9

Legal scandals lead Dems to cancel golf fundraiser

Chalk up one immediate victim of the ethical and legal scandals sullying the state Senate: Golf.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, who’ll succeed Steinberg in the top spot at the end of this year, issued a joint statement Tuesday announcing they’ve cancelled this weekend’s Pro Tem Cup – the annual Democratic party fundraiser at which donors give tens of thousands of dollars to join legislative leaders on the links at Torrey Pines in La Jolla – “in light of the very recent and extraordinary breaches of the public trust by three individuals.”

C’mon, guys, SAY THE NAMES! Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of voter fraud and perjury; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, indicted on bribery charges; and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, charged last week with trading favors for money and conspiring to traffic arms.

So, no golf!

“In its place, we intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this state,” Steinberg and de Leon said in their joint statement. “It’s important that our constituents understand that, despite the appalling acts of a few individuals who – on their own – put self-interest ahead of the public interest, the Senators who are here are here to serve, to do the hard, unglamorous work of fixing tough public-policy problems, and – most important – to do it the right way.”

And that means putting the putters away. Steinberg and de Leon said the modern campaign system makes fundraising “an occupational necessity, but Senate Democrats have always prided themselves on doing it ethically, appropriately, and in full adherence to every rule and regulation governing public disclosure.

“The Pro Tem Cup has long been a successful, signature example of this,” they said. “But these are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step back and take stock of how we all do the people’s business and balance it against the demands of running for office.”

The lawmakers said Senate leadership in coming weeks will conduct a “rigorous review of existing campaign finance laws and our own internal fundraising practices – and make recommendations on where we can improve as a caucus and a state, with a focus on when, where and how we raise campaign dollars and how we increase public transparency.” They’ll also schedule a public hearing to discuss campaign finance “the constitutional limits on reform.”

“Make no mistake: Senate Democrats fully intend to strengthen our productive, progressive majority this election year and have no intention of unilaterally disarming in terms of campaign resources,” Steinberg and de Leon said. “But this is time for a reality check. And, while the Legislature as a whole cannot be held responsible for the bad acts of three individual members, we do bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they left behind.”

7

Dems ‘pre-endorse’ some Bay Area candidates

Local Democrats voted Saturday to recommend that their state party endorse Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski in the 10th State Senate District, and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti in the 16th Congressional District.

Some other candidates – including Rep. Eric Swalwell in the 15th Congressional District and Elizabeth Echols in the 15th Assembly District – didn’t have enough votes to win these “pre-endorsements,” but can make their cases at the California Democratic Party convention next month in Los Angeles. And some races were so split as to allow no endorsement at all.

Democrats gathered Saturday for their regional caucus meetings, choosing among their party’s offerings for offices. Per the party’s rules, a candidate who gets 70 percent or more of the vote is recommended for endorsement and placed on the consent calendar to be ratified at next month’s convention in Los Angeles.

If one candidate receives more than 50 percent but less than 70 percent of the vote for a district, the race will go to the caucuses held during the March Convention. And if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, no endorsement will be made in that race.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, was kind enough to tweet and Facebook the results from the Region 5 caucus meeting:

In the 17th Congressional District, incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, reportedly got 122 votes to challenger Ro Khanna’s 11 votes at Saturday’s caucus meeting, so Honda goes on the consent calendar for endorsement at the convention.

In the 15th Congressional District, incumbent Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, reportedly got 45 votes to state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett’s 26 votes while three people voted against making any endorsement; Swalwell, having a majority but not 70 percent, will make his case again at the convention.

In the 10th State Senate District, Wieckowski reportedly got 105 votes, patient advocate Roman Reed got eight votes and former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi got no votes, so Wieckowski goes on the consent calendar for endorsement at the convention.

In the 15th Assembly District, Echols – a former Small Business Administration regional administrator – reportedly got 45 votes, former Richmond councilman and school board member Tony Thurmond got 17 votes, East Bay Municipal Utility District board president Andy Katz got 5 votes, attorney Sam Kang got no votes, and four people voted against making an endorsement; Echols, having a majority but not 70 percent, will make her case again at the convention.

In the 25th Assembly District, former Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler reportedly got 18 votes, San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu got 16 votes and Ohlone College Board of Trustees member Teresa Cox got 10 votes, while Milpitas Councilman Armando Gomez won no votes. With no candidate achieving a majority, there will be no party endorsement in this race.

After the Region 2 caucus meeting, Sbranti issued a news release announcing he had received 97 percent of the vote for the 16th Assembly District race, and so will be placed on the convention’s consent calendar for endorsement; other Democrats vying for that seat include Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer.

And state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, announced he received a unanimous endorsement recommendation to succeed Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, when the latter retires from his 11th Congressional District at the end of this year. No other Democrats of any renown are seeking the seat.

1

SF’s Peter Ragone tapped to advise NYC mayor

Renowned Bay Area political consultant Peter Ragone is Big Apple-bound, having been named as a senior advisor by new New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Peter Ragone“It’s an honor to serve a mayor and an administration dedicated to achieving big things,” Ragone, 43, of San Francisco, said in a news release issued by de Blasio’s office. “New Yorkers have waited 20 years for this progressive moment, and it’s our charge to deliver. I know what it takes to turn an opportunity like this into real, lasting change. We’ll be focused on leaving no ally, no resource, and no tool idle as we seize this moment.”

Ragone might be best known for his time as then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s press secretary; he has continued to advise Newsom during his tenure as lieutenant governor. But Ragone is a native New Yorker, and cut his teeth working alongside de Blasio for Andrew Cuomo – then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, and now New York’s governor. He later led communications for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign in New York and California, and for Cuomo’s 2002 gubernatorial bid.

2

Michelle Obama to raise $$$ for DNC in Bay Area

First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 12 in Belvedere.

Tickets to the 2:30 p.m. reception at the home of retired software executive Noelle Leca and attorney Michael Moradzadeh start at $1,000 per head; it’s $5,000 for a photo with the First Lady, plus $1,000 per additional person in the photo, or $32,400 to become a co-chair and have an even smaller audience with Mrs. Obama.

8

Steve Westly: Don’t call it a comeback…

…because he’s been here for years.

Steve WestlyAfter parallel careers in the private sector – in telecommunications and investment banking, an early and lucrative role at eBay and now as a prominent venture capitalist – and Democratic politics – a congressional staffer, Carter Administration energy official, state Public Utilities Commission aide and state party officer before his four years as state controller and his defeat in a hotly contested gubernatorial primary – Steve Westly is preparing to emerge onto the public scene once more, but he’s never really gone away.

I had lunch with Westly today at the Menlo Park office of the Westly Group, the clean-technology-and-social-change-minded investment outfit he founded in 2008. His team had reached out to me last week saying he wanted to catch up, as he intends to step up his political activity in coming months.

His visible political activity, that is – he has been quite busy, mostly behind the scenes, in recent years as a top-level fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

In fact, Republicans last year made Westly a poster boy for their accusations of President Obama’s “crony capitalism,” noting that after he raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign and began serving on a special advisory panel to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, several companies in which the Westly Group had investments received more than half a billion in government support. The bulk of that sum was a $465 million Energy Department loan to electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors, based in Palo Alto; Tesla announced in May that it had repaid the entire loan plus interest, nine years earlier than required.

Westly today repeated what he’d said last year: That he never talked to anyone at the Energy Department about any of his investments; that the advisory board held only public, videotaped meetings and never discussed investments; and that he never spoke with Chu or was even in his office.

He’s clearly proud of Tesla, and believes the company will set a new standard for U.S. and world auto manufacturing as the price of the cars’ high-performance batteries (the biggest cost in producing the cars, which now sell for at least around $60,000) continues to decline.

But although we talked about that and many other things – including his coaching of his kids’ athletic teams; the 17th Congressional District race, in which he’s supporting Democratic upstart Ro Khanna over incumbent Rep. Mike Honda; Lady Gaga; and immigration reform – that’s not really what we’d met to discuss.

Westly – now a few weeks shy of his 57th birthday – said he anticipates Gov. Jerry Brown easily will win re-election next year, but he’s looking further down the road to 2016 – when U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s current term will be up – and 2018, when Brown will be term-limited out and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein’s term will expire.

“There will be opportunities,” he said, soon after discussing Khanna in terms that he might also apply to himself. “I think people more than ever want to see new blood, new ideas, and get away from partisanship.”

There will be rivals for those opportunites, for sure – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris are among the most prominent of a long list of names who undoubtedly are eyeing those races.

But Westly has national ties to the Obama fundraising network; close relationships with Silicon Valley’s most prominent business figures; experience in statewide office; and very, very deep pockets of his own – he put $35.2 million of his own money into his last campaign.

He also has an advantage that he lacked when the more liberal state Treasurer Phil Angelides beat him in that 2006 gubernatorial primary: California’s new top-two primary system. The socially liberal but relatively-fiscally-conservative Westly could have a leg up in attracting nonpartisans, who now make up almost 21 percent of the state’s registered voters.

Opportunities, indeed.

4

Did Steinberg bawl out Yee in public-records flap?

Did state Senate Democratic leaders call Sen. Leland Yee on the carpet behind closed doors last week after Yee spoke out against their proposal to water down the California Public Records Act?

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he didn’t dress down Yee; Yee won’t say. But two reliable sources – a good-government policy advocate I talked with last week at Netroots Nation, and a State Capitol expert I talked with today – say that’s exactly what happened.

Darrell SteinbergThey said Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was none too pleased that Yee, D-San Francisco, spoke with me on Friday, June 14 as Thomas Peele and I prepared an article about the budget trailer bills that would’ve let local governments opt out of key parts of the public-records law.

Bad blood between Steinberg and Yee reportedly dates back to their Assembly days, as both jockeyed for leadership positions and influence. In the Senate, Steinberg has stripped Yee’s name from a few bills in recent years – including a 2009 bill to restore funding for domestic violence shelters and a 2010 bill providing relief after the San Bruno explosion – and stripped Yee of his title as assistant pro tem in 2010, in part because Yee opposed the Dems’ budget deal.

So Yee’s public criticism of Steinberg, Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno and other Democrats who’d voted to water down the Public Records Act shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Steinberg and other Dems reportedly were miffed nonetheless that Yee had hung them out to dry in public.

“God forbid you vote your conscience and then tell people why,” said the State Capitol expert I talked with today, noting that it would’ve been foolish for anyone to think Yee – a longtime government-transparency activist who’s running for Secretary of State next year – would either vote for the bill or remain silent about it afterward if called by a reporter.

Leland YeeYee wouldn’t discuss it today. “We don’t have any further comment on that matter,” spokesman Dan Lieberman said. “We’re just glad the CPRA is being protected.”

Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund said no caucus meeting was convened for the purpose of dressing down Yee; when I asked whether Yee was dressed down during a caucus meeting that was convened for some other purpose, he replied with a simple, “No.”

“Senate Democrats all strongly support the Public Records Act. That support has never waned,” Hedlund said. “What we now have is a fair compromise that offers a short-term solution, while allowing the people of California to constitutionally enshrine CPRA protections and to ensure that state taxpayers don’t pay for what local governments should be doing on their own.”