CA15: Swalwell mailer & ad attack Corbett

Rep. Eric Swalwell has sent out an attack mailer and begun airing a matching television commercial that take his Democratic rival, state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, to task for allegedly “gaming the system” by taking pay and perks she hasn’t earned.

“Ellen Corbett missed 949 votes, but she always pocketed the paychecks and perks,” the mailer says. “Corbett gamed the system and collected $32,000 in per diem pay for days she never bothered to show up! Despite her failure to vote, she always found time to cash her $95,000 taxpayer funded paycheck. Now Corbett expects a promotion?”

The mailer also claims Corbett, D-San Leandro, accepted taxpayer-funded cars worth $75,000; bought office furniture worth $67,000 while serving as San Leandro’s mayor; and took trips to Maui, India and Spain. The TV ad reiterates all this, and ends with Swalwell, D-Dublin, saying he approves the message “because I know being your representative is a full-time job.”

Click to enlarge:
Swalwell mailer outside

Swalwell mailer inside

“There’s no gaming of the system. People know my work ethic as a legislator, they knew my work ethic as a mayor and councilmember – I’m someone who’s very hard-working and I take my job seriously,” Corbett responded Friday.

“It’s really disappointing that Eric Swalwell is just a typical politician who’s willing to say or do anything to get elected,” she said. “It shows he has no regard for the truth, he’s willing to put his election before his integrity and his honesty – he’s not the breath of fresh air that people think he is.”

Corbett said she has cast about 43,000 votes during her 14 years in the Legislature.

“I have near-perfect attendance, I have missed a handful of days for sickness or family sickness,” she said, adding she raised her son as a single mom. “From time to time there are votes I’ve abstained on, but I was present … Nobody gets paid per diem unless they actually check in for the session, so we are physically present.”

More, after the jump…

State lawmakers used to be provided leased cars through their office budgets which were used in part to commute to and from Sacramento, she said. “I was always very respectful of taxpayers, I’ve been driving a Prius for years.”

I checked into the mailer’s travel allegations before talking to Corbett on Friday. The 2003 Maui trip was for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s annual conference, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article. “Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said she was paying for her room at the Maui Sheraton with her own money,” the Chronicle reported. “The only part of the trip being paid for with campaign funds is her airfare, she said.”

For the India trip, the mailer cites a November 2008 Chronicle article which noted “more than a dozen state lawmakers have missed much of the special legislative session called to tackle the state’s fiscal mess, instead traveling to India, China and Hawaii to learn about education, high-speed rail and dams.” Corbett was one of eight state senators who made the two-week trip sponsored by the California International Relations Foundation, a nonprofit tied to the senate; the trip’s goal was to promote cultural, economic and political relations while observing India’s education system and burgeoning high-tech industry. No taxpayer funds were used for the trip, which had been booked before the special budget session was scheduled, and which ended in time for lawmakers to attend a floor session.

And the 12-day trip to Spain in 2010 included Corbett, six other Democratic lawmakers and two California Public Utilities Commission members, courtesy of the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy – a nonprofit that for years has funded international trips for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Republican Hugh Bussell of Livermore also is running in the 15th Congressional District.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Marga

    Well, this can only mean one thing: Swalwell has polled and the numbers don’t look good for him.

    Of course, given that Corbett doesn’t have that much money and probably can’t respond in kind, going negative is unlikely to hurt him much. Still, you only get this nasty when you’re afraid of losing.

    We’re seeing the same thing in the Honda-Khanna race, where you see Honda attacking Khanna.

    It does seem to be effective, however. Some guy on FB did mention the claim against Corbett, and was incensed about it. He couldn’t remember who female legislator was, however. I wonder if the attacks on Corbett will also work against Hayashi, for the part of the district that both races share.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Corbett is still a loser and apparently a lot older than the mugshot this blog keeps running

  • JohnW

    I don’t know if you are right about that, but it will be interesting to seen the tally on election day. Swalwell hasn’t taken ANYTHING for granted, and that was well-advised. Competition is good.

  • Marga

    Yep, competition is good. But attack ads are not without consequences. Granted, Corbett has very little money so she can’t turn around and do the same to Swalwell, but it’s still a risk that Swalwell wouldn’t take unless he was seriously worried.

  • Willis James

    I would only say that Corbett was supporting Pete Stark when he was attacking Swalwell in 2012.
    I didn’t hear her calling Pete
    “a typical politician who’s willing to say or do anything to get elected”

    However I don’t find this attack ad to be very well done, but it may gain traction in voters who don’t know Corbett very well.

  • Marga

    I think it was pretty clear in 2012 that Stark wasn’t mentally competent. And that presents a conundrum, one that I have thought a lot about lately.

    On the one hand, someone who has given a good chunk of his life to public service, deserves some degree of honor and respect for that work. We all age, chances are that our minds will lose their sharpness, and kicking someone while they are down – and doing such a good job of kicking themselves – is just not kind.

    On the other hand, voters do deserve to know when a candidate does not have his full faculties.

    Fortunately this term the Chron and the BANG papers are posting their endorsement interviews online, so voters can find out for themselves without having anyone have to say it.

  • Elwood

    Corbett is 59.

  • Elwood

    So, according to you Marga, any candidate who runs a negative ad about his/her opponent is in trouble.

    A unique perspective.

  • Elwood

    Corbett had $208k on hand as of April.

    Not what I would consider chump change.

    I guess she had to do something with it so she ran for Congress.

  • Marga

    It’s a pretty modest amount for a Congressional seat. It’s about 1/4th of what Swalwell had, and less than 1/10th of what Khanna has to go against another incumbent.

  • Marga

    Only if you consider “conventional wisdom” to be unique.

  • Elwood

    So then I guess Wieckowski is in trouble because he ran an ad pointing out that Hayashi is a lying thief.

  • Marga

    He would have been, had he not sent the anti-Hayashi mailer.

    I believe that as long as voters know that Hayashi is a lying thief, they won’t vote for her – but they will only know that if Wieckowski tells them. If he didn’t, he would be in trouble.

    Again, isn’t it interesting that the only one not attacking is Khanna?

  • Guest

    When legislators skip a lot of votes they are not doing their jobs – that’ that’s what they get paid to do, so I think it’s fair for Swalwell to hit Corbett on this. Additionally, voters have long been disgusted about this per diem scheme California Legislators use to inflate salaries – they get paid not to go to work, they just “pretend to be in session”, so this criticism is entirely fair too. Corbett – by going along with this get-paid-to-do nothing scheme, and by missing votes, is proving she’s just another political hack. Reformers call for reform, hacks going along with the status quo, odious though it may be.
    Corbett’s age, she is 60 – she’s a lot older than Swalwell who is just 35, shouldn’t be an issue, obviously. But I have observed some of these older politicians, like Pete Stark. Mike Honda, and now Ellen Corbett are refusing to retire – by doing that they are depriving – or trying to deprive – the younger generation to serve in these legislative seats. Stark, Honda, and Corbett – they are or were longtime legislators, but they don’t seem to want to get off the stage, obviously! When I read about these junkets the politicians go on all the time – paid for by special interest groups – and the fact they get paid for doing nothing sometimes – Corbett failing to vote and collecting phony per diem money – you can see why they are refusing to retire! Such a deal. Honda, I noticed recently, is claiming he’s “leading the charge” on hiking minimum wage in his campaign, yet according to records he is leading the Nor-Cal Congressional delegation on junkets, if he’s “leading the charge” on anything, it’s to the air-port to go on junkets! When politicians are skipping votes – like Pete Stark and Ellen Corbett – or leading the charge to the airport to go on junkets – Mike Honda – time to give them their pink slips, I think. Lot’s of work to be done in Sacramento and Washington DC, let’s put the hard workers in charge – like Eric Swalwell or Ro Khanna – not the gold-bricks, like Starl, Honda, and Corbett.

  • Marga

    It sounds to me that Corbett got paid less than half of what Swalwell got paid last year, for doing at least twice the job (if we define doing the job as voting). So it sounds to me that if anyone is lazy, according to your terms, that’s Swalwell.

  • Richard Woulfe

    Marga your view are good -very thoughtful, I like reading you – you make me think -but junkets don’t fly when you have 25% poverty rate in California. These older pols – Honda, Corbett, and Stark they are 70’s era politicians, they think it’s 1976 – back then jobs plentiful – falling off trees. Very different situation now – we have 1.2 million Californians out of work , may more working part time, huge numbers given up on looking for work at all. Now is not time for junkets! Legislators must work overtime, but that not the case with Corbett and Honda, they are lazy 70’s era pols, forever scheming to make bee-line to airport for junkets. Goldbricks – all of them, As voters we need to demand 90 hour work week out of our Congressman or state legislators – show us the jobs – that should be mantra of voters, it is with me. I want to end, or at least minimize all this op

  • Marga

    Richard, I appreciate the compliment. But I think you are being unfair on Ellen Corbett (I don’t know about Mike Honda). Corbett, from everything I hear, is extremely hard working. My point above was that voting is not a good indicator of how much a legislator does. Indeed, the amount of voting they are doing seems crazy. An average of 3,000 votes a year for Corbett? About 12 votes a day? What the hell are they voting on and how much thought, much less research, can go into any of those votes? It seems to me that it’s the work of legislators that needs to be streamlined.

    I get your desire for change and to move forward. But it doesn’t take youth to do that. It takes brains and guts and commitment and vision. I support Ro Khanna because I feel he has these – but I also support Barbara Lee and Bernie Sanders, quite a few years his seniors, for the same reason. I honestly don’t know whether Corbett has those qualities, her style is very different form mine. But I do know that Swalwell lacks integrity, and all the youth and the energy in the world cannot make up for a weak moral core.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    ICYMI —most voters know nothing about Corbett and her record. That is fatal for her chances. She is a loser.

  • Marga

    And you based that on what?

  • JohnW

    Gawd. The primary is just round 1 of the ****ing contest between these two. Unless the Republican (anybody know his name?) pulls the upset of the century, these two will be going at each other until November.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Jill Abramson’s analysis of the race

  • Elwood

    “I also support Barbara Lee and Bernie Sanders”

    Pretty much explains everything you need to know about Marga.

    Marga, why do you say Swalwell “lacks integrity?” Because he paid some delegates’ way to a convention? Pretty thin gruel, that!

    You seem to be an army of one on that one. Got anything else?

    More! Stronger! Better!

  • Marga

    Are you referring to something concrete or is this a joke?

  • Marga

    I don’t think it’ll take a miracle for Bussell (whose name is right above your comment, at the end of the article) to make it past June. As I’ve mentioned before, in the June 2010 election, about 37% of the votes for Congress in CD15 were cast for Republican candidates vs. 63% for Democrats. Swalwell was able to get almost half of those votes for himself in the June 2012 primary, but there were not Republican candidates in the ballot. This time around not only is there a Republican candidate, but Swalwell has moved to the left, or, more precisely, has become an “Obama/Pelosi Democrat”. My guess is that this won’t play that well with the Republicans who voted for him last time around.

    The question, then, is how Swalwell and Corbett split that remaining 63% and without polls, the only indication we have that they’re even close are Swalwell’s negative ads.

  • Elwood

    “Bussell (whose name is right above your comment, at the end of the article)”

    Pay attention, John! You have been admonished by Marga!

  • JohnW

    The “question” was rhetorical. But your analysis is interesting.

  • Elwood

    So is a train wreck.

  • Marga

    Didn’t we just have this conversation under an article on how Swalwell is using taxpayer money to do his own political campaigning?

  • Elwood

    I’m afraid you’re hallucinating again, Marga.

    Do you mean the franking privilege every member of Congress takes advantage of?

    Try harder.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Marga is right about Corbett’s determination. This low, cunning,unscrupulous harridan will stop at nothing to wreck the Congressman’s career. Her ambition is boundless–given enough cash she would imitate Lady Macbeth

  • Marga

    Just in case I was, indeed, hallucinating I went and re-read the article. Nope, it’s there in black and white: Swalwell used his franking “provilege” four times more than the 9 Bay Area Congressmembers /combined/.

    There is use and then there abuse, Swalwell is so far from the line, he can no longer see it. Unfortunately, I think that’s not the only ethical line he – or his supporters – can’t see.

    This two ethical mishaps may not seem too grave vis a vis pretend arms dealing, but he’s been in Congress for all of a year and a half. I can only imagine how dirty he’ll become if given time.

  • JohnW

    I was referring to her analysis of how the vote might split. If the GOP base that typically turns out for mid-terms sticks with Bussell, and the unions turn out the vote for Corbett, it might be a tighter race for Swalwell than you might expect. I doubt it, but we’ll know in a couple of weeks.

  • Elwood

    ” I can only imagine”

    My you do have an active imagination don’t you?

  • Marga

    I wish! Then perhaps I would have predicted that a member of the state Senate would be arrested for conspiracy to sell weapons to be acquired from a Muslim insurgency group and brought over from the Philippines to be sold to a pretend-Mafioso.

    Seriously, an active imagination would be a good asset on this context!

  • Everyone should know that @SLtalk:disqus also predicted that Ellen Corbett would easily win the endorsement of the California Democratic Party . . . and Congressman Eric Swalwell won that with about 55% of the vote of delegates, with Corbett receiving barely 35%.

    It wouldn’t shock me if #CA15 broke down like this on June 3:

    Eric Swalwell — 56%
    Hugh Bussell — 32%
    Corbett — 12%