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AD15: Big IE money spent to support Thurmond

15th Assembly District candidate Elizabeth Echols is complaining that political committees “funded by oil and tobacco interests” are spending generously on independent-expenditure mailers in support of her opponent, Tony Thurmond.

And that’s true, although many other interests are behind the spending as well.

Tony ThurmondElizabeth Echols, 54, of Oakland, is former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Thurmond, 46, is a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member. The two Democrats are vying to succeed Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is term-limited out of office at this year’s end.

The “Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California business coalition” has reported spending $68,722 in the past week on mailers, research and polling to support Thurmond.

Records show the Alliance raised $713,980.69 in the first half of this year, and has reported no large contributions since. Among the money it collected this year was $125,000 in May from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $90,000 in May from Philip Morris USA, and $25,000 in January from the Occidental Oil & Gas Corp. So, oil and gas accounted for about a third of the committee’s income; the rest came from a wide array of companies, unions and Indian tribes.

Another committee, Keep CA Strong, has reported spending $29,848 on Thurmond’s behalf in the past week.

It reported no cash on hand at mid-year, but reports having received $75,000 on Sept. 19 from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Independent Expenditure Committee; $200,000 on Sept. 22 from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $25,000 on Sept. 26 from the California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee; and $2,450 on Sept. 27 from the aforementioned Alliance for California’s Tomorrow. Here, then, the oil industry’s share is bigger.

Echols“It’s very unusual for this district for this kind of money to come in – these are big corporate interests that don’t spend money idly” especially in so solidly progressive a district, Echols said Tuesday. “I believe they know I will be an effective champion for the environment, for funding our schools and for economic opportunity.”

She acknowledged the Alliance has a “broad mix” of backers, but she said she finds “more telling” the Keep CA Strong committee’s limited donor base and money-in, money-out model.

The independent spending notwithstanding, Echols said her campaign has “good, strong resources and a message that is resonating well with voters.” She might not be able to match the outside spending dollar for dollar, she said, “but I believe we will be the stronger campaign in the end.”

Thurmond said Tuesday he “was really caught off-guard” by the spending: “I don’t even know who these groups are.”

“The irony is, I’m the candidate who’s taken a pledge not to take money from cigarette companies – I’m a social worker, I work with youth,” he said, noting he also voted against oil interests while on Richmond City Council. “Whatever they’re doing, they’ve done independently. My record is clear, my entire campaign is based on progressive values.”

Thurmond said the spending “really speaks to the need for reforming how politics works and overturning Citizens United so we have less special interest money in politics.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly | 1 Comment »

Actors tout Tuck for schools superintendent

Marshall Tuck, the Los Angeles school-reform advocate who’s running neck and neck with incumbent Tom Torlakson for superintendent of public instruction, has added a little star power to his campaign.

Tuck’s new two-and-a-half minute campaign video features actors Joel McHale, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Adam Scott sitting down with the candidate in a “strategy session.”

My favorite line (of course): “You’ve been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Who gives a s—?”

Tuck’s campaign issued a news release saying that while the video provides some humor amid a heated campaign, it takes a serious look at key issues facing the race.

“As a parent, I want to make sure we give every child access to a great education,” Bell said in the news release.

Celebrity factoid: Of these four actors, only Scott is a California native, born in Santa Cruz. Bell and Shepard hail from Detroit’s suburbs, McHale from Seattle.

UPDATE @ 11:47 A.M.: Good questions from Twitter follower Steven Herbert: “Do any of them have children old enough to be in public schools? If so, how many are in public schools?”

Bell and Shepard have one daughter, Lincoln Bell Shepard, born in March 2013, and they’re now expecting a second child; they live in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Scott and his wife, Naomi, have two children, son Graham, 7, and daughter Frankie, 5, and live in LA’s Hollywood Hills section. McHale and his wife, Sarah Williams, have two sons, Eddie, 8, and Isaac, 6; they live in Hollywood Hills as well.

I don’t know what schools the kids attend.

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, education, Tom Torlakson | 2 Comments »

Tim Donnelly praises Brown for signing DNA law

Somebody note the date and time: Assembly Tim Donnelly, the conservative former gubernatorial candidate who spent much of the spring trashing Gov. Jerry Brown, just said something nice about… Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown on Friday signed Donnelly’s AB 1697, the DNA Protection Act, which prohibits using the state’s criminal-justice DNA database from being used as a source of material for testing, research or experiments by any person, agency or entity seeking to find a causal link between genetics and behavior or health.

Tim Donnelly“I would like to thank Governor Brown for standing with me once again to defend the civil liberties of all Californians,” Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said in a news release. “California will continue to use DNA samples for forensics, missing persons, collecting evidence or other legal means. With AB1697 now law, we have prevented government from abusing our privacy. We have protected the civil rights of all Californians from this high tech tyranny.”

Donnelly said the new law is critical to protecting those who’ve been arrested from the government’s genetic snooping.

“Currently, the government of California has hoarded over 1.8 million DNA samples,” he said. “As the cost of DNA sequencing decreases and the ability to process large amounts of data increases, the state has the unprecedented ability to link genetics with criminal activity. While this may sound like the movie Minority Report, it is no longer science fiction. Thanks to AB1697 becoming law, the DNA of every Californian will be safe from being violated by an ever-intrusive government.”

The bill certainly wasn’t controversial. The Assembly passed it 78-0, and the state Senate passed it 33-0.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Tim Donnelly | No Comments »

‘Nanny state?’ Brown vetoes diaper changing bills

So much for the “nanny state” – Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a pair of bills Friday that would’ve required more diaper changing stations across California.

SB 1350 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would have required the California Building Standards Commission to adopt building standards governing the installation of baby diaper changing stations in places of public accommodation for equal use by men and women. The Senate had passed it 32-0, the Assembly 67-8.

diaper changing stationAnd SB 1358 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required buildings owned or partially owned by state or local governments, as well as certain other private buildings open to the public, to maintain at least one safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station accessible to women and men. The Senate had passed it 29-1, the Assembly passed it 66-11, and the Senate concurred in Assembly amendments 31-2.

Brown nixed them both Friday, issuing a joint veto message.

“At a time when so many have raised concerns about the number of regulations in California, I believe it would be more prudent to leave the matter of diaper changing stations to the private sector,” he wrote. “Already many businesses have taken steps to accommodate their customers in this regard.”

“This may be a good business practice, but not one that I am inclined to legislate,” he concluded.

Posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Lois Wolk | No Comments »

Pols want AG to probe CPUC’s ties with PG&E

Peninsula politicians want state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate possible crimes involving the California Public Utilities Commission’s shockingly cozy relationship with PG&E during the agency’s probe of the utility after the deadly 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco; and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane will hold a news conference Friday morning in San Francisco to deliver a letter to Harris.

The latest revelation of emails between CPUC staff and PG&E executives led to the outser of officials at both this week. The utility also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may have violated PUC rules with emails it sent the agency as recently as January.

E-mails released by PG&E showed that the utility tried to influence the selection of the administrative law judge who would decide how much customers’ rates should go up to pay for required gas pipeline improvements after the 2010 blast killed eight and injured more than 50.

“The letter from Hill, Mullin and Ruane also cites what appear to have been a series of illegal interventions on PG&E’s behalf in the penalty case against PG&E for the explosion in San Bruno perpetrated by the CPUC’s executive director and former general counsel – including pressuring its own attorneys to advocate no penalty in the case, which attorneys felt to be ‘illegal and unethical;’ reassigning the attorneys after they refused to back down; and firing one when he pressed PG&E to produce pipeline safety records,” according to a news release from Hill’s office.

Gov. Jerry Brown offered full-throated support for CPUC President Michael Peevey last month even after an initial disclosure of e-mails related to the San Bruno case.

“I know there’s been a lot of ink poured out on this topic, but I would say he’s a very effective leader, he gets things done” especially on promoting renewable energy, Brown said of Peevey at the time. He went on to describe Peevey as “a strong force,” the likes of which hasn’t held the CPUC’s reins since John Bryson did so during Brown’s second term, from 1979 to 1982.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Attorney General, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Kamala Harris, Kevin Mullin | No Comments »

New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, water | 1 Comment »

Mike Honda urges Brown to sign Martins Beach bill

Rep. Mike Honda is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would re-open San Mateo County’s Martins Beach, the focus of a fierce battle between a billionaire who closed off the access road and surfers and advocates wanting to reach the beach.

The Legislature last month sent Brown SB 968 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would instruct the State Lands Commission to consider buying Martins Beach Road if it can’t cut a deal with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline near his sprawling property.

“The people of northern California have waited too many years to regain their historical access to Martins Beach,” Honda, D-San Jose, wrote in a letter to Brown dated Thursday. “The State of California has always recognized the importance of open spaces for its citizens and provided them access to the beautiful coasts in the Coastal Act of 1976. We must preserve this treasured public access to our state’s best resources.”

The beach isn’t in Honda’s 17th Congressional District; it’s in Rep. Jackie Speier’s 14th District. But Honda’s office says he’s been “a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career,” advocating for projects throughout the South Bay and Peninsula. (Speier’s office says she “supports public access,” but described no position on SB 968.)

“Protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy – it’s our obligation,” Honda wrote. “In my work, first as a County Supervisor, as a State Assembly member, and finally as a member of Congress I have continually fought to ensure public access to open spaces for all Californians to enjoy – equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value – and one that should be afforded to all, regardless of income.”

Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club will hold a news conference Friday morning outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Brown to sign the bill.

Brown, in a meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board a few days before SB 968 reached his desk, declined to comment on the issue: “I think that topic is being sufficiently contested, it doesn’t need any further comment from me.”

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Bay Area campaign calendar heats up

The general-election season is in full swing, with a full calendar of campaign and fundraising events for Bay Area candidates. Here’s a sampling of what’s going on out there in the next week or so:

11th Congressional District: Tue Phan – the Republican retired immigration judge from Danville who’s facing off against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, for the seat from which George Miller is retiring – is having a fundraiser tonight at La Veranda Café in Clayton. Tickets cost $150 per person or $275 per couple; it’s hosted by Roger Petersen, who ran against Miller in 2008 and 2010.

16th Assembly District: California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte will be in the East Bay this weekend to stump and raise money for Catharine Baker, the Dublin attorney who’s facing off against Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti for the 16th Assembly District seat. Brulte and Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen will join Baker for a fundraiser Saturday evening at a Danville home, with tickets ranging from $100 to $4,100, and Brulte plus GOP volunteers from across the state will be out walking precincts for Baker on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, Sbranti and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, will kick off the Tri-Valley area’s United Democratic Campaign with a rally, phone bank and precinct walk on Saturday, and then wine scion Phil Wente will host a fundraiser for Sbranti on Sunday in Livermore with tickets ranging from $500 to $4,100.

15th Assembly District: Elizabeth Echols of Berkeley, one of two Democrats vying for the 15th Assembly District seat, has a fundraiser set for next Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 at the Piedmont home of Steve Schiller and Kristine Kaiser; tickets cost from $100 to $1,000. The other Democrat hoping to succeed the term-limited Nancy Skinner is Tony Thurmond of Richmond, who’s opening his campaign HQ this Saturday, Sept. 13 on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito; walking in the Solano Stroll on Sunday; and holding house parties next Wednesday and Thursday in Berkeley and El Cerrito, respectively.

Lieutenant Governor: Ron Nehring, the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, will hold a meet-and-greet next Monday evening, Sept. 15 at a San Rafael home; will address the Novato Republican Women Federated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16 at the Marin Country Club; and will appear with 10th State Senate District candidate Peter Kuo at a dinner Tuesday night in Fremont.

State Controller: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state controller, will speak at a Nob Hill Republican Women’s Club dinner next Wednesday, Sept. 17 at San Francisco’s L’Olivier restaurant. Swearengin’s opponent is Democrat Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, who has evening receptions scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 11 in Fresno; Friday, Sept. 12 in Folsom; Monday, Sept. 15 in Santa Cruz; and Friday, Sept. 19 in San Francisco.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial portrait unveiled

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s official gubernatorial portrait was unveiled Monday in a State Capitol ceremony featuring the ex-governator and current Gov. Jerry Brown.

Schwarzenegger portrait

Rather staid, considering he was perhaps the Golden State’s most larger-than-life governor in recent memory.

In a news release, Schwarzenegger said his seven years at California’s helm “were some of the most fulfilling of my life, and I am proud of all that we accomplished during that time – including passing groundbreaking environmental legislation, investing in California infrastructure and making landmark political reforms. It’s truly a privilege to have my portrait hang on the walls alongside California’s great leaders.”

He said Monday’s celebration “is also for all the people who served California with me during my time in office without whom none of these accomplishments would have been possible.”

Schwarzenegger paid the bill for this portrait, commissioning it from Austrian-Irish artist Gottfried Helnwein, whose past subjects include Andy Warhol, John F. Kennedy and Muhammad Ali. Helnwein’s art has been featured in prominent museums and galleries including the Legion of Honor, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor San Francisco, the L.A. County Museum, the State Russian Museum St. Petersburg, the Albertina Museum Vienna, the Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague and the Crocker Art Museum.

One piece of his work – a large painting of Death Valley – hung in the governor’s council room during Schwarzenegger’s administration.

Helnwein, 65, called Schwarzenegger, 67, “one of the most remarkable men of our times. He is larger than life, he is a myth, and he has already lived several lives that became legends.” But the former governor also is “a great lover and patron of the arts” who often visited Helnwein’s Los Angeles studio for long discussions on art, the artist said.

Portraits of former California governors have been on display in the State Capitol since 1879. Schwarzenegger’s will be hung on the State Capitol’s third floor, next to that of former Gov. Gray Davis.

Posted on Monday, September 8th, 2014
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | 2 Comments »

Fabian Nunez to lead campaign vs. ‘Six Californias’

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez will chair OneCalifornia, the effort opposing the “Six Californias” ballot measure pushed for 2016’s ballot by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper.

Fabian Nunez“Six Californias is an impractical, unworkable, and unconstitutional scheme that is undermining the California brand throughout the world just as our state is making an economic comeback,” Núñez said in a news release. “Our state’s diversity has always been its strength; tearing it up into six pieces is a solution in search of a problem that does nothing to address the challenges we face as a state that we need to tackle with the greatest talent pool imaginable: nearly 40 million Californians.”

The measure would split California into six states, each with its own government; much of the Bay Area, plus Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, would become the state of Silicon Valley. California’s northernmost parts would become Jefferson, as some counties up there have wanted for years; some North Bay counties would become part of North California; Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield would be among Central California’s largest cities; Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara would wind up in West California; and San Diego would anchor South California.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reports Draper’s plan to split California – now 14th among the 50 states in per capita income – would create both the nation’s richest state (Silicon Valley) and its poorest (Central California).

Núñez, 47, who served as Speaker from 2004 to 2008 and is now a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, will lead a political and legal drive against the measure. OneCalifornia was founded by Forward Observer CEO and former Gov. Wilson Cabinet Secretary Joe Rodota and Steven Maviglio, former press secretary and now a Sacramento-based Democratic political strategist.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment Thursday.

DRAPER map 022514Draper, 56, of Atherton, in July filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in hopes of qualifying the measure for the November 2016 ballot. Six Californias has yet to report any contributions by anyone other than Draper, who has put $5.2 million into it so far.

The deadline for counties to report signature verification is next Friday, Sept. 12, and OneCalifornia claims the qualification rate so far isn’t looking good: The measure is below the 71.0% validity rate required to qualify for the ballot in a majority of potential “states” and below the 67.4% validity rate required for a full count in half the “states.”

“I hope this will be a short-term gig,” Núñez said of his OneCalifornia leadership. “For our state’s sake, I’m hoping voters will not have to endure further discussion of a such an ill-conceived and meritless idea that’s become the subject of late night talk show jokes.”

If enough signatures are verified, however, Núñez says the OneCalifornia committee will explore a legal challenge. Based partly on my reporting, the OneCalifornia committee has called for the Secretary of State to investigate reports of signature-gathering fraud by the firm Draper hired, Carlsbad-based Arno Political Consultants.

UPDATE @ 3:44 P.M.: “These guys are spending an awful lot of time on something they don’t believe to be real,” Six Californias spokesman Roger Salazar said Thursday. “It’s no secret political insiders don’t like Six Californias because it decentralizes power to regional leaders. Six Californias gives us a chance, a choice and a change.”

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: Draper just issued a statement about Fremont-based electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors’ decision to site its first battery “gigafactory” in Nevada. Note that Draper is an investor in Tesla and Steve Jurvetson – who with Draper and John Fisher founded a prominent venture-capital firm – sits on the company’s board of directors:

Tim Draper“Today California has lost another opportunity to create more jobs, and improve our economic environment. Losing Tesla to Nevada is just another reminder that our state needs change. California has high unemployment and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is steadily increasing. Our state needs a massive investment in infrastructure and a streamlined process to help grow and keep businesses.”

“How much longer do we tolerate a monolithic, job losing California? We continue to live in the state ranked worst in the nation for business. Six Californias gives us a chance, a choice and a change—and more jobs.”

“Six Californias is our opportunity to solve the many problems we face today. Six Californias gives us an opportunity to create a better future for all 38 million of us. Six states that are more representative and accountable. Six states that embrace innovation and strive to improve the lives of residents. With Six Californias we can refresh our government. California is a beautiful place to live. Let’s make it a great place to thrive.”

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Fabian Nunez | 4 Comments »