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Archive for April, 2012

Swalwell hires lawyer, threatens to sue Stark

Eric Swalwell, the fellow Democrat challenging 20-term incumbent Rep. Pete Stark in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, has retained a lawyer to demand that Stark retract a public accusation of bribery that he leveled at Swalwell during a candidates’ forum last week.

Swalwell’s campaign announced Tuesday it has retained attorney James Wagstaffe of San Francisco – a renowned defamation lawyer – who will send a letter to Stark on Wednesday asking for a retraction of the accusation or else face legal action.

Stark’s campaign consultant, Alex Tourk, hasn’t returned e-mails asking for evidence to substantiate the claim Stark made during the League of Women Voters of the Eden Area’s candidates forum one week ago in Hayward City Hall. Swalwell on Tuesday provided a video clip of Stark, at a town-hall meeting with constituents this past Saturday, saying that Swalwell’s Federal Election Commission reports and personal financial disclosures back up the bribery claim:

“My latest FEC filing is public as well as my Form 700s that contain information about my personal finances since being elected to the Dublin City Council. Again, there is no proof to these outrageous and untrue allegations,” Swalwell said Tuesday. “It is unfortunate that Congressman Stark is lying to the voters. This outright lie is an escalation in bizarre behavior from Congressman Stark, and we deserve better.”

I scanned Swalwell’s filings late last week and didn’t find anything like what Stark described. But maybe I missed something; feel free to double-check me by clicking below for Swalwell’s:

    2010 Form 700 personal financial disclosure
    2011 Form 700 personal financial disclosure
    2011 third-quarter FEC campaign finance report
    2011 fourth-quarter FEC campaign finance report
    2012 first-quarter FEC campaign finance report

UPDATE @ 9:44 A.M. WEDNESDAY: There is one thing I missed in Swalwell’s 1st-quarter 2012 FEC report: Pete Stark’s ex-wife, Carolyn Wente Layton of Livermore, gave $250 to Swalwell’s campaign last month; her brother Philip Wente gave $2,000.

UPDATE @ 4:27 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Stark has apologized, saying he “misspoke.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Marijuana bill advances, Oaksterdam U mulls fate

California medical marijuana’s situation again still seems stuck in neutral as a regulatory bill advances even while an Oakland institution prepares to announce its fate.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4-2 on Tuesday to pass AB 2312 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which would create the first statewide regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry. The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“Only by regulating medical cannabis will California be able to regain control and ensure safe access for patients,” Ammiano said in a news release. “Effective regulation benefits everyone – patients, providers, doctors and law enforcement. Passing AB 2312 is an opportunity for the Legislature to defend Prop. 215 by regulating and controlling an industry that has the clear support of the people of California.”

AB 2312 would create a nine-member Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement with the Department of Consumer Affairs to enact and enforce regulations on growing, processing, manufacturing, testing, transporting, distributing and selling marijuana and marijuana products for medical purposes; the board. It also would authorize local taxes on medical cannabis up to 2.5 percent.

Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, said police, lawmakers and patients “want clarity about what is legal under state law. AB 2312 answers their questions and provides a path towards the sensible, well-regulated medical marijuana program the voters wanted when they approved Proposition 215.”

Yet even if the Legislature passes this bill (where others, including earlier ones by Ammiano, have failed), it would put California further at odds with federal law’s total ban on marijuana.

Federal agents raided Oaksterdam University a few weeks ago, casting doubt upon the future of this and other marijuana-related businesses founded and owned by Richard Lee, who largely bankrolled an unsuccessful 2010 ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Lee will hold news conferences tomorrow – live at the school at 11 a.m., and then a national press call at 1 p.m. – to discuss his plans and the fate of his businesses.
Besides Lee, those scheduled to speak include former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, who helped draft the state’s current regulations; Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 International Vice President Ron Lind; and representatives from local elected officials’ offices.

It’s a run-up to a national day of action this Friday, April 20, which will include an 11:30 a.m. protest outside the federal building on Oakland’s Clay Street.

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Under: Assembly, marijuana, Oakland, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Feinstein whups competitors in fundraising

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein outraised her next-closest electoral competitor 18-to-1 in 2012′s first quarter, displaying substantial fundraising muscle in the wake of an embezzlement scandal that had depleted her coffers.

Meanwhile, Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken of Danville loaned her own campaign $200,000 – something a spokesman in November had said she wouldn’t do.

Dianne FeinsteinFeinstein, D-Calif., rasied $1,128,573.48 and spent $447,458.03 in the first quarter, and had $7,279,096.15 cash on hand with $5,289,997.89 in outstanding debts as of March 31. Of that debt, $5 million is what she personally loaned her campaign last year as the extent of former treasurer Kindee Durkee’s embezzlement became clear.

Emken raised $61,482.01, loaned her campaign $200,000 and spent $42,920.08 in the first quarter of 2012, and had $252,003.57 cash on hand as of March 31 with outstanding debts of $317,911.77 (including her loan). Emken rolled out a finance committee roster in January, was endorsed by the California Republican Party in March, and several weeks ago made a fundraising trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Also, the separate Emken 2012 Victory Committee received its only contribution – $10,000 – on March 31, the last day of the quarter, from Charles Munger Jr., the Palo Alto physicist who bankrolled California’s recent redistricting reforms and is son of billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment partner.

Another Republican candidate, Dan Hughes of Oceanside, raised $39,164.15 and spent $123,619.62 in the first quarter, and had $16,212.64 cash on hand with $50,000 in outstanding debt – a loan he made to the campaign late last year – as of March 31.

(UPDATE @ 2 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Hughes this morning told me he’ll contribute another $150,000 to his own campaign to match Emken. “I will not be bullied out of this race as she is not the right candidate to represent us,” he said.)

Another 21 candidates are in the race, but none of them have showed significant fundraising activity.

Elizabeth EmkenEmken, 49, took a loss the last time she loaned money to one of her campaigns. She ran in the June 2010 GOP primary for what was then the 11th Congressional District seat, finishing fourth in a field of four; the nominee was David Harmer, who then lost the general election to incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. Campaign finance reports showed Emken had loaned her primary campaign $300,000 – 54 percent of her campaign’s $556,000 in total receipts – but only ever got back $100,000 of that. Another $408,000 went to operating expenses, and the final $48,000 – which had been contributed for use in the general election – was refunded to those who gave it. That campaign committee shut down in September 2010.

“Elizabeth is not planning to self-finance this campaign. We’re focused on building a broad foundation of support,” Tim Clark, Emken’s then-spokesman, said in late November, adding that Emken has “tremendous appeal among California voters” and that he had “no doubt that Elizabeth will have the resources necessary to get her message out.”

Mark Standriff, Emken’s current campaign spokesman, said Tuesday that “things have changed significantly.”

“Elizabeth has become the endorsed party candidate and the standard bearer for fiscal conservatives in California, and there’s tremendous energy and excitement for her,” he said, noting she has more fundraising events scheduled in the next few weeks. “There’s going to be an ongoing aggressive effort to fundraise from now until Nov. 6.”

He said Emken’s loan to her campaign was a means of maintaining the momentum she’s been building. “I’d rather be Elizabeth Emken explaining how she turned pennies into millions than be Dianne Feinstein and have to explain how she turned millions into pennies,” he said, an apparent reference to the Durkee embezzlement scandal.

Standriff said the Emken 2012 Victory Committee to which Munger contributed is a joint effort with the California Republican Party.

“As soon as Elizabeth became the official party-endorsed ‘de facto nominee,’ we went to the party and worked out this joint fundraising agreement so they can go out and raise federal money for the campaign through the party,” he said. “We appreciate everybody’s support from large donors all the way down to volunteers who are giving their time and energy to the campaign.”

This June will be California’s first U.S. Senate subject to the “top-two” primary system, in which voters of all parties can choose from among candidates of all parties, with the top two vote-getters – regardless of what party they belong to – advancing to November’s general election.

Feinstein, 78, had a personal net worth of up to $93.7 million in 2010, making her the 7th-richest member of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Under: 2012 U.S. Senate election, campaign finance, Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Reactions to Senate’s rejection of ‘Buffett Rule’

The U.S. Senate today rejected consideration of “the Buffett Rule,” which would impose a minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million a year, on a 51-45 vote.

The rule is a key weapon in Democrats’ election-year arsenal, leveraging the income-disparity narrative that’s striking a chord with many Americans. It was bound to be a total non-starter in the Republican-dominated House, just as a Republican plan is sure to be doomed later this week in the Democrat-dominated Senate.

Sixty Senate votes were needed to invoke cloture, end debate and bring the measure to a simple majority vote. The vote was largely along party lines, although Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted with most Democrats for closure while Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted with most Republicans against it.

Though the outcome was no surprise, Bay Area Democrats dutifully voiced outrage.

“Republicans have once again shown that their No. 1 priority is protecting the wealthiest Americans from paying their fair share,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a statement. “Why else would they have voted against legislation to ensure that middle-class families don’t pay a higher effective tax rate than millionaires and billionaires?”

“Tonight, Senate Republicans voted against the so-called ‘Buffett rule’ which would restore fairness by fixing a stark tax inequity,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a statement. “Tomorrow, House Republicans will again pass their devastating budget that gives massive tax breaks to millionaires and ends the Medicare guarantee. Later this week, House Republicans will act to benefit their special interest friends by putting forward legislation that adds $46 billion to the deficit and does not require the creation of one single job. Once again, Republicans are giving away billions of dollars to millionaires at the expense of middle-class Americans.”

The White House issued a statement calling the rejected rule “common sense.”

“At a time when we have significant deficits to close and serious investments to make to strengthen our economy, we simply cannot afford to keep spending money on tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and didn’t ask for,” the White House statement said. “But it’s also about basic fairness – it’s just plain wrong that millions of middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires. America prospers when we’re all in it together and everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

On the other side, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro issued a statement saying the Senate “did the right thing today to put an end to an unnecessary distraction and a roadblock to real tax reform.

“Imposing job killing taxes is no way to encourage entrepreneurship in our state or our nation,” he said. “Today’s vote was a small victory for the American people, and for Californians who are woefully overtaxed on this ‘Tax Day’ eve.”

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, taxes, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

New fundraising figures in hot House races

Candidates have filed campaign-finance reports to the Federal Election Commission for the first quarter of 2012. Here’s a round-up of the news from the more vibrant races in or near the Bay Area:

15th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, raised $60,255 and spent $90,299 in the first quarter, and had $551,341.79 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell, also a Democrat, raised $100,930.24 and spent $96,592.16 in the first quarter, and had $93,311.05 cash on hand with $8,572.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

A report from Hayward businessman Chris Pareja, a conservative independent, wasn’t available Monday. “We filed last week, but noticed some of our supporting documentation was not included in the package,” he said. “I have notified the FEC that we identified the situation and are amending our report. It may be tomorrow or the next day before I can email you the info.”

Attorney and former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont – who’d raised a startling $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but said he wouldn’t run this year if Stark did – raised $15,929 and spent $41,266.10 in the first quarter of 2012, and had $1,109,715.90 cash on hand with $58.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – who had explored a run in the 15th Congressional District this year but instead chose to finish her state Senate term in 2014 – raised $7,800 and spent $51,585.51 in the first quarter, and had $103,947.94 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

9th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, raised $264,592.85 and spent $108,140.08 in the first quarter, and had $937,802.55 cash on hand and $20,694.46 in unpaid debts as of March 31.

Lodi law student Ricky Gill, a Republican, raised $308,070.08 and spent $104,035.41 in the first quarter, and had $988,585.80 cash on hand with $179,151.91 in unpaid debts as of March 31.

Tech executive John McDonald of Mountain House, another Republican, raised $6,695.98 and spent $13,467.06 in the first quarter, and had $28,736.48 cash on hand and $25,300 (the amount he personally has loaned his campaign) in unpaid debts as of March 31.

3rd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, raised $261,183.09 and spent $308,387.76 in the first quarter, and had $255,448.26 cash on hand with $14,324.18 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann of Arbuckle, a Republican, raised $120,504.99 and spent $93,967.47 in the first quarter, and had $216,646.14 cash on hand with $5,409.97 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

United Airlines pilot and Air Force reservist Rick Tubbs of Vacaville, another Republican, raised $16,492.44 and spent $23,591.01 in the first quarter, and had $5,391.41 cash on hand and $11,622.23 (all of which he personally loaned his campaign) in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Retired U.S. Marine Charles Schaupp of Esparto, another Republican, raised $610 and spent $27,792.78 in the first quarter, and had $5,223.75 cash on hand and $50,179.32 (including $50,000 he personally loaned his campaign) in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Taking it to the streets for Tax Day

Tomorrow is Tax Day, and as usual that’ll bring people out onto the streets.

The Health and Human Services Network of California will have activists outside Post Office branches at 201 13th St. in Oakland at 3 p.m.; 1390 Market St. in San Francisco at noon; and more than a dozen other California cities to thank taxpayers while demanding that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share. They’ll also be gathering signatures on petitions to put Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure – which would hike taxes on the wealthiest Californians while temporarily raising the sales tax rate by a quarter of a percent – on November’s ballot. At risk, they say, are vital needs such as food for hungry families, children’s health care, services for the elderly and disabled, and child care for working parents.

MoveOn.org activists will be preaching a similar sermon from 4 to 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Post Office at 20283 Santa Maria Ave. in Castro Valley. “Big corporations, like the Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank, continue to get away with dodging taxes while their millionaire CEO’s get a fat tax refund every year, thanks to the Bush tax cuts,” said Dave Siegel, co-council coordinator for MoveOn’s Southern Alameda County Council. “It’s every American’s duty to pay their fair share in taxes – no exceptions!”

Though many procrastinate as Tax Day approaches, anti-tax Tea Party activists got their protests done early. They rallied Saturday in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza and at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, and Sunday in San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez, to reiterate that they’re “Taxed Enough Already.”

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012
Under: taxes, tea party | 3 Comments »

TWINC: Santorum, pepper spray & George Lucas

Last night on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” I discussed how Rick Santorum’s exit from the presidential race will affect California. Southern California Public Radio’s Julie Small talked about the UC-Davis pepper spray report, and KTVU’s Tom Vacar talked about filmmaker George Lucas’ decision to pull the plug on a major development project in Marin County.

Posted on Saturday, April 14th, 2012
Under: TWINC | 9 Comments »

Bill Clinton, Condi Rice to speak in San Jose

Former President Bill Clinton, Gov. Jerry Brown and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will headline the Bay Area Council’s 2012 Outlook Conference on Thursday, May 3 in San Jose’s California Theater.

The council – a public-policy group comprised of the region’s largest employers – invites attendees to “join an audience of hundreds of CEOs and top executives, plus civic leaders from across California … to hear the best thinking available about the future of our economy, our country and our world.”

Other scheduled speakers for the five-hour event include Dupont Chairwoman and CEO Ellen Kullman; Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson; LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner; and PG&E Chairman, President and CEO Anthony Earley.

Tickets start at $750 each and are available online.

Posted on Thursday, April 12th, 2012
Under: Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

A plea to the cult of willful ignorance: Get a grip

I don’t usually indulge this kind of thing, but once in a while the willful ignorance gets so thick that I feel duty-bound to puncture it.

Here’s the screed that landed in a steaming pile in my inbox this morning from a reader in Moraga:

IN THE MUSLIM RELIGION, DOGS ARE UNCLEAN AND NOT ALLOWED TO TRAVEL IN THE SAME VEHICLE AS THE MUSLIM. Bo has never traveled in the same means of transportation with the First Family.
WAKE UP AMERICA !!!! REMEMBER ALL THE OTHER PRESIDENTS WITH THEIR DOGS COMING OFF THE PLANE WITH THEM??? NOT THE OBAMA’S…
Bo’s vacation
HOW CAN AMERICA BE SO BLIND????????
I guess since they had to swallow their pride and use the Gulfstream there just wasn’t enough room for the dog and one other person.
Did you know the Pres. flew BO, the dog, in on a separate smaller jet to Maine for their vacation????
Wonder if that sets well with all the unemployed, hurting, US citizens who can’t afford food, but we can pay for this. The above is true.
I Google “Bo the dog flying to Maine ” and got 76,700 references verifying this. One of them follows:
Michelle Malkin: Just Plane Crazy: Obama’s Dog Flies to Vacation on Separate Jet
Doug Powers: The Obama’s arrived at their vacation spot in Maine , and the local paper, the Morning Sentinel, described the scene:
The president was the first to walk onto the tarmac, dressed casually in a pale blue Oxford shirt and khakis.
A few minutes later, the first lady, dressed in black caprice, a tank-top and sandals, walked onto the runway. Shortly afterward, Malia and Sasha joined their parents. Baldacci and his wife, Karen, presented the family with gift bags full of Maine-made goodies,including baskets made by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, popcorn from Little Bakery in East Corinth, iconic L.L. Bean bags, University of Maine ice hockey hats, and an assortment of other Maine foods and books. Karen Baldacci said the bags for Malia and Sasha contained one loon toy and one chickadee toy that sound their natural calls. Arriving in a small jet before the Obama’s was the first dog, Bo , a Portuguese water dog given as a present by the late U.S Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.; and the president’s personal aide Reggie Love, who chatted with Baldacci.
The president who said the rest of us are going to have to sacrifice to get out of these hard economic times let his dog fly on his own plane? Not enough room on Air Force One for a Portuguese water dog and Reggie Love?
OH, by the way,
Mr. Love, Bo’s handler, is paid $102,000.00 a year to take care of him. Divided by 365 is $279.45 per day.
What side of the ballot will you mark in November?

Well, I’ll definitely be looking for the “non-delusional” side of the ballot. It took all of 30 seconds to determine that this is a load of crap – 30 seconds the sender obviously didn’t care to spend.

As snopes.com explains, this is recycled crap: It’s from a 2010 vacation to Maine, and later was recirculated for a 2011 vacation to Massachusetts. Per snopes:

Bo flew to Maine in a different plane than the rest of the First Family not because he was part of a special canine-only flight, but because the local airport (Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, Maine) was too small to accommodate the Boeing 747-200B in which the President usually travels. Therefore, the Obamas flew to Maine in a Gulfstream GIII/G3 jet (which seats six to nineteen passengers), while Bo was loaded onto an earlier flight which carried a contingent of presidential aides and staff members.

Also, Reggie Love isn’t “Bo’s handler.”

As for the Muslim jibe about Bo never riding with the President:

And again

Bo on Air Force One

As the e-mail asks, “HOW CAN AMERICA BE SO BLIND????????” What manner of mass brain malfunction lets so many people circulate and believe something that’s so easily disproved? How blinded by hate are they?

Criticize the president on health care, the economy, spending, foreign policy, whatever – it’s all fair game, and a debate the nation should have. But this pathetic Muslim-bashing and outright lying is in poor taste at best and reinforces a stereotype of the wild-eyed, paranoid Obama-hater that detracts from reasoned arguments against his policies. It’s a sad commentary on how shallow and insipid our political discourse has become.

Posted on Thursday, April 12th, 2012
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 13 Comments »

Orinda lawyer named to anti-discrimination panel

An Orinda attorney was named today to the Fair Employment and Housing Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Dale BrodskyDale Brodsky, 60, of Orinda, since 2002 has been a partner at Beeson, Tayer and Bodine – a law firm with offices in Oakland and Sacramento that represents labor unions and collectively-bargained employee benefit plans – where she specializes in representing public school employees and private sector plaintiffs in employment-related matters.

She was associate editor for the California Public Employee Relations Journal from 2000 to 2002, and maintained her own law office from 1997 to 2002. Brodsky was an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law from 1997 to 2001 and a teacher at Ygnacio Valley High School from 1992 to 1996.

Earlier yet, Brodsky was an associate attorney at Saperstein Seligman and Mayeda from 1989 to 1991 and a solo practitioner 1984 to 1988. She served as legal counsel and staff attorney for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing from 1980 to 1983 and as staff attorney for the Fair Employment and Housing Commission from 1978 to 1980.

Brodsky earned a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from Stanford University in 1973; a law degree from the University of San Francisco in 1977; and a single-subject teaching credential from Mills College in 1992.

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Brodsky is a Democrat.

The seven-member commission is a quasi-judicial administrative agency that enforces California civil-rights laws regarding discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations; pregnancy disability leave; family and medical laws; and hate violence.

Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Under: Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »