Bay Area lawmakers among the wealthiest in U.S.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi: $101 million. Rep. Jerry McNerney: $9,000. OpenSecrets.com: Priceless.

About 47 percent of Congress, or 250 current members of Congress, are millionaires, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics of lawmakers’ personal financial disclosure forms from 2010.

The Bay Area beats the national figure, where eight of its 13 regionally based federal lawmakers top the $1 million mark in assets and liabilities.

No. 8 nationally out of 530 members and the wealthiest of the Bay Area legislators, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, reported an average net worth of $101 million.

The poorest member was Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, with an average net worth of $9,000 and a national ranking of No. 494.

Talk about a gap between the haves and have nots.

Keep in mind, the disclosure numbers do not include personal property such as residences, artwork or retirement accounts but do include the spouses’ income and investments. The forms contain vast value ranges, however, which makes it impossible to make precise estimates, says the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the other Bay Area colleages and their national rankings:

  • No. 12 — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, $69 million
  • No. 49 — Rep. Jackie Speier, $12.5 million
  • No. 72 — Rep. John Garamendi, $6.9 million
  • No. 110 — Rep. Pete Stark, $3.9 million
  • No. 130 – Sen. Barbara Boxer, $3.5 million
  • No. 192 — Rep. Anna Eshoo, $1.8 million
  • No. 201 — Rep. Mike Thompson, $1.7 million
  • No. 211 — Rep. Zoe Lofgren, $1.5 million
  • No. 304 — Rep. George Miller, $668,000
  • No. 308 — Rep. Mike Honda, $639,505
  • No. 343 — Rep. Lynn Woolsey, $490,505
  • No. 370 – Rep. Barbara Lee, $392,503

Read the full 530-member list at the Center for Responsive Politics site.




CREW examines donor influence on committee chairs

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez

Industry donations to House of Representative committee leaders who regulate them has skyrocketed, according to a new Washington, D.C., campaign finance watchdog analysis.

The report on the top two leaders in 10 House committees includes three California lawmakers: Education and Workforce Committee ranking member George Miller, D-Martinez; Energy and Committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles; and Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Read the Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics (CREW) analysis here.

CREW examined contributions made by the related industries to the leaders of 10 House committees in 1998 and 2010 and found a 600 percent increase during that period compared with the overall increase in contributions of 230 percent during the same time period.

“CREW also found that since 2007, many committee leaders voted in agreement with the industries they regulate a majority of the time,” the report reads. “… CREW’s findings raise new questions about how beholden House committee chairmen and ranking members are to the industries they oversee and whether they are independent enough to put public interest ahead of special interests.”

Here is an excerpt of the report’s findings on Miller, which reflect a similar rise in industry-related donations but not a commensurate voting pattern:

“Rep. Miller served as ranking member of the committee from 2001 to 2006 and served as chairman from 2007 to 2010. Over the past seven election cycles, as his seniority on the committee rose, contributions from education and workforce industries to Rep. Miller increased at a rate far outpacing his total contributions. Rep. Miller’s voting history, however, does not reflect the industries’ largess.”

“During the 2002 election cycle – the first election cycle after Rep. Miller assumed a leadership position on the committee – contributions from education and workforce industries to his campaign committee and PAC increased by 38% over the previous cycle, from $145,150 in 2000 to $199,863 in 2002. Total contributions increased by 65% during the same time period, from $417,748 to $687,741.”

“During the 2010 election cycle, education and workforce industries accounted for 30% of the $1,527,308 in total contributions received by Rep. Miller’s campaign committee and PAC.”

“During the 1998 election cycle, education and workforce industries accounted for 18% of the $346,025 in total contributions received by Rep. Miller’s campaign committee.”

“Campaign Contribution highlights from industries regulated by the Committee

  • The education industry regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee donated 90 times more money to Miller during the 2010 election cycle than it did in 1998, increasing contributions from $1,500 to $135,461.
  • The ‘Health Professionals’ industry donated more than five times more money to Rep. Miller during the 2010 election cycle than during the 1998 election cycle, increasing its contributions from $11,501 to $59,500.
  • The ‘Building Trade Unions’ donated nearly six times more money to Rep. Miller during the 2010 election cycle than during the 1998 election cycle, increasing its contributions from $18,000 to $107,650.”

“Votes on Education and Workforce Issues

  • From 2007-2008, Rep. Miller voted on average 88% in agreement with the industries regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee. The average Democrat voted in agreement with the industries 91% of the time.
  • From 2009-2010, Rep. Miller voted on average 82% in agreement with the industries regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee. The average Democrat voted in agreement with the industries 81% of the time.
  • Since January 2011, Rep. Miller has voted on average 77% in agreement with the industries regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee. The average Democrat has voted in agreement with the industries 79% of the time.”

Fox targets Rep. Miller but gets its facts wrong


Fox cable pundits such as Sean Hannity are naming Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and his lobbyist son, George IV, as unholy kingpins in SunPower’s successful bid for $1.2 billion in federal loans to create jobs in Mexico. (See update below.)

It’s provocative but all untrue.

George Miller IV is a California lobbyist and a partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller. Yes, SunPower retained the firm but only for state-level lobbying activities. Its state lobbyist is Bob Giroux. No, George IV is not a federal lobbyist. And he told Media Matters for America, a web site where much of this stuff has been debunked (see more about this site below), that he has never even worked on the SunPower state account.

More important, no one needs to lobby Congressman Miller to support solar projects. He has been a vocal advocate for alternative energies for decades.

SunPower’s is headquartered in San Jose but it has a research and development facility in Miller’s district in Richmond. In October 2010, he toured SunPower’s R/D facility in Richmond along with Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and SunPower CEO Tom Werner.

In July 2009, Miller and Werner were among many sponsors of a meeting of the Council on Competitiveness Energy Summit held at Moffett Field.

Media Matters found no evidence that SunPower is likely to  go the way of  Solyndra, another Silicon Valley-based solar company that gained massive notoriety and triggered a federal investigation when it suddenly defaulted on its Department of Energy loans. In fact, they found the opposite. Media Matters noted that analysts in a New York Times piece found SunPower “srongly placed” in the market. Other experts have said there is little chance SunPower will default.

Media Matters also refuted the allegation that the federal dollars will be used to create jobs in Mexico. The loan guarantee is for the construction of a 250-megawatt solar farm in San Luis Obispo County.  Yes, the company is building a manufacturing facility in Mexico but it is also building one in Milpitas, neither of which will require the use of  federal dollars.

How did this all get started with the Millers?

The first mention of Miller and his son, George IV,  in connection with SunPower appears to have been in Human Events, a conservative web site.  From there, the story spread to the cable shows with apparently little effort to verify the information. Even a local blog, Claycord.com, posted a Hannity video clip with a lead-in that says the congressman is involved in a “scandal.”

The story has also spawned concern in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, which signed a contract with SunPower for the installation of solar panels on school facilities.

Reasonable people may disagree on the merits of federal investment in the alternative energies market but there is no scandal involving the Millers and SunPower.

UPDATE 9:40 AM FRIDAY: Critics have rightfully noted that I failed to state that Media Matters is a web site dedicated to debunking statements made by conservatives. But honestly, Media Matters’ motives are irrelevant. If I only listened to entities that had pure motives, I would listen to almost no one.

I linked to this site because it contains a long list of direct links to articles elsewhere that contain the facts, not opinions by Media Matters, which are clear:

  • Congressman Miller’s son, George IV, is not a SunPower lobbyst and he played no role in the company’s receipt of a federal Department of Energy Loan.  If he had been a SunPower lobbyist, I would have written an entirely different post.
  • Numerous financial experts quoted in reputable news organizations such as the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have found SunPower to be a viable business and unlikely to default on its federal loan guarantee.

In further reporting late yesterday, a colleague who covers business in the Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News confirmed that SunPower is using the federal loan guarantee to build a solar farm in San Luis Obispo, not open a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

And I just got off the phone with the congressman and he tells me that his involvement in SunPower’s application for a federal loan guarantee consisted of a letter of support he and Rep. Zoe Lofgren wrote to the Department of Energy recommending its approval.

Again, there is no scandal involving SunPower and Congressman Miller.

If there was a scandal, you can bet I would be all over it because reporters love scandals. We live for them.

But I am also cognizant of the fact that as public confidence in all forms of government continues its devastating downward spiral, I have an equal responsibility to challenge inaccurate accusations. The utter disregard by people on both ends of the political spectrum for facts is downright scary.


Rep. Miller calls for jobs hearings

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez

The morning after President Barack Obama presents his jobs package, Democratic Rep. George Miller of Martinez called for immediate hearings on the proposed legislation.

Miller is the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Jobs — how to create them, how to keep them and how to take credit for them — is at the heart of the upcoming political debate at nearly every level.

Here is Miller’s statement:


Miller Requests Immediate Hearings on Job Creation Proposals

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, today requested that Chairman John Kline (D-MN) immediately schedule hearings into the job creation proposals outlined by President Obama yesterday. The Education and the Workforce Committee has legislative jurisdiction over a number of the proposals contained in the American Jobs Act.

 “The American people share the President’s sense of urgency that Congress must act together and act quickly to create jobs,” Miller wrote. “It is well past time for this Congress to refocus on jobs and take action to grow and strengthen America’s middle class. The President’s plan deserves to be heard. Our Committee should schedule hearings on his proposals as soon as possible.”

 The full letter to Chairman Kline appears below:

September 9, 2011

The Honorable John Kline


Committee on Education and the Workforce

2181 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC  20515

 Dear Chairman Kline:

 Last night before a Joint Session of Congress, President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, a package of proposals to create jobs immediately and spur future economic growth.  Given the urgency of our nation’s job situation and since the House Education and the Workforce Committee has jurisdiction over a number of the proposals in this plan, I respectfully request that you immediately schedule committee hearings on these important initiatives outlined by President Obama.

 During the recent August recess, Members heard from their constituents.  The message was loud and clear.  The American people share the President’s sense of urgency that Congress must act together and act quickly to create jobs. 

 Economists agree that creating jobs is the first, most important step we need to take to grow the economy, reduce the deficit, and keep Americans working.  Creating jobs now is the key to fixing nearly every other economic problem America faces today. 

 Businesses have repeatedly pointed out that their hiring has stalled for lack of demand.  By taking measures to directly put more Americans back to work, we grow demand.  Workers are consumers.

 As you know, in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the country’s unemployment situation is in dire need of attention.  With more than 14 million Americans officially out of work, unemployment remains above 9 percent.  A staggering 6.2 million Americans have been unemployed for more than 6 months.  This long-term unemployment threatens to knock these workers permanently out of the middle class.  Some sectors have been hurt worse than others.  The construction industry’s nationwide unemployment rate stands in double digits.  Public service jobs, like teachers, firefighters, and police, continue to suffer from the downturn and its impact on state and local budgets.  Just this summer, 85,000 school personnel received pink slips, bringing the total of education workers losing their jobs since September 2008 to 290,000.  Those job losses result in larger class sizes, not to mention damaging pauses in teaching careers we should be nurturing.

 The President proposed several items within our Committee’s jurisdiction that can save and create jobs now and help the unemployed find work.  Some significant measures in our jurisdiction include:

  • A school modernization program, benefiting at least 35,000 public schools, would put construction workers to work repairing schools, upgrading science labs, and making classrooms internet-ready.  A portion of this program would be used for modernizing facilities in our nation’s critical community college system.

  • Education jobs funding would stop the layoffs of 280,000 teachers and support the hiring of tens of thousands more.

  • An employment law reform would prohibit employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.

  • A Pathways Back to Work fund for low-income individuals would provide for subsidized employment, support for innovative training programs, including at community colleges, and summer and year-round job opportunities for youth.

  • The long-term unemployed can benefit from measures to improve reemployment assistance, and work-share proposals intend to save the jobs of workers who would otherwise be laid off.

 The President’s proposals have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. For example, you have long called for reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.  We should act on reauthorization and reinvigorate reemployment assistance and job training efforts.  The important question is whether this Congress can work together with our President to help start creating jobs now.  Congress must put partisanship aside and seize this moment to move our economy forward.

 It is well past time for this Congress to refocus on jobs and take action to grow and strengthen America’s middle class.  The President’s plan deserves to be heard.  Our Committee should schedule hearings on his proposals as soon as possible. 

 I look forward to hearing from you on how our Committee will respond to the President’s call to action and to working with you on these matters.



Senior Democratic Member


Rep. George Miller introduces jobs bill

Rep. George Miller

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, introduced today a jobs bill that would funnel federal dollars into local governments and nonprofits and allow the rehiring of laid-off workers.

Read about the Local Jobs for America Act at his web site here.

It includes two years worth of money to rehire or retain teachers, police officers and firefighters. It also pays for on-the-job training positions in the private sector.

The subject matter fits Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

But jobs and job creation has become the top theme coming out of many Democrats’ offices as persistent unemployment continues to plague the country and threaten the party’s hopes for retaking the House of Representatives and re-electing President Barack Obama.

Miller isn’t too worried about his own re-election prospects even though he will have new district boundaries per the maps adopted earlier this month by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The veteran lawmaker is running in the reconstituted 11th Congressional District, which consists entirely of Contra Costa County communities stretching from Richmond eastward to Pittsburg and south into the San Ramon Valley. His old 7th District included portions of Solano County and none of the San Ramon Valley towns.  Democrats have a smaller but still very significant party registration edge in Miller’s new district — 24 percentage points in the 11th vs. 35 in the 7th.

Miller’s press release follows. Continue Reading


GOP recognizes first McNerney foe

Ricky Gill

The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee put GOP congressional candidate Ricky Gill on its “radar” today in recognition of the Lodi native and UC-Berkeley law student’s early fundraising prowess. Gill has declared himself a candidate in the new 9th District where incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney intends to run. (McNerney has represented the 11th District for the past six years but under the newly adopted district boundaries, he will move to the 9th District. It includes  Click here to view the new district map.)

The nod recognizes Gill’s rather extraordinary early fundraising numbers. Per the most recent Federal Election Commission report, Gill had raised $446,484 as of June 30. Even after subtracting the candidate’s personal contributions of nearly $20,000, his total is still substantially higher than what either of McNerney’s last two challengers had collected in the same point in their campaigns.

2010 challenger David Harmer posted contributions of $175,131 in his July 2009 quarterly report, while 2008 opponent Dean Andal had $288,168 in July 2007.

Comparisons are tricky, however. The district boundaries have changed and the party registration in the new district favors Democrats by 9 percentage points, a higher margin than the old district.  The shift is largely due to the inclusion in the new 9th District of the bluer portions of  Stockton.

Here is the NRCC’s full release: Continue Reading