SGR fix so that millions of seniors will continue to have access to their doctors, this proposal is a step in the wrong direction.

“In fact, this bill makes significant cuts to struggling families. Instead of scaling back unemployment benefits we need to be adding weeks to help people get by when there continues to be four workers in line for each job. Instead of a temporary fix to Medicare physician reimbursement we should have a permanent fix that fairly compensates doctors who care for our seniors. Instead of raiding the pensions of hard working federal employees we should be standing up for these workers. Instead of cutting preventive and healthcare programs we should be supporting them.

“We cannot cut our way to prosperity and recovery. We must make smart investments in education, infrastructure and in the American people to grow our economy and restore a pathway to opportunity, prosperity and economic mobility for our future generations. We can and should do better than this.”

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Mike Honda, taxes, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Speier appointed to Armed Services Committee

The Bay Area once again has a representative on the House Armed Services Committee: Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, named Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, to the panel yesterday.

“I am honored that Speaker Boehner, with Leader Pelosi’s endorsement, appointed me to serve on the critically important House Armed Services Committee,” Speier said in a news release. “With this assignment comes great responsibility to protect the security of our nation, support our military service men and women, and also ensure that the funds we dedicate to national defense are used appropriately and strategically.”

“We have the best military in the world, but we cannot simply spend our way to strength while cutting critical social safety net programs, education, and infrastructure spending,” she said. “I will work with my committee colleagues to root out military waste and inefficiencies while continuing support for our brave military members, their families and our veterans. I will also continue stressing the harm that the epidemic of military sexual assault poses to unit cohesiveness and also promote solutions within the chain of command structure.”

In the same release, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Speier “has dedicated her career to public service – to defending the rights of workers and consumers, to fighting for our children and families, to securing our nation. Her work to defend our nation, strengthen our military, and ensure the safety and security of the American people will continue as a Member of the Armed Services Committee.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-San Francisco, also serves on the Armed Services Committee, but redistricting has pushed him out of the Bay Area. The committee’s chair is Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and its other California members include Duncan D. Hunter, R-Lakeside; Loretta Sanchez, D-Anaheim; and Susan Davis, D-San Diego.

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
Under: Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

State to open trade/investment office in China

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today he’s opening a new trade and investment office in China, aimed at increasing direct investment in California and giving the state’s businesses more advantages over there.

“The Pacific Rim has become the center of the world economy, presenting California with countless opportunities to grow alongside our neighbors across the ocean,” Brown said in a news release issued Friday, after he met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Los Angeles. “The office will encourage direct investment and further strengthen the existing ties between the world’s second- and ninth-largest economies.”

The California-China Trade and Investment Office will give California more access to Chinese business contacts and provide Chinese investors with access to California projects that will benefit from increased investment. The office will be paid for by private-sector partners coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, which will also work with the Chinese government to get the office open.

California hasn’t had a formal presence in China since the previous foreign trade offices were closed in 2003.

The governor’s office notes China is the world’s largest exporter of goods and third largest importer, ranking closely behind the United States and the European Union. The vast majority of China’s exports to the U.S. go through California ports, while California exported $12.4 billion in goods and services to China in 2010. In addition, China invested $1.5 billion in California projects in 2011, or 10 percent of all Chinese investment in the U.S.

Vice President Xi visited California on the last stop of a four-day U.S. tour to discuss trade and investment opportunities with Brown and Vice President Joe Biden.

UPDATE @ 11:19 A.M.: State Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said Brown should hold China’s feet to the fire.

“Today the Governor announced he is opening a trade and investment office in China. While I am the first to welcome free trade with other countries, it must really be free,” Harman said in a news release. “China’s unfair trade practices and manipulation of currency are hurting California’s economy. To me this is an issue of parity and fairness. Which means, both sides must play by the same rules. Clearly that is not the case with China.”

Harman also noted many California companies have intellectual property issues with China. According to one copyright industry association, China’s piracy rate remains one of the highest in the world (over 90 percent). On average, 20 percent of all consumer products in the Chinese market are counterfeit. By some estimates U.S. companies lose up to a billion dollars in legitimate business each year to piracy.

“Piracy of intellectual property particularly impacts the electronics industry and, as we know, that is an industry with many ties to California,” said Harman. “Piracy is about jobs and frankly, California can’t afford to be on the short end of that stick.”

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
Under: economy, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

GOP launching calls in 8 California House districts

To mark the third anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 this Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee is rolling out campaign calls to voters in eight California House districts.

As I had reported last weekend, California is home to almost a quarter of the nation’s House districts deemed “in play” this year, and for the first time in 20 years could help tip the balance of power in Congress.

California requires that robocalls be introduced by a live operator who obtains the call recipient’s consent to hear the recorded message. That live operator must state the nature of the call and the name, address and telephone number of the organization represented, and must ask for the person’s consent before playing the recorded message.

Read the calls’ scripts, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Jackie Speier boycotts contraception rule hearing

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, explains why she boycotted today’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?

Jackie Speier“I have decided to boycott the sham hearing orchestrated today by the Republican members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to trample on the civil liberties of millions of American women who deserve coverage of their legitimate and most basic healthcare needs, including contraception.

“The Republican majority refused to allow the testimony of witnesses who represent millions of Catholics, such as myself, who fully support the Administration’s compromise on the provision of contraception. This is a sensible solution that allows religious affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities to opt-out of providing such coverage to their employees directly as long as women have access through the insurer.

“The fact that the majority failed to allow any witnesses to testify to the impact access to contraception has on the physical, spiritual and economic well being of women speaks volumes. California has had a similar rule in place for more than ten years, and that rule has been found not to violate religious freedom. Catholic institutions in California have continued to provide comprehensive health insurance to women. If the majority wishes to have an unbiased examination of this issue, I will be happy to participate.”

The New York Times has a good story today about how both sides – those who see this as a matter of religious liberty, and those who see it as a matter of women’s health – are eager to use this as a potent election-year wedge issue. That said, should a taxpayer-funded hearing be the venue for such a duel, especially if one of the duelers is denied a weapon?

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee’s ranking Democrat, wrote yesterday to committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Vista, to complain that Issa had stacked the deck for today’s hearing. Read a salient passage from that letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 7 Comments »