Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for August, 2012

Anti-Romney ad widely blasted

Here’s the controversial ad that the Priorities USA PAC rolled out this week to attack Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on behalf of (but without “direct coordination” with) President Barack Obama:

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org calls it “misleading on several counts,” not the least of which is that Joe Soptic’s wife five years after the steel plant closed (which was after Romney had gone to run the 2002 Winter Olympics – or did he?), and she didn’t even lose medical coverage then – she lost her own employer-sponsored coverage a year or two later, and lacked coverage after that.

The ad also has been taken to task by national media outlets including the New York Times, Politico and CNN:

That said, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul had conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh smacking their heads yesterday when she said Soptic’s wife would’ve been OK had she lived in Massachusetts because she would’ve been covered by the “Romneycare” health insurance plan her boss put into place while governor – the basis for the national “Obamacare” plan her boss now rails against.

Posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney | 3 Comments »

New chairmanships for Bay Area lawmakers

Some Assembly members from the Bay Area were given influential committee chairs as Speaker John Perez reshuffled his leadership yesterday.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, takes over as chair of the Education Committee, on which she has served since her election to the Assembly in 2008; earlier, she’d served on the San Ramon Valley school board for 18 years.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and with stakeholders in the education community on legislation that will make the best use of our resources to benefit California’s students,” she said in a news release issues this morning. “We are currently facing unique challenges in funding education in our state, but we will hold steadfast to our mission of preparing students to be the workers, leaders and innovators of tomorrow’s global economy.”

Bob WieckowskiAssemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, takes the Judiciary Committee’s chair; a bankruptcy attorney by trade, he has served as the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s chairman.

Wieckowski issued a statement saying he has enjoyed serving on the Judiciary Committee under chairman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles and looks forward “to working with the Judiciary consultants in this new position. I appreciate the Speaker giving me the opportunity to lead this important committee.”

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Redwood City, will Chair the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee.

Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, now chairs the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, and also steps up as Assistant Majority Floor Leader. (I love the Majority Floor Leader’s job description: “Represents the Speaker on the Floor, expedites Assembly Floor proceedings through parliamentary procedures such as motions and points of order and promotes harmony among the membership.” Harmony!)

And within the powerful Budget Committee, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, will Chair the subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, steps up as Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore until Sept. 1, when she’ll become Speaker Pro Tempore (responsible for presiding over floor sessions in Speaker Perez’s absence). Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, will be Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, continues chairing the Rules Committee.

Posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Fiona Ma, Joan Buchanan, John Perez, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Rich Gordon | 3 Comments »

Bill Clinton tears into Mitt Romney’s welfare ad

Here’s Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s new ad on welfare requirements:

Here’s the statement that former President Bill Clinton released this morning:

Bill ClintonGovernor Romney released an ad today alleging that the Obama administration had weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true.

The act emerged after years of experiments at the state level, including my work as Governor of Arkansas beginning in 1980. When I became President, I granted waivers from the old law to 44 states to implement welfare to work strategies before welfare reform passed.

After the law was enacted, every state was required to design a plan to move people into the workforce, along with more funds to help pay for training, childcare and transportation. As a result, millions of people moved from welfare to work.

The recently announced waiver policy was originally requested by the Republican governors of Utah and Nevada to achieve more flexibility in designing programs more likely to work in this challenging environment. The Administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach. The welfare time limits, another important feature of the 1996 act, will not be waived.

The Romney ad is especially disappointing because, as governor of Massachusetts, he requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated time limits altogether. We need a bipartisan consensus to continue to help people move from welfare to work even during these hard times, not more misleading campaign ads.

PolitiFact.com gave Romney’s ad a “pants on fire” rating. And, from the Fox News analysis of the ad:

But that letter does not unilaterally repeal or waive the law. Instead, it gives states the chance to make changes to their welfare programs and still be counted as meeting work participation requirements. It’s a leap to assume that governors and legislators will seek to return to “plain old welfare” and that the Obama administration will give them the go-ahead.

And, in 2005, Romney joined several other GOP governors in promoting “increased waiver authority.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Bill Clinton, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency | 27 Comments »

Condi Rice to speak at GOP convention

The Bay Area’s own former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is among the first list of headliners for the Republican National Convention, as rolled out today by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

“Americans are looking for leadership in Washington to advance the belief that free markets and free people are the cornerstones to our country’s future,” Rice – now a Stanford professor and Hoover Institution fellow – said in the GOP’s news release. “I look forward to being a part of the Republican National Convention later this month to support those beliefs by nominating Mitt Romney to be our next president.”

(Not that she’s going to be vice president or anything.)

The other speakers announced today are South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, that state’s first female governor and the nation’s youngest sitting governor; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 presidential candidate and a best-selling author, radio and television show host; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former House Budget Committee chairman; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s first female Hispanic governor and that state’s first female governor; U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee; and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Priebus called these speakers “some of our party’s brightest stars, who have governed and led effectively and admirably in their respective roles. Ours will be a world class convention, worthy of the next president of the United States, and these speakers—and those that will be announced later—will help make it a truly memorable and momentous event.”

Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Republican Party, Republican politics | 8 Comments »

San Joaquin Delta water war documentary to debut with Ed Begley Jr.

It may not be an Oscar contender but folks who like to drink water may want to catch the Aug. 8 premiere of “Over Troubled Waters,” a documentary about efforts to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta into the Central Valley and Southern California.

Veteran water warriors and congressional reps. George Miller and John Garamendi are scheduled to host a news conference an hour before the 7 p.m.  show.

Both Miller and Garamendi go back decades in California’s perennial fight over how to share water across the vast state between the fish, the farmers and the residents.

The congressmen and the Delta counties are gearing up for another battle after state and federal officials announced plans last month to pursue the construction of a large underground pipeline — the latest iteration of the Peripheral Canal — and divert Delta water into the Central Valley and the Los Angeles area. Delta counties say the diversion will degrade the environment and lower the quality of their drinking water supplies.

Restore the Delta, an environmental organization, produced the documentary, which is narrated by actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr.

“It is our chance to tell the real Delta story,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “This film reveals how powerful forces are using fear of flooding and earthquakes to make a case for transforming a unique, beautiful, productive region into a permanent way station for water going somewhere else. They are trying to shore up an outdated water system with a massive, multi-billion dollar water transfer project that Californians will be paying for decades.”

The film premieres at 7 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Sacramento at the Crest Theater. For all the who-what-where details, read the news release below.

“Over Troubled Waters”:

Sustainable Water Advocates, Congressman George Miller to Premiere Film on Water Wars

“Over Troubled Waters, a documentary about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, will premiere on August 8th at the Crest Theater in Sacramento. U.S. Reps. George Miller and John Garamendi will join hundreds of sustainable water policy advocates at a news conference prior to the film premier, which will be the centerpiece of a public education effort to stop the building of peripheral tunnels.

In this visually rich documentary, Ed Begley Jr. narrates the story of how the people of the Delta are fighting to protect the region they love and to encourage saner, sustainable water policies for all the people of California.

“This is our chance to tell the real Delta story,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, which produced the documentary. “This film reveals how powerful forces are using fear of flooding and earthquakes to make a case for transforming a unique, beautiful, productive region into a permanent way station for water going somewhere else. They are trying to shore up an outdated water system with a massive, multi-billion dollar water transfer project that Californians will be paying for decades.”

Tickets are available on-line for a $10 donation at restorethedelta.org. Some tickets will also be available at the door.

What: Over Troubled Waters, Media availability: 6:00 p.m.,

Film screening: 7:00 p.m.

Where: Crest Theater, 1013 K St., Sacramento, CA

When: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who: U.S. Representative George Miller, Sen. Lois Wolk, Assem. Bill Berryhill, Russ Fisher, Media Creations; Jason Sturgis, Open Oceans Productions, hundreds of Delta residents, including farmers and fishermen

Restore the Delta is a 7000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. www.restorethedelta.org

 

Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2012
Under: water | 6 Comments »

George Miller asks how Romney’s IRA got so fat

Mitt Romney’s financial disclosure showed he has an Individual Retirement Account worth somewhere between $20 million and $101 million – but the annual contribution limits for IRAs during most of Romney’s time at Bain Capital ranged from $2,000 to $30,000.

It would take about 666 years – no biblical meaning intended – for a $30,000 annual contribution to add up to $20 million, although IRA funds can be invested in certain ways.

And so Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat; Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., the Ways and Means Committee’s ranking Democrat; and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the Budget Committee’s ranking Democrat, wrote a letter yesterday to the Treasury and Labor departments asking how this can be.

“The purpose for tax-preferred retirement accounts and plans are to encourage Americans to save for retirement,” they wrote. “The accounts and plans are clearly not intended to serve as tax shelters for wealthy individuals to shield vast sums of money. As you can imagine, given the sacrifices that middle-class families have made in recent years, we are alarmed to learn that wealthy taxpayers may be taking advantage of a tax subsidy that is designed to provide for retirement to instead accumulate massive amounts of tax-sheltered assets.”

Miller yesterday cited recent news reports indicating that Bain Capital allowed service partners and employees to co-invest in investment deals via tax-preferred retirement accounts and plans, providing in some cases a fourth of the total capital in the investment deals. It’s possible the investments made through these accounts and plans may have been assigned a nominal value that was significantly lower than the fair market value of the investments, creating an end-run around the annual contribution limits.

Follow us after the jump for the specific questions the lawmakers posed to the federal officials…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, George Miller, Mitt Romney, U.S. House | 30 Comments »

Lee offers bill to stop medical pot asset seizures

A Bay Area congresswoman’s new bill would bar federal prosecutors from filing civil lawsuits to seize property from landlords whose tenants comply with states’ medical marijuana laws.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, as a result, thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Friday by Americans for Safe Access.

“We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need,” she said.

U.S. Attorneys for more than a year have been threatening landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries with civil asset forfeiture proceedings if they don’t kick their tenants out – more than 300 such letters have gone to property owners in California, Colorado and some of the 15 other states with medical marijuana laws.

The civil asset forfeiture law affords property owners a chance to retrieve seized property in civil court, but they’re not afforded many of the constitutional rights granted to criminal defendants, such as the right to an attorney and a jury trial. And the burden of proof is on the property owner to show their innocence rather than the government having to prove their guilt.

Lee’s HR 6335 would prohibit the Justice Department from using civil asset forfeiture to go after properties so long as the medical marijuana tenants comply with state law; those in violation of state law would still be fair game. Among the bill’s eight original cosponsors are Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont.

Relatively few of the prosecutors’ threats have led to actual civil asset forfeiture cases, but the pressure has caused many landlords to force dispensaries to close.

HarborsideBut Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District, did serve an asset forfeiture lawsuit last month against the landlord of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, a dispensary in Lee’s district. This wasn’t the first federal attack on Harborside: The dispensary already had appealed an Internal Revenue Service’s finding that it owed $2.5 million in back taxes because it can’t deduct standard business expenses such as payroll and rent while violating the federal ban on marijuana.

Haag has threatened civil asset forfeiture actions against landlords of several other Bay Area dispensaries as well. In San Francisco this week, local officials joined a “funeral procession” to Haag’s office to mark the closing of two more dispensaries that were forced to close due to her pressure on their landlords.

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, marijuana, Oakland, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Romney starts outreach to Asian-American voters

I wrote a story last month about how Asian Americans could prove to be a crucial voting bloc in certain battleground states this November, and noting that while the Obama campaign had some structure in place for outreach to this community, the Romney campaign really didn’t.

Today, the Romney campaign announced its Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders for Romney community.

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have wonderful cultures that enrich all of America,” Romney said in the news release. “For generations, members of this community have contributed to our country, started new businesses and invented new products, and served with honor and distinction in the fight to protect freedom all around the world. I am honored to have the support of such great Asian Americans, and look forward to working with them to get our country on the right track again.”

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said she’s honored to be the effort’s national chairwoman.

“Having worked in previous presidential administrations, I know Governor Mitt Romney has the experience and the character to tackle the problems that are facing our nation,” she said in the news release. “Americans are suffering, and it will take new leadership to put this country on a path to prosperity and full employment.”

One of the seven national co-chairs is said Universal Health Care CEO Akshay Desai of Florida, who said he knows what it takes to make it in the private sector. “Mitt Romney is the change we so desperately need, and I look forward to having him in the White House.”

The other national chairs are Rep. Steve Austria, R-Ohio; former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Viet Dinh; former Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii; former U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy; former Rep. Patricia Saiki, R-Hawaii; and former Ambassador Sichan Siv, who was the U.S. representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

They have their work cut out for them. As I’d reported in my story, a poll conducted in April for three national Asian-American advocacy groups found Asian-Americans self-identified as Democrats rather than Republicans by more than 3-1. Seventy-three percent viewed President Obama favorably; 27 percent viewed Romney favorably.

Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney | No Comments »

Digging deeper into Jerry McNerney’s residency

Rep. Jerry McNerney on Wednesday said there’s nothing to a Stockton Record story questioning whether he actually now lives in Stockton, where he re-registered to vote and cast a ballot for June’s primary, or if he still lives at his longtime home in Pleasanton.

Jerry McNerney“I am living in Stockton,” McNerney said, calling from his Washington, D.C. office. “The transition has been more difficult than I expected, has taken longer than I expected … but I’ll be home (from Washington) in August and I’ll be there the whole month.”

Pressed on where he spends most of his nights while in the Golden State, McNerney replied, “when I’m in California, I’m spending a significant amount of time in Stockton, I haven’t counted the nights.” Asked about his legal residence, he replied, “Legally, it’s absolutely Stockton – I’m registered to vote there, I’m paying bills there, I’m sleeping there – it’s absolutely my legal address.”

The Democrat is seeking a fourth term in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, which doesn’t include Pleasanton; however, a candidate isn’t required to live in the House district in which he or she runs, only in the same state. The question is whether McNerney ran afoul of the state Election Code by registering and voting in Stockton.

One of the key code sections seems to be:

2026. The domicile of a Member of the Legislature or a Representative in the Congress of the United States shall be conclusively presumed to be at the residence address indicated on that person’s currently filed affidavit of registration.

On its face, it sounds like this means that wherever a lawmaker is currently registered is his or her domicile, which would put McNerney in the clear. But the campaign of Ricky Gill, McNerney’s Republican challenger, today provided a 2011 California Court of Appeal decision that might indicate otherwise.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

South Bay GOP Assembly candidate short on cash

A South Bay Republican Assembly candidate who’s already grappling with her own skeletons-in-the-closet while taking on a Democratic incumbent in a heavily Democratic district has a new problem: cash, and none of it.

Santa Clara management consultant ArLyne Diamond, the challenger to Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the newly drawn 25th Assembly District, sent out this e-mail plea today:

URGENT REQUEST – NEED IT NOW!

The hardest part, for me, of running for office is trying to raise the money one needs in order to succeed.

Your donations helped me get on the ballot in the primary and win a spot towards the November election. You might remember that among the costs were the fees to both counties for having ballot statements.

Well, we need approximately $8,500.00 to get statements on the ballot in both Santa Clara and Alameda counties. We are about ½ way there.

The deadline is August 10th. That’s just a few days away. I must bring checks to the Registrar of Voters in both counties before that date.

So please: Make as big a donation at this time as you are able – and either mail it today or tomorrow – or use the “donate” button and pay it through Paypal.

Now, $8,500 isn’t a whole lot of money in the context of a California Assembly race, but Diamond’s campaign hasn’t reported ANY fundraising to the Secretary of State’s office so far. Wieckowski’s campaign had $57,778.30 cash on hand as of June 30; the data crunchers at MapLight.org have found most of his money comes from labor unions, followed by lawyers and lobbyists.

Diamond’s fundraising picture might not be helped by our recent revelation that her license to practice psychology was revoked 23 years ago by state authorities who concluded she’d improperly and unethically used her relationship with a patient to get a loan to fund her business.

Wieckowski finished first in June’s primary with 41.4 percent of the vote, followed by Diamond at 30.7 percent; eliminated was Democrat Pete McHugh, at 27.9 percent. The district is registered 45.3 percent Democrat, 19.7 percent Republican and 30.5 percent no-party-preference, so there’s not a lot of suspense here.

Posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 3 Comments »