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Archive for August, 2014

CA17: Khanna’s endorsers & Honda’s border visit

With today’s 17th Congressional District news dominated by the candidates’ agreement on debate terms and Ro Khanna’s rally outside Rep. Mike Honda’s San Jose office, I didn’t have room in the story for Khanna’s latest endorsements and Honda’s run for the border.

Khanna is touting new endorsements from San Jose City Councilmen Pete Constant and Johnny Khamis; Santa Clara County School Board Trustee Grace Mah; Fremont Unified School Board Member Lily Mei; and former Fremont Vice Mayor and City Councilmember Steve Cho.

Constant, Khamis and Cho are Republicans, while Mah and Mei are registered without party affiliation.

“I’m very proud that my grassroots campaign is supported by so many leaders from different backgrounds and across the political spectrum,” Khanna said in a news release. “While my opponent has relied on national and special interest backing, our campaign has worked hard to gain the trust and respect of those who actually live and work in the 17th district. I look forward to taking this inclusive and accessible approach to Congress.”

Constant said Khanna “has had strong bipartisan support since he launched his campaign, and I’m proud to be part of that. Unfortunately, Mike Honda has never been interested in working across the aisle, which is a stark departure from the long tradition of pragmatic leadership in Silicon Valley. Given Ro’s common sense approach and his unique understanding of economic issues, I’m confident he’ll be an effective representative for our region.”

Meanwhile, Honda will be part of a bipartisan congressional delegation that tours the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Tex., on Thursday and Friday.

“The recent surge of unaccompanied children coming across our border brought to the light the need for greater resources and understanding for our immigration and asylum processes,” Honda said in a news release. “This trip will help us learn more about what happens when someone comes to the border, how they are treated, and what both the US and Mexico need to improve the situation.”

Honda, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said such knowledge will help him and his colleagues work with their peers and the White House to “better appropriate funds so they meet the specific needs of those who are working on the US/Mexico Border.”

Along with Honda, the delegation includes Phil Roe, R-Tenn.; Mark Takano, D-Riverside; Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. They’ll visit the Hidalgo International Bridge, the McAllen Border Patrol Station, and the Department of Health and Human Services BCFS Harlingen Children’s Facility. They’ll meet with the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, key U.S. border patrol and enforcement officials, and a Mexican government delegation.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Snapshot: My meeting with Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, would rather that voters see the “R” after his name as representing “resume.”

Pete Peterson“I have the least partisan resume of anybody” who has sought this office before or since June’s primary election, said Peterson, who runs the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. Peterson will face off in November’s general election against state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys.

Though Peterson is running as a Republican, he said his brand of partisan pride harkens back to when the GOP “was known for its reform-minded perspective on government,” and he believes the secretary of state’s office “definitely should be run in a nonpartisan way.”

Of course, he’s also smart enough to know what the Republican brand means in California, where only 28 percent of voters choose to affiliate with it.

Peterson stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office late Tuesday afternoon before heading to Piedmont, where he was scheduled to do a joint fundraising event with controller candidate and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, hosted by the Lincoln Club of Northern California; tickets cost $300 to attend, $1,000 to co-host or $5,000 to host.

He said it’s the first time he’s done such an event with Swearengin, and while he’s open to doing more events with her and other statewide GOP candidates, “there will be a lot of flying solo out there on the campaign trail” as well.

We talked about his and Padilla’s views on limiting the schedule on which lawmakers can accept campaign contributions – he would ban all contributions during the entire legislative session, Padilla for the last 100 days of each session – but he confessed he doesn’t think it’s a major issue. “There are fairly easy ways around either of those.”

Instead, Peterson said, he wants to see California significantly improve the transparency of political contributions, given the current CalAccess system’s outdated technology and clunky user interface. He said he’s been meeting with people like Dan Newman, president and cofounder of Berkeley-based MAPLight.org, about the great work they’re doing in shining a light on money in politics. It may be better for government to partner with, validate and promote nonprofit and private-sector transparency outfits like this rather than remain perpetually behind the curve in adapting to new technology and data demands, Peterson said.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Secretary of State | 2 Comments »

Feinstein calls for quake early-warning system

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued this statement Monday:

“With more than 100 injured and estimates of damage approaching $1 billion, the Napa earthquake reminds us how incredibly dangerous these temblors can be. There’s no doubt a major earthquake will hit California, the only questions are when and where.

“I believe an integrated earthquake early-warning system is essential to save lives and property. Two bills from the Senate Appropriations Committee move us toward that goal. The bill to fund the Department of the Interior includes $5 million to begin work on an early-warning system, while the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security urges FEMA to prioritize grant funds for such a system. These bills will advance this fall and I will continue to prioritize funding for this system.

“An earthquake early-warning system would provide crucial time to carry out lifesaving actions. A warning of even a handful of seconds would allow for emergency notifications to be sent; trains and traffic to be slowed or stopped; supplies of oil, gas and chemicals to be turned off; nuclear plants to be safeguarded; even elevators to be safely emptied.

“What we need is the political resolve to deploy such a system. Officials in Washington and along the West Coast should partner with the private sector to make an interoperable earthquake early-warning system a reality, and we should do so as soon as possible before a much larger earthquake strikes.”

California already has a demonstration early-warning system called the California Integrated Seismic Network, which did provide its test users in some parts of the Bay Area with up to about 10 seconds of warning before Sunday morning’s temblor hit.

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed into law SB 135 by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, which requires the Office of Emergency Services to work with other agencies to expand this into a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system. But the bill didn’t appropriate any of the $80 million it’s estimated such a system would cost; instead, it gave the OES until Jan. 1, 2016 to find funding for the project.

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Two from Bay Area picked as White House fellows

Five Californians, including two from the Bay Area, are among the 15 people who were announced Monday as the 2014-2015 class of White House Fellows.

The White House Fellows program – now in its 50th year – was created by President Lyndon Johnson to give promising leaders “first-hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.”

Fellows take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, and current affairs, and also participate in service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C. The selection process is highly competitive, based on “a record of professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential, and a proven commitment to public service,” the White House said. “Each Fellow must possess the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute meaningfully at senior levels in the federal government.”

Here are the selectees’ bios, as presented by the White House:

Jacob DonnellyJacob E. Donnelly, San Francisco, CA, was a Senior Vice President at New Island Capital. He was responsible for private equity investments in companies that generate meaningful social, environmental, and community benefits alongside financial returns. Previously, Jacob was the Co-Founder of Farm Builders, a mission-driven company helping farmers replant tree crops in Liberia. He helped raise the seed capital, including fellowships from Echoing Green and the Rainer Arnhold Foundations, and launched Farm Builders following an internship in the Office of the President, H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. From 2005-2007, Jacob was the Co-Founder and Director of The Freedom Campaign, a non-profit grassroots effort to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Burma. He began his career as a management consultant and served on the Board of Directors of IDinsight, a non-profit organization that helps leaders in developing countries use evidence to improve their social impact. Jacob received his undergraduate degree from Babson College, where he earned the Roger Babson Award. He holds a Master in Public Administration/International Development from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.

Jonathan DorseyJonathan M. Dorsey, Woodside, CA, is a social entrepreneur and recently served as Co-Founder and Director of the Impact Careers Initiative, an Aspen Institute program researching how to recruit talent to public-impact work. He also worked as an advisor to the Franklin Project, a bipartisan campaign for national service. Previously, Jonny co-founded and served as Executive Director of Global Health Corps, which places emerging global leaders with high-impact non-profits to build health systems around the world. Jonny was inspired to launch Global Health Corps by his experience co-founding and leading FACE AIDS, a nonprofit that mobilized students in the fight against AIDS. Jonny was named an Echoing Green Fellow, a Draper Richards Social Entrepreneur, and received the Next Generation Award from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Jonny also served on the Harvard College National Advisory Board for Public Service, the Riekes Center Board of Directors, and as a Trustee of Partners in Health. He is a graduate of Stanford University, where he received the Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement and was President of the student body. He received his M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business and M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Read about the other Californians selected as White House fellows, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda-Khanna debate details not yet final

Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign has accepted an invitation to debate his challenger, fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, but the details are still in flux, the campaigns and a debate organizer said Monday.

Honda & Khanna (photo by Jim Gensheimer, Bay Area News Group)The Huffington Post and San Jose State University are working together to host the event – that much we know.

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Monday that his team accepted a proposal that the hour-long debate would be held on Tuesday, Oct. 14 or Thursday, Oct. 16. The format, Kembaiyan said, is a single moderator plus a panel consisting of Bay Area journalists and SJSU faculty, with questions selected by the Huffington Post but not provided to either candidate ahead of time. After a coin-toss determines the order of speakers, there will be no opening statements; instead, they’ll get right to two-minute responses with 90-second rebuttals and, at the panelists’ discretion, one-minute discussion extensions. Each candidate will finish with a two-minute closing statement.

A leak of some of this information on Friday caught Khanna’s campaign unawares, drawing anger that the debate (singular, they note, after Honda agreed earlier this year to “debates,” plural) wouldn’t happen until well after vote-by-mail ballots go out on Oct. 6.

“The Honda campaign apparently felt it would be acceptable to hold a debate that a large portion of voters wouldn’t get to see before they cast their ballots,” campaign spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement issued Monday. “Why doesn’t Congressman Honda want his constituents to see a debate?”

Khanna had tweeted to HuffPo Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim on Friday that he’s “happy to participate. But be honest and have it before absentee drops instead of enabling Honda games.” Grim replied, “We can work with that. Will get back to you with a date before ballots drop;” he later tweeted that it’s “a reasonable request, to be sure.”

Kembaiyan wouldn’t say Monday whether Honda will accept an earlier date, reiterating that Oct. 14 or 16 “was the proposal we got and which we accepted. We hope that works out.”

But Grim said Monday that “it’s still being worked out, it’s very early in the process” and that Friday’s leak “left the impression that something was finalized” when in fact it’s not.

In other 17th Congressional District news, the Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club – the only local Democratic club to have endorsed Khanna, back in February – voted 33-12 last Thursday to switch its endorsement to Honda. Club president Tim Orozco couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Club member John Comiskey, as quoted in a Honda campaign news release, said the club changed its endorsement because Khanna since the primary “has shown his true conservative colors” with endorsements from Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The vote of the club reflects the knowledge that there is only one true progressive in this race, and he is Mike Honda.”

But club member and Khanna campaign volunteer Mary Morris blogged last Wednesday about the process, noting Khanna had attended the February endorsement meeting and Honda didn’t. Pushing for a re-vote, she said, was “the epitome of pettiness. … Do we really want a congressman whose staff, under his leadership, needs two chances to get something done?”

UPDATE @ 1:39 P.M.: “Congressman Honda skipped both of the Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club forums, and every other Democratic club forum throughout this campaign,” Law said in an email. “His handlers can desperately spin Ro’s recent endorsements from Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, but voters are much more concerned with the Congressman’s absenteeism and whether or not he is still up to the job.”

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Rick Perry hires California ‘master of disaster’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, recently indicted but still in the hunt for 2016’s presidential race, has hired a California crisis-communications guru to run interference for him.

Mark FabianiMark Fabiani, 57, of La Jolla, joins Perry’s legal team, lead attorney Tony Buzbee announced Monday.

“I’m proud to join Gov. Perry’s outstanding team which has been assembled to fight back against this attack on the rule of law,” Mark Fabiani said. “As we move forward to protect the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment rights of any governor, I am confident this prosecution will be revealed to be contrary to the law and wholly meritless.”

Fabiani cut his teeth as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and later was deputy campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign; he also has served as deputy mayor of Los Angeles and chief of staff to LA Mayor Tom Bradley, as well as in senior posts in the departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development.

Fabiani and Chris Lehane, a fellow Clinton White House “master of disaster,” run a prominent crisis communications firm. Their past clients have included Madonna, Goldman Sachs and Lance Armstrong, to name but a few.

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

ALD newborn-testing advocates fear veto for cost

Supporters of a bill that would require newborns to be tested for a deadly disease fear it may be headed for a veto because of its cost.

Assemblyman Richard Pan’s AB 1559, requiring newborns to be screened for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), is now headed for a Senate floor vote, having been approved last week by the Appropriations Committee on a 5-0 vote. In fact, no lawmaker has voted against the bill so far; the Assembly approved it 79-0 in May.

But the only entity on record as opposing the bill is a big one: The California Department of Finance. Its analysis found adding a new disease to the current screening panel would require raising the $111.70 fee by another $11 – and that means an added $2.75 million per year in cost to Medi-Cal, which covers testing for about half the state’s births.

The Finance Department noted the federal government is reviewing whether ALD should be added to the list of recommended screenings for all newborns, but that review will take about two years and the state typically waits for that final approval before adding new diseases to its screening panel.

Gov. Jerry Brown typically doesn’t comment on bills before they reach his desk.

ALD – spotlighted in the 1992 movie “Lorenzo’s Oil” – is a degenerative brain disease mostly affecting young boys. The disease affects the myelin sheaths that insulate brain cells, essentially preventing the brain from communicating with the body.

It’s a rare disease – estimated at one in 20,000 to one in 50,000 births – and those who have it often have normal early childhoods. Early symptoms often seem to be behavioral and are misdiagnosed, but once the degeneration begins, it’s very rapid and usually leads to a vegetative state and then death. Advocates say cord-blood and bone-marrow transplants in the disease’s earliest stages can treat and even heal patients – if anyone knows the patient has the disease.

“Every year that California delays testing, we can expect that 30 families won’t get the early diagnoses that could save their vibrant and seemingly healthy child from this cruel disease,” said Pan, D-Sacramento, who is a physician. “For the parents who have lost their child to ALD, it is particularly tragic and painful knowing that a simple and effective test at birth could have saved their child’s life.”

Shane Louisell, 53, of San Leandro, lost two brothers to the disease – Bobby, at age 5, and Richard, at age 44 – the latter having suffered the less-common, adult-onset version of the disease. Now his nephew, in his 30s, has it too.

“The bill is so important – getting newborns screened, at least they have a chance to do something about it before it’s too late,” said Louisell, an artist and retired teacher. “It would save a lot of families grief.”

And supporters say the bill actually would save California millions because the difference in treating an early diagnosed patient and a late-diagnosed patient is roughly $1 million per year.

New York just began testing newborn babies for ALD at the end of last year; so far, six boys and one girl were found to have the disease, and so have been given a chance at life; testing of those babies’ families found a four-year-old who also was diagnosed.

You could’ve heard a pin drop as ALD victims’ mothers told their stories at the Senate Health Committee hearing in June:

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Kashkari offers $25k scholarship in ad contest

Gubernatorial candidates often talk about the affordability of higher education, but not quite like this.

NEEL KASHKARIRepublican Neel Kashkari is offering a $25,000 scholarship to the California college student who can create the best 30-second ad for his campaign.

“College students are extremely creative and today my campaign is offering them the opportunity to help change the direction of California,” Kashkari said in a news release Wednesday. “We need to harness the creativity and vision of college students and encourage them to participate in the political process. I’m thrilled to announce this contest to achieve both important goals.”

The deadline to submit a 30-second or shorter ad, which will be used by the campaign potentially online or on broadcast or cable television, is 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 24; the $25,000 scholarship will be awarded to the winning entrant or team. Full rules, including sizing, timing and how to submit an ad, are posted on Kashkari’s website.

“I encourage parents, friends and students to spread the word about this contest,” Kashkari said. “We can change California if we harness the energy and creativity of our students.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Under: 2014 general | No Comments »

Blue Shield criticized for Levi’s Stadium skybox

The campaign for a ballot measure to let the state insurance commissioner veto health insurance rate hikes is pointing to Blue Shield of California’s pricey luxury skybox at the new Levis’s Stadium as a sign that insurers’ spending is out of control.

Levi's Stadium luxury suiteConsumer Watchdog and the Yes on 45 campaign sent a letter Tuesday to California Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to investigate “Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status” and crack down on its spending.

The letter cites a San Francisco Chronicle article which said suites of the type that Blue Shield got at the San Francisco 49ers’ new home are “priced at between $250,000 and $400,000 a year and require a 10- or 20-year commitment. That puts the price at anywhere from $2.5 million to $8 million.”

“We urge you to investigate Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status and use your authority to impose a ‘charitable trust’ on Blue Shield’s assets and block any additional wasteful spending that robs taxpayers and average California patients of their financial health,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court wrote to Harris.

Proposition 45 “will ensure that companies like Blue Shield are not increasing premium charges to patients to fund excessive executive compensation, lavish entertainment and excessive reserves,” Court wrote. “Under current law, the California Department of Insurance does not yet have the authority to block excessive rate increases that funded Blue Shield’s skybox. Before November, only you have the power to protect California taxpayers.”

Neither the No on Prop 45 campaign, known as Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, nor Blue Shield of California answered e-mails seeking comment Tuesday. Blue Shield spokesman Sean Barry told the Chronicle over the weekend that the luxury box’s primary purpose “is to interact social with some of our larger membership groups,” and it won’t be available to executives for “their personal use.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures | 2 Comments »

CA17: Khanna disavows Ernie Konnyu’s words

Apropos of my “please don’t help me” story in Monday’s editions, Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna on Tuesday repudiated the words of one of his most vocal Republican supporters.

Ernie KonnyuGOP former congressman Ernie Konnyu already had complicated Khanna’s life a bit by trying to rally tea party support for his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. More recently, Konnyu drew unwanted attention by getting into a Facebook argument with Republican former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen – who has endorsed Honda – over the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC’s support of Assembly candidate and Campbell councilman Evan Low. Low has led the fight on lifting the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donation by gay men.

“How sick is it that a business group endorses a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays,” Konnyu wrote on Friday, Aug. 8. “This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Konnyu has accused Honda’s staff and supporters of waging a “war of hate,” using “demonizing tweets” against him for his comments; last Thursday, he tweeted a challenge to Honda to introduce a bill to overturn the FDA policy.

Low and others issued a statement Tuesday urging Khanna to disavow Konnyu’s remarks.

“His continued silence on this issue raises concerns that he may share Konnyu’s views, and I urge him to join me, Congressman Honda, and the thousands of Americans nationwide who would like to see the FDA change its views,” Low wrote.

James Gonzales, president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee – a Silicon Valley LGBT political group – said “this kind of homophobic rhetoric has no place in our politics, from any politician of any party. We hope that Ro Khanna will quickly condemn these comments by Konnyu and denounce his support.”

Khanna issued a statement later Tuesday saying his positions and record “on defending marriage equality and the rights for all people is unequivocal.

Ro Khanna“I believe that any laws discriminating against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional. Full stop. While I am proud of all the support this campaign has received, I find any discriminatory statements from my supporters – whether they be homophobic, racist, or sexist – to be completely unacceptable and not reflective of my or my campaign,” he said.

Khanna said he has always respected Low’s public service, but Low now “has marginalized what could have been legitimate advocacy by recklessly saying that I could possibly agree with discrimination. This striking example of hypocrisy represents the worst of politics.”

Honda and Low remained silent when a union-backed national super PAC sent out a mailer just before June’s primary election that said Khanna’s policies would send jobs overseas and “outsource our jobs,” Khanna noted – a mailer Khanna calls “racially coded and xenophobic.”

“Unlike Congressman Honda, I will always speak up when those who support me use language that is not in line with my values,” Khanna said.

The FDA’s policy dates back to 1983 and has been in place in its current form since 1992 but is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Red Cross, which say the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Honda in 2008 supported San Jose State University’s effort to bring attention to the issue by suspending campus blood drives; started a petition against the ban last year that has been signed by more than 51,000 people; and has joined with several dozen other members of Congress in urging the FDA to lift the ban.

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »