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Obama, Lofgren & Pelosi blast GOP on immigration

The rhetoric flew hot and heavy as Wednesday marked one year since the Senate’s introduction of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Senate passed the vote, but the House’s GOP leadership has refused to take up that bill or offer one of its own. President Obama issued a statement Wednesday morning saying this means House Republicans prefer the status quo over meaningful reform.

“Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers,’” the president said. “The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders. We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ranking Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration subcommittee, issued a statement noting “even today a majority of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform, which isn’t surprising because reform is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum.”

“That support is one of the reasons why a movement has started to give immigration reform a fair up or down vote in the House,” said Lofgren, D-San Jose. “But the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on immigration reform, and as they continue to run out the clock, the window of opportunity to pass reform narrows.”

Then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement saying Obama had called him Wednesday after issuing his “partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together.”

“After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue,” Cantor said. “I told the President the same thing I told him the last time we spoke. House Republicans do not support Senate Democrat’s immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House. I also reiterated to the President there are other issues where we can find common ground, build trust and get America working again. I hope the President can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy.”

Nancy PelosiAnd that annoyed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

“In response to the President’s renewed call for action on comprehensive immigration reform, Congressman Cantor once again offered only excuses for inaction,” Pelosi said. “With 30 House Republicans on the record in support of comprehensive reform, Rep. Cantor’s ridiculous statement this evening confirms that the Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of legislation that would pass the House immediately if allowed to come to the floor. It’s time for Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor to get out of the way, and allow immigration reform to become a reality.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Immigration, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

CA17: Khanna & Honda argue over campaign $$$

Rep. Mike Honda and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna got into another dustup over each other’s campaign contributions Wednesday, while a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows Republican challenger Vanila Singh gave her campaign a hefty loan.

PG&EKhanna says Honda, D-San Jose, should give back all the money he has ever received from PG&E’s political action committee because the energy utility now has been indicted on criminal charges related to 2010’s devastating gas explosion in San Bruno. But Honda’s campaign said Khanna should walk his talk by refunding money to contributors who say he pulled a bait-and-switch on them.

Honda raised $679,470.91 in the first quarter, and had $1,083,690.92 cash on hand and $22,472.21 in debts as of March 31. Khanna raised $464,220, and had $1,946,871.19 cash on hand and $93,613.53 in debts. As previously reported here, this is the first quarter in which Honda has outraised Khanna in this 17th Congressional District race.

Higher percentages of Khanna’s contributions came from California, and from Northern California in particular, than those of Honda’s, though that’s not surprising given Honda’s seven terms in Congress.

Singh raised $138,860 and loaned her campaign $74,000 in the first quarter, and as of March 31 had $300,422 cash on hand and $79,000 in debts including that loan. Among contributions she received was $2,000 each from the campaigns of Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and $1,000 from the campaign of Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. Sessions – former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee – co-hosted Singh’s meet-and-greet with Republican doctors at last month’s state GOP convention; Burgess and Harris are doctors.

Republican Joel Vanlandingham has said he doesn’t plan to accept contributions.

Khanna issued a news release Wednesday announcing he sent a letter to Honda that notes Honda has accepted $28,000 from the PG&E PAC during his 14 years in Congress, including $6,500 in the past two cycles since the San Bruno blast; the latest contribution was $1,000 on March 21.

“In light of last week’s federal criminal indictment, I am asking you to return the tens of thousands of dollars in PAC contributions you have received from PG&E,” Khanna wrote, also urging Honda to join him in demanding that PG&E reveal which people within the company were responsible for the actions and decisions leading to the crimes alleged in the indictment. “I believe such steps are necessary to demonstrate to your constituents that you put the rights and safety of California consumers ahead of corporate PAC contributions.”

PG&E regularly gives money to House members on both sides of the aisle. In fact, the only Bay Area member who seems not to have received a contribution from the company’s PAC in this cycle is Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, in whose district the San Bruno blast occurred and who has been hard on the company ever since.

“Congressman Honda has confidence in the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case against PG&E, and expects that justice will be served,” Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday. “If Ro Khanna wants to talk about refunds, he can start by explaining why he isn’t refunding the thousands in contributions being demanded by his own donors.”

Indeed, a few people who contributed to Khanna’s campaign in late 2011 – when everyone thought he would run to succeed then-Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District – asked for their money back this January, saying they don’t want it spent against Honda. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan on Jan. 14 said it would be “impractical” to return contributions made more than two years earlier. But that’s exactly what Khanna’s campaign had done just a day earlier, his FEC report shows: The campaign on Jan. 13 refunded $2,500 to Carl Page of Palo Alto, who had contributed that amount in November 2011.

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied, “None of Ro’s past or current contributors is under federal criminal indictment for putting the public safety at risk.”

Meanwhile, amid all the national buzz about Khanna’s well-funded Democratic insurgent campaign, the latest FEC report gives a clearer picture of how that big bankroll is being spent. Details, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Brown calls special session on Rainy Day Fund

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the “Rainy Day Fund” measure on November’s ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund,” Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24.

Voters enacted the current Rainy Day Fund in 2004 by approving Proposition 58, which directs 3 percent of annual revenues into the Budget Stabilization Account. The current system has no restriction on when funds can be withdrawn and requires deposits even in deficit years, unless the law is suspended.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved the proposal on the November 2014 ballot – ACA 4, which would raise the fund’s cap from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund, among other things. But Brown said Wednesday it doesn’t address the volatility of capital gains revenue, doesn’t provide a reserve for schools to help cushion future downturns, and limits California’s ability to pay down long-term liabilities.

Brown in January proposed changes including increasing deposits when the state has spikes in capital gains revenue; allowing supplemental payments to speed up the state’s payoff of its debts and liabilities; limiting withdrawals to ensure the state doesn’t drain too much at the start of a downturn; and creating a Proposition 98 reserve, after school funding is fully restored to pre-recession levels, to smooth school spending and avoid future cuts.

UPDATE @ 11:15 A.M.: Assembly Speaker John Perez calls this “a welcome and helpful development.”

“Assembly Democrats first proposed a permanent rainy day fund last May, and we look forward to working with our Republican and Senate colleagues to build a reliable system that handles short-term revenue spikes differently than ongoing, stable revenue streams,” said Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We need to establish a solid system for saving money in good years, so that we can better weather the bad years. We need a mechanism that not only strengthens our constitutional reserve, but also gets us off the rollercoaster ride of revenue spikes and dips that has caused so much trouble in recent years.”

UPDATE @ 2:02 P.M.: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, says he’s glad Brown is doing this, but doubts whether Democrats share the enthusiasm. “It’s just common sense for California to put away money during the ‘boom’ years to avoid future tax increases and spending reductions in the ‘bust’ years. However, we are mindful that legislative Democrats have undermined similar efforts in the recent past,” he said.

“Despite agreeing to, and voting for, the rainy day reserve fund in Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4) as part of the 2010-11 budget agreement with Republicans, Senate Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez denied Californians the opportunity to vote for it on the ballot in 2012 as promised,” Huff continued. “Now they want to remove it from the 2014 election ballot, preventing the people of California from establishing strong protections against future budget crises. I think today’s announcement is a message to the Democrats that the Governor is serious about doing something.”

The California Chamber of Commerce supports Brown’s move, too. “Adopting an effective Rainy Day Reserve should be the state’s top fiscal policy. California’s budget crises were caused by the Legislature spending one-time revenues for ongoing programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “A solid reserve requirement will remove the California budget from the fiscal roller coaster. It is crucial that the Legislature pass a consensus proposal that the Governor can support to get approval by voters in November.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, John Perez, state budget | 4 Comments »

CA15: Swalwell’s & Corbett’s Q1 fundraising

Rep. Eric Swalwell raised more than eight times as much as his challenger and fellow Democrat state Sen. Ellen Corbett in this year’s first quarter, and had about four and a half times as much money banked as of March 31, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, a Republican who got into this 15th Congressional District race at the last minute is funded only by himself and by one of the state’s biggest GOP benefactors.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, raised $272,783.87 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and at the end of that period had $922,581.82 cash on hand with $6,859.82 in outstanding debt. Corbett in the same time raised $32,485.33, finishing with $208,005.35 cash on hand and $6,000 in debt; that’s right about where Corbett was at the end of 2014, though she had raised almost three times as much in last year’s final quarter.

Hugh Bussell, a GOP county committeeman from Livermore, lent his campaign $1,750 and took a $2,400 contribution from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, chairman of the Santa Clara County GOP and a prolific contributor to the party’s causes and candidates.

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Lawmakers cheer tougher penalties for pot grows

Northern California House members from both sides of the aisle are cheering new, stiffer federal penalties for illegal marijuana grows on trespassed lands.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced last week it had adopted tougher punishments for high-level offenders who cultivate marijuana grows on public or private lands they don’t own. The amended guidelines will be submitted to Congress and reviewed for six months before officially taking effect Nov. 1.

This had been the aim of a bill introduced last summer and a letter sent to the commission in November by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, as well as by senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

“Illegal marijuana grow sites that threaten lives, destroy public lands and devastate wildlife have become far too common,” Thompson said in a news release Monday. “These new sentencing guidelines will serve as a strong deterrent against these illegal grow sites, and they will help make sure criminals who wreck our public and private lands are held fully responsible for the harm they cause.”

Huffman said toxic and illegal chemicals used at such sites, plus the potential for violence, make such grows unsafe on many levels. Also, “California is in the midst of a devastating drought, and many of these grow operations illegally divert streams and tap groundwater with untold impacts on downstream water users and wildlife,” he noted.

Both he and Farr noted the nation seems to be moving toward what they consider to be more reasonable laws on marijuana use, but these illegal grows can’t be tolerated. “With these new guidelines in place, we can make public and private lands safer while protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy,” Farr said.

LaMalfa said property owners and local government often are stuck paying thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. “The Sentencing Commission’s recognition of these impacts will go a long way toward ensuring that those who disregard our nation’s laws are held responsible.”

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

CA17: Khanna’s second TV ad touts jobs plan

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna launched his second television ad Monday, highlighting the seven-point jobs plan he rolled out in February.

A news release said the ad “will begin airing widely” throughout the 17th Congressional District; spokesman Tyler Law wouldn’t specify the nature, duration or cost of the ad buy, except to say it’s “significant and open-ended.”

“Ro has centered his campaign on forward-looking ideas to grow the economy and create good paying jobs for families here in the 17th district,” campaign manager Leah Cowan said in the news release. “That’s why he is the only candidate to introduce a comprehensive jobs plan that recognizes the importance of improving education to transform the economy. Ro knows that we have incredible potential here in Silicon Valley and across the country, but he also understands that we can’t move the economy forward without fixing a badly broken Congress.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, is challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose; Republicans Vanila Singh and Joel Vanlandingham also are in the race.

Khanna’s first TV ad, touching on Americans’ frustration with Congress and special interests, began airing March 25.

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

Obama returns to Bay Area on May 8

President Obama will return to the Bay Area on Thursday, May 8 for a pair of high-priced events to raise money for the Democratic National Committee.

Tickets for a reception at the Palo Alto home of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer start at $1,000 for individual guests, while $5,000 buys a place in the photo line; $7,500 buys access and photos for two; $10,000 buys co-chair status; and $32,400 buys all that plus membership in the DNC Presidential Partners Program.

Mayer hosted Obama for a DNC fundraiser in October 2010, when she was still an executive at Google.

“We need the resources to put Democrats in office to move our country forward,” says the invitation to this upcoming event. “Since we do not take money from special interests, corporate lobbyists, and political action committees, we rely on dedicated Democrats like you. Please join us for a reception to support this important work.”

Obama also is expected to do a roundtable with about 20 tech executives that same day somewhere in Silicon Valley, with seats going for the $32,400 maximum contribution. It’s not yet known whether he’ll do any official events while he’s here, or whether he’ll be staying overnight.

Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

Hillary Clinton joins Political Shoe Hall of Fame

Hillary Clinton’s brush with flying footwear yesterday got us thinking about great shoes of political history. (Oh, just shut up and go with it.)

Naturally, we all went to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on his delegate desk at the United Nations in 1960; we were stunned to find out that there is neither film footage nor a photograph of this moment. (No, he didn’t wield the shoe during his “We will bury you” speech at the podium, of which footage exists.)

Another reporter suggested the Imelda Marcos shoe collection, circa 1986.

President George W. Bush showed quick reflexes in December 2008 by dodging shoes hurled by an Iraqi journalist in Baghdad.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was the target in October 2010:

In October 2011, Egyptians in Cairo’s Tahrir Square held their shoes aloft in protest as Hosni Mubarak gave a speech:

Likewise in a January 2012 protest against German president Christian Wulff in Berlin:

And that brings us to yesterday’s moment as Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Las Vegas:

Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

What they’re saying about the House budget vote

Angry words flew hot and heavy today as the House voted 219-205 to pass a Republican-drafted budget that promises balance within a decade by making sweeping cuts throughout government and eliminating health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The nonbinding framework isn’t likely to be followed up by specific spending legislation, as it’s DOA in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But that didn’t stop critics from emptying their rhetorical cannons today.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“For the fourth consecutive year, House Democrats have stood united against Republicans’ broken budget priorities. But House Republicans have now fully embraced the destructive values of the Ryan Republican Budget – a road to economic ruin and an irresponsible assault on seniors, students, women, families and our future.

“Today, Republicans voted to raise taxes on middle class families with children, while giving $200,000-plus tax breaks to millionaires. They voted to destroy three million jobs over two years, while protecting tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas. They voted to end the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, ransack the education of our children, and surrender our global economic competitiveness. With this budget, Republicans have voted to hollow out the middle class and dismantle the American Dream.

“Democrats have a better plan: create jobs, strengthen the middle class, invest in the future, reduce the deficit, and build an economy that works for everyone. We should be renewing emergency unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, and passing comprehensive immigration reform that will grow our economy, empower small business, spur innovation, and reduce the deficit by nearly $900 billion. Republicans’ backwards priorities are the wrong path for our nation, and unworthy of the American people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This document is our vision for getting Americans back to work and our budget back in balance. I want to congratulate Chairman Ryan and the members of the committee for a job well done.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

“My focus is on finding long-term solutions to reduce the unbearable burden of debt we have placed on future generations. Right now we are more than $17 trillion in debt, meaning each man, woman and child is responsible for over $55,000 each. The out-of-control spending must be stopped and replaced with responsible choices that give real solutions and certainty to families in the Central Valley.

“I will also keep up the fight to protect our seniors, who have seen their Medicare plans cut by more than $300 billion under the Affordable Care Act. Because of the cuts, I introduced the Seniors’ Right to Know Act, which informs the more than 14 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage nationwide about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting the healthcare plans they rely on every day. We cannot allow the healthcare law to stand in the way of us keeping our promise to our seniors.”

More, after the jump:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Jeff Denham, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA15: California Labor Federation backs Corbett

It’s not so often that the California Democratic Party and the California Labor Federation end up on different sides of a Bay Area House race.

Ellen CorbettThe labor federation – made up of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions representing 2.1 million members – announced Thursday that it has endorsed state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, in the 15th Congressional District

The party endorsed incumbent Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, last month. Republican Hugh Bussell of Livermore also is in the race.

The labor federation announced this and dozens of other endorsements as its biennial pre-primary convention finished up in Oakland. In a news release, the federation said the endorsements are “the launching pad for the massive grassroots voter outreach efforts that will activate tens of thousands of volunteers from now until Election Day.”

Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said the labor federation’s power “derives from workers coming together on nights and weekends to talk to friends, neighbors and co-workers about the importance of this year’s election. What our grassroots efforts lack in money we more than make up for in face-to-face voter engagement.”

That’s key for Corbett, who very much needs some institutional support to augment her campaign’s meager bankroll. Swalwell’s campaign started 2014 with four times as much money in the bank; consultant Lisa Tucker this week said he raised about $270,000 in this year’s first quarter, and had around $920,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Corbett has not yet disclosed her first-quarter fundraising; the deadline to do so is next Tuesday April 15.

Tucker said Swalwell was on a plane coming back from Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon, and she didn’t want to comment on the labor federation’s choice without speaking with him first.

Swalwell, Corbett and Bussell will share a stage for the first time at a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, April 15 in the Castro Valley Library, 3600 Norbridge Ave.

From the “no surprise” desk: The labor federation endorsed longtime friend to labor Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in his bid for an eighth term, over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna and two Republicans in the 17th Congressional District.

In races for some of the Bay Area’s open legislative seats, the labor federation endorsed Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the 10th State Senate District; Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti in the 16th Assembly District; San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu in the 25th Assembly District; and Campbell Councilman Evan Low in the 28th Assembly District. The federation made a dual endorsement in the crowded 15th Assembly District race, backing both Elizabeth Echols and Tony Thurmond over three more Democrats and three additional candidates.

Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 2 Comments »