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Archive for July, 2012

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.

Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, economy, Environment, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House, water | 4 Comments »

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.

Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Dan Lungren, Environment, Global warming, taxes, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted on Monday, July 30th, 2012
Under: Media | No Comments »

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.

Posted on Monday, July 30th, 2012
Under: Transportation | 1 Comment »

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…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 27th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, International politics, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

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.

    Posted on Thursday, July 26th, 2012
    Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, campaign finance, Mitt Romney | 21 Comments »

    Miller leads Dems in pushing minimum wage hike

    Rep. George Miller led more than 100 House Democrats today in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour.

    The minimum wage was last increased in 2009, but this would be the first increase for tipped-workers in 21 years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is expected to introduce companion legislation today.

    “Raising the minimum wage at its core is about respecting and valuing work. No one who works hard every day and plays by the rules should live in poverty,” said Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

    “Increasing workers’ paychecks will help millions of working families make ends meet and help the nation’s economy grow,” he said in a news release. “It is time for Congress to stand up for working people for a change and for Washington Republicans to stop using their position in Congress only to benefit wealthy special interests. They should join Democrats in ensuring a well-deserved raise for millions of honest, hardworking Americans.”

    Miller was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 following 10 years without any increases.

    Miller’s new H.R. 6211, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, would increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent steps, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour; after that, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year. The bill also would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

    Among the bill’s 104 original cosponsors are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

    Expect this to be dead on arrival in the Republican-run House; many conservatives believe requiring employers to pay higher minimum wages makes them less likely to hire or retain less-skilled workers, thus increasing unemployment.

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in January said his preference would be “to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time” – much as these Democrats are now proposing after the initial three-step, three-year increase. He seemed to walk that statement back a bit in March, when he said he favors reviewing the minimum wage periodically but there’s “probably not a need to raise” it now.

    Posted on Thursday, July 26th, 2012
    Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

    9th Circuit to rehear challenge to state DNA law

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to rehear a challenge to California’s law requiring law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples from all adults arrested for felonies.

    The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer said Wednesday that oral arguments will be heard by an 11-judge “en banc” panel during the week of Sept. 17.

    The state Legislature in 1998 enacted a law requiring DNA sampling from people convicted of certain offenses. But in 2004, 62 percent of California voters approved Proposition 69, which expanded the law to require DNA collection from “any adult person arrested or charged with any felony offense … immediately following arrest or during the booking.”

    A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit appellate court had upheld that law in February, finding “that the government’s compelling interests far outweigh arrestees’ privacy concerns” because “DNA analysis is an extraordinarily effective tool for law enforcement officials to identify arrestees, solve past crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects.”

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation in March joined with the ACLU in calling for an en-banc rehearing, arguing that the warrantless seizure and repeated search of DNA taken from people who’ve merely been arrested – not convicted – is unconstitutional.

    But in a brief filed in April arguing a rehearing, the state attorney general’s office noted that “(v)irtually every federal court to have considered the question agrees that the collection of a DNA sample for forensic identification, pursuant to a
    lawful arrest and subject to statutory restrictions on collection, use and confidentiality, comports with the Fourth Amendment.”

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
    Under: ballot measures, Civil liberties, Public safety | 3 Comments »

    Ricky Gill cancels fundraiser in marijuana flap

    Republican congressional candidate Ricky Gill cancelled a Stockton fundraiser that was to be co-hosted by a businessman whose son was just indicted on federal marijuana charges.

    Those who brought the event to my attention believe Gill’s association with anyone under federal investigation or indictment is damning, especially given that this is the second instance. My colleague, Lisa Vorderbrueggen, has written about the Gill family’s business connections to – and Gill’s own campaign contributions, later returned, from – Harvey Whittemore, the Nevada lobbyist now under federal indictment in a campaign-finance scandal.

    But this seems like a somewhat different matter, given the debate now raging in California and elsewhere over the Obama Administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries operating in accordance with state and local laws.

    Gill fundraiserThe $125-per-person fundraiser was to be held tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, at Le Bistro, a Stockton restaurant co-owned by Bruce Davies, a local Realtor; the Davies family was listed among the event’s co-hosts. Bruce Davies in 2010 had applied to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Stockton, according to the Stockton Record, and had proposed using part of Le Bistro’s kitchen to produce edible marijuana products.

    Matthew Davies, Bruce Davies’ son, was indicted by a federal grand jury this month on marijuana cultivation charges; he and two other Stockton men are accused of having grown marijuana in a warehouse and a home within the city.

    The Stockton Record reports that a multi-agency probe began last September after Davies and told a CHP officer that he was on his way to his marijuana storage facility, where he stored marijuana for his Medizen dispensary in Sacramento, because the burglar alarm had gone off – hardly an effort to hide his activities. Federal agents later seized 1,962 plants and 40 pounds of processed marijuana from the warehouse, which also apparently had supplied the Central Valley Caregivers Cooperative in Stockton.

    Gill is running against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District. McNerney in 2008 reversed his previous opposition to medical marijuana, voicing support for an amendment that would bar the federal government from spending money to investigate and prosecute those who are operating in accordance with their states’ medical marijuana laws.

    Ricky GillGill spokesman Colin Hunter today said the campaign cancelled the fundraiser as soon as Matthew Davies’ indictment was reported in the Record, and Gill has not received any contributions from the Davies family.

    “This is a transparent attempt to distract from the real issue in this campaign: Jerry McNerney’s utter failure to stand up for our communities in Congress on jobs, foreclosures and agriculture,” Hunter said. “Perhaps the Democrats ought to worry about the real contributions McNerney took – from big banks and from Solyndra’s lead investor, to name just a few – rather than the hypothetical contributions Ricky didn’t.”

    Hunter said Gill “does not object to the legitimate, physician-prescribed use of marijuana to treat serious, chronic or debilitating illnesses. He believes state and federal governments should work together to craft a sensible enforcement plan that will hold accountable those individuals operating outside or in clear violation of medical marijuana regimes, but will not penalize seriously ill patients seeking only to manage their pain.”

    So, how scandalous would it have been if Gill had raised money from people linked to medical marijuana? Lots of Bay Area politicians have taken contributions from people connected to local dispensaries. But consider who and where Gill is: What flies in the mostly Democratic Bay Area might not fly for a Republican in that Central Valley-centric district (even if Democrats have a 7-point registration edge there).

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
    Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, marijuana, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

    Contra Costa reacts swiftly to revised Delta peripheral canal plan

    Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho

    Contra Costa County, whose leaders have been fending off a peripheral canal for more than three decades, reacted swiftly and negatively to a joint federal-state announcement today of a new Delta water diversion proposal.

    “We need science before size,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, who also sits on the Delta Protection Commission, Delta Conservancy and helped found the Delta County Coalition. “Science should drive the capacity of any project, not the other way around. It is completely unacceptable.”

    See my colleague Steve Harmon’s full story here.

    (ADDED 5:29 P.M. East Bay congressional representatives also blast plan. See full statements below.)

    Smaller options must be evaluated, and science and the economic impacts of any pipeline must be more than “considered, as the announcement today said,” Piepho added.

    “It’s easy to ‘consider’ something for 3 seconds, then shove it off the table and go back to your primary objective, which is to pipe massive amounts of Delta water into Southern California,” she said.

    Supervisor Karen Mitchoff echoed her colleague’s dismay via  a text message from Sacramento, where she watched the announcement.

    “If people believe what (Gov. Jerry Brown) and (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar said today, I think there’s still a bridge available for sale,” Mitchoff said. “The plan will sacrifice the interest of one part of the state for the interests of others.”

    The county, the Contra Costa Water District and others say the diversion will degrade both the environment and drinking water quality for tens of thousands of East Bay residents. The county board of supervisors formally opposed the plan in early July.

    In contrast, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wholeheartedly endorsed the pact, calling it a “major step toward a real solution in the Sacramento-Delta.” Feinstein led the federal legislation mandating completion of a Bay-Delta Conservation Plan by February 2013. See her press release issued today below.

     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
    Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, water | 26 Comments »