Westlands farmers bank on Delta House aspirants

Two Republican House candidates from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area took campaign cash from downstate farmers whom would benefit from a new water plan at the Delta’s expense, the area’s current lawmakers say.

Kim Vann, a Colusa County Supervisor challenging Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District received $5,000 from the California Westside Farmers PAC in late April. Ricky Gill, a Lodi law graduate challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, received $5,000 from the PAC in late June.

The PAC acts on behalf of farmers in the Westlands Water District, an agricultural powerhouse in the otherwise arid west reaches of the San Joaquin Valley. McNerney’s campaign noted today that Sarah Woolf, a member of the Westlands board of directors, is the PAC’s treasurer.

A new Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposal announced last week by Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar includes a $14 billion tunnel system beneath the Delta to ship water southward, largely for agricultural purposes. Garamendi and McNerney are among lawmakers who say this plan would benefit Westlands farmers while economically and environmentally devastating the Delta.

“This development is a huge breach of the public trust,” McNerney had said last week. “The families, farmers, and small business owners in northern California stand to have their livelihoods destroyed. This will have ruinous consequences for our local economy at a time when we already struggle with record unemployment.”

McNerney campaign spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Tuesday that Gill has claimed to side with Delta area residents, “but his willingness to cozy up to the people intent on robbing us of our water, ultimately causing economic ruin for our area farmers and small business owners, is deeply disturbing. Once again, Ricky Gill has shown that he just doesn’t get it. It’s clear that peripheral canal supporters believe they have an ally and advocate in Ricky Gill and a staunch and vocal opponent in Jerry McNerney.”

Not so, replied Gill spokesman Colin Hunter.

Ricky Gill“Ricky has been and remains opposed to any plan to divert water around the Delta because of the devastating effect it could have on farmers in this region including his family, which has been farming here for 30 years,” he said. “Unlike Jerry McNerney, who carries an ‘F’ rating from the American Farm Bureau, Ricky intends to be an advocate for farmers when he’s elected to Congress.”

(Taking a quick glance around the interwebs, I see the American Farm Bureau rated McNerney at 41 percent in 2011; also, here’s a more specific rundown of how he voted on issues of importance to the bureau.)

Hunter called the new Delta plan “the culmination of Jerry McNerney’s failed tenure in Congress. He’s been sitting on the sidelines for five years and effectively allowed this to happen.”

As for the PAC money, Hunter said, “Ricky doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Westlands on several issues, but they are farmers like Ricky and they know that Ricky is going to stand up for farmers up and down the valley when he’s in Congress” on issues from free trade to regulatory reform. “McNerney is on the wrong side of all of them.”

Gill’s campaign also Tuesday was touting new poll results Tuesday showing Gill and McNerney in a dead heat. (UPDATE @ 8:07 p.m.: McNerney’s camp just produced its own new poll showing he has a commanding lead.)

In the 3rd District, Garamendi last week had said the tunnel proposal “could wreak havoc on the Delta and the jobs it sustains and put existing water rights in the Delta and Northern California at risk.”

“It is possible for California to solve its water problems, but the Delta and Northern California counties must be at the table, and it will take a comprehensive, multifaceted approach, not just a piece of plumbing in the Delta,” he said. “We must address the needs of all Californians by prioritizing storage, conservation, recycling, levee improvements, and habitat restoration.”

Kim VannVann campaign manager Alee Lockman emailed today that Vann “believes that any conveyance plans must also include authorizing language for increasing water storage. The proposed plan is by no means a perfect solution and there are a number of local issues at stake, but the dialogue of the past week underscores the need for all of us to come together and work toward a solution that will best serve the entire state’s water needs.”

Asked specifically about the PAC money, Lockman replied there’s “nothing to add that hasn’t already been included. We need an open dialogue and we need to find a solution that works best for the entire state of California.”

The PAC also has given $10,000 to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as well as $5,000 each to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Clovis; and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. Among other House challengers, the PAC has given $5,000 each to Republican David Valadao in the 21st District and to Democrat Denise Ducheny in the 51st District.


Dems and allies step up attacks on Dan Lungren

Democrats and their allies are stepping up their attacks on Rep. Dan Lungren, who they see as one of the most vulnerable Republican House incumbents ripe for a turnover.

Dan LungrenLungren, R-Gold River, is being challenged by Democrat Ami Bera, an Elk Grove physician. Lungren beat back a challenge from Bera in 2010, 50 percent to 43 percent, in what was then the 3rd Congressional District, where Republicans held a 3.5-percentage-point registration edge.

And Lungren finished on top in this June’s primary election with 52.7 percent of the vote to Bera’s 41 percent; independent candidate Curt Taras got 3.2 percent and Libertarian Douglas Tuma had 3.1 percent. But Democrats believe a much higher turnout in November, with a ticket led by President Obama, could buoy Bera to victory in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new online ad Monday targeting Lungren and three other Republican House incumbents (Jeff Denham, Mary Bono Mack and Brian Bilbray) for supporting GOP tax policies:

Today, the League of Conservation Voters named Lungren to its new “Flat Earth Five” program, which aims to defeat five climate change deniers in the House of Representatives this election cycle; the LCV will commit what it calls “significant resources” – at least $1.5 million for television ads, direct mail and phone banking – to these five districts.

At a town hall meeting in 2009, Lungren claimed “ideological bias” is driving efforts to combat climate change. “The science on climate change is as solid as any public policy question will ever get, but Rep. Lungren just won’t acknowledge the facts,” LCV president Gene Karpinski said in a news release.

Although he acknowledged it’s “prudent” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions “without waiting for proof or disproof of global warming,” he has opposed climate change legislation and later in 2009 called the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to regulate carbon a “vicious blow” to Americans’ freedom.

“At this point it’s clear that Lungren’s ideology is failing his constituents – he’s voted against incentives for conservation and renewable energy, and for big polluters and for more oil drilling,” California League of Conservation Voters CEO Sarah Rose said in the release. “Californians in this district deserve better. They deserve a leader that will put them first.”

Lungren joins Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., and Dan Benishek, R-Mich., in the “Flat Earth Five” program; two more names will be announced in the next two weeks.


Chron’s Debra Saunders sitting in for Dennis Miller

Debra SaundersTune in tomorrow morning as San Francisco Chronicle “Token Conservative” columnist Debra Saunders and her husband, author Wesley Smith, guest-host Dennis Miller’s nationally syndicated radio show.

None of the 14 California radio stations carrying the show are in the Bay Area, but it’s also streamed live online from 7 to 10 a.m. PT.

Guests will include political satirist Will Durst; Chronicle reporters Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli; Cal law professor and former Bush Administration lawyer John Yoo; and bestselling author Dean Koontz.


California HSR chair to be honored at White House

California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard will be honored tomorrow among “leaders who have devoted their time and efforts to helping their communities reach new heights through transportation innovation,” a White House news release says.

It’s part of the “Champions of Change” program created as a part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative: Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of champions are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

“Today’s Champions are leaders in developing and implementing innovative transportation initiatives,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in the release. “They are making a difference every day in their local communities and across the country by improving America’s transportation infrastructure and helping their friends and neighbors get where they need to go.”

Richard, 61, of Piedmont, was a BART director from 1992 to 2004, serving two terms as the board’s president. He also served as Gov. Jerry Brown’s deputy legal affairs secretary from 1982 to 1983 and as deputy assistant for science and technology from 1978 to 1979. He was advisor to the chairman of the California Energy Commission from 1978 to 1982.

He has been a principal of Dan Richard Advisors since 2010. Before that, he was managing partner and co-founder of Heritage Oak Capital Partners, an infrastructure finance firm, from 2007 to 2009, and senior vice president of public policy and governmental relations at Pacific Gas and Electric Company from 1997 to 2006. Earlier still, Richard was a principal at Morse, Richard, Weisenmiller & Associates – a firm serving the independent power industry and project finance lending community – from 1986 to 1996, and was vice president of Independent Power Corporation from 1983 to 1986.


Romney, Obama spar over U.S.-Israel relations

Mitt Romney’s stumbles over the nation’s “special relationship” with Great Britain aside, it’s the American relationship with Israel that’s fueling a lot of the fire this week between the presidential campaigns.

Romney will be in Israel on Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Kadima Party Leader Shaul Mofaz, and Labor Party Leaders Shelly Yachimovich and Isaac Herzog. The Republican candidate, speaking this past Tuesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Reno, had trashed President Obama’s treatment of Israel.

Romney at VFW (James Glover-Reuters)“President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He has undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was. And even at the United Nations, to the enthusiastic applause of Israel’s enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem,” Romney said. “The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world. And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the President of the United States.”

Romney’s campaign also Tuesday issued a policy paper saying he would make Israel the destination of his first foreign trip as president; within 100 days of taking office, reaffirm as a vital U.S. national interest the existence of Israel as a Jewish state; work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge and increase military assistance; reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, while making clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations is unacceptable; and reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas.

Vice President Joe Biden shot back that same day.

“Governor Romney continues his long litany of untruths about our administration’s policies toward Israel. We’ve provided record levels of security assistance, funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system that intercepted nearly 80 percent of the rockets recently fired from Gaza, close collaboration on longer range missile defense systems, the largest joint military exercises in history, the most consistent and comprehensive exchanges ever between our top political, defense, security and intelligence officials,” Biden said. “And, contrary to Governor Romney’s outrageous accusation that the President joined in the chorus of insults levied against Israel at the United Nations, President Obama has stood up repeatedly, publicly and often alone against efforts to delegitimize Israel at the U.N. and around the world.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Continue Reading


Updated info: California’s presidential ‘bundlers’

The Center for Responsive Politics has updated its list of President Obama’s campaign “bundlers,” those who gather other people’s donations and deliver them to the campaign en masse. Here’s the list for California, down to the $100,000 mark:

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, Los Angeles – CEO, DreamWorks Animation – $2,329,092
  • Wayne Jordan, Piedmont – Jordan Real Estate Investments – $1,359,953
  • Sandi Thompson, Woodside – Attorney, wife of former Symantec CEO John Thompson – $891,556
  • Geoffrey Stack, Corona Del Mar – Managing Director, SARES•REGIS Group – $687,453
  • Colleen Bell, Los Angeles – Bell-Phillip TV Productions – $460,500
  • Marc Benioff, San Francisco – CEO, salesforce.com – $451,980
  • Robert Mailer Anderson & Nicola Miner, San Francisco – author; Oracle heiress – $396,450
  • Becky Draper, San Francisco – venture capital heiress – $359,642
  • Mai Lassiter, Los Angeles – wife of film producer James Lassiter – $350,837
  • John Emerson, Los Angeles – president, Capital Group Private Client Services – $319,695
  • Doug Hickey, San Francisco – President & CEO, GlobalCenter – $314,100
  • Brian Lee, Los Angeles – co-founder, Legalzoom.com – $299,800
  • Kathy Levinson, Los Altos – managing director, Golden Seeds – $202,150
  • Massi Joseph Kiani, Laguna Niguel – CEO & chairman, Masimo Corp. – $200,980
  • Mattie McFadden-Lawson, Los Angeles – president, MML Design Group – $165,680
  • Janet Keller, Laguna Beach – political consultant – $162,550
  • Imaad Zuberi, Arcadia – partner, Avenue Ventures – $139,023
  • Shefali Razdan Duggal, San Francisco – National Finance Committee member, Obama for America – $130,957
  • Azita Raji, Belvedere – National Finance Committee vice-chair, Obama for America – $130,322
  • The center notes that Federal Election Commission regulations only require disclosure of funds bundled by registered lobbyists. In 2008, both Barack Obama and John McCain agreed to disclose any bundlers who raised over $50,000 for their campaigns. Obama’s re-election campaign is again disclosing those bundlers for the 2012 election, but Mitt Romney’s has refused.

    So all we know is that 34 registered lobbyists have bundled a total of $5,250,506 for Romney’s presidential campaign; none of them are from California.