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CD10: Tauscher’s endorsement questioned

A Lafayette attorney wants State Department lawyers to force Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher to repudiate her endorsement of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to succeed her in Congress.

And DeSaulnier rival John Garamendi made sure to give Tauscher a heads-up.

Jason A. Bezis – who in the final days of Tauscher’s Congressional career was berating her for what he says were too few and too inaccessible CD10 town meetings – has drafted an extensive memo, with exhibits, illustrating his complaint that Tauscher is in violation of State Department rules.

“The State Department’s ‘Rules on Political Activities’ state their rationale, ‘The Department has a long-standing policy of limiting participation in partisan campaigns by its top officials and political appointees in recognition of the bipartisan character of our foreign policy,’” Bezis noted in an e-mail to the DeSaulnier campaign accompanying the memo. “Therefore, Undersecretary Tauscher’s endorsement of your campaigns has the potential of harming American foreign policy. Your acceptance and prominent use of her endorsement may have a similar damaging effect.

He’s asking that DeSaulnier’s campaign remove all reference’s to Tauscher’s endorsement from its Web sites; remove from circulation and destroy any campaign literature and fundraising invitations stating or implying the endorsement; advise other Democratic groups to do the same; instruct staff and volunteers not to mention Tauscher’s endorsement; and omit any mention from it from future advertisements.

“Senator DeSaulnier is seeking to become a federal lawmaker. It is imperative, especially as an aspiring federal legislator, that he follows the letter and spirit of existing federal law. Mr. DeSaulnier should not enjoy ‘fruit from the poisonous tree’ of Undersecretary Tauscher’s illegal endorsement,” Bezis wrote in his e-mail.

Garamendi’s campaign sent a copy of Bezis’ memo this week to a Tauscher aide, with a cover note that said:

I have been informed by a lawyer in the 10th Congressional District that he is preparing a formal complaint concerning U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher’s endorsement of California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier in the run up to the September 1st Special Election.
I am a long time friend of Ellen’s and I do not want her to be jeopardized in any way. As a former Deputy Secretary at Interior, I am aware of the issue that she faces and I wanted the Undersecretary to know of this problem ahead of any formal complaint. Please let me know what the Undersecretary intends to do.
Attached is the draft of the lawyer’s memo.
John Garamendi

DeSaulnier campaign spokeswoman Katie Merrill offered just one word of response today: “Seriously?”

Tauscher’s office declined comment, but longtime Tauscher campaign consultant Lisa Tucker – no longer in the Under Secretary’s employ – said this is “sour grapes” on Garamendi’s part.

“Garamendi sought her endorsement and didn’t get it, and if he’d gotten it he wouldn’t be doing this,” Tucker said. “Everything that DeSaulnier is using says ‘Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher’ — it’s from before she was sworn in, so it’s all on the up-and-up.”

Tauscher endorsed DeSaulnier in late March, well before President Barack Obama formally nominated her in early May to serve as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

I tried to reach Bezis to ask whether he has endorsed, contributed to, or in any way supported any of the CD10 candidates, but my e-mail and voice mail weren’t returned. He is registered to vote as a Democrat and has written several articles for the Democrat-run California Majority Report, but I don’t see that he has made any campaign contributions to Garamendi or any other CD10 candidate.

UPDATE @ 7:33 A.M. FRIDAY: Bezis wrote back to me overnight, stating he’d endorsed DeSaulnier early on but revoked that endorsement “motivated in part by the campaign literature touting Ellen Tauscher’s backing of his campaign.” He said he has spoken with DeSaulnier, Garamendi, Joan Buchanan, Anthony Woods and Adriel Hampton in recent weeks and believes “all of the candidates (from all political parties) deserve a fair ‘playing field’ — which Tauscher’s illegal endorsement upsets.”

Tucker’s statement, he said, is “outrageous. Tauscher should not have made an endorsement in any partisan election would coincide with any day of her tenure at the State Department. Tauscher went out of her way to make a ‘pre-endorsement’ of DeSaulnier for a special election that did not yet exist. Tauscher knew that a vacancy would be created and a special election called because of and only because of her State Department appointment. It was obvious that her successor would be elected while she was at the State Department, when she undisputedly could not make an endorsement.”

Other CD10 tidbits, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Ellen Tauscher, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

In a twofer, Tauscher takes oath of marriage and office

Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher

Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher

Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher and retired airline pilot Jim Cieslak, the man she introduces as the “love of my life,” married Saturday evening in the backyard of the bride’s Washington, D.C., home, in the company of 120 friends and family.

Moments after the bride and groom said their “I do’s” and kissed, Federal District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle announced a surprise second act.

Tauscher’s 18-year-old daughter, Katherine, held a bible while her mother was sworn in as the new undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security in the U.S. State Department.

The ceremony was held under a large, air-conditioned tent in the backyard of Tauscher’s Kalorama neighborhood home near the city’s famed Embassy Row. Guests then strolled across the street for a steak dinner in the garden of the Woodrow Wilson House before returning to the big tent for drinks and DJ music.

Tauscher, 57, is well-known in Washington as a skillful and gracious hostess and her wedding was no exception. The food was good and plentiful and the atmosphere festive, they said.

Among the best moments, they said, were the “emotional” and “pitch-perfect” toasts from Katherine and Kelly, Jim’s daughter, to their parents.

Among the guests were Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who spoke during the ceremony, as well as General Jim Jones, President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor and Tauscher’s close friend. Others in attendance were Reps. Joe Crowley, Jane Harman, Diana DeGette, Steny Hoyer and Carolyn McCarthy.

A number of folks from Tauscher’s East Bay district also made the trip out to witness the nuptuals, including her former staffer David Bowlby of Alamo and longtime campaign consultants Lisa Tucker and Katie Merrill.

The couple is honeymooning this week in Burmuda.

As a side note, one can only imagine the behind-the-scenes logistics in the days leading up to the wedding and swearing-in ceremony.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Tauscher’s nomination late last Thursday after a Utah GOP senator was persuaded to lift his hold on her name. Then Tauscher stayed on in the House Friday where Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped Tauscher to lead the lengthy and contentious debate over the climate bill.

Tauscher cast an “aye” vote on the climate bill late Friday and was finally free to resign from Congress and focus on her wedding day.

Let no one say that Ellen Tauscher Cieslak lacks multi-tasking skills.

Posted on Monday, June 29th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher | 1 Comment »

Read the text of Tauscher’s final comments

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Here is the text of Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s final comments on the floor of the House of Representatives this morning. (I used PDF conversion software so forgive me in advance if I failed to catch all the scanning mistakes.)

(By unanimous consent, Mrs. Tauscher was allowed to speak out of order)

Confirmation of Congresswoman Tauscher by U.S. Senate as Under Secretary of State

Mrs. TAUSCHER.: Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, I rise to announce that I have been confirmed by the United States Senate as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. I have informed my friend, the Speaker of the House, and the Governor of California that I will be resigning my seat at the end of votes today.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Chairman, I am deeply grateful for the trust that both President Obama and Secretary Clinton have placed in me. I am equally grateful and humbled by the honor and privilege to have represented California’s 10th Congressional District for the last 13 years in the House of Representatives. It has been the deepest and greatest professional experience of my life, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for the opportunity and the trust that my constituents have placed in me.

In my seven terms in the Congress, I have tried to keep my promise of being an independent and effective moderate. I have worked hard, and I have worked with you. I look around the room; many Members I have served with for the entire time I have been here, and some of you I have flown on planes with and some of you I have taken codels with.

What I know is that we sit here and we do the people’s work, and whether we agree or not doesn’t always matter. What is most important is that we represent our constituents, that we honor the Constitution, and we keep faith with our conscience. Those are the three Cs that I have tried for these years to maintain in balance. It’s not always easy, but I have tried.

I look at all of you and I understand how difficult this world is and how troubling the lives of many Americans are now and how heavy the burden is on you. What I pledge to you, as I leave the legislative branch in this great House that I have grown to love and all of you that I love, and my constituents that I love, what I promise you in my new capacity is to work with you to achieve what we all know is important, to make sure that we have the safety and the security of the American people always on the forefront of our minds.

I have been blessed to have, I think, some of the best staff in the world. I have always told people I represent the smartest people in the world. I have the two national nuclear labs in Livermore, California, and I have Travis Air Force Base and 600-some-odd thousand constituents who apparently, now, 100 percent of them have voted for me every time. There’s nothing like leaving to become popular.

But I just want to thank, the staff who have worked with me both on the subcommittee and my personal staff and my district staff that have been just absolutely fabulous.

I want to thank my friends in the House, my friends that started as friends and became family and who have sustained me and with whom I have learned so much.

I want to thank the Speaker for her indefatigable energy. I want to thank Steny Hoyer. I want to thank my partner in my county, George Miller. I want to thank Ike Skelton and Jim Oberstar, my chairmen, for being so generous and for helping me learn.

I want to thank, again, my constituents for the honor. I especially want to thank my family, my parents and my sisters and brothers and my friends who have been patient and understanding when I couldn’t be at birthday parties and volleyball games.

I want to thank my daughter, who was raised in the House. She came here as a 5-1/2-year-old. She is now going to college, and I am so thrilled that she is emancipated and happy and healthy and a smart young woman. And you should be as proud of her as I am, because you helped raise her.

And I want to thank, especially, my fiance, Jim Cieslak, who I will marry tomorrow. Thank you. It’s hard to be a blushing bride at my age, but l will do my best.

Let me just close and say that no matter where I am serving in government, I will always remember those that sent me here, and I will always be grateful for your trust and support.

I just want to take a second and say that I have been honored to represent the Speaker on the podium, and there’s nothing like having the view from up there. Because the view from up there is of all of you, and that’s the best view I have had, I think, in my life. I will take that in my heart as I go to the state Department.

I want to thank all the people behind the scenes who work so hard to make sure that we do the job that we do. I am not saying goodbye, I am just saying farewell for the time being. I expect I will work with you all very well, but know that this has been the best experience of my life.

God bless you. God bless America.

Posted on Friday, June 26th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher | No Comments »

Watch video of Tauscher’s goodbye to Congress

Politics Daily posted this video of Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s good-byes to the U.S. House of Representatives this morning.


Posted on Friday, June 26th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher | No Comments »

Tauscher is confirmed

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, was confirmed just minutes ago on the floor of the U.S. Senate as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security in the State Department.

Her official resignation will come in the next day or so and she is scheduled to speak on Friday morning from the floor of the House of Representatives.

After she resigns, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will name a date for a special election to select her replacement.

Posted on Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Under: Ellen Tauscher | No Comments »

Hold on Tauscher’s nomination lifted

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl has reportedly relented and released late this afternoon the hold he had on Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s nomination as undersecretary for Arms Control and National Security. (Click here for my story set for publication on Thursday.)

It’s unclear why Kyl changed his mind. His press secretary hasn’t returned my calls.

I did hear that several of Tauscher’s biggest supporters, the powerful California sens.  Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, lent their considerable clout to the negotiations with the junior Arizona senator.

In theory, Kyl could have held up Tauscher’s nomination indefinitely although that was unlikely. The hold is a common procedural tactic deployed by the minority party intended to make a political point or get the administration’s attention on a particular issue. The Cable, a Washington Post-owned foreign policy news site, reported on Monday evening that Kyl is concerned about the administration’s decision to pursue arms reduction treaty talks with Russia prior to the final release of the national Nuclear Posture Review.

The Senate is scheduled to recess Thursday night prior to July 4 recess and Tauscher’s nomination is one of many still in the hopper.

But if Tauscher can secure the nomination to her new job before the Senate recesss, it will be one heck of a wedding present.

She is set to marry on Saturday retired airline pilot retired Delta Airlines pilot Jim Cieslak.

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Ellen Tauscher | No Comments »

Ariz. senator puts hold on Tauscher nomination

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

UPDATE AT 4:57 PM: Click here for my story on the Kyl hold. Note that the “tonight” in the story refers to Thursday. I wrote it for tomorrow’s print edition but an editor did not make the change to reflect that when it was posted online. LAV

The Cable, a Washington Post-owned website dedicated to covering foreign policy, is reporting that conservative U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has placed a hold on the nomination of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, as undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security.

It’s unclear what this will mean to the outcome of this nomination other than it will almost certainly delay it.

There have been rumblings for several months that Kyl was unhappy with President Barack Obama’s support of an international nuclear nonproliferation initiative as well as other issues. Here is a snippet of what The Cable wrote:

Kyl’s office confirmed his remaining hold on Tauscher’s nomination. “He honestly has made no guise of his hold on her nomination,” spokesman Ryan Patmintra told The Cable Monday. “He expressed privately to the administration his concerns. He has chosen not to discuss them publicly.”

A congressional source told The Cable last week that Kyl objects to the administration pursuing strategic arms reductions talks with Moscow before its Nuclear Posture Review is complete. The U.S.-Russia START treaty is set to expire in December, so the administration feels it has little choice but to proceed with the treaty negotiations.

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Under: Ellen Tauscher | No Comments »

Tauscher featured in story

This is a nice piece in about the more personal side of serving as a member of Congress and some details about Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s upcoming wedding.

Posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher | No Comments »

How they voted on the war supplemental

As I reported Monday, Bay Area House members were being pressed by anti-war progressives on one side and by President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the other about how to vote on the $106 billion supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House passed the bill late Tuesday on a 226-202 vote. Here’s how the Bay Area delegation voted:

No: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Yes: George Miller, D-Martinez; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco

The 32 Democrats voting against the bill did so mainly for anti-war reasons, while most of the 170 Republicans who opposed it did so because the bill included more than $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund. The bill passed overwhelmingly last month, but changes in conference committee led to an intense battle to get it through again.

Here’s what Lee had to say about it:

“I cannot support any funding for Iraq that was not dedicated solely for the redeployment of our troops and military contractors. I am also unable to support the open ended military escalation in Afghanistan. We need a better balance between humanitarian and military spending in Afghanistan and we need an exit strategy. The supplemental appropriations bill does not reflect a fundamental shift in direction. Therefore, I cannot support it.”

And here’s what Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said:

“Our men and women in uniform deserve far, far better than to be treated like this. Republicans supported a troop funding bill last month, and we are prepared to do so once again. But this is a politically-motivated stunt that uses troop funding as bait for a global bailout that should be judged on its own merits in its own legislation. Let’s give our troops the resources they need for victory in a real troop funding bill free of a costly global bailout.”

Strange bedfellows indeed.

Some liberal bloggers are singling Miller out for heat, because he’s among Democrats who voted against the war funding last month “when their votes stood no chance of actually blocking the funding” but voted for it Tuesday, as’s David Swanson put it. Swanson described this group as “the Hall of Shame. These Congress members voted No for show when it didn’t matter, and voted Yes to fund wars when it came to crunch time.”

Elsewhere, the Down With Tyranny blog called Miller “another progressive who let pressure get to him and has now jumped the fence and is voting for more war.”

Miller, a close political ally of Pelosi, explained his shifting vote to the Chronicle:

“I understand the deep frustrations regarding this bill; I’ve voiced them myself and have consistently voted against the war,” Miller said. “I don’t support the war in Iraq, and I want to bring it to a close. I registered my concern, but now it is time to give President Obama what he believes he needs to make progress. This bill is part of the price of cleaning up the mess of the failed policies from the previous administration.”

It’s worth noting that the progressive community was split on this: Although lots of left-leaning groups opposed the bill, some significant heavyweights – including the Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for American Progress, Democracy for America,, Talking Points Memo, and True Majority – didn’t.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, George Miller, Iraq, Iraq War, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Another candidate declares in CD-10

With 11 candidates already declared or most likely in the field and a few more rumored to be mulling it over, the race to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher in the 10th Congressional District became an even dozen Monday with an entry from the “who’s that?” department.

Self-described “soccer mom” Tiffany Attwood of Danville, a Democrat and Bay Area native, says she’s the only minority woman (Latina/Filipina) in the race.

“Why would anyone elect the same officials that put California in a $21 billion deficit in a federal seat?” she said. “I don’t think constituents of the 10th District want to put an experienced deficit-spending, tax-increasing politician in Congress.”

Her news release says that with her father and two brothers as former or current Marines, she’s “acutely aware of the issues surrounding veterans and senior citizens, especially with health care.” She also touts her experience as a wife, a mother, a mortgage officer with Emery Financial and a Danville Planning Commissioner, noting she faces the everyday challenges of holding down two jobs and balancing a family life to make ends meet.

From her campaign’s Web site:

As health care is a personal issue with Tiffany and her family, she has taken on a second job with United Parcel Service (UPS) to secure full health benefits, which her union manages. Over the years with UPS, Tiffany has found that not only do her coworkers hold down second jobs too, but are there also to cover family health benefits. Outside of UPS, health care is a cost problem within the 10th District and needs to be addressed.

She said her priorities will focus on responsible home ownership, open dialogue on solutions for the health care industry, and federal help for small business owners in order to boost the district’s employment.

“Defaults in home ownership are up, on average by 14 percent in the district. Families are now faced with possible layoffs, bad credit and nowhere to turn to for help. I want to get the word out that Obama’s stimulus for housing is working, although a little bureaucratic, we’ve been able to give families their lives back,” she said. “We’re all going through tough times right now – my family is too. But there is hope! With American ingenuity and a positive attitude we can ALL make it through this.”

This race ought to be getting off the ground in earnest soon, as Tauscher’s confirmation hearing went off without a hitch last week and the vote on her appointment to a high-ranking State Department should be soon to follow. Other declared candidates or those likely to run include Democrats Tony Bothwell, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Adriel Hampton, Mark DeSaulnier and Anthony Woods; Republicans Nick Gerber, David Harmer and Catherine Moy; Green Jeremy Cloward; and independent Gino VanGundy.

UPDATE @ 3:24 P.M.: I spoke with the new candidate about an hour ago; read about it here.

Posted on Monday, June 15th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Elections, Ellen Tauscher, U.S. House | 6 Comments »