Is Eric Swalwell a Tea Partier? Um, no.

Supporters of Eric Swalwell, the Democratic insurgent who’s challenging Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, are up in arms about a recent Stark mailer which depicts Swalwell in a cup of tea – a la the Tea Party. Here are some excerpts:

“Who is really behind Eric Swalwell? On the doorstep, at meetings, driving this rookie city councilman’s campaign? Tea Party supporters. They’ve given money, given energy and given life to the Swalwell campaign – and they’ll succeed unless we stop them.”

“Campaign finance reports show that over $86,000 of Eric Swalwell’s contributions come from Republicans. Swalwell claims he’s no conservative, but the evidence speaks for itself. Republicans and their corporate allies in the pharmaceutical world like Amgen and Pfizer are excited about young Swalwell because they think he’s their cup of tea.”

“As reported in a respected East Bay newspaper, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell took over $15,000 from a contractor and voted to give them a no-bid contract. Swalwell’s actions would have been illegal in some East Bay cities.”

Ellis Goldberg, president of the TriValley Democratic Club, is incensed. “I have not endorsed either candidate nor has the club, but I feel this defamation of one of my club members has to be answered,” he wrote in an e-mail Wednesday night. “Both candidates are TVDC members, Eric has been active for many years.

Aside from being a long-time Tri-Valley Dems member, Swalwell interned for former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo – a Blue Dog, but certainly no Tea Party darling; also, he chaired the 2008 TriValley United Democratic Campaign to get Democrats elected to local and state offices. Nothing he has said on his website, in interviews or elsewhere indicates Tea Party policies. He is a Democrat, not some zombified “Manchurian Candidate” for conservatives.

But that’s not exactly what Stark’s mailer said. And without a doubt, there are conservatives who want to see Swalwell beat Stark.

Put yourself in the shoes of any Republican – Tea Party-sympathetic or otherwise – living in this district: Who would you vote for, with only these two candidates on the ballot? Stark and his supporters are proud that he’s one of the most doggedly liberal members of Congress, and it’s safe to assume anyone with even a streak of conservatism would vote against him. That’s been part of Swalwell’s campaign strategy from the get-go – appealing to a broader spectrum of voters than Stark can. If anyone to the right of Pete Stark is deemed a Tea Partier, there are a whooooooole lot of Democrats and independents out there who’ll cry foul.

And wouldn’t out-of-district and out-of-state conservative interests who want to see Stark gone contribute to the campaign of anyone who could make that happen? Of course they would. Swalwell, at a significant fundraising disadvantage to the incumbent, would be a fool to turn that money away.

As for the pay-to-play accusation, we’ve discussed that East Bay Express story here.

Swalwell’s campaign also noted today that a photograph included in the mailer – depicting Swalwell holding up an Etch-A-Sketch on which a GOP elephant has been drawn – was doctored. Here’s the original:

Lisa Tucker, Swalwell’s campaign manager, said they believe Stark’s campaign took it from a Facebook page.

“It just misrepresents, it implies Eric drew that elephant on the Etch-a-Sketch and he did not,” she said. “There was no reason to take a personal photo of Eric and doctor it like that.”


Ricky Gill’s mom pushed patients for votes

Lodi Memorial Hospital’s CEO had to tell Republican congressional candidate Ricky Gill’s mother to lay off soliciting votes or campaign donations from patients.

Gill’s mother, Dr. Parampal Gill, is a prominent obstetrician in San Joaquin County; Gill is challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the 9th Congressional District.

A former hospital employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she was one of those who complained to hospital administrators.

“She handed out her son’s cards at Lodi Memorial Hospital, and she even would go as far as to say things to them like, ‘I delivered you a beautiful baby and in return I want four votes,’” the former staffer said. “The hospital has a no-soliciting policy which I assume extends to physicians… I was offended for and on behalf of patients.”

“Our CEO did have a conversation with Dr. Gill about this and it came about because we had a staffer bring to our attention that she heard Dr. Gill saying something like this to a patient,” hospital spokeswoman Carol Farron confirmed this week. “We have had no complaints from patients themselves, however a staffer did bring it to our attention and it’s our policy and our practice if a staffer brings a concern like this to our attention that we would speak to any of the parties involved and just caution them that it’s not appropriate behavior. Because we didn’t have any direct patient complaints, that’s as far as we took it.”

The hospital’s vice president of nursing also spoke with Dr. Gill about the verbal solicitations, Farron said.

“Dr. Gill has a right to advocate for her son, just like any mother would,” Gill campaign spokesman Colin Hunter said today.

Jennifer Simoes, chief of legislation at the Medical Board of California, said things like handing out campaign literature or soliciting votes wouldn’t be actionable by the board, which deals with Medical Practice Act and quality-of-care violations.

“However, absent permission of the patient, using information from patient’s medical records for anything other than the care and treatment of the patient, is something that the Board would look into if we were to receive a complaint,” she said. “The Board would look at the facts of each individual case to determine if there was a violation.”

Molly Weedn, spokeswoman for the California Medical Association, said a physician who provided patient information to a campaign most likely would be violating privacy rules in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. But “if the physician was using the information to reach out to a patient on his/her own, then it wouldn’t be considered a violation,” she said.


Eric Swalwell courts GOP voters against Pete Stark

Eric Swalwell, the insurgent Democratic challenger to Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, is courting Republican votes in the final days of the campaign.

Voters have been receiving a recorded call former Republican Assemblyman Guy Houston. Here’s a transcript of the call:

There is no Republican on the ballot for Congress against Pete Stark, and I believe our best and only choice for Congress is Eric Swalwell on Nov. 6. I’ve known Eric for 12 years – he is an Alameda County prosecutor, a Dublin city councilman. Eric is a moderate and his top priority is to stabilize our economy, fight for great jobs here locally in the growing alternative energy sector, and reduce our national debt. Pete Stark has one of the worst voting attendance records in Congress. He lives in Maryland and is one of the most liberal members of Congress. Eric Swalwell will live in our community and has the energy and new ideas to work with people of any political party to solve our problems. Please vote for Eric Swalwell for Congress on Nov. 6.

This message is paid for by Swalwell for Congress, 925-924-0084.

Color me unsurprised – I’ve been saying for months that Swalwell would actively court the anybody-but-Pete-Stark vote, and the district’s GOP minority – 23.2 percent, as of early September – is a significant part of that. From a campaign standpoint, he’d be a fool not to seek those votes.

Sure, some diehard Dems might find this offensive, but if they’re completely toeing the party line, they probably weren’t voting for Swalwell anyway.


MC Hammer to get out vote for Jerry McNerney

Hammer pantsCapping our day of entertainment-themed weirdness (East Coast looks like “The Day After Tomorrow!” Disney buys Lucasfilm, will make “Star Wars Ep. VII!” ABC to make Oakland “City Hall” drama!) comes this tidbit: singer and artist MC Hammer (nee Stanley Burrell) will help lead a canvass on Monday in Stockton in support of Rep. Jerry McNerney and Stockton City Council candidate Michael Tubbs.

Hammer, 50, lives in Tracy, which actually is just outside the 9th Congressional District in which McNerney, D-Stockton, is seeking re-election.

As when Hammer lent his skills to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign, this raises some questions: Is McNerney actually too legit to quit? Can Ricky Gill not touch this? Which candidate needs to pray just to make it Tuesday?

We’ll know soon enough.


Swalwell denies claim of ‘pay-to-play’ in Dublin

Steven Tavares has an interesting story on the 15th Congressional District race in today’s East Bay Express:

On June 5, just hours after casting a vote for himself in the East Bay’s 15th Congressional District primary against incumbent Congressman Pete Stark, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell voted to approve a no-bid, monopoly contract to a local garbage company while members of that firm’s upper management sat in attendance. Swalwell, however, never publicly disclosed that those four top-level employees of Amador Valley Industries were large contributors to his congressional campaign in the months before the deal. Also in attendance was a consultant for the garbage company who not only had recently donated to Swalwell, but also has a history of violating campaign finance laws.


In some cities, including Oakland, what AVI and Swalwell did would have been illegal. It’s unlawful in those cities for a prospective government contractor, such as AVI, to make donations to councilmembers’ political campaigns in the months before those councilmembers vote on the actual contract. Good government advocates throughout California have pushed hard over the years to eliminate this type of pay-to-play politics.

Dublin, however, has no such prohibition. The city allows councilmembers to take donations from government contractors and then vote to award public contracts to those companies, said Jim Bakker, Dublin’s city attorney.

“A respected regional newspaper is raising new and troubling questions about Eric Swalwell’s role in pay-to-play for municipal contracts,” Michael Terris, Stark’s campaign consultant, said today. “Swalwell has thrown a lot of mud in this campaign, but he owes voters real answers to these serious allegations. An unregistered lobbyist for garbage contractors, whose owners and employees have donated $15,000 to Swalwell’s campaign, even raises questions about Swalwell’s integrity for failing to disclose major contributions while voting on no-bid contracts.”

Eric Swalwell Swalwell campaign manager Lisa Tucker, when asked today if there was any connection between the contributions and Swalwell’s vote, replied, “Absolutely not.” She noted that the agenda item on which he voted was initiated by the city’s staff, not by any member of the council, and that the vote was 4-1, so Swalwell’s wasn’t the deciding vote.

“Every contribution Eric received was disclosed properly to the public prior to the meeting,” she said, referring to Swalwell’s mandatory campaign finance filings to the Federal Election Commission.

Asked whether Swalwell had any ethical obligation to verbally disclose the contributions before casting that vote, Tucker noted that Swalwell is an Alameda County prosecutor and insisted he “has followed every ethics and disclosure law before taking the vote. Eric is proud that his support comes from individuals, compared to 65 percent of Congressman Stark’s contributions come from PACs, including almost $200,000 from health professionals with issues before his subcommittee.”

“Every claim Rep. Stark has made against Eric has resulted in him apologizing or has been debunked by a third-party media source,” she said. “This claim, by a blogger with a demonstrated bias on his blog for Rep. Stark, is an extension of Rep. Stark’s efforts to deceive voters.”

Tucker was referring to Tavares’ East Bay Citizen, where he has covered this race extensively both through news articles and pro-Stark opinion pieces.

Tavares’ story today in the Express notes that Stark in April – two months before Swalwell cast this vote – had gotten into hot water for claiming at a debate that Swalwell had accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes,” a claim he later acknowledged was unsubstantiated and for which he apologized.

Here are the AVI-related donations I’ve been able to find at a glance, some that occurred before the June 5 vote and some that occurred afterward:

  • Robert J. Molinaro, Pleasanton, president, Pleasanton Garbage Service, 9/27/11, $2,500
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, VP, Pleasanton Garbage Service, 9/27/11, $2,500
  • Gina Cardera, Livermore, manager, Amador Valley Industries, 9/27/11, $250
  • John R. Repetto, Pleasanton, route manager, Amador Valley Industries, 9/27/11, $250
  • Gordon Galvan, Castro Valley, consultant to Amador Valley Industries, 11/30/11, $1,000
  • Gina Cardera, Livermore, manager, Amador Valley Industries, 12/30/11, $1,000
  • Carol Molinaro, Pleasanton, homemaker, 1/31/12, $250
  • Carol Molinaro, Pleasanton, homemaker, 3/21/12, $250
  • Gordon Galvan, Castro Valley, consultant to Amador Valley Industries, 3/28/12, $1,000
  • Gordon Galvan, Castro Valley, consultant to Amador Valley Industries, 5/9/12, $500
  • Carol Molinaro, Pleasanton, homemaker, 5/10/12, $250
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 5/22/12, $250
  • Robert J. Molinaro, Pleasanton, president, Pleasanton Garbage Service, 6/27/12 $2,500
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 6/30/12, $2,500
  • (Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 7/2012, refund $250)
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 9/29/12, $250
  • The Express story also included this:

    Even a paid consultant for AVI, Gordon Galvan, who also donated to Swalwell, distanced himself from Swalwell’s failure to disclose his ties to AVI. “If he didn’t disclose it, I think that is wrong. It’s all on him,” said Galvan, who gave Swalwell the legal federal limit of $2,500 in successive years totaling $5,000. “The ethical thing to do is — I would have said, ‘These are people who have contributed to my congressional campaign and it has nothing to do with the City of Dublin or my vote.'”

    Nonetheless, Galvan, who is also a lobbyist and a former San Leandro councilman, characterized what Swalwell and AVI did as being no big deal. “It’s a dynamic that happens all the time,” said Galvan, adding that he believes Swalwell has been at a financial disadvantage during the campaign because of Stark’s political connections. “[Swalwell] can’t get PAC money because it’s a good ol’ boys’ network. If you’re a forty-year incumbent you have access to all that money. To me, that’s a lot dirtier.”

    Galvan today said he had told Tavares that if Swalwell was legally obliged to report the contributions and hadn’t, then that would be on him – but that’s not the case here.

    “I’m supporting Swalwell, so why would I say something that calls into question his ethics?” Galvan said. “It makes it sounds like I’m questioning Swalwell’s ethics or I think he did something illegal, and that’s not true at all … I didn’t say anything like that.”


    Fact-checking new ads in CA9 McNerney-Gill race

    Here’s the latest ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee attacking Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton:

    The bill to which this ad refers is HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House approved June 26, 2009 on a 219-212 vote; the bill later died in the U.S. Senate. The bill proposed a cap-and-trade system in which the government would limit the total amount of greenhouse gases that could be emitted nationally.

    The bill did not impose an “energy tax” directly on Americans. Some opponents claimed it would raise energy costs, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded the cost would be negligible for most and some poorer households would actually gain:

    (T)he net annual economy-wide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or about $175 per household. That figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy and of payments made to foreign entities under the program, but it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in GHG emissions and the associated slowing of climate change. CBO could not determine the incidence of certain pieces (including both costs and benefits) that represent, on net, about 8 percent of the total. For the remaining portion of the net cost, households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020, while households in the highest income quintile would see a net cost of $245. Added costs for households in the second lowest quintile would be about $40 that year; in the middle quintile, about $235; and in the fourth quintile, about $340. Overall net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income.

    The American Petroleum Institute had estimated the bill would raise gas prices by 77 cents per gallon, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimated the increases in gas prices would amount to less than 2 cents per year over the next two decades.

    Among many other provisions, the bill included a low-income energy tax credit program to offset any impact of higher energy prices; an energy rebate to reach families who don’t make enough to file tax returns; and a $4-billion, one-year program providing vouchers for the purchase or lease of a new car or truck to those who trade in an eligible vehicle for one that’s more fuel efficient.

    The bill was widely supported by environmental organizations, but actually split the business community somewhat: Supporters included General Electric, Dow Chemical, Pacific Gas and Electric, Ford Motor Co. and DuPont, while opponents included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

    Here’s the latest ad that McNerney is running against his Republican challenger, Ricky Gill:

    “Ricky Gill never held a full-time job.” – Gill has held various summer jobs and internships, but has had no full-time job other than being a partner in his parents’ farming and RV park businesses, where his duties have been unclear. Gill graduated from law school in May, but hasn’t taken the California State Bar exam and so can’t practice law yet.

    “He has an allowance from his parents.” – Gill’s personal financial disclosure says he received $10,000 in salary in 2010 (while in law school) from CVR Management of Lodi, a company registered to two of his brothers, not his parents. I’m pretty sure it was the California Democratic Party which first called this “an allowance.”

    “Gill Family: $40,000 in unpaid taxes and liens” – The McNerney campaign provided me a 27-page PDF of lien records (summary pages 1 and 2) culled from the Sacramento and San Joaquin county recorders’ offices, detailing various liens from 1985 through 2011 for state and county taxes, delinquent utility charges, and contractors’ services.

    “Gill Family: $165,000 in taxpayer-funded subsidies” – McNerney’s campaign provided this breakdown:

  • Gill-Chabra Farms: $43,531, including $35,892 in disaster subsidies in 2004-2005 and $7,639 in commodity subsidies from 1996 through 2001
  • Jasbir Gill: $19,314 in disaster subsidies in 2004
  • Jasbir Gill Family LP: $36,997 in disaster subsidies in 2005
  • Gill Vineyards LLC: $65,465 in 2001 in disaster subsidies
  • Gill’s campaign spokesman told the Associated Press earlier this year that the disaster subsidies were to offset crop problems affecting the family’s wine grapes.

    “Jerry McNerney: Opposed $350 billion bailout”As I reported here a month ago, he opposed it after it had already happened, essentially a completely symbolic vote. But he had voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) in the first place, as had 91 House Republicans including now-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

    UPDATE @ 2:12 P.M.: Gill’s campaign notes that I didn’t fact-check McNerney’s description of himself as “a real small businessman;” his financial disclosures indicate he resigned as CEO of Hawt Power in 2006, and mentioned no income from any business in 2011.