First will be a cocktail reception at the Pacific Heights home of Kat Taylor and Tom Steyer – the billionaire former asset manager who bankrolled last year’s successful Proposition 39 – for which tickets cost $5,000 per person. After that, there’ll be a $32,500-per-person dinner hosted by billionaire heirs/philanthropists Ann and Gordon Getty. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is expected to attend both.
The president will remain in the Bay Area overnight and then attend two fundraisers on Thursday, April 4, to benefit the Democratic National Committee.
First comes a brunch at the Atherton home of Liz Simons and Medley Partners managing director Mark Heising, for which tickets cost $32,400 each. Then the president will attend a luncheon at the Atherton home of former insurance mogul and Levi-Strauss heir John Goldman and his wife Marcia, for which a $1,000 buys a basic ticket, $5,000 buys access to a photo reception as well, $7,500 buys lunch and photo reception tickets for two, and $20,000 buys access to a special co-sponsor reception.
The White House confirmed Thursday that the president will be in Northern California on April 3 and 4 for fundraising events for both the DCCC and the Democratic National Committee.
My esteemed colleagues at the Chronicle reported last week that the president should expect to be met in San Francisco by protestors urging him to nix the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
The AP reports Democratic officials have said the president plans to headline at least 14 fundraisers this year for the party’s House and Senate candidates. Some of the events will be in Washington, but most will be held around the county.
Congressional Republicans say Obama is more focused on regaining Democratic control of the House in the midterm elections than he is on seeking bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. Obama disputed that notion during private meetings with lawmakers this week.
Also, Casher chaired a Young Professionals Finance Committee for Harris’ 2010 campaign for attorney general and, like Harris, was an active supporter of and fundraiser for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
“Eric’s commitment to justice, fairness and the rule of law will make him a strong asset on the Fair Political Practices Commission,” Harris said in a news release. “The people of California will be well-served by his diligence and his judgment.”
The five-member FPPC adopts and amends political and campaign-finance regulations, helps agencies and officials with record-keeping and reporting, maintains economic-interest records and investigates and punishes violations of the Political Reform Act. The governor appoints two commissioners, and the remaining three appointments are made by the state attorney general, the secretary of state and the state controller.
An East Bay Assemblyman wants Californians to vote on whether the state’s congressional delegation should push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow new limits on political contributions and spending.
AB 644 by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, calls for a November 2014 ballot measure in which voters could instruct members of Congress to work toward an amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. Wieckowski last year authored a successful resolution expressing the Legislature’s support for such an amendment.
“Now it’s time to let all Californians have their voices heard,” he said in a news release Thursday. “This is an issue people feel passionately about because they know the campaign finance system is skewed against the interests of the working poor and middle class.”
Common Cause, a nonprofit group that advocates for open, honest and accountable government, is sponsoring the bill.
“Giving every Californian a chance to declare that money isn’t free speech is exactly the sort of high-profile step that is required if we are serious about reversing the Supreme Court,” said Derek Cressman, director of Common Cause’s campaign to reverse Citizens United. “Voter instruction measures such as this have spurred previous constitutional amendments.”
CREDO, a progressive mobile phone company with more than three million activist members nationwide including more than 500,000 members in California, supports the bill as well.
“California would be the biggest state yet to throw its support behind a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said CREDO political director Becky Bond. “Corporate money in politics is literally destroying our democracy and CREDO will help organize millions of Californians help us take back our elections.”
Similar grassroots ballot measures were approved in November by voters in Montana and Colorado, as well as in San Francisco and Richmond. Los Angeles last month approved a voter instruction measure that will appear on the city’s May 2013 ballot.
Protesters intend to besiege Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s home tomorrow while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is there doing some social networking and campaign cash collection.
CREDO is organizing the protest at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside 1456 Edgewood Ave. in Palo Alto. Activists will be “protesting against Zuckerberg’s support for the governor, citing Christie’s repeated efforts to gut women’s reproductive health care services and defund Planned Parenthood,” according to a news release. Christie is seeking re-election this year, and is thought to be a prime contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Organizers note that although more than 58 percent of Facebook users are women, Christie defunded Planned Parenthood by cutting $7.4 million from women’s health care, including funding for life-saving cancer screenings, breast health exams and birth control. The $7.4 million in cuts led to the closures of six women’s health clinics in New Jersey.
The California Republican Party has asked the Federal Election Commission whether two California congressmen, their campaigns and a Democratic super PAC violated federal law by having the congressmen appear in the PAC’s video.
But an election-law expert says it’s a weak case, and the House Majority PAC says state GOP chairman “Tom Del Beccaro’s swan song amounts to a baseless, politically-motivated complaint not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
“This laughable effort is the period at the end of the sentence that defines Del Beccaro’s embarrassing term as GOP party chair,” PAC spokesman Andy Stone said Wednesday.
The House Majority PAC’s recent video featured members of Congress including freshmen Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, and Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs, thanking the PAC for its involvement in their 2012 campaigns.
“We were grateful to see House Majority PAC formed so we could actually have allies on our side that were helping us get our message out,” Bera said in the video. “That in many ways was the difference in the outcome and one of the big reasons why we won this time.”
“When we got word that Darth Vader himself, Karl Rove, and the Crossroads was coming in and you had to recruit the team to fight back that Death Star,” Ruiz said in the video. “We fought back, and we won.”
Text at the video’s end invites viewers to visit the PAC’s website “to learn more about our work and join our efforts.” The video also carries disclaimers noting the House members are “not asking for funds or donations.”
In letters (Bera, Ruiz) sent to the FEC, Del Beccaro notes that “committees that solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations for the purpose of making independent expenditures are prohibited from making direct contributions to federal political committees. The FEC defines a ‘contribution’ to include ‘any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by a person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office’ (emphasis added).”
The complaints say the cost of creating the video is an in-kind contribution to Bera’s and Ruiz’s campaigns – a contribution House Majority PAC is prohibited from making, and Bera and Ruiz are prohibited from taking. (Remember, super PACs can’t give directly to candidates – they can merely work on a candidate’s behalf, so long as their work is independent and not coordinated with the candidate’s campaign.)
The FEC in 2011 split 3-3 on whether there was a problem with comparable situation involving U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
“Nevertheless, it takes the affirmative vote of four commissioners to pursue an enforcement action. I don’t see four votes on the commission agreeing with the California GOP’s interpretation of the law,” Paul Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday.
Ryan said the FEC “has a fairly detailed (yet ineffective) regulation” on whether a public communication such as the House Majority PAC video constitutes an in-kind contribution. To qualify as such, the ad must meet both prongs of a two-prong test—the “content” prong and the “conduct” prong, he said.
“The House Majority PAC video clearly meets the ‘conduct’ prong, because the officeholders were directly and materially involved in filming the video,” Ryan said.
But for ads distributed more than 90 days before a House/Senate election or more than 120 days before a Presidential election, the “content” prong is only met by ads that contain campaign materials produced by the candidate, or by ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of the candidate.
“The House Majority PAC video seemingly contains neither,” Ryan said. “It appears that the PAC produced the entire video (i.e., no candidate materials were used), and the video does not expressly advocate any candidate’s election. On the contrary, the video is all about officeholders expressly advocating the value/importance of the PAC.”
The content standards are more easily met during the 90 days right before a congressional election, Ryan noted: Even identifying a specific candidate in such a video during that time period would run afoul of the rules. But released after the election as this video was, it seems above-board.
Corporate personhood takes a new leap forward Monday as a Marin County motorist challenges his traffic ticket by arguing it was OK to drive in the carpool lane because his corporation was with him.
Jonathan Frieman, a local activist and nonprofit consultant, was ticketed Oct. 2 for driving in the carpool lane during restricted hours; the officer apparently wasn’t impressed when Frieman showed him his incorporation papers. A traffic court hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
The fine for such a violation is $478, but Frieman, 59, of San Rafael, says that if the court rules against him Monday, he’s prepared to appeal the case all the way to the California Supreme Court in an effort to expose the impracticality of corporate personhood.
Corporate personhood, of course, has been at the heart of the ongoing debate over campaign finance ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling unleashed a torrent of corporate contributions.
“Corporations are imaginary entities, and we’ve let them run wild,” Frieman said in a news release. “Their original intent 200 years ago at the dawn of our nation was to serve human beings. So I’m wresting back that power by making their personhood serve me.”
California Vehicle Code section 470 defines a “person” as “a natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation.” Section 21655.5, under which Frieman was cited, states that “no person shall drive a vehicle upon lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices.”
Ford Greene, Frieman’s attorney and a San Anselmo councilman, said the Vehicle Code makes “person” and “corporation” equivalent, so “when a corporation is present in one’s car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes. When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile.”
Two Bay Area state Senators announced Thursday the re-introduction of a bill requiring that the top three funders of political ads be clearly identified, both on the ads themselves and on the campaign’s website.
SB 52, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, by state Senators Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Jerry Hill, D-Palo Alto, is sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign. It applies to advertising for ballot measure campaigns, independent expenditures and issue advocacy. The bill introduced today is intent language, to which details will be added early next year before it’s heard in policy committees.
“We saw evidence in the most recent election cycle of unnamed organizations throwing around large sums of money in order to confuse California voters,” Leno said in a news release. “The only way to stop this covert financing of campaigns is to require the simple and clear disclosure of the top three funders of political ads so voters can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.”
Hill said the bill is “vital to protecting the integrity of our democratic process and ensuring fair elections in our state. After seeing billions of dollars flow into elections across our country after the Citizens United decision, we need the DISCLOSE Act now more than ever.”
California Clean Money Campaign president Trent Lange said more than 350 groups and individuals signed on to support the last version of this bill and more than 84,000 Californians signed petitions for it, “demonstrating the rising outcry to stop Big Money special interests from deceiving voters when they fund political ads.”
Actually, this effort has had several iterations recently. AB 1148 last January got 52 Assembly votes, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass. And AB 1648 was passed by the Assembly in August after being amended to require only a simply majority vote, but was stuck in a state Senate committee at the end of the last session. Both of those bills were authored by then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, now congresswoman-elect for the 26th House District.
With a hard-fought re-election race done, Rep. John Garamendi needs more money to pay off his campaign debts.
Garamendi, D-Fairfield, will hold a fundraising luncheon Monday at an Italian restaurant in South San Francisco, seeking from $500 to $2,500 per person.
Garamendi fended off a challenge from Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, a Republican, in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District. He finished with 54.1 percent of the vote to Vann’s 45.9 percent, according to still-unofficial results scheduled to be certified next week.
As of Oct. 17 – the final reporting deadline before the election – Garamendi’s campaign had outspent Vann’s by about 43 percent, but had only $112,698 cash on hand with $132,354 in outstanding debts and obligations.
A pair of state Senators intend to introduce bills to beef up California’s laws requiring disclosure of political contributions.
State senators Leland Yee, D-San Francsico, and Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said they’re still finalizing the exact language of their two bills, they plan to increase penalties for failing to properly disclose campaign contributions, require greater disclosure of funding sources on mass mailings and media advertisements, and close a loophole that lets some nonprofits finance campaigns without naming their donors.
“Laundering money through nonprofits in an attempt to avoid transparency is fundamentally undemocratic,” Yee said in a news release today. “Our democracy should not be bought and sold in shady backroom deals. The California Disclose Act will close this loophole and ensure that Californians are well aware of who is funding campaigns and ballot measures.”
“As alert voters were chagrined to learn, last-minute donations from what essentially were anonymous special interests was a blatant attempt to unfairly shape election results,” said Lieu. “This must stop.”
Good-government groups already are lining up behind the senators’ bills.
“With these proposals, California will continue to lead the country in campaign finance disclosure,” California Common Cause policy advocate Phillip Ung said in Yee’s news release. “These bills show policymakers are listening to voters’ demands and the Legislature will take action to shine a light on the interests behind campaign laundering schemes.”
Jennifer Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California, said voters’ trust in government is eroded when they can’t see behind big donations from special interests. “Effective regulation of money in politics ensures the public’s right to know and promotes confidence in the political process.”