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House panel to probe mortgage mess in Stockton

Congressmen Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, announced yesterday that, at their invitation, the House Committee on Financial Services will hold a field hearing at noon Saturday, Sept. 6 in the Stockton Arena to examine the effects of the foreclosure crisis on neighborhoods in California’s Central Valley.

Witnesses including local elected officials, mortgage brokers, realtors, and HUD-approved housing counselors will testify on federal, state and local efforts to address foreclosure rates.

“Being in the Central Valley, it’s hard to avoid evidence of the foreclosure crisis, especially in Stockton and San Joaquin County. The number of foreclosures is startling and serves as an indication of the hardships many families are facing and the destabilizing effect in our communities,” said McNerney said in a news release. “I am happy to join with my colleague, Dennis Cardoza, in welcoming Chairman Frank and the Financial Services Committee for what I anticipate will be a productive and useful hearing about the effect of the foreclosure crisis and solutions moving forward.”

Among confirmed witnesses who’ll testify:

    State Senate Banking, Finance and Insuance Committee Chairman Mike Machado, D-Linden

Freshman Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is the House Financial Services Committee’s only Bay Area member.

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Follow the money on the FISA vote

Berkeley-based MAPLight.org — a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks relationships between campaign contributions and Congressional votes — found some interesting figures related to last week’s vote on H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which makes changes to the 1978 law dealing with wiretapping of the sort in which the Bush Administration secretly engaged for several years. Despite criticisms that the bill gave telecommunications companies a free pass for having cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance, it passed on a vote of 293-129.

And although the House in March had passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for these companies, 94 House Democrats who’d rejected immunity back then decided to vote for last week’s bill.

Lo and behold, MAPLight.org finds that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint gave about twice as much money — $9,659 on average — to House members (105 Democrats and 188 Republicans) who voted for last week’s bill as the amount — $4,810 on average — that went to those who voted against it (128 Democrats and 1 Republican) from January 2005 through March 2008.

In the greater Bay Area, those three telecom companies gave $24,500 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; $11,000 to Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater; $9,000 to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and $2,000 to Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton — all of whom were among the 94 Democrats who voted against immunity in March but voted for last week’s bill.

Did anyone base their votes purely on campaign contributions? Almost certainly not, given those amounts; see my earlier post for Tauscher’s and McNerney’s rationales for supporting the bill. But the moniey couldn’t have hurt either, and when you look at the aggregate and see the “yes” voters got twice the telecom contributions as the “no” voters, you can see which way the wind blows.

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Dennis Cardoza flips from Clinton to Obama

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, today moved his support as a Democratic superdelegate from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama; Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno cast his lot with Obama today, too.

The Obama campaign says these endorsements mean Obama has been endorsed by 310.5 superdelegates, and is 59 delegates away from clinching the Democratic nomination.

Cardoza — whose 18th Congressional District touches five Central Valley counties including San Joaquin, where it encompasses more than half of Stockton and all of Lathrop — offered his rationale in a news release issued by the Obama campaign:

cardoza.jpg“This is the most important election of my lifetime. While I continue to greatly respect and admire Senator Clinton and feel she has made history with her campaign, I believe that Senator Obama will inevitably be our party’s nominee for President. He has proven himself to be a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and inspirational leader and will take America in a new direction, which we desperately need.

“The Bush Administration has been a huge disappointment. Mr. McCain, while certainly an American hero, represents more of the same failed Bush policies.

“I am deeply concerned about the contentious primary campaign and controversy surrounding the seating of delegates from Florida and Michigan – two states Democrats need to win in November. I will not support changing the rules in the fourth quarter of this contest through some convoluted DNC rules committee process. Yet, we must find a resolution to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates so these states’ voters are represented at the Convention. I believe we need to avoid this potentially divisive situation by uniting behind one nominee and bringing the party together immediately. Therefore, I have made the decision to support Senator Obama at the Democratic Convention in my role as a super delegate.”

Democratic voters in Cardoza’s district went 60.3 percent for Clinton, 33.2 percent for Obama in the Feb. 5 presidential primary; the district is registered 48.1 percent Democrat, 34.4 percent Republican and 13.7 percent decline-to-state.

UPDATE @ 1:15 P.M. FRIDAY: It appears this could be the start of something big: Al Giordano’s The Field reports that Cardoza may be the first of several dozen Democrats to switch from Clinton to Obama in an effort to convince her the race is over.

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House bill would override EPA waiver ruling

Most members of the Bay Area’s House delegation are among original cosponsors of the Right to Clean Vehicles Act, a bill introduced today which would force the Environmental Protection Agency to grant a waiver giving California and 12 other states the ability to implement limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from cars.

The bill — authored by Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, and Peter Welch, D-Vt. – comes in reaction to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson’s December denial of California’s waiver, reportedly even over his own staff’s objections. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., already has introduced an equivalent Senate bill, and as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has raked Johnson over the coals in a Capitol Hill hearing.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued a news release expressing her support for the House bill.

“There is simply no excuse for the Bush administration to deny California’s waiver, or any other state’s effort to combat global warming and promote the use of cleaner, more efficient vehicles on their roads,” she said. “The Right to Clean Vehicles Act will give a much-needed green light to states taking the right approach to achieving a greener future and I am proud to support it.”

Besides Lee, the bill’s 58 original cosponsors include Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, wasn’t listed among the original cosponsors in Sherman’s news release, but spokesman Andy Stone just told me McNerney fully supports it as well — he just hadn’t had time to fully review it and sign on before the authors went public today, but should be listed among the cosponsors by next week.

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Stark, Tauscher, Lofgren ace enviro scorecard

House members Pete Stark, Ellen Tauscher and Zoe Lofgren rated perfect 100-percent scores in the League of Conservation Voters’ annual National Environmental Scorecard. Click on the names below to see how each voted on key bills:

Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater — 65%
Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto — 90%
Mike Honda, D-San Jose — 90%
Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo — 80%
Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — 95%
Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose — 100%
Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton — 90%
George Miller, D-Martinez — 95%
Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — 20%
Pete Stark, D-Fremont — 100%
Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo — 100%
Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma — 95%

(Note that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rated low only because she invoked her discretion not to cast votes on most of these bills; traditionally, the Speaker usually doesn’t participate in debate and rarely votes on the floor.)

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Lynn Woolsey endorses Hillary Clinton

woolsey.jpgRep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, today announced her endorsement of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, for president; in doing so, she has disagreed with her fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who has cast her lot with U.S. Sen Barack Obama, D-Ill.

The eight-term congresswoman, in a news release, cited Clinton’s commitment to ending the war in Iraq as the top reason for her backing: “Hillary Clinton is the candidate with the strength and experience to bring about the change that California families need. I trust Hillary to end the war in Iraq, bring our troops home quickly and safely, and regain our nation’s standing around the world.”

Said Clinton: “I am honored to receive Lynn’s support. She has been a tireless fighter for working families and has led the effort to end the war in Iraq.”

Other local representatives supporting Clinton include Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater — notably, perhaps the three greater Bay Area Democrat considered most centrist, while “Woolsey” and “centrist” are hardly ever spoken in the same sentence. Meanwhile, Lee is the only California member of Congress on Obama’s endorsement list; that choice also set her apart from her political mentor, longtime Congressman and current Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who picked Clinton.