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‘Dancing hamster arrested on insurance fraud charges’

Best headline ever, no? It arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago atop a press release from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, announcing the arrest of Leroy Barnes, 27, of Los Angeles, known as one of the dancing hamsters in Kia commercials.

Barnes faces insurance fraud charges related to his alleged collection of state disability insurance benefits under false pretenses.

“Fraudulently collecting disability benefits is not only illegal, it disrespects legitimately injured Californians who are unable to work,” Jones said as solemnly as one can in a news release involving dancing hamsters.

Jones’ release says Barnes in June 2010, while employed as a dancer for John Cossette Productions, was struck by a piece of ceiling that fell on him during a sound check; Barnes then received state disability insurance benefits from September 2010 to September 2011, totaling more than $51,000.

But while he stated he was unemployed during the year he received that money, detectives discovered evidence that he actually starred in a Kia car commercial playing the role of a dancing hamster, according to the news release. He also performed in a rap group called The Rej3ctz under the alias MoWii, assisting in recording the song “Cat Daddy,” and also worked as a backup dancer for Madonna, Kelly Rowland, and Chris Brown under the name Hypnosis.

I’m not sure which dancing-hamster Kia ad Barnes appeared in, so I have no choice but to offer a few for your review; watch carefully to see if any of the hamsters seem to be limping.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: Dave Jones | 2 Comments »

Tim Donnelly: ‘We have not yet begun to fight!’

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has conceded fellow Republican Neel Kashkari‘s win in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, his congratulations thus far haven’t been accompanied by an endorsement, leaving Kashkari’s call for GOP unity unfulfilled at least for now.

Here’s the note Donnelly sent to supporters Wednesday afternoon:

Dear Patriots,

There are no words to express the debt of gratitude I owe to each and every one of you for your tireless efforts in defense of liberty.

As many of you know, last night our campaign ended as we came in third in a race where only the top two advance to the general election.

It was a tough night, but once it became clear that there was no chance of closing that gap, I called my opponent, and congratulated him on the result.

Our campaign may have failed to win the top spot, but we showed that grassroots and meeting people in person is a powerful way to build support. This campaign brought together an amazing array of people from every walk of life, and background. I am honored to have served alongside some of the finest people on the planet over this past year and a half.

This part of the journey may have ended, but one thing became clear: the political establishment remains the greatest threat to California’s future, and last nights result showed that without spending a penny on traditional advertising, we nearly matched the millions spent to defeat us.

It is a credit to each and every one of you who contributed your time and financial resources that we reached almost 470,000 people simply by word of mouth, door-to-door, and on social media.

I am deeply grateful to you for taking a stand to defend our Liberty, when it’s future is most fragile. This campaign may have ended, but take heart; we have united a small, but hardy band of Californians who refuse to be controlled by their government, and our numbers are growing.

We have not yet begun to fight!

Godspeed,

Tim Donnelly

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Neel Kashkari, Republican Party, Republican politics, Tim Donnelly | No Comments »

Poll: Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly in dead heat

Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the two Republicans vying to make it into the top two with incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, are in a statistical dead heat, a new poll finds.

Among likely primary voters, Brown leads with 50 percent while 18 percent favor Kashkari and 13 percent favor Donnelly – the first time any major public poll has showed Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official, leading Donnelly, a more conservative Assemblyman. But the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, meaning the Republicans basically are neck-and-neck.

Among Republican likely voters, 32 percent said they would vote for Kashkari in Tuesday’s primary election, 21 percent said they would vote for Donnelly and 17 percent said they would vote for Brown, while 23 percent of Republican likely voters remain undecided.

It certainly seems Kashkari’s May ad blitz – funded in large part by $2 million from his own pocket – had an effect, as he had been polling far behind Donnelly before that.

Either way, November isn’t looking like much of a contest. If the general election were held today, Brown would defeat Donnelly 54-26 and Kashkari 55-27, according to the poll conducted May 21-28.

“Establishment Republicans beat Tea Party candidates in Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon last week. If the trend continues in California — and there’s growing evidence it might — we may be witnessing a national trend towards a more moderate national Republican Party. If The Tea Party candidate wins in California, the internal party struggles will continue and likely exacerbate,” said Mike Madrid, co-director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, USC Unruh Institute Fellow and Republican strategist.

“With the Republican race in a statistical dead heat and with unprecedented levels of low voter turnout, a relatively small number of voters will be determining the ideological direction of the Republican party in California — and perhaps the image of the GOP nationally.”

Posted on Sunday, June 1st, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly | 3 Comments »

SD10: Hayashi launches ‘FrackBob.com’ site

Democratic former assemblywoman Mary Hayashi of Hayward has launched another website against her main rival for the 10th State Senate District seat, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont.

The new “FrackBob.com” site calls attention to Wieckowski’s opposition to a moratorium on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing – the use of pressurized water to break rock formations and free the oil or gas within.

It goes hand-in-hand with a mailer that landed in district voters’ mailboxes this week, and coincides with the failure of a state Senate bill that would’ve imposed just such a moratorium.

Hayashi fracking mailer_1

Hayashi fracking mailer_2

Hayashi’s website features an embedded, brief video clip of Wieckowski, at the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board meeting, saying he doesn’t support a moratorium. But here’s Wieckowski’s full answer to the question:

“I do not support the ban on fracking. As everyone knows, I introduced the first bill to bring transparency to the issue of what was going on with fracking. I spent three years of my life working on two bills that were defeated by a combination of the oil companies and the environmentalists.

“And what we have now as a result of that work, we have regulations that were promulgated that will provide for pre-notification to landowners, disclosure of how much water is being used, disclosure of where the water is going, monitoring of the wellheads after, a website that goes up, complete disclosure of the chemicals that are used in the frack, and also – if you claim ‘trade secret’ – we created a private right of action for any citizen that would be affected by that, if the executive director of DOGGR [Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources] did not challenge the trade secret claim.

“Those are the regulations. That brings transparency so we know what is going on. I’m proud of that.”

Hayashi’s website and mailer say Wieckowski “supports fracking in the Bay Area.” I don’t see that he ever has said anything about this specific region, so I assume Hayashi is concluding that if he doesn’t support a fracking moratorium, he by extension must support fracking anywhere.

“The reality is, there is no oil in the Bay Area, so fracking in the Bay Area would not be happening,” Wieckowski campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said Thursday, adding that California now has the “toughest disclosure law in the country” as a result of Wieckowski’s earlier legislation. “Like all of their communications against Bob, it’s disingenuous and it’s just part of the story.”

The website also features a sound file of a robocall from “Theresa, a longtime Sierra Club member and a lifetime environmentalist” who criticizes Wieckowski’s position. Michelle Myers, director of the club’s Bay Area chapter, said Thursday she has heard from some members who were confused by or concerned about the call.

“We did not make an endorsement in that race,” Myers said, describing the caller’s self-identification “a tactic used by the campaign to identify themselves with the Sierra Club brand, and that is not appropriate.”

At least this website and mailer deal with a real issue on which the candidates have a real difference of opinion. Most of the nasty mailers, ads and websites in this race have either been about Hayashi’s 2012 shoplifting conviction, for which she remains on probation, or Hayashi’s claim that Wieckowski “protected rapists” by voting against a certain bill in committee in 2012, even though he later voted for an amended version on the Assembly floor.

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 29 Comments »

‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

Lawmakers reacted to the Santa Barbara shooting by announcing plans Tuesday for a bill to create a “gun violence restraining order.”

The bill would establish a system in which concerned relatives, intimate partners or friends can notify police about someone showing a propensity toward violence, so police can investigate and seek a judge’s order to seize that person’s firearms and prevent any purchases.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed and the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”

Skinner will co-author the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing,” Williams said. “Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”

Also, state Senate Democrats will present a package of mental health policy and budget proposals Wednesday in Sacramento “to address mental healthcare within California’s criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety,” according to a release from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office. “The package includes a proposal to strengthen and apply statewide protocols to help frontline law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »

Longtime lawmaker John Vasconcellos is ailing

Longtime South Bay lawmaker John Vasconcellos is ailing, friends say.

Vasconcellos, 82, has been hospitalized at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, but will probably be moved to his Santa Clara condo Friday or Saturday at his request for end-of-life hospice care. Relatives reportedly are planning a farewell celebration in which he can participate.

vasconcellos tweet

Vasconcellos, a Democrat, served in the Assembly from 1967 to 1996 and in the state Senate from 1996 to 2004, making him the longest-serving legislator in California’s history. His long chairmanship of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee – later renamed the Appropriations Committee – made him one of Sacramento’s foremost budget wonks, but he also championed causes such as voting rights for teenagers, medical marijuana and self-esteem.

In 2002 he founded the Vasconcellos Legacy Project “to counter the cynicism that was poisoning our political discourse. The VLP was dedicated to the proposition that positive political change is possible, especially because we human beings are innately inclined toward the good.” The project’s “Politics of Trust” initiative seeks to replace society’s partisan, gridlocked, dysfunctional politics with a new model “based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision.”

Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers sing ‘Kum-Ba-Yah’ on rainy-day fund

It’s a rare “Kum-Ba-Yah” day under the State Capitol dome, as the Legislature in unanimously approved a new ballot measure to modify the state budget’s rainy-day fund.

The proposal voters will consider in November would double the reserve’s size from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund; the state would set aside 1.5 percent of the general fund each year, and supplement that with extra capital-gains revenue. For the next 15 years, half of what’s set aside would help pay down the state’s debt and unfunded liabilities, including public employee pensions and retiree health care.

The votes were 75-0 in the Assembly and 36-0 in the state Senate.

From Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“This compromise agreement between legislative leaders of both parties and the Governor balances the needs of fiscal stability and planning for the future. It will help attenuate cuts in vital services during economic downturns, aggressively pay down state liabilities and indebtedness, and still maintain the room that we need for investing in California and its people. This is a formula we should embrace not only in the future, but also for the 2014-15 State Budget we’re negotiating now.”

“We always must have a balance. I have long believed we should approach budgeting in a way people can readily understand; one-third of our excess revenue to pay down debt, one-third to put away for a ‘rainy day,’ and one-third left to invest and reinvest in California and its people. By using this agreement as our approach in debating the upcoming budget, we can make sure there is room left for some investment to meet the needs of our children and families who are still struggling to recover from the cuts we were forced to make during the recession.”

From Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“I think it demonstrates to the people of California that when you have a robust bipartisan discussion, you can make things better because we all bring something to the table… To that end, we wanted to make sure that it’s truly a rainy day fund, and not an everyday fund.”

From Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“Following today’s bipartisan vote in the California State Senate, I am pleased that legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle voted to affirm this important Rainy Day Fund proposal that seeks to ensure greater long term economic security for California. Our state can and should save for the future so that we can minimize the potential for future drastic cuts to education, health, human services and other critical programs, while also paying down debt. This new reserve fund, if approved by voters, will be an important step to help secure California’s economic future.”

“California’s economy is one of the largest in the world and is certainly an important driving force within the United States. It makes sense for state elected officials to support efforts that will continue to encourage California’s growth and future economic strength. Just as families must prepare for unexpected job losses or expenses, so too must the state prudently prepare for if and when another recession occurs.”

From Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford:

“This is exactly why I came to Sacramento – to work on bipartisan measures that benefit the people of California. I hope this is the first of many historic agreements. Let this be an example of how we can work across the aisle on a water bond.”

From Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a strong proposal for the voters to consider, and I am very proud of the work we have done on a bipartisan basis to take another monumental step forward in making California a model for fiscal responsibility across the country. By putting a genuine Rainy Day Fund before the voters, we can break the bad habits of the past where we overspend in good years and overcut in tough years, and this measure will ensure that we maintain the health of California’s finances in the years to come.”

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Bob Huff, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, John Perez, state budget | 1 Comment »

SD10: Pro-Hayashi mailers blast Wieckowski

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and her supporters sent more mailers this week to chip away at Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s reputation in the 10th State Senate District race.

Two of the mailers reiterate the claim first advanced via Hayashi’s BobProtectedRapists.com website that, well, Bob protected rapists. Both these mailers were paid for by the Californians Allied for Patient Protection Independent Expenditure Account, funded by medical, dental and insurance interest groups.

Click to enlarge:
No on Wieckowski mailer - front

No on Wieckowski mailer - inside1

No on Wieckowski mailer - inside2

No on Wieckowski mailer2 - front

No on Wieckowski mailer2 - inside

The mailers note Wieckowski was the lone vote against a bill – AB 1522 of 2012 – to protect people sexually assaulted by their spouses. The bill required that if a spouse is convicted of a violent sexual felony against the other spouse and the couple divorces within five years, the injured spouse can’t be made to pay any spousal support or attorney’s fees, and is entitled to keep all of his/her own retirement and pension benefits.

Legislative records show Wieckowski voted against the bill in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but several months later voted for it in the final Assembly floor vote, after it had been amended. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in September 2012.

Wieckowski voted against the bill in committee because he had concerns about mixing criminal and civil court cases, but those concerns were addressed by the time of the final floor vote, campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said last week.

Hayashi’s campaign put out its own mailer this week claiming Wieckowski “will say or do anything for his political agenda,” citing various media sources. More about that, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 7 Comments »

What they’re saying about Brown’s budget

We’ve included some reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision in our main story, but here are some more.

From Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego:

Toni Atkins“The Governor’s revised budget provides a solid starting point for the final phase of our deliberations. I am particularly pleased the Governor has built upon the framework Assembly Democrats proposed for a STRS solution earlier this year. That, and the Rainy Day Fund we are poised to pass this week, are two great steps forward to ensure California’s economic stability. As we finalize the budget over the next few weeks, we will also look to expand opportunity by combatting child poverty, improving access to higher education, increasing funding for transportation projects, and taking strides to expand affordable housing. Based on the Governor’s May revision and the more than 50 hearings the Assembly has already held, I am confident we are on track for another on-time, balanced budget – one that will help solidify the state’s fiscal position for years to come.”

From State Senate Budget Committee Vice Chair Jim Nielsen, R-Chico:

Jim Nielsen“The Governor should be commended for proposing to set aside $1.6 billion for the Rainy Day fund; and to pay down $11 billion in debt but this is a mere 3 percent of the state’s $340 billion debt.

“Unfortunately, his budget also includes increased spending on permanent programs that will inevitably take us back to deficit spending.

“More money needs to be set aside for the Rainy Day Fund and for emergencies like wildfires, natural disasters and public safety.

“State revenues are forecast to increase by $2.4 billion. While this appears to be good news, this is a veneer generated by a temporary tax that was promised for education and public safety; and will expire in three years.

“The high speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield is a boondoggle not worthy of precious taxpayers’ dollars.

“In the coming months, the Legislature must rectify the Governor’s failure to help counties protect their citizens by providing more funding for realignment. Counties need money for rehabilitation, inmate housing and supervision, and court costs.

“The administration is releasing the second class of realignment prisoners, making our communities more dangerous. State leaders shouldn’t wait for a catastrophe before we fix this ill-conceived program.”

From state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

Ellen Corbett“Coupled with last week’s bipartisan Rainy Day Fund agreement, today’s budget revision further sets California on track to fiscal health and economic growth so that all Californians may benefit from our state’s improving economy.”

“I praise the Governor’s short and long term commitment to supporting education at all levels, including career technical education at our state’s community colleges and high speed internet access at our K-12 schools that need it the most. California’s future depends largely on our continued investment in today’s students, so we must ensure that California’s education system is strong and offers students the needed preparatory tools to enter an increasingly global and technological job market.”

“I also thank the Governor for committing to help ensure the long term solvency of the teacher pension system. It is critical that we help secure the retirements of California’s educators.”

“I am pleased that the Governor’s revised budget also proposes significantly increased access to health care for millions of Californians through Medi-Cal and Covered California. We must certainly continue to restore the frayed safety net upon which many of my 10th State Senate District constituents rely during these still tough economic times.”

From State Board of Equalization member George Runner:

“The Governor is on the right track in proposing a budget that has no new taxes, contains ongoing expenses, pays down debt and begins to address the state’s growing pension costs.

“I just wish the Governor would repeal the fire tax and stop the bullet train.

“In addition, California continues to rank as the worst state to do business in an annual survey of business leaders.

“The next test for the Governor will be how he deals with legislators who want to raise taxes and spend billions more. Will he hold the line?”

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

Posted on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, state budget, Toni Atkins | No Comments »

SD10: Of polls, endorsements and mailers

The war in the 10th State Senate District continues, with a poll by Mary Hayashi’s campaign that claims she’s in the lead; an endorsement for Bob Wieckowski that takes a swipe at Hayashi; and labor unions’ second attack mailer focusing on Hayashi’s shoplifting conviction.

Mary HayashiHayashi’s campaign on Friday issued a poll memo saying that a survey of 400 likely voters in the district found 21 percent support Hayashi, 18 percent support Wieckowski, 7 percent support Republican Peter Kuo, 5 percent support Democrat Roman Reed, 2 percent support independent Audie Bock and a whopping 47 percent are undecided. Hayashi’s lead is within the poll’s 4.9-percentage-point margin of error.

“Hayashi has the clearest path to victory of any candidate,” pollsters Celinda Lake and Liesl Newton wrote in the memo. “Furthermore, despite attacks against her, Mary Hayashi’s favorability ratings remain net positive.”

Lisa Tucker, Wieckowski’s campaign consultant, noted the poll was conducted after Hayashi sent out a series of mailers about herself, but while the first negative mailers went out against her (although Wieckowski did launch an attack website against Hayashi more than a week earlier).

“It seems that her investment in trying to rehabilitate herself after her shoplifting conviction, while still serving probation, is not paying off,” Tucker said. “We feel confident that character does matter to voters and that they will reject Mary Hayashi when they learn she was convicted of shoplifting and is seeking public office while still serving probation.”

Hayashi has insisted she was distracted and inadvertently left San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus store with $2,450 worth of clothes in a store-branded shopping bag she had brought with her that day in October 2011. In a deal with prosecutors, the felony grand theft charge against her was reduced to a misdemeanor, to which she pleaded no contest in early 2012.

Meanwhile, Democracy for America, the progressive group founded a decade ago by former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, announced its endorsement of Wieckowski on Monday.

Bob Wieckowski“Primaries can sometimes present tough decisions, especially since California adopted the top two primary. When looking at a choice between a convicted shoplifter and a strong progressive, however, the choice is clear,” DFA digital programs manager Andy Kelley wrote in a fundraising plea for Wieckowski. “Bob Wieckowski is up against a Republican who wants to return the state legislature to the bad old days of gridlock and cuts to the social safety net, and a former Democratic lawmaker who demonstrated her unfitness for office by stealing thousands of dollars of goods from a San Francisco store.”

“Bob Wieckowski will help push California’s politics in a more ethical direction and will stand on principle,” Kelley wrote. “The State Senate has had enough scandal. Bob Wieckowski will bring ethical, progressive leadership and a strong backbone — two things Sacramento needs right now.”

Also Monday, a group of labor unions supporting Wieckowski issued their second attack mailer against Hayashi within a week’s time.

Click to enlarge:
Second IE Hayashi mailer-page1

Second IE Hayashi mailer-page2

“If Mary Hayashi can’t go within 50 feet of a Neiman Marcus store … shouldn’t it be the same for the State Senate” the mailer asks, over a photo illustration of Hayashi separated from the State Capitol by what looks like police tape reading “MARY HAYASHI DO NOT ENTER.” On the other side, the mailer repeats the same alleged ethical transgressions as last week’s mailer.

The mailer comes from “Californians for Integrity in Government Opposed to Hayashi for Senate 2014, Sponsored by Peace Officers, Nurses and Labor Organizations.” The committee’s mailing address is that of the California Nurses Association, and the mailer discloses the committee receives “major funding by California State Council of Service Employees Political Committee.”

“Clearly this is in response to the polling that shows Mary is in the lead,” Josh Pulliam, Hayashi’s campaign manager, said Monday. “Apparently Bob and his backers think the only way to beat her is to bully her, to beat up on her” about the shoplifting in order to make voters forget about her lengthy, strong legislative record.

“They don’t want the voters to get a full view of all of the candidates because they know if voters do, they’re going to lose,” Pulliam said. “Bob still hasn’t given anybody a reason to vote for him.”

UPDATE @ 2:17 P.M.: Also, here’s the ad that Kuo’s campaign says it has been airing for several days:

Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 17 Comments »