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Honda comms director Lauren Smith has died

Lauren Suzanne Smith, communications director to Rep. Mike Honda and a veteran of two other Northern California House offices, died Saturday, Dec. 26, in Washington, D.C. She was 37.

Lauren Smith“Lauren served on my staff with passion, dedication, talent and integrity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a statement issued Monday. “In addition to working in my office, Lauren was employed by many fine Democrats and institutions over the years, dedicating her communication talents to make the world a better place. She was a gracious person, loved by our team and will be deeply missed. May you rest in peace Lauren.”

Honda also penned an homage to Smith that was published Dec. 22 in The Hill, hinting at but not describing the dire nature of her illness.

“Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart,” Honda wrote in that piece.

“A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite ‘Honda Moment’ is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’” Honda added. “She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile. Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.”

Smith worked with the All America PAC in Indiana during the 2006 midterm elections and then worked her way up to serve as the Democratic National Committee’s Indiana communications director during the 2008 presidential election. She served stints as a press secretary for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And after serving as a communications consultant for John Walsh’s Montana Senate campaign, she was Sen. Walsh’s deputy communications director before going to work for Honda early this year.

“She brought a real spark to my office… She was always enthusiastic,” McNerney said Monday, praising her as a confident, quick study. “There was something about Lauren that made you accept her right away.”

I spoke often with Lauren during her time in McNerney’s office, from 2011 through 2013, and again this year in Honda’s office; she was never anything less than a consummate professional as well as a good and pleasant person – a rare combination. I’ll miss her very much.

According to the tribute page her family has created, Lauren’s wish was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

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San Francisco gears up to battle Justin Bieber

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera – already a hero to some for defending marriage rights, gun laws and the city’s universal health care ordinance – could soon cement his legal reputation with the noblest undertaking of them all: bringing the hammer down on Justin Bieber.

Bieber graffitiHerrera sent a letter Monday to executives at Def Jam Recordings and Universal Music Group – the Canadian scourge’s record label and distribution company – demanding that they cooperate in identifying and punishing those responsible for a guerrilla marketing campaign for Bieber’s new album, “Purpose,” involving stenciled, spray-painted messages on public sidewalks.

Herrera called the graffiti vandalism “illegal and actionable,” and vowed to “aggressively pursue all available penalties and costs from those responsible for lawless marketing tactics that intend to financially benefit your respective companies.”

According to Herrera’s office, San Francisco Public Works workers have been responding for several weeks to neighborhood complaints about the stenciled ads. In his letter, Herrera notes that other recent instances of illegal sidewalk advertising was chalk-based, but the Bieber-tagging looks to have been applied with permanent spray paint.

State and local laws let his office pursue civil litigation for such unlawful guerrilla marketing practices, and such lawsuits could secure court-ordered injunctions, civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation, and restitution for fees and costs if successful. Herrera’s office has successfully resolved similar violations by perpetrators including IBM, NBC Universal, Turner Broadcasting and Zynga; past disputes also involving illegal sidewalk graffiti ads ended with financial settlements to compensate city taxpayers for all costs, civilly punish wrongdoing, and publicly discourage such illicit conduct by other would-be commercial vandals.

“This prohibited marketing practice illegally exploits our City’s walkable neighborhoods and robust tourism; intentionally creates visual distractions that pose risks to pedestrians on busy rights of way; and irresponsibly tells our youth that likeminded lawlessness and contempt for public property are condoned and encouraged by its beneficiaries – including Mr. Bieber and the record labels that produce and promote him,” Herrera wrote to Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels and Universal Music General Counsel and EVP Jeffrey Harleston.

The city certainly is grappling with… well… smellier street problems than this, but still doesn’t want the Bieb plastered all over its sidewalks at any time, and especially not during the upcoming festivities surrounding Super Bowl 50. Herrera’s letter said he’s working with the Board of Supervisors on legislation to “substantially enhance civil penalties” for illegal guerilla marketing tactics, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin already has begun drafting it.

“Graffiti abatement and prevention are important aspects of protecting the quality of life in San Francisco neighborhoods,” Peskin said in Herrera’s news release. “Unfortunately, current penalties for ‘guerrilla marketing’ graffiti seem to reflect an acceptable cost of doing business by irresponsible companies competing for consumers’ attention. It’s clear that we need to enact tougher penalties to more effectively discourage this practice.”

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Early Christmas for ballot measure committees

Christmas came early for a few California ballot measure committees.

The California Health Foundation and Trust gave $2 million Tuesday to Californians United for Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability. That committee backs a measure on next November’s ballot which would require the state to use fees paid by hospitals and federal Medicaid matching funds only for the intended purpose of supporting hospital care to Medi-Cal patients and to help pay for healthcare for low-income children, unless the Legislature casts two-thirds votes to do otherwise.

Also, the California Medical Association gave $1 million Monday to the committee backing a proposed ballot measure that would raise California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack. The Secretary of State’s office cleared that measure’s proponents to start circulating petitions earlier this month. The Service Employees International Union has already kicked in $3 million, and billionaire hedge fund manager turned environmentalist Tom Steyer of San Francisco has given $1 million.

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The Year in Trump

I’m hoping that by posting this end-of-year retrospective before the actual end of the year, the universe will reward me with at least one more outrageous Donald Trump quote before 2016 ends.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” – at his candidacy announcement at Trump Tower in New York City, June 16

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” – speaking of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war, at a GOP presidential forum in Ames, Iowa, July 18

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her… wherever.”
— speaking of Fox News GOP debate moderator Megyn Kelly on CNN, Aug. 7

“I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.” – speaking of two Boston men, one of whom had claimed they were inspired by Trump when they beat and urinated upon a homeless Latino immigrant, Aug. 19

“When these people walk in the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh, hello! How’s the weather? It’s so beautiful outside. Isn’t it lovely? How are the Yankees doing? Oh they’re doing wonderful. Great.’ [Asians] say, ‘We want deal!’” – at a campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa, Aug. 25

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” – speaking of Carly Fiorina in Rolling Stone, in September

“They’re going to build a plant and illegals are going drive those cars right over the border. And they’ll probably end up stealing the cars.” – speaking of Ford Motor Co.’s plan to build an manufacturing plant in Mexico in Burlington, Iowa, Oct. 22

“It’s in the book that he’s got a pathological temper or temprament. That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that, that’s like, I could say, they say you don’t cure, as an example: child molesting. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that.” – speaking of Ben Carson on CNN, Nov. 12

“Look, I’m a negotiator like you folks; we’re negotiators … This room negotiates perhaps more than any room I’ve spoken to, maybe more.” – addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., Dec. 3

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” — at a rally in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Dec. 7

And a video bonus: Trump mocks a reporter with a physical disability at a rally in South Carolina, Nov. 24:

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Newsom’s gun-control measure short on cash so far

Two months after Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposal for a gun-control ballot measure, money has come in only at a trickle.

Gavin NewsomThe “Safety for All” ballot measure committee has collected $55,000 in large donations so far, according to records maintained by the Secretary of State’s office. That’s $35,000 this week from gun-control activist Anita Donofrio, a retiree from Ridgefield, Conn.; $10,000 last week from Esprit and The North Face co-founder Susie Buell of San Francisco; and $10,000 in October from heiress and philanthropist Aileen Getty of San Francisco.

Newsom in October had said he already had some offers of financial support and “we’re hoping to get a broad coalition of supporters.” Dan Newman, Newsom’s campaign strategist, said Friday that’s still the aim.

They have “tons of interest including solid commitments from people of all stripes who are fed up with the NRA,” Newman said. “We may never match them (the NRA) dollar for dollar, but I have complete confidence we’ll have what it takes.”

Newsom’s measure should receive its official title and summer from the state Attorney General’s office by the end of this month, and then will be able to start circulating petitions. Paid petition circulation for a statewide measure typically costs a few million dollars.

California’s current assault weapons ban allows those who already owned magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds before 2000 to register and keep them. Newsom’s measure would require owners to turn the outlawed magazines into police for destruction, sell them to a licensed firearms dealer or move them out of the state — just as San Francisco supervisors and Sunnyvale voters chose to require in 2013. New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and the District of Columbia also have such laws.

Newsom’s measure also would require licensing of ammunition sellers and instantaneous point-of-sale background checks for all ammunition purchases to weed out those convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, those with restraining orders against them or those declared dangerously mentally ill. No other state requires background checks for ammunition purchases.

And the measure would require firearm owners to notify law enforcement if their firearm has been lost or stolen. Eleven states and the city of Sacramento already require this, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed bills to do just that in 2012 and 2013.

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How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”