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Safeway exec’s joke falls flat for House members

Much of the Bay Area’s House delegation has asked top officials at Pleasanton-based supermarket giant Safeway for an apology after one of those officials told what the lawmakers say was a sexist joke about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The letters the lawmakers sent today to Safeway CEO Steve Burd and General Counsel Robert Gordon takes issue with something Gordon, 60, of Orinda, said at the company’s shareholder meeting Tuesday in Pleasanton:

“You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, ‘Nice pigs, sir.’ And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, ‘Excellent trade, sir.’”

(Thanks very much, he’ll be here all week, try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waiters.)

SO not funny, say the lawmakers.

“Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women,” they wrote to Burd. “Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.”

The letters were signed by George Miller, D-Martinez; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

I’m awaiting a response from Safeway, and will update this when it’s received.

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: “Both letters will be responded to shortly,” Brian Dowling, Safeway’s Vice President of Public Affairs, e-mailed me about an hour ago; he did not clarify whether this will be the extent of the company’s comment today, so I must assume that it will be.

UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Dowling clarifies that the company will respond directly to the lawmakers, and Gordon also will write directly to Pelosi and Clinton.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Lawmakers urge faster Afghanistan withdrawal

Most of the Bay Area’s House delegation was among 101 members who signed a letter, co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, urging President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government and security forces.

The lawmakers want the president to announce this at the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Chicago, in order to effect a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Earlier this month you visited Afghanistan to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement. As you stated at Bagram Air Base, ‘this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,’” the lawmakers wrote. “The core of al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in size and ability to attack Americans. Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that we have asked of them. With over 17,000 dead and wounded U.S. servicemen and women, and long term costs estimated at $4 trillion for the past decade of unfunded wars, the overwhelming majority of American people want to bring the war in Afghanistan to an expedited end.”

The lawmakers wrote that while many of them would prefer an immediate full withdrawal, there’s broad bipartisan consensus that the process at least should be speeded up. “We also remind you that any agreement committing U.S. troops to Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding.”

The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter – which Lee, D-Oakland, coauthored with Walter Jones, R-N.C. – were Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Lee also this afternoon offered an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, which would’ve limited further funding for the Afghanistan war to only what’s required for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.

Lee’s amendment failed on a 113-303 vote. “My amendment provided members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people,” she said in a statement issued afterward. “I am disappointed that a majority of House members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

New fundraising figures in hot House races

Candidates have filed campaign-finance reports to the Federal Election Commission for the first quarter of 2012. Here’s a round-up of the news from the more vibrant races in or near the Bay Area:

15th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, raised $60,255 and spent $90,299 in the first quarter, and had $551,341.79 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell, also a Democrat, raised $100,930.24 and spent $96,592.16 in the first quarter, and had $93,311.05 cash on hand with $8,572.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

A report from Hayward businessman Chris Pareja, a conservative independent, wasn’t available Monday. “We filed last week, but noticed some of our supporting documentation was not included in the package,” he said. “I have notified the FEC that we identified the situation and are amending our report. It may be tomorrow or the next day before I can email you the info.”

Attorney and former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont – who’d raised a startling $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but said he wouldn’t run this year if Stark did – raised $15,929 and spent $41,266.10 in the first quarter of 2012, and had $1,109,715.90 cash on hand with $58.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – who had explored a run in the 15th Congressional District this year but instead chose to finish her state Senate term in 2014 – raised $7,800 and spent $51,585.51 in the first quarter, and had $103,947.94 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

9th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, raised $264,592.85 and spent $108,140.08 in the first quarter, and had $937,802.55 cash on hand and $20,694.46 in unpaid debts as of March 31.

Lodi law student Ricky Gill, a Republican, raised $308,070.08 and spent $104,035.41 in the first quarter, and had $988,585.80 cash on hand with $179,151.91 in unpaid debts as of March 31.

Tech executive John McDonald of Mountain House, another Republican, raised $6,695.98 and spent $13,467.06 in the first quarter, and had $28,736.48 cash on hand and $25,300 (the amount he personally has loaned his campaign) in unpaid debts as of March 31.

3rd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, raised $261,183.09 and spent $308,387.76 in the first quarter, and had $255,448.26 cash on hand with $14,324.18 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann of Arbuckle, a Republican, raised $120,504.99 and spent $93,967.47 in the first quarter, and had $216,646.14 cash on hand with $5,409.97 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

United Airlines pilot and Air Force reservist Rick Tubbs of Vacaville, another Republican, raised $16,492.44 and spent $23,591.01 in the first quarter, and had $5,391.41 cash on hand and $11,622.23 (all of which he personally loaned his campaign) in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Retired U.S. Marine Charles Schaupp of Esparto, another Republican, raised $610 and spent $27,792.78 in the first quarter, and had $5,223.75 cash on hand and $50,179.32 (including $50,000 he personally loaned his campaign) in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

How tight-fisted was your House member?

As various national media reported over the weekend, House members are under pressure to ratchet down their office budgets – and one Northern California lawmaker is touting his frugality as a result.

USA Today presented the data on members’ 2011 budget allocations so that it could be arranged in order of the percentage spent – thereby telling us who’s been most tight-fisted with his or her office budget.

Nationally, the biggest spender was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who overshot his budget by about $8,500; his office told USA Today he will be under budget once all books for the year are reconciled. (The data was as of Dec. 31.) And the nation’s most frugal House member appears to have been Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who spent only 60 percent of the $1,453,472 he was allotted for 2011.

The average House office budget for 2011 was $1.45 million, USA Today reported, with different members allotted different amounts based on factors including a district’s geographical size, its distance from Washington, D.C., local office rental costs and so on. Also, lawmakers who’ve been in Congress for longer tend to have more experienced staffers who draw higher salaries.

Lawmakers must cut their budgets by 6.4 percent this year after a 5 percent cut in 2011.

Here’s how the Bay Area’s members stacked up with their 2011 budget allotments and the percentages they actually spent:

  • Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma – $1,520,019 – 97.8 percent
  • Mike Thompson, D-Napa – $1,488,110 – 97.1 percent
  • Mike Honda, D-Campbell – $1,513,347 – 95.6 percent
  • Pete Stark, D-Fremont – $1,493,927 – 94.9 percent
  • Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – $1,563,124 – 94.1 percent
  • George Miller, D-Martinez – $1,452,987 – 93.9 percent
  • Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose – $1,480,567 – 92.0 percent
  • Barbara Lee, D-Oakland – $1,518,030 – 91.6 percent
  • Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – $1,671,596 – 91.4 percent
  • Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – $1,640,268 – 87.1 percent
  • Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – $1,473,929 – 85.3 percent
  • John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove – $1,467,605 – 77.8 percent
  • Garamendi issued a news release today crowing that he was more frugal than 395 of his House colleagues.

    “I want to see less money spent on Congress and more resources paying down our deficit and investing in our schools, roads, health coverage, and veteran’s services,” he said in the release. “I’ve balanced the checkbook for the family ranch. I know how to make more with less. I’m proud that we managed to stay so under budget while still maintaining robust communications with and support for 10th Congressional District residents.”

    But Garamendi – who’s running for re-election this year in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District – was quick to note his frugality doesn’t mean he’s out of touch. He said he hosted more than a dozen in-person and telephone town halls last year or early this year, plus resource fairs for job seekers, veterans, seniors, social services and small businesses and other events.

    Posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012
    Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »

    Calif. House Dems urge probe of Trayvon’s death

    Two dozen California House Democrats wrote to express support for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of whether the Feb. 26 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a self-styled neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., “was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime.”

    “The family of Trayvon Martin deserves to know the truth and the American people expect justice to be served,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, which was sent to Holder yesterday.

    The letter cites unresolved questions about what led to Martin’s slaying by George Zimmerman, 28, and the Sanford Police Department’s failure to make an arrest.

    “It is in the best interest of our constituents and the country that you conduct a thorough investigation that also determines whether this was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime,” the lawmakers wrote. “History has shown that investigating these crimes and enforcing our laws against them bring the issue to light and help our society progress.”

    Among those who signed the letter are Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

    President Barack Obama said Friday it’s “imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” and noted the case makes him think of his own kids. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

    Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
    Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 24 Comments »

    Garamendi, Bowen decry danger to mail-in ballots

    Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, joined California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to testify to the state Legislature today about the danger that some impending U.S. Postal Service facility closures pose to the integrity of California’s vote.

    As I reported last month, Bowen contends the Postal Service’s proposed closure of around a dozen mail processing centers in California as part of a national restructuring could delay hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots from arriving at registrars across the state in time to be counted.

    She and Garamendi took their concerns to a joint oversight hearing of the state Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting.

    “Don’t radically alter mail delivery expectations in a year that could very well set vote-by-mail records in California. Don’t close down these centers in the lead up to a presidential election, giving voters, elections officials, and postal workers insufficient time to work out the kinks,” Garamendi testified at the hearing. “Don’t disenfranchise tens of thousands of Californians who just want their voices heard. Give us six more months to get through this election, and after six months, once the chaos of the election settles down, we’ll have enough time to make the best of a bad situation. Democracy is too important to penny pinch.”

    Garamendi also sent a letter today to the chairman and ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy urging their support for Congressional action to prevent mail processing center closures.

    “We are a nation that takes voting rights seriously. We are a nation that believes democracy is worth paying for. I oppose the closing of these facilities because they help make representative democracy possible,” Garamendi wrote in the letter. “I hope you’ll join me in preventing voter disenfranchisement by using the powers of this Committee and the United States Congress to prevent further mail processing center closures until after the November 2012 elections.”

    A mail-in ballot – which state law says a voter can request up until seven days before the election – must be received by the voter’s county election office no later than 8 p.m. on the day of the election; any received after that aren’t counted. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, about 26,000 ballots arrived too late to be counted in California’s November 2010 general election.

    Last year, Bowen has said, the three processing-center closures – in Salinas, Marysville and Oxnard – clearly affected local elections in Monterey and Ventura counties: The time it took to deliver outbound and receive inbound vote-by-mail ballots went from one to three days, to five to seven.

    Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz last month said the agency will announce by mid-May which centers it plans to close, but has not decided when the closures would take effect. Election mail “would be affected by the proposed service changes,” he acknowledged.

    “However, the Postal Service, as always as in elections past, will be working with elected officials and their mailers in the coming months to ensure their mail is received and delivered in adequate time to respond,” Ruiz said. While he couldn’t advise voters how late they can wait to put their ballots in the mail, he said they should still arrive in time to be counted if the Postal Service processing center receives them the day before the election.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
    Under: Debra Bowen, Elections, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

    State GOP endorses Emken for U.S. Senate

    The California Republican Party today endorsed Elizabeth Emken of Danville over several other GOP contenders to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

    Elizabeth Emken“This was a humbling experience and a tremendous honor to receive the unanimous support of the board,” she said Monday. “I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead, as well as working in partnership with the CRP as we head toward victory together.”

    As many as half a dozen other Republicans are in the race against Feinstein, including Oceanside businessman Dan Hughes and Santa Monica businessman Al Ramirez.

    Chris Mann, Ramirez’ campaign manager, said his camp is “disappointed that the Board of the California Republican Party voted to support a candidate we believe cannot be successful against Feinstein. Fortunately this race will be decided by the voters, not the GOP establishment.” He said Ramirez is best-positioned to appeal to Latinos and independents, which will be crucial blocs in order to beat Feinstein.

    The party in the past hasn’t made primary election endorsements, but state’s new “top-two” primary system necessitated a change. In this system, all voters choose from among all candidates regardless of party, and the top two vote getters advance to November’s general election – even if they’re of the same party.

    State GOP leaders met yesterday in Burbank to consider how county committees had judged races all over the state, and then voted on decisions of their own. A list of endorsements in races all over the state was released Monday morning.

    “As the Party prepares to be a vigorous contender in California’s first top two primary, we seek to promote the most competitive candidates in the field this primary season,” state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said in a news release. “As Chairman, I am very pleased with the level of thoughtful participation from around the state. It was an encouraging prelude to an invigorated Party getting ready for this important election year.”

    Absent from the endorsement list was the 3rd Congressional District, where three Republicans are vying to unseat Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann has been named a “Young Gun” by the National Republican Congressional Committee, but neither she nor either of the other two Republicans in that race – Eugene Ray and Rick Tubbs – got a nod today from the state party.

    Ricky Gill, another NRCC “Young Gun” in Northern California, did get the state party’s endorsement in his bid to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the 9th Congressional District; Republican John McDonald also is in that race.

    Gill said Monday he’s “proud to have earned the endorsement of the California Republican Party and of all three county parties in the 9th Congressional District. I also know, however, that our task is just beginning, and I’ll keep working hard to ensure our Valley and Delta communities send a truly local voice to Congress in 2012.”

    The party also made no endorsements in the 18th Assembly District, where Republican Rhonda Weber is running, or in the 20th District, where Republican Luis Reynoso is running. However, Mike Hudson did get the state party’s endorsement in the 11th Assembly District, and Al Philips got it in the 16th Assembly District.

    Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012
    Under: 2012 Assembly election, 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 State Senate election, 2012 U.S. Senate election, Dianne Feinstein, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

    Speier appointed to Armed Services Committee

    The Bay Area once again has a representative on the House Armed Services Committee: Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, named Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, to the panel yesterday.

    “I am honored that Speaker Boehner, with Leader Pelosi’s endorsement, appointed me to serve on the critically important House Armed Services Committee,” Speier said in a news release. “With this assignment comes great responsibility to protect the security of our nation, support our military service men and women, and also ensure that the funds we dedicate to national defense are used appropriately and strategically.”

    “We have the best military in the world, but we cannot simply spend our way to strength while cutting critical social safety net programs, education, and infrastructure spending,” she said. “I will work with my committee colleagues to root out military waste and inefficiencies while continuing support for our brave military members, their families and our veterans. I will also continue stressing the harm that the epidemic of military sexual assault poses to unit cohesiveness and also promote solutions within the chain of command structure.”

    In the same release, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Speier “has dedicated her career to public service – to defending the rights of workers and consumers, to fighting for our children and families, to securing our nation. Her work to defend our nation, strengthen our military, and ensure the safety and security of the American people will continue as a Member of the Armed Services Committee.”

    Rep. John Garamendi, D-San Francisco, also serves on the Armed Services Committee, but redistricting has pushed him out of the Bay Area. The committee’s chair is Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and its other California members include Duncan D. Hunter, R-Lakeside; Loretta Sanchez, D-Anaheim; and Susan Davis, D-San Diego.

    Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
    Under: Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

    GOP launching calls in 8 California House districts

    To mark the third anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 this Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee is rolling out campaign calls to voters in eight California House districts.

    As I had reported last weekend, California is home to almost a quarter of the nation’s House districts deemed “in play” this year, and for the first time in 20 years could help tip the balance of power in Congress.

    California requires that robocalls be introduced by a live operator who obtains the call recipient’s consent to hear the recorded message. That live operator must state the nature of the call and the name, address and telephone number of the organization represented, and must ask for the person’s consent before playing the recorded message.

    Read the calls’ scripts, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012
    Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

    Big SF fundraiser planned for John Garamendi

    National Democrats are bringing out some heavy hitters to raise money for Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, as he seeks re-election in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District.

    John GaramendiSeveral Republicans have declared candidacy there, but the National Republican Congressional Committee has named Colusa County Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann, 36, of Arbuckle, as its “Young Gun” to try to pick off Garamendi.

    So Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., will join Garamendi for a fundraising luncheon Saturday, Feb. 25 at the San Francisco home of attorneys and real estate developers Valli and Bob Tandler. Besides the Tandlers, the host committee includes deep-pocketed Democratic mainstays Roselyne Swig, Mary and Steve Swig, and Richard Baum. Tickets range from $250 to $2,500.

    I spoke with Israel on Tuesday morning for a yet-to-be-published story, and we briefly discussed Garamendi’s race. Israel, of course, said he likes Garamendi’s chances: “John has spent his time fighting for the middle class in Congress, he’s put together a strong campaign and he’s got five Republicans tearing each other apart.”

    Kim VannBut the NRCC has anointed Vann as its standard bearer, and NRCC Executive Director Guy Harrison predicted to me Tuesday that “it’s going to be a tight race” between her and Garamendi. Vann has raised her profile by being active in state and national counties’ associations, and – if you factor in some outstanding debts – finished 2011 with about $159,000 ready to spend. Garamendi, who turns 67 two weeks from tomorrow, has about $278,000 unencumbered and ready to spend.

    He’s Bay Area no more – his old 10th District had included the heart of Contra Costa County, but now he hopes to represent Solano County, Lake and Colusa counties, and the Yuba-Sutter area. The NRCC notes Garamendi, who was lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner before his election to Congress in 2009, never carried this area when running for statewide office. Yet the new district’s voter registration favors Democrats by about nine percentage points, and Garamendi has an incumbent’s advantage in fundraising and name recognition.

    Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
    Under: campaign finance, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »