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Citizens United anniversary brings protests

Activists are taking to the streets Wednesday in the Bay Area and across the nation to mark the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has let an unprecedented flood of money wash across the face of American politics.

money in politicsIn Berkeley, the California Public Interest Research Group, local officials, students and residents gathered Wednesday morning on Cal’s Sproul Plaza. “Five years ago today, the Supreme Court went way off track, and gave mega-donors and corporate interests free rein to drown out the voices of the majority,” said Zach Weinstein of CALPIRG. “But we’re here today because the decision also sparked a movement of Americans working to take back our democracy, city-by-city and state-by-state.”

“We must stop the influx of big money in our democracy by passing an amendment to our constitution to stop corporations from being defined as people and money as speech; enacting disclosure laws, campaign finance contribution limits and publicly funded campaigns,” said Helen Grieco of Common Cause.

In San Francisco, activists are organizing a “Mourning in America” march starting at 3:30 p.m. from Market and Montgomery streets to the federal building at 450 Golden Gate Ave. for a 4:30 p.m. rally. The march, to “call for a reversal of corrupt campaign finance system that favors wealthy special interests over the public interest,” will be led by hip-hop artist Khafre Jay, effigies of the five Supreme Court Justices who were in the majority on Citizens United, a live band, and a coffin containing Uncle Sam; marchers are encouraged to wear black, and black armbands will be handed out.

Those scheduled to speak at the rally include former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco; former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin; good-government expert and former Secretary of State candidate Derek Cressman; and others. Endorsers and organizers include the Money Out! People In! Coalition, 99Rise, CA Nurses Association, Common Cause, Courage Campaign, California Clean Money Campaign, Free Speech for People, Money Out Voters In (MOVI), MoveOn Councils, Move to Amend, Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Public Citizen, Represent.us, San Francisco Labor Council AFL-CIO, Solar Justice, and the Sunflower Alliance.

99RiseIn Washington, D.C., seven 99Riseactivists disrupted Wednesday morning’s U.S. Supreme Court session. Each stood up and demanded that the court overturn Citizens United, before raising his or her index finger in the air – a gesture meant to represent the “one person, one vote” principle that they say the ruling undermined.

“We have seen the consequences of the free flow of private money rushing into our public political system,” activist Curt Ries said. “Nearly $4 billion was spent in the 2014 midterm elections, and almost all of it came from a handful of wealthy individuals and organizations. The kind of influence that money buys fundamentally corrupts our electoral process by giving undue representation to wealthy donors and corporations. That’s not a democracy, it’s a plutocracy.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: campaign finance | 3 Comments »

Will the rich buy California’s 2016 Senate race?

Campaign finance reform is needed to keep California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race from being bought by a small number of deep-pocketed donors, a consumer advocacy group said Wednesday.

The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) is pushing for a federal program that would match small contributions with limited public funds, so that grassroots candidates relying on small donors can compete with big-money candidates.

“California is no exception to the rule of big donor domination of politics,” CALPIRG campaign organizer Zach Weinstein said in a news release. “Any candidate who wants to run a viable campaign for Senate in 2016 will need to raise millions and millions of dollars to do so, and our current system makes that level of fundraising nearly impossible if you rely on small donors. Unless you’re connected to a network of big donors, you’re out of the running before you even start. The reforms we’re proposing could fundamentally change that system.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced last week that she won’t seek a fifth six-year term in 2016. California Attorney General Kamala Harris declared her candidacy Tuesday, and although Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has opted out, several other well-known names are considering whether to run.

Candidates in California’s last four Senate elections raised an average of $8.76 million, according to a memo issued Wednesday by CALPIRG; the highest amount, $23.17 million, was raised by Boxer for her 2010 re-election battle against Republican Carly Fiorina, who raised $11.63 million.

Current rules say individual donors can give up to $2,600 to a candidate for a primary election and another $2,600 for the general election for a total of $5,200 per campaign cycle; the Federal Election Commission will to revise this limit upward in the next few weeks after receiving new Consumer Price Index figures from the Labor Department.

But based on the current limit, a Senate candidate would have to raise more than $13,000 from individuals every day from now until Election Day in order to hit the average $8.76 million mark, CALPIRG notes. For a candidate relying on donors who “max out,” that’s five donors per day; for a candidate relying on small donors giving an average of $150, that’s 88 donors per day.

“When campaigns are paid for by big donors, those are the voices candidates hear the loudest,” Weinstein said. “In a democracy based on the principle of one person, one vote, small donors should be at the center of campaign finance – not an afterthought.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, campaign finance, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Your International Human Rights Day review

Hey, it’s International Human Rights Day!

The date was set by the United Nations in 1950 “to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

Nice! Let’s take a celebratory scan of some of today’s top stories!

“All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

Ah. Well, at least we can be sure ordinary people’s voices are heard by lawmakers come election time.

“The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders’ ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars,” the New York Times reports.

OK, maybe we should look a little closer to home.

“For the third time in four nights, mayhem defined a protest march from Berkeley to Oakland, as demonstrators took over a freeway, looted businesses and threw objects at police, authorities said,” our own Bay Area News Group reports. “The demonstrations were part of an ongoing national movement against police violence, spurred by grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in Missouri and New York after the deaths of two unarmed black men.”

Yeeeesh. Well, at least there’s some progress elsewhere on protecting that most basic of human rights – life itself.

“The Ebola virus that has killed thousands in West Africa is still ‘running ahead’ of efforts to contain it, the head of the World Health Organization has said,” the BBC reports.

I give up.

I surrender

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Civil liberties, War on Terror | 1 Comment »

Money update: SD10, AD15, AD16, AD25 & AD28

The deadline for reporting campaign finance activity from July 1 through Sept. 30 was this week. Here’s a look at how fundraising and spending stacked up in some of the Bay Area’s notable state legislative races:

10th State Senate District – Republican Peter Kuo of Santa Clara reported raising $88,050 and spending $88,772 in the third quarter, leaving him with $45,149 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt – money he has lent his own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, reported raising $125,861 and spending $108,542 in this year’s third quarter, leaving him with $59,423 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. But almost all of that money is already spent: Wieckowski also reported $57,177 in debts.

15th Assembly District – Democrat Elizabeth Echols of Oakland reported raising $205,536 and spending $121,740 in the third quarter, leaving her with $153,480 cash on hand but $61,779 in debts – including $19,500 she lent her own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Democrat Tony Thurmond of Richmond reported raising $184,940 and spending $146,048 in the third quarter, leaving him with $94,425 cash on hand but $37,971 in debts as of Sept. 30.

16th Assembly District – Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin reported raising $157,981 and spending $99,003 during the third quarter, leaving her with $147,625 cash on hand but $13,771 in debt as of Sept. 30. She’s far outraised and outspent by Democrat Tim Sbranti of Dublin, who reported raising $663,842 and spending $531,059 in the third quarter, leaving him with $197,672 cash on hand but $31,988 in debt as of Sept. 30.

25th Assembly District – Democrat Kansen Chu of San Jose reported raising $81,689 and spending $66,209 in the third quarter, leaving him with $57,675 cash on hand but $1,531 in debt as of Sept. 30. Republican Bob Brunton of Fremont has reported no fundraising other than the $8,000 he gave his own campaign in the year’s first quarter.

28th Assembly District – Democrat Evan Low of Campbell reported raising $80,926 and spending $134,723 during the third quarter, leaving him with $259,364 cash on hand but $1,329 in debts as of Sept. 30. Republican Chuck Page of Saratoga reported raising $70,087 and spending $50,728 in the third quarter, leaving him with $22,052 cash on hand but $18,880 in debt – money he loaned his own campaign – as of Sept. 30.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance | No Comments »

Checking in on money in Torlakson-Tuck race

In today’s story about the Field Poll showing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a dead heat with challenger Marshall Tuck, I didn’t have room to mention that Tuck appears to have outraised Torlakson in recent months.

Marshall TuckReports filed with the secretary of state’s office show Torlakson’s campaign had about $195,000 cash on hand as of June 30, and he looks to have raised at least about $239,000 in major donations since then. Tuck had about $180,000 banked at mid-year, and seems to have raised about $303,000 since.

That said, Torlakson is likely to be the beneficiary of massive independent spending by the teachers’ unions as the general-election season proceeds, just as he was before the primary. Tuck has received more modest but still-significant IE support from Manhattan Beach real estate mogul William Bloomfield Jr. (traditionally a giver to GOP causes and committees, though Tuck is a Democrat) and the California Senior Advocates League (which is funded mainly by Bloomfield and Eli Broad).

Tom TorlaksonTorlakson has fundraising receptions scheduled for Wednesday in Sacramento, with tickets costing $100 to $6,800 each, and Thursday in Salinas, for $100 to $5,000; he also is asking $75 to $6,800 for tickets to his annual BBQ on Saturday, Oct. 4 at a union hall in Martinez.

Tuck did a whirlwind bus tour last week through Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose and Oakland. He has a fundraiser set for Thursday, Sept. 18 in Costa Mesa, with tickets costing from $100 to $6,800, and he’s scheduled to address the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday, Sept. 25.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, campaign finance, education, Tom Torlakson | 23 Comments »

CA17: Mike Honda outraises Ro Khanna again

Rep. Mike Honda significantly outraised his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the year’s second quarter and has considerably more money with which to start their general-election showdown, according to Federal Election Commission reports provided by the candidates Tuesday.

Honda, D-San Jose, finished first in the June 3 primary election with 48.2 percent of the vote, while Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Two Republican candidates, Vanila Singh and Joel VanLandingham, finished further back and so were eliminated.

honda.jpgA report provided by Honda’s campaign Tuesday, combined with the one filed in mid-May, show he raised $522,086.37 while spending $542,605.07 from April 1 through June 30. This left him with $1,063,355.97 cash on hand as of June 30, but he also had $7,176.83 in debts, so his unencumbered cash was $1,056,179.14.

“Following the decisive 20-point win in the primary last month, the Honda campaign continues its strong fundraising leading up to the November election,” campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Mike Honda’s network of grassroots supporters – more than 7,000 of whom have given to the campaign so far – continues to grow.”

“We are going to keep this fundraising pace going and will have the resources to win in November while our debt-ridden challenger has some serious catching up to do,” Greven said.

Ro KhannaKhanna’s report filed Tuesday, plus the one he filed in mid-May, show he raised $337,673.26 in the second quarter while spending a tremendous $1,461,930.52 – which accounts for almost half of his total spending since the campaign began. This left him with $867,672.16 cash on hand as of June 30, but he also had $239,131.92 in debts, so his unencumbered cash was $628,540.24.

“There are only two numbers that matter in this reporting period: 50 and 202,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan insisted in a news release. “That’s because a majority of Ro’s donations were under $50, while Rep. Honda doubled down on his 202 area code fundraising amongst Washington special interests. Understandably, the Honda campaign is eager to change the story after burning well over a million dollars and relying on desperate false attacks just to lose a majority of the vote. It’s become clearer than ever that voters will be supporting change in November, just as they did in the primary.”

That said, Honda begins the general-election race with a 20-point primary win, a big edge in money, the name recognition of seven terms in office, and the bully pulpit of incumbency. Khanna aired several television ads before the primary; Honda has yet to go on the air.

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

Posted on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Michael Bloomberg maxed out to Marshall Tuck

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg made a max-out $13,600 contribution to Marshall Tuck’s campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction shortly before last week’s election, according to a report filed Monday with the Secretary of State’s office.

Marshall TuckBloomberg – the moderate Republican independent former New York City mayor and founder of his namesake global financial data and news company – has supported pro-reform and pro-privatization education candidates in California in the past, though Tuck has said he opposes school vouchers. Tuck finished second behind incumbent Tom Torlakson in last week’s primary, and so will face Torlakson head-to-head in November’s general election.

On Friday, Tuck reported contributions of $6,800 each from Walmart heiress Carrie Walton Penner and her husband, investor and venture capitalist Gregory Penner, of Atherton, and also $6,800 from Samson Energy Chairwoman and CEO Stacy Schusterman of Tulsa, Okla.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, education | 1 Comment »

SD10: Mary Hayashi’s last-minute contributions

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who was eliminated in last week’s primary election for the 10th State Senate District, reported a few pre-election contributions right after the vote.

Mary HayashiOn Thursday, she reported having received $1,000 from Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on May 31; Bass was Assembly Speaker during the second of Hayashi’s three Assembly terms.

And on Friday, she reported having received $2,500 from San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. on June 2. That’s interesting in light of Hayashi’s opposition to fracking, and her attack upon rival Democrat Bob Wieckowski for not supporting a moratorium; Chevron semi-notoriously provided free pizza to residents near the site of a fracking explosion and fire this past February in Pennsylvania.

Hayashi, perhaps best known for her 2012 shoplifting conviction for which she’s still on probation, finished third behind Wieckowski and Republican Peter Kuo.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, California State Senate, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi | 1 Comment »

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 | 8 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 | 21 Comments »