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Archive for November, 2012

Gay Scout to be honored Monday by Assembly

California Assembly Speaker John Perez will recognize and honor Ryan Andresen – the East Bay Boy Scout who was denied his Eagle rank because he’s gay – at the new Assembly’s opening session Monday in Sacramento.

Andresen, now 18, of Moraga, and his parents also are scheduled to meet with supporters including Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Boy Scouts of America this summer re-affirmed its national policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from leadership. Andresen came out as gay, and though he had participated in Scouting for 12 years and satisfied all of the many requirements to attain its highest rank, Troop 212′s leaders denied him his Eagle award. The local council subsequently kicked him out of Scouting entirely.

His mother, Karen Andresen, started a Change.org petition which has been signed by almost 428,000 people urging the troop’s leaders to ignore BSA’s policy and give Andresen the award he earned.

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, John Perez, Leland Yee, Nancy Skinner | 8 Comments »

Dianne Feinstein hires Bay Area politico

A shakeup in U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s state-office staff includes the hiring of a Bay Area elected official who is about to be term-limited out of office.

Outgoing San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd will become Feinstein’s deputy state director in January, working from her San Francisco office.

A supervisor since 2004 and a San Francisco native, Elsbernd, 36, also was elected chairman of the Caltrain board in 2010 and 2011 by his peers in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. And from 2009 through this year, he served on the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation Board of Directors, which serves North Bay communities.

Feinstein said she’s “delighted” to welcome Elsbernd to her team to “lead our initiatives and outreach across Northern California. Sean brings a unique set of skills and experience to his new position, having served as a supervisor in San Francisco for eight years. In that capacity, Sean was vice-chair of the Rules Committee and chair of the Transportation Authority’s Finance Committee. He also served on the Budget and Finance Committee, the Health Service System Board and the Retirement Board.”

He replaces Trevor Daley, who is being promoted to state director upon the retirement of longtime director Jim Molinari. Daley, an Arcata native who has worked for Feinstein for more than 14 years, will continue working from the senator’s Los Angeles office.

Daley earlier had worked as a scheduler in the senator’s Washington office and a caseworker in her San Francisco office. As deputy state director, he has overseen Feinstein’s Los Angeles office and outreach efforts in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties. Earlier in his career he worked for Los Angeles Councilmember Ruth Galanter.

Feinstein said Daley has done an outstanding job guiding her Southern California operations. “He has been particularly valuable in our outreach efforts to various constituency groups including business leaders, young entrepreneurs and the LGBT community, and I am counting on him to expand those efforts statewide.”

Molinari has worked on Feinstein’s Senate staff for 11 years, but first met her in 1978 when she was San Francisco’s mayor.

Back then, he wore a badge. He retired from the San Francisco Police Department as a captain after 27 years of service, but in 1994, Molinari was appointed U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of California by President Clinton. In 2001 he became executive director of the Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

“I’ve known Jim Molinari for 35 years, and during that time he has become a trusted and loyal advisor and, more importantly, a good friend,” Feinstein said. “I’m sad to see him go, but Jim has more than earned his retirement. I’m grateful for his service to California and our nation.”

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

AG Kamala Harris says give, but give wisely

Commercial fundraisers in California raised $338.5 million in 2011, but only just over half of that actually went to charitable organizations, according to a report released today by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

So in this season of giving, ask a lot of questions about how and who to give to.

“This report gives Californians the vital information they need to make educated choices about where to make charitable contributions this holiday season,” Harris said in a news release. “While commercial fundraisers play a role in supporting charities in California, it is important for donors to know how much of their money will be used to support the charity’s programs, and how much will go to overhead.”

The 51 percent of donated funds going to charities using a professional fundraiser in 2011 is actually an increase from the 2010 average of 44.4 percent.

Commercial fundraisers, hired by charities to raise money on their behalf, typically charge a flat fee for their services or take a percentage of the contributions they collect.

Most charities registered with the Attorney General don’t use commercial fundraisers to raise funds, but do their own, in-house fundraising. But state law requires commercial fundraisers to register with the Attorney General’s office and file annual financial disclosure reports detailing income and expenses for each fundraising campaign.

The $338.5 million figure excludes thrift store operations and vehicle donation programs, which are accounted for separately.

The Attorney General’s office also publishes a Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors with advice and guidelines, including:

    Ask the fundraiser how a donation will be distributed. Fundraisers are required by law to tell a consumer this information.
    Ask what percentage of donations will be used to pay for fundraising expenses. This information can better inform the consumer as to how much of the contribution will go to the cause versus overhead.
    Ask if the fundraiser works for a commercial fundraiser and is being paid to solicit. If the answer is yes, then it is likely less of the funds are going to the charity.
    Avoid cash donations, as cash can more easily be diverted to non-charitable purposes and there is no way to trace it.
    Avoid giving credit card information to a telephone solicitor or in response to a telephone solicitation.
    Learn about a charitable organization, its activities and its fundraising practices before giving.

The Attorney General’s office maintains a searchable online database on registered charities and registered professional fundraisers, but donors also can check with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris | No Comments »

The Obama-Romney lunch at the White House

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. (Well, maybe not a fly, given President Obama’s moves.)

Here’s the official readout from the White House:

This afternoon, President Obama and Governor Romney visited for an hour over lunch in the Private Dining Room adjacent to the Oval Office. Governor Romney congratulated the President for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years. The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future. They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future. Their lunch menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency | 15 Comments »

Speier: End LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ for kids

A resolution introduced today by Rep. Jackie Speier would encourage states to act, as California already has, against so-called LGBT conversion practices that seek to change a child’s sexual orientation.

The Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) resolution, cosponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., goes hand-in-hand with Speier’s investigation of whether federal funds have been spent on such practices, which have been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and other mental health groups for decades.

Jackie Speier“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. Any effort to change sexual orientation is not medicine, it’s quackery, and we should not be supporting it with taxpayer dollars,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release.

“California led the nation on this issue when Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1172, a law that prohibits state licensed mental health professionals from engaging minors in these harmful and abusive therapies,” she said. “Governor Brown did the right thing and I am urging all states to consider similar laws.”

Brown signed the state law in late September; conservatives filed a federal lawsuit a few days later, and a motions hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in federal court in Sacramento.

“This law places the state between the client and the counselor,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the plaintiffs. “This law intrudes on a client’s fundamental right of self-determination to seek counseling that aligns with his/her religious and moral values. This law forces counselors to overrule the will of their clients who choose to prioritize their religious or moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attraction.”

Speier’s SHOK resolution encourages each state to take steps to protect minors from efforts that promote or promise to change sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness or developmental disorder that can or should be cured.

Speier also is probing whether federal taxpayer dollars have been spent on conversion therapy with minors through Medicaid or TRICARE reimbursements. Her initial inquiries found “two additional instances of so-called mental health professionals that advertise these services and appear to be eligible for federal dollars,” she said. “This morning, I sent letters of inquiry to Medicaid and TRICARE to determine if these instances reflect systemic weaknesses that allow federal taxpayer dollars to go to harmful, illegitimate medical services.”

Speier was joined at a press conference this morning on Capitol Hill by Sheldon Bruck and Jerry Spencer, who were subjected to this “conversion therapy;” Laura Booker, a licensed clinical social worker; Christine Sun, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director; Ashland Johnson, policy counsel with the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Brian Moulton, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Barbara Lee drops House Dems leadership bid

Rep. Barbara Lee this morning withdrew her name from the running for vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Lee, D-Oakland, asked her fellow House Democrats to unify around Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., for the job instead.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“My goal in seeking the position was to provide a broader voice to our Democratic agenda. We fight each and every day for the middle class because without a middle class there would be no American dream to reignite. However, like so many in our Caucus, we also want to fight for those aspiring for and striving to be in the middle class and our message, legislative agenda and politics must reflect this reality,” Lee said in a written statement.

“With nearly 50 million people living in poverty, of whom 16 million are children, we must recognize that it is in our nation’s best interest both morally and economically to develop policies to at least cut poverty in half in the next 10 years,” she said. “This should be part of our Caucus agenda as we work to create ladders of opportunity and remove obstacles to reigniting the American dream for all.”

Lee noted the Democratic Caucus is the most diverse in the nation’s history. “This is our strength and we must build on this as we work to take back the House. This diversity, which brings a diversity of ideas, should be seriously reflected in our leadership, our leadership decisions and our overall agenda.”

The House Democratic Caucus has been chaired in the soon-to-end 112th Congress by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.; the vice chairman has been Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles. The new 113th Congress starts at noon on Thursday, Jan. 3.

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Pelosi names Garamendi to Agriculture Committee

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today named Rep. John Garamendi to the House Agriculture Committee for the final few weeks of this 112th Congress, even as the House might take up a big farm bill during the lame-duck session.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Garamendi, D-Fairfield, expect approval of the assignment at Wednesday’s House Democratic Caucus meeting. This is a committee seat that was left vacant in August by the sudden retirement of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.

John Garamendi“I didn’t enter Congress to twiddle my thumbs and sit quietly in the background. I must be where the needs of my district are and that’s in the final negotiations for the five-year farm bill,” Garamendi said in a news release Tuesday. “I want to thank Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi for giving me this opportunity to serve where I am needed.”

He said passing a good farm bill is important to the family farmers in his newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, where he won re-election this month by turning away a challenge from Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, a Republican. But the food aid contained in the bill will provide vital help to struggling families across the state, he added.

“As a farmer and rancher, I know we need to get this done, and I will work around the clock to make sure California specialty crops and commodity programs are protected,” he said.

House rules dictate that joining the Agriculture Committee requires Garamendi to resign from the House Natural Resources Committee, which he did today; he’ll continue serving on the Armed Services Committee in this lame-duck session. Committee assignments for the new 113th Congress, which begins at noon on Thursday, Jan. 3, have not been announced yet.

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Under: Agriculture, Dennis Cardoza, John Garamendi, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Pete Stark must close his office this Friday

Rep. Pete Stark, defeated in this month’s election by a fellow Democrat after 40 years in the House, must close his Capitol Hill office Friday.

Debbie Curtis, his chief of staff, said House rules require lame ducks to be out of their offices by Dec. 1, and Stark’s shutdown is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday. The computers there are networked to those in Stark’s district office, so those will go offline, too.

Stark, D-Fremont, is being assigned a cubby in the Longworth House Office Building with a computer, two chairs and a phone forwarded from Stark’s existing office line, she said.

“We will still be checking our voice mail,” Curtis said, and should Congress be ready to act on the so-called “fiscal cliff” in the next few weeks, “He’ll be there and he’ll vote, he’ll just go to the floor and work from there … He can absolutely vote without having his office.”

The House’s calendar shows the week of Dec. 3 is a D.C. work week, with votes possible from 6:30 p.m. Monday through 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6; the following week can see votes from 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 through 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14.

Stark’s staff has posted this notice to some of the constituent service sections of his website:

I’ve been honored to represent the East Bay in Congress for the last 40 years. As you may know, I was not re-elected. My office will be closing on November 30th.
[snip]
The 13th Congressional District will be divided among Rep. Mike Honda, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell. You should ascertain which district you now reside in and reach out to the appropriate office based on that information. Please visit: http://www.acgov.org/ms/addresslookup/ to verify your new district.

Curtis said constituents with current case work have been contacted, and if they so desire, their information is being passed along to Lee, Honda or Swalwell; also, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are helping 15th Congressional District constituents during the transition.

“We’re trying to make it the least inconvenient for people that we can,” she said.

Stark was defeated by Eric Swalwell, a Dublin city councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, who is still attending freshman orientation and hiring staff but has not yet been assigned a permanent office. The new, 113th Congress takes office at noon on Thursday, Jan. 3.

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Under: Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

West Coast Senators urge probe of gas prices

The West Coast’s U.S. Senators today asked the Justice Department to do a refinery-by-refinery investigation into why gas prices spiked to more than $4 a gallon during May and October.

The letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder from senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Patty Murray, D-Wash., asks that the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group probe any possible market manipulation or false reporting.

“A McCullough Research report released Nov. 15th in conjunction with a California State Senate hearing on California gas prices revealed information that showed that the price spikes in May and October occurred while crude oil prices were declining, inventories were increasing, and possibly in conjunction with misleading market-making information,” they wrote.

The report they cited found that some West Coast oil refineries may have been producing oil last May despite public reports that they were shuttered for maintenance. For example, McCullough’s analysis found that the Chevron refinery in Richmond emitted byproducts of petroleum production throughout May – yet public reports claim the refinery shut down production from May 12 to May 26.

The report found the October price spike added up to a 66 cent-per-gallon windfall profit for oil companies—or about $25 million a day. The difference between what drivers actually paid and what they should have paid exceeded $1 billion.

“West Coast families and businesses are reeling from elevated and extremely volatile prices at the pump, impacting family budgets, inflation levels, and overall economic activity,” the senators wrote. “We believe this situation demands the attention from the Working Group established in April 2011 specifically to ‘monitor oil and gas markets for potential violations of criminal or civil laws to safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.’ ”

The working group includes representatives from the Department of Justice, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the Departments of Agriculture and Energy.

Feinstein in August had urged the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation of the sudden rise in case prices.

Read the full text of the senators’ letter, after the jump:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, energy, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Pete Stark to speak at American Atheists meeting

Rep. Pete Stark is on the verge of leaving the House after 40 years, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in demand.

Stark, who had been Congress’ only avowed atheist, will be a featured speaker at the 2013 convention of American Atheists, the group announced today.

“Congressman Stark proved that the assertion that one needs to be religious to be elected is false – atheists CAN and DO get elected to Congress – we just need to do it more often,” American Atheists President David Silverman said in a news release.

Stark, D-Fremont, announced his atheism in 2007, and in early 2011 introduced a resolution designating February 12, 2011 as Darwin Day. H.Res. 81 stated, “Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity.”

Pete Stark (photo by Aric Crabb) “Congressman Stark has never apologized for being nonreligious, and was re-elected again and again, as an atheist, based on the issues and his record,” American Atheists Managing Director Amanda Knief said in the news release. “His speech, which will focus on atheism and politics, will surely be an exciting and unique experience, well suited to our 50th Anniversary Convention.”

About 1,500 people are expected to attend the convention March 28-31 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, Texas, the city in which Madalyn Murray O’Hair founded the organization in 1963.

Stark was unseated in this month’s election by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor.

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Under: Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »