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Catharine Baker returns tobacco industry money

The Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker won praise Friday for returning a campaign contribution from the tobacco industry.

Catharine BakerAssemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, gave back a $4,200 contribution from Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies. In doing so, Baker “serves as a model for other elected officials by returning dirty money and refusing to let Big Tobacco exert undue influence in the political process,” said Jim Knox, vice president of California government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Her prompt actions should be recognized because we do not often see politicians willingly giving back tobacco money let alone make a statement publicly to set an example for other elected officials who don’t want to be beholden to cancer-causing cigarette makers,” Knox said in a news release.

Baker said Friday that “everyone has to make his or her own choices about tobacco products. For me, I choose not to accept contributions because tobacco is just something I prefer my own kids not ever use.”

Knox’s organization recently wrote to politicians and political action committees that accepted tobacco-industry money in this year’s first quarter, asking them to give it back. Altria and its affiliates reported making more than a dozen contributions totaling $175,700 in 2015’s first three months.

Other recipients included Assembly Republicans Rocky Chavez, Don Wagner and Travis Allen, as well as state senators Isadore Hall, D-Compton; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; and Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster. Political action committees taking tobacco money in the first quarter included the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC; in fact, tobacco was the biggest industry sector contributing to JobsPAC in the 2014 election cycle.

Baker will host a community coffee from 9 to 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, May 30 in the Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave. in Livermore, at which constituents can share their thoughts and Baker will present a legislative update. To RSVP for this free event, please contact Baker’s district office at 925-328-1515.

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CA17: Honda attacks Khanna’s ‘usual suspects’

With Ro Khanna about to launch his second campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda on Saturday, Honda’s campaign has fired a shot across his bow – a website taking potshots at Khanna’s deep-pocketed campaign contributors, including some of Silicon Valley’s most successful investors and executives.

The RosUsualSuspects.com page seems to revive many of the attacks that Honda, D-San Jose, leveled last year against his Democratic challenger during the ugly 17th Congressional District race. Honda won an eighth term by 3.6 percentage points.

honda.jpg“The Honda campaign will be aggressively reminding voters who is behind the obscene amounts of money that the challenger will raise and spend in his continued pursuit of power,” Adam Alberti, a spokesperson for Honda’s campaign, said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

“Ro Khanna’s style-over-substance brand of politics combined with the backing of big money is a threat to the democratic process, and if successful will come at a cost to the great many members of our community who have been excluded from the tech boom and are struggling to provide for their families,” Alberti continued. “Congressman Honda believes in representing the entire district, not just the top 1 percent who have benefited most from our economy.”

But Khanna issued a statement later Thursday afternoon saying “attacks like this are precisely why we need new ideas in Washington.”

“This is what people do in Washington – they try to score political points with dubious guilt-by-association tactics, rather than working together to get things done,” he said. “I prefer to spend my time fighting for good paying local jobs and trying to make our community a better place, rather than engaging in political bickering.”

Khanna vowed to “campaign on ideas to elevate the debate. I hope Mike Honda will offer more than the same tired old Washington attacks.”

Much of what’s on the page is similar to a Honda campaign television ad we dissected last October, and merits explanation and/or refutation.

John Arnold, the “Power Broker” who used to work at Enron, and his wife gave $350,000 last year to Californians for Innovation, a super PAC that spent almost $776,000 on Khanna’s behalf. Arnold also has contributed to the campaigns of President Barack Obama; U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; and dozens of other Democratic candidates and committees.

Republican ex-Congressman Ernie Konnyu did try to get the Tea Party Express to spend $50,000 to support Khanna, but he was unsuccessful in convincing it to do so – so calling Khanna “their candidate” seems disingenuous at best.

Marc Leder – the Florida hedge fund executive who hosted the fundraiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” comment, and who gave Romney and affiliated groups more than a half-million dollars – did contribute $5,200 to Khanna’s campaign last year and has given $5,400 this year. But if that makes Khanna less of a Democrat, you’d have to say the same about U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.; and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. – all of whom have accepted Leder’s contributions.

And although Khanna’s donor list does include some executives “who would profit by cutting wages and outsourcing U.S. jobs” and “strongly opposed increasing the minimum wage to ensure fair pay for families in our region,” Khanna – a former Obama Commerce Department appointee – repeatedly has spoken against offshoring jobs and in favor of raising the minimum wage. Likewise, Peter Thiel supports Social Security privatization but Khanna does not.

Khanna raised $801,000 in the first quarter of this year, mostly after C-SPAN aired footage of Honda seeming to doze off during a Feb. 27 House floor debate on homeland security funding. Honda raised $258,000 in the first quarter.

2

George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”

2

State Senate OKs bill to curb ‘doctor shopping’

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 46 – which would’ve raised California’s 40-year-old cap on certain medical malpractice damage awards – in November, but a lesser-known part of that measure moved forward Thursday in the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 28-11 to approve SB 482 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which would require California doctors to consult an already-existing state prescription database before prescribing addictive medicine to their patients. This was another part of Prop. 46, albeit less controversial than the medical malpractice segment. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

It’s a win for Bob Pack, the Prop. 46 proponent and Danville resident whose two children were killed by a drunk and drugged driver on Oct. 26, 2003. The motorist who hit Troy and Alana Pack, 10 and 7, had consumed alcohol, Vicodin and muscle relaxants before getting behind the wheel; Jimena Barreto in the weeks before the crash had received six Vicodin prescriptions from six different Kaiser Permanente doctors, who had failed to check into the injuries for which she claimed she needed the pills.

To prevent this kind of “doctor shopping” by abusers and addicts, SB 482 will require prescribers to check the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs like OxyContin and other opioids for the first time to a patient, and annually if the treatment continues.

“Prescription drug overdose kills thousands every year, but a simple check of a patient’s medical record can give doctors the information they need to intervene with those who are at risk or may be abusing medications,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a news release. “Requiring doctors to check California’s prescription database before prescribing the strongest, most addictive drugs will save lives and help stem the overdose epidemic.”

Results are promising in other states with similar laws, and Consumer Watchdog estimates that a 75 percent drop in doctor-shopping in California – as experienced in New York – would reduce state and local spending on prescription drugs for Medi-Cal patients by up to $300 million a year.

3

SD7: Steve Glazer has been sworn in

State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, was sworn in this morning to represent the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District, a little more than a week after winning the fractious special election over Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

Gov. Jerry Brown, to whom Glazer has been a campaign advisor, administered the oath of office in a brief ceremony at the start of today’s floor session.

photo by Alex Vassar

Glazer issued this statement:

Steve Glazer”I was a 13-year old taking the bus on Freeport Boulevard to volunteer on a campaign for Governor in 1970 because I thought elections mattered.

“Even at that age, I saw the struggle for civil rights, concerns about the war in Vietnam, and worries about nuclear proliferation. I gave my Bar Mitzvah speech expressing hope for my future contribution to a better world and a healthier environment.

“I worked a minimum-wage job during high school sweeping floors at Orange Julius and cooking at Jim Boy’s Tacos just down the street from the Capitol. I was a bus boy during college to help pay the rent. After working in the State Capitol for a few years, I took a break and spent five months picking oranges and grapefruits in the orchards of a Kibbutz in Israel. I have great appreciation for all those who grow and harvest our food. I have always felt the pull of public service as the highest calling. And so I am here today humbled and honored to serve with some old and new friends in this State Senate.

“I thank the members of the Senate for their warm welcome. I especially thank the voters of the 7th district for their trust in my ability to represent them in the Capitol of the greatest State in the Union.”

0

George Pataki launches presidential campaign

Former New York Gov. George Pataki launched his campaign Thursday for the Republican presidential nomination.

His four-minute-plus announcement video goes heavy on his role as governor during and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

Never mind that Pataki’s stances on gun control, abortion, and climate change and the environment might make him unpalatable to much of the GOP base, or that he’s been out of office for almost a decade, or that he has absolutely no chance of carrying his home state in a general election (or probably in a primary, either). Does this 9/11 imagery and messaging feel like opportunism, particularly given his rather checkered past in the World Trade Center site’s redevelopment? Even if it doesn’t seem contrived, is it a winning strategy? It certainly wasn’t for Rudy Giuliani, who was much more strongly associated in many voters’ minds with post-9/11 leadership and recovery.

Does anyone see something here that will help Pataki gain ground from his current rock-bottom position?