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Activists seek ‘Robin Hood tax’ upon Wall Street

Activists organized in part by the California Nurses Association rallied Friday at congressional offices in 22 cities – including four in Northern California – to call for a tax on Wall Street speculation to relieve economic inequality and address basic needs.

The Oakland-based union scheduled the events for Friday because it’s the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who at the time of his death was amid a campaign for economic justice that included anti-poverty and worker-rights issues.

Supporters of HR 1579 – authored by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and cosponsored by local lawmakers including Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Garamendi, D-Fairfield – sometimes call it the “Robin Hood tax.”

The bill would levy a tax of 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades and smaller amounts on transactions of bonds and derivatives. Its goal to reduce harmful financial market speculation; discourage high-volume, high-speed trading; and slow down proliferation of complex derivatives while raising hundreds of billions of dollars per year for jobs, health care, education, the fights against HIV/AIDS and climate change, and more.

Several dozen countries have similar taxes, and the United States had one until 1966. Business leaders including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Pollin, and Larry Summers have recommended adopting a financial transaction tax, and after Wall Street’s crash 1987, such a tax was endorsed by President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan. And former Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, carried a similar bill in 2010.

There’s no chance the Republican-led House will ever advance this bill.

Still, Northern California activists rallied Friday at the offices of congressmen George Miller in Concord, Mike Honda in San Jose, Ami Bera in Rancho Cordova and Jeff Denham in Modesto – three Democrats and a Republican, respectively.

“My patients are trying to heal from an illness or surgery and when they go home they are forced to make a decision between buying medication or food,” California Nurses Association co-president Malinda Markowitz, an RN at San Jose’s Good Samaritan Hospital, said in a news release. “That’s why I want Rep. Mike Honda to support the people of this community by supporting the Robin Hood Tax.”

The nurses’ union notes King once said, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have nots. The question is whether America will do it.”

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Obama visit brings flood of drought commentary

With President Obama soon to arrive in California for drought-related visits to Firebaugh and Los Banos, lots of politicos and stakeholders are weighing in about the state’s crisis.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., issued a statement praising executive-order relief measures that the Obama administration announced today, including $100 million in livestock disaster aid for California ranchers, $60 million for California food banks to help families affected by the drought, and other measures to promote conservation and help rural communities suffering water shortages.

“I applaud the President for coming to California during this very difficult drought, and I thank him for moving so quickly to provide relief for our state,” Boxer said.

But, from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“As President Obama visits California this afternoon to introduce an initiative to spend millions of dollars as part of his solution to California’s drought that has been exacerbated by federal and state regulations, House Republicans are continuing to work to find a bipartisan, bicameral solution to ensure our communities are not crippled by future droughts. Last week, the House passed H.R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, by a bipartisan vote of 229-191. I urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to put this legislation on the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.

“Earlier this week, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced their own legislation on California water policy. After two House-passed bills and two Congresses, this development is welcomed, but long overdue.

“In the spirit of Californians working together to bring solutions to the President’s desk, I believe that there are components of the Senate bill that can be further discussed and explored. The federal government can do more to deliver water to our southern California communities by keeping the Delta Cross Channel Gates open, increasing pumping at Old and Middle Rivers, setting a 1-to-1 flow in the San Joaquin River for water transfers, and authorizing the drilling of wells in refuges.

“And most importantly, there is growing consensus that direction to federal and state agencies to maximize water supplies is the underlying issue that must be addressed. Unfortunately, without substantive changes to burdensome environmental regulations, the well-being of fish will continue to be placed ahead of the well-being of our central and southern California communities that rely on critical water supplies to survive. And as a result, our farmers will still be left paying for water allocations that they are not receiving.

“Our communities cannot afford rhetorical battles in this time of drought. Already, the actions taken by the House have resulted in the Senate putting forth their plan after years of inaction. When Majority Leader Reid decides to put California water legislation on the Senate floor for a vote and Senators Feinstein and Boxer work to ensure its passage, I look forward to coming together to find areas of common ground and commonsense to finally achieve a solution that our state is so desperately in need of. It remains to be seen if our Senate colleagues are willing to cross the aisle and acknowledge that a their-way-or-the-highway position is not feasible.”

More after the jump…
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Money matchups: CA3, CA7, CA9, CA10 & CA21

Aside from the Honda-Khanna and perhaps the Swalwell-Corbett Democrat-on-Democrat contests, the Bay Area doesn’t offer much in terms of competitive House races – yet some races elsewhere in Northern and Central California are heating up, according to campaign finance reports filed last week.

3rd Congressional District
(likely Democratic*)

  • Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, raised about $114,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $216,000 cash on hand and $55 in debts.
  • Dan Logue, the Republican assemblyman from Chico, raised about $88,000 in 2013’s final quarter and finished the year with about $251,000 cash on hand but about $122,000 in debts – the latter, mostly the $115,000 he loaned his own campaign.
  • Republican Ryan Harter of Plumas Lake just entered the race last month and so has not yet reported any fundraising.
  • 7th Congressional District
    (Toss-up*)

  • Freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, raised more than $338,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $1,152,000 cash on hand but about $342,000 in debts.
  • Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Republican from Sacramento, raised about $129,000 in the final quarter, finishing 2013 with about $277,000 cash on hand and $44,000 in debts.
  • Igor Birman, a Republican from Rancho Cordova and former chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, raised about $72,000 in 2013’s final quarter and finished the year with about $124,000 cash on hand and $18,000 in debts.
  • Elizabeth Emken of Fair Oaks, who was U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Republican challenger in 2012, raised about $49,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $306,000 cash on hand but about $312,000 in debts – the latter, mostly the $285,000 loan she made to her own campaign in June and September.
  • 9th Congressional District
    (likely Democratic*)

  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, raised about $130,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $306,000 cash on hand and $3,000 in debts.
  • Republican Steve Colangelo of Stockton raised about $7,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $582 cash on hand but almost $23,000 in debts.
  • Republican Karen Davis of Lodi raised no funds but loaned her campaign $12,000, all of which was paid to consultant Chad Condit – the son of former Rep. Gary Condit.
  • 10th Congressional District
    (likely Republican*)

  • Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, raised about $196,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $1.3 million cash on hand and about $34,000 in debts.
  • Democrat Michael Eggman of Kingsburg – brother of Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stoctkon – raised about $188,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $287,000 cash on hand and $2,700 in debts.
  • 21st Congressional District
    (lean Republican*)

  • Freshman Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, raised about $232,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $677,000 cash on hand and $12,000 in debts.
  • Democrat Amanda Renteria of Sanger – a former aide to U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Debbie Stabenow – raised about $338,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $257,000 cash on hand and $6,500 in debts.
  • (* all ratings courtesy of the Cook Political Report)

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    Liberal group deems House GOPers ‘Tea Stained’

    A liberal group is launching a campaign tomorrow against almost four dozen House Republicans – including four Californians – whose voting records it says are “Tea Stained” from kowtowing to Tea Party conservatism.

    Americans United For Change – a labor-funded issue advocacy organization – is singling out Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto; David Valadao, R-Hanford; Ed Royce, R-Brea; and Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, for scrutiny.

    The campaign’s scorecard rates these and other Republicans on 48 votes they cast last year. Nationally, the 47 swing-district Republicans reviewed voted with the Tea Party 81 percent of the time, AUC says; Royce came in at 87 percent, Miller at 81 percent, Denham at 79 percent and Valadao at 75 percent.

    Votes scored include several featured in the official scorecards of major Tea Party-affiliated groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, including votes to slash food stamps, reduce regulations, dismantle the health insurance law, and shut down the government.

    It’s part of AUC’s (and other liberal groups’) effort this year to make Tea Party loyalty a central part of their messaging, and a liability for the targets. AUC started the project following last October’s government shutdown.

    “The American people were furious and disgusted, and Republican members of Congress in all but the reddest districts knew they had to somehow differentiate themselves from the Tea Party extremists who were being – rightly – blamed for this mess,” Americans United for Change President Brad Woodhouse said in a news release. “And so they … talked. They didn’t vote against the Tea Party ideologues who had masterminded this disaster. They didn’t take a stand where it really matters, on the floor of the House. But in the press and on TV, they made every effort to sound rational and moderate, as if they were making a real effort to buck the Tea Party.”

    But lawmakers who vote the Tea Party line will be held responsible for their votes, said Woodhouse, who used to be the Democratic National Committee’s communications director.

    “Voters deserve better. Whether they embrace the Tea Party ideology or despise it or fall anywhere in between, they have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the Tea Party spectrum – not where they say they fall, but how they actually vote,” he said. “What it proves, unfortunately for non-extremists who are represented by Republicans, is that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in American politics today.”

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    Denham is 1st GOPer to back immigration bill

    A Central Valley congressman is the nation’s first Republican House member to say he’ll support House Democrats’ comprehensive immigration reform bill, earning him praise from advocacy groups and depriving his Democratic challenger of a key talking point.

    Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, announced he’ll cosponsor H.R. 15 on Sunday on Univision’s political talk show “Al Punto,” and later issued a statement.

    Jeff Denham“We can’t afford any more delays,” he said. “We are a nation of immigrants, but today, our broken system has failed to secure the border, enforce our current laws and help us to attract the best and brightest who want to come and contribute to the greatness of America.

    “I support an earned path to citizenship to allow those who want to become citizens to demonstrate a commitment to our country, learn English, pay fines and back taxes and pass background checks,” Denham continued. “This is a common-sense solution to our broken system. I also support a faster pathway for the children who were brought here by their parents through no fault of their own, who have been raised in America and educated in our schools and have no other country to call home.”

    Denham also noted the bill “includes language that makes securing the border a requirement, not a goal, and puts measurable benchmarks in place to be verified by independent sources to ensure that our border is secure.” And he said his ENLIST Act, H.R. 2377, which allows a path to citizenship through military service, will be incorporated into H.R. 15.

    The move has earned Denham plaudits from groups including the National Council of La Raza (“a bold message that immigration reform is not a partisan issue”); the National Immigration Law Center (“doing what’s best for his district, California, and our country”); and America’s Voice (“a major crack in the dam that has been blocking reform”).

    Activists from immigration advocacy groups in his district rallied outside Denham’s Modesto district office this morning to show their appreciation, and Denham and the bill’s author, Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., joined immigration advocates on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

    The 10th Congressional District’s voter registration as of February – the most recent figures available – was 39.7 percent Democrat, 38.5 percent Republican and 17 percent nonpartisan. The Cook Political Report lists the seat as “likely” Republican, a designation for races that “are not considered competitive at this point, but have the potential to become engaged.”

    And the district is 41.2 percent Latino, according to the U.S. Census’ 2011 American Community Survey.

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month had worked up a web video blasting Denham for a “history of immigration extremism, support for hard-line stances that divide families and hurt businesses and workers, and his refusal to push for the bipartisan Senate solution.”

    And Denham’s presumptive Democratic challenger, Michael Eggman – an almond farmer, beekeeper and younger brother of Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton – had expressed support for H.R. 15 earlier this month and challenged Denham to do the same.

    But Eggman still has at least one potentially potent arrow in his quiver. Read more about that, after the jump…
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    Report: GOP’s future hangs on immigration reform

    The Republican Party could lose a lot of House seats in 2014 and 2016 – including a few in California – as well as the next presidential election if it stands in the way of comprehensive immigration reform, according to a political research firm’s new report.

    The researchers at Seattle-based Latino Decisions call it the “Prop. 187 Effect,” after California’s 1994 ballot measure to bar illegal immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services – a measure their report says drove the ever-expanding Latino electorate into the Democratic Party’s arms.

    “Even in a gerrymandered Congress, the Latino vote is going to remake the landscape if we experience a national phenomenon around immigration similar to the Prop. 187 effect,” said Latino Decisions principal Gary Segura. “Not only does our research show Latinos still hold the GOP responsible for Prop. 187, we see that they’re poised to significantly shift the vote toward Democratic Congressional representation in districts nationwide.”

    On a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Segura noted 93 percent of all Latinos under the age of 18 are U.S. citizens, so the nation’s Latino electorate will double over the next 18 years even if not one new Latino immigrant enters the country.

    The report identifies 24 House districts now held by Republcians where the Latino vote alone has a strong chance of swinging the outcome of 2014 elections, and 20 more GOP districts where the size of the Latino electorate exceeds the incumbent’s 2012 victory margin.

    Among districts the report deems most susceptible to a Latino swing vote are California’s 10th, represented by Jeff Denham, R-Modesto; 25th, represented by Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita; and 31st, represented by Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga.

    A poll conducted by Latino Decisions in July found 58 percent of Latino voters will be personally angry if the House blocks an immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship, and 69 percent of Latino voters would place blame for a lack of comprehensive immigration reform upon Republicans, while only 13 percent would blame Democrats and 11 percent would blame both parties equally.

    Hector Barajas, a longtime Republican strategist who earlier this year co-founded the GOP polling and messaging firm Latino Edge Research, acknowledged later Thursday that it’s “important to recognize that some races would be more affected than others if they do not correctly engage their Latino electorate.”

    “That being said, not changing the same narrative that Republicans as a whole are opposed to immigration reform will allow Democrats to continue with their successful strategy of attack candidates with an R behind them,” he said. “In the end, it will be up to the individual campaigns to demonstrate to the Latino electorate that they are not the ‘Bad Guy’ in the movie.”

    President Obama said Thursday that with the government shutdown over and the debt-limit crisis averted, “we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.” A bipartisan bill already passed by the Senate would beef up border security and modernize the system while ensuring “everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities,” he said, adding economists estimate the bill would bring $1.4 trillion in new economic growth over the next 20 years.

    “The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do. And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it,” he said, inviting the House to offer any improvements. “But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years. This can and should get done by the end of this year.”