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Archive for September, 2014

AD15: Big IE money spent to support Thurmond

15th Assembly District candidate Elizabeth Echols is complaining that political committees “funded by oil and tobacco interests” are spending generously on independent-expenditure mailers in support of her opponent, Tony Thurmond.

And that’s true, although many other interests are behind the spending as well.

Tony ThurmondElizabeth Echols, 54, of Oakland, is former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Thurmond, 46, is a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member. The two Democrats are vying to succeed Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is term-limited out of office at this year’s end.

The “Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California business coalition” has reported spending $68,722 in the past week on mailers, research and polling to support Thurmond.

Records show the Alliance raised $713,980.69 in the first half of this year, and has reported no large contributions since. Among the money it collected this year was $125,000 in May from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $90,000 in May from Philip Morris USA, and $25,000 in January from the Occidental Oil & Gas Corp. So, oil and gas accounted for about a third of the committee’s income; the rest came from a wide array of companies, unions and Indian tribes.

Another committee, Keep CA Strong, has reported spending $29,848 on Thurmond’s behalf in the past week.

It reported no cash on hand at mid-year, but reports having received $75,000 on Sept. 19 from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Independent Expenditure Committee; $200,000 on Sept. 22 from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $25,000 on Sept. 26 from the California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee; and $2,450 on Sept. 27 from the aforementioned Alliance for California’s Tomorrow. Here, then, the oil industry’s share is bigger.

Echols“It’s very unusual for this district for this kind of money to come in – these are big corporate interests that don’t spend money idly” especially in so solidly progressive a district, Echols said Tuesday. “I believe they know I will be an effective champion for the environment, for funding our schools and for economic opportunity.”

She acknowledged the Alliance has a “broad mix” of backers, but she said she finds “more telling” the Keep CA Strong committee’s limited donor base and money-in, money-out model.

The independent spending notwithstanding, Echols said her campaign has “good, strong resources and a message that is resonating well with voters.” She might not be able to match the outside spending dollar for dollar, she said, “but I believe we will be the stronger campaign in the end.”

Thurmond said Tuesday he “was really caught off-guard” by the spending: “I don’t even know who these groups are.”

“The irony is, I’m the candidate who’s taken a pledge not to take money from cigarette companies – I’m a social worker, I work with youth,” he said, noting he also voted against oil interests while on Richmond City Council. “Whatever they’re doing, they’ve done independently. My record is clear, my entire campaign is based on progressive values.”

Thurmond said the spending “really speaks to the need for reforming how politics works and overturning Citizens United so we have less special interest money in politics.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly | 5 Comments »

Actors tout Tuck for schools superintendent

Marshall Tuck, the Los Angeles school-reform advocate who’s running neck and neck with incumbent Tom Torlakson for superintendent of public instruction, has added a little star power to his campaign.

Tuck’s new two-and-a-half minute campaign video features actors Joel McHale, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Adam Scott sitting down with the candidate in a “strategy session.”

My favorite line (of course): “You’ve been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Who gives a s—?”

Tuck’s campaign issued a news release saying that while the video provides some humor amid a heated campaign, it takes a serious look at key issues facing the race.

“As a parent, I want to make sure we give every child access to a great education,” Bell said in the news release.

Celebrity factoid: Of these four actors, only Scott is a California native, born in Santa Cruz. Bell and Shepard hail from Detroit’s suburbs, McHale from Seattle.

UPDATE @ 11:47 A.M.: Good questions from Twitter follower Steven Herbert: “Do any of them have children old enough to be in public schools? If so, how many are in public schools?”

Bell and Shepard have one daughter, Lincoln Bell Shepard, born in March 2013, and they’re now expecting a second child; they live in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Scott and his wife, Naomi, have two children, son Graham, 7, and daughter Frankie, 5, and live in LA’s Hollywood Hills section. McHale and his wife, Sarah Williams, have two sons, Eddie, 8, and Isaac, 6; they live in Hollywood Hills as well.

I don’t know what schools the kids attend.

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, education, Tom Torlakson | 2 Comments »

CA17: Mike Honda launches first TV ad

Rep. Mike Honda on Monday launched the first television ad of his 2014 re-election campaign:

Honda, D-San Jose, ran no television ads before the June primary; his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, ran five, significantly depleting the much larger bankroll that Khanna had enjoyed. Now Honda has more money banked, and is starting with a classic incumbent’s ad: Touting his own record while never mentioning his opponent, so as not to give his foe any publicity.

“This ad reflects a central theme of Congressman Honda’s re-election campaign, emphasizing his record of delivering for his constituents, including $900 million in federal funding for the BART extension to San Jose, which is creating 13,000 jobs,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Ro Khanna had a free pass on the air during the primary election, but we are planning to have ads on television from now until Election Day.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said “an ad touting the Congressman’s ability to secure earmarks that no longer exist and taking credit for something that happened over a decade ago won’t change the fact that he has only passed one bill to name a post office in fourteen years and has one of the worst attendance records in Congress. That’s the real record that voters will be assessing as they cast their ballots.”

On that note, Khanna rolled out his third direct-mail piece of the general-election campaign:

(Click to enlarge…)
VBM 3 Side 1

VBM 3 Side 2

Here’s my story from early August about Khanna’s attack on Honda’s attendance record.

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Obama returns to Bay Area on Oct. 10

President Barack Obama will visit the Bay Area on Friday, Oct. 10 for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, a White House official said Friday.

More details will be made available in the coming days, the official said.

An invitation indicates Obama will attend a DNC reception that day at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel (though earlier invites had said it would be at San Francisco City Hall) with tickets ranging from $500 to $32,400 each. But Obama typically does several fundraising events on such visit, often a mix of larger receptions like this one and smaller, more expensive gatherings.

Another invitation shows Obama will be in Los Angeles the day before for a DNC reception hosted by actress Gwyneth Paltrow; tickets for that one range from $1,000 to $32,400.

Obama last visited the Bay Area in July, for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus.

Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 8 Comments »

CA17: Unpacking the Honda e-mails story

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s supporters are abuzz over today’s San Jose Inside story that says Rep. Mike Honda’s staffers violated House rules against mixing campaign activity with official business.

Sourced from emails provided by a former Honda aide who says he quit after being pressured to help out on the campaign, the story’s most biting claim is that Honda’s chief of staff, Jennifer Van der Heide, early last year coordinated with Lamar Heystek, then the Honda campaign’s political director, on whom to invite to a State Department roundtable.

Heystek wrote that he had compiled “a list of South Asian tech/investment folks who’ve donated to candidates in the past” but not to Honda. Van der Heide replied, “Great lists — how are we doing outreach to them for $? Can we at least collect emails and send newsletters or something if we can’t do straight asks electronically now? Also do you have the list of the South Asians now endorsing/supporting MH? I want to make sure we are including all of them. Invites going out first thing Monday morning.”

This constitutes a mixing of official and campaign events that’s verboten under House ethics rules (House Ethics Manual, page 150), even though Van der Heide’s e-mails came from her personal account and not during work hours, the story says. Heystek left Honda’s campaign in March 2014.

Honda office spokesman Ken Scudder issued a statement Wednesday evening saying “it is the policy of the Congressman, and under the rules of House Ethics, for the office to keep separate official work and campaign activities.

“While it is commonplace for office staff to choose to volunteer their time on campaigns, all of our staff who volunteer do so on their own time and volition, and without the use of official resources,” the statement said. “In this instance, while not a violation of House Rules, we should have taken more care to prevent the appearance of coordination.”

Honda’s campaign declined to comment Wednesday, as did Khanna’s.

It’s not entirely clear what sort of influence Honda or his staff would’ve been peddling here; whether those who attended were eventually hit up for campaign donations; and if they were, whether and how much they gave.

Honda’s staff told San Jose Inside that the event in question was a Feb. 21, 2013 roundtable at Santa Clara University with Mitul Desai, who at the time was senior advisor for strategic partnership in the State Department’s South and Central Asian Bureau. (The event appears in San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra’s archived calendar for February 2013.)

Yet when Desai’s boss, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake Jr., joined Honda a month later to host a roundtable at Microsoft’s Sunnyvale campus on the U.S.-India relationship, Honda sent his constituents an e-newsletter basically inviting anyone who wanted to attend:

2013 roundtable invitation

Nor is there evidence that Honda himself knew of the emails anytime before today. Still, there’s at least an appearance of impropriety if not an out-and-out ethical violation in official staffers and campaign staffers conferring about whom to invite to official events. Your thoughts, readers?

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Khanna’s mailers tout record, attack Honda

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna, seeking to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has sent out his first mailers of the general-election season – one positive, one negative.

The first mailer outlines Khanna’s record at the U.S. Department of Commerce, his experience teaching economics at Stanford, and his expertise on manufacturing, as well as his media endorsements:

(Click to enlarge:)
Khanna positive mailer

The second mailer highlights what Khanna says is Honda’s poor productivity and attendance:

Khanna negative mailer

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said in a news release that the ads “will outline a clear contrast between Congressman Honda’s history of not showing up and not getting the job done, with Ro Khanna’s record of growing American manufacturing jobs and championing bold policies to move the 17th District forward.”

“Contrary to the Honda campaign, which falsely attacked Ro’s tenure at Commerce and has relied on its Super PAC to send racially coded mailers, our campaign will continue to highlight only the facts behind Rep. Honda’s record,” Tyler added. “We expect that the more voters learn about his failure to show up and deliver, the more eager they will be to vote for change.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied later Wednesday that Khanna’s “desperate campaign will do anything to win, from misrepresenting Congressman Honda’s record of delivering for the district – like $900 million for the BART extension that is creating over 10,000 jobs – to embracing right-wing positions, like cutting pensions for middle-income workers, and right-wing supporters who are organizing The Tea Party Express on his behalf.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda-Khanna debate details finalized

Final details have been set for the first – and most likely, only – general-election debate between Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna.

NBC Bay Area has joined with KQED, the Huffington Post and San Jose State University to co-host the event at 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6 in the NBC Bay Area studios in San Jose.

The 17th Congressional District debate will be moderated by NBC Bay Area Anchor Raj Mathai and will include four panelists: lead panelist Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post; Thuy Vu, host of KQED Newsroom; Melinda Jackson, an SJSU associate professor of political science; and LooLoo Amante, an SJSU student and director of external affairs for the university’s Associated Students. The candidates will be notified of the topics 72 hours in advance; Mathai and SJSU Professor Larry Gerston will offer analysis after the debate.

The showdown will air live on NBC Bay Area, and will be re-broadcast on KQED World at 9 p.m. that evening and on KQED Plus at 11 p.m. KQED Public Radio will also broadcast the debate live on its stations in San Francisco (88.5 FM) and Sacramento (89.3 FM), and the debate will also be streamed live on nbcbayarea.com and on The Huffington Post’s online streaming video network, HuffPost Live. And of course, I’ll be there to tweet and report.

“This is going to be one of the most-watched races across the country this November, and this debate has been long anticipated,” Rich Cerussi, president and general manager of NBC Bay Area, said in a news release. “We’re proud to bring such a strong group of partners together to provide a forum for the candidates to discuss the issues that matter to voters, and help Bay Area voters make an informed choice.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Pot advocates form 2016 initiative committee

A national marijuana advocacy group is filing papers with the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday to form a committee in support of a 2016 ballot measure for recreational legalization.

That measure is still coalescing, but the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project says it’ll be part of a coalition of activists, organizations and businesses supporting a plan they expect will resemble the MPP-financed initiative approved by Colorado in 2012. And they intend to start raising money immediately.

“Marijuana prohibition has had an enormously detrimental impact on California communities. It’s been ineffective, wasteful, and counterproductive. It’s time for a more responsible approach,” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia said in a news release. “A diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses, and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible. Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve.

“Marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and that’s how it needs to be treated,” Kampia added. “Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol just makes sense.”

California activists have been watching Colorado’s and Washington state’s experiences with legalization, and have said they’ll tweak the Golden State’s ballot measure accordingly.

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, marijuana | No Comments »

CA17: Honda & Khanna on Tesla’s ‘gigafactory’

Tuesday brought another terse exchange in the 17th Congressional District race, as Rep. Mike Honda encouraged electric-car maker Tesla Motors to put its next battery factory in California while Democratic challenger Ro Khanna accused Honda of being late to the party.

Tesla logoPalo Alto-based Tesla builds its cars at the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, but recently decided to site its first “gigafactory,” for producing the batteries on which those cars rely, in Nevada. California had offered the company a tax-break package that ultimately wasn’t as large as the $1.25 billion deal Nevada was willing to make.

Honda, D-San Jose, joined with Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert; Jim Costa, D-Fresno; and 21 other lawmakers in writing a letter last week to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, urging him to consider the Golden State next time.

“While any state would be thrilled for the opportunity to add thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs, California has the supply of qualified workers to meet Tesla’s current needs, and the educational infrastructure to support further growth,” they wrote. “Our delegation is dedicated to continuing our thriving relationship with Tesla and supporting its prosperity in every way possible. We look forward to continued discussions at every level of government and hope that you will make California the home of your next Gigafactory.”

Honda announced this in a news release Tuesday, in which he noted that “as the world capital of innovation, it makes sense that Tesla’s next Gigafactory be in Silicon Valley.

“Our highly-educated workforce, abundant renewable energy resources, and world class research institutions makes the Bay Area a natural partner to build Tesla’s Gigafactory,” Honda said. “I look forward to working with Tesla, Governor Brown’s Administration, and my colleagues in the California Delegation to bring this game-changing battery facility to Silicon Valley.”

Too little too late, Khanna said later Tuesday.

“Congressman Honda is shutting the barn door after the animals are long gone,” he said in a news release. “We needed active leadership when the decision was being made – not after we lost the competition. It’s as if Congressman Honda just woke up and discovered that 6,500 good jobs have left the building.”

Khanna wrote an op-ed last week suggesting better political leadership might’ve helped California land the Tesla battery plant, though what to offer the company ultimately was up to state lawmakers and the governor, not members of Congress.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Tim Donnelly praises Brown for signing DNA law

Somebody note the date and time: Assembly Tim Donnelly, the conservative former gubernatorial candidate who spent much of the spring trashing Gov. Jerry Brown, just said something nice about… Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown on Friday signed Donnelly’s AB 1697, the DNA Protection Act, which prohibits using the state’s criminal-justice DNA database from being used as a source of material for testing, research or experiments by any person, agency or entity seeking to find a causal link between genetics and behavior or health.

Tim Donnelly“I would like to thank Governor Brown for standing with me once again to defend the civil liberties of all Californians,” Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said in a news release. “California will continue to use DNA samples for forensics, missing persons, collecting evidence or other legal means. With AB1697 now law, we have prevented government from abusing our privacy. We have protected the civil rights of all Californians from this high tech tyranny.”

Donnelly said the new law is critical to protecting those who’ve been arrested from the government’s genetic snooping.

“Currently, the government of California has hoarded over 1.8 million DNA samples,” he said. “As the cost of DNA sequencing decreases and the ability to process large amounts of data increases, the state has the unprecedented ability to link genetics with criminal activity. While this may sound like the movie Minority Report, it is no longer science fiction. Thanks to AB1697 becoming law, the DNA of every Californian will be safe from being violated by an ever-intrusive government.”

The bill certainly wasn’t controversial. The Assembly passed it 78-0, and the state Senate passed it 33-0.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Tim Donnelly | No Comments »