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Former aide helps Carole Migden retire legal debt

The Oakland-based Californians for a Democratic Majority PAC on Tuesday gave $100,000 to former state Sen. Carole Migden’s Legal Defense and Compliance Fund.

That’s a big chunk of change from a PAC that had only $149,156.47 in the bank at 2008’s end. But it’s an even greater boon for Migden’s legal fund, which finished 2008 with only $1,725.95 in the bank and $127,419.40 in outstanding debts. The only other big contribution the legal fund has received in 2009 was $5,000 back in January from Feysan J. Lodde of San Francisco, the founder and owner of Fairfield-based MV Transportation Inc.

So, who are Californians for a Democratic Majority? The group’s treasurer is Michael Colbruno of Oakland, who is Clear Channel Outdoor’s vice president of public policy; an Oakland Planning Commissioner; a Democratic activist (a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and an unsuccessful candidate for the Alameda County Democratic Central Commtittee last year); and Migden’s former legislative director. Lists of the PAC’s donors for the 2008 and 2006 election cycles show it has been funded by a variety of labor unions, Democratic officials and business interests.

Colbruno tonight said he’s one of three people who decide how the PAC spends its money; he declined to name the other two without consulting them first, but said they’d agreed it was “worthy to help her (Migden) out with her legal stuff.”

“She’s had a significant and heralded career doing some great work on environmental and civil rights and foster care work,” he said, adding many elected officials run up legal bills “as your opponents make charges against you, and sometimes you need help with those.”

“I suspect she’s still going to be in the game for a while, she was a great legislator,” he said.

It’s not the first time Colbruno has helped Migden out; in 2007, he helped get Clear Channel to donate a bunch of pro-Migden billboards in San Francisco as her re-election campaign was heating up.

Migden’s legal fund certainly has seen a lot of action. California’s Fair Political Practices Commission in 2002 fined her $16,000 for eight violations of campaign-finance law; in 2006 fined her $47,500 for 21 violations; later in 2006 fined her another $47,500 for another 22 violations; and last year fined her $350,000 for 89 violations – the largest single fine in the FPPC’s history. (Thanks to Calitics for the litany.)

Despite admitting all those violations, Migden sued the FPPC last year in federal court, claiming she should be allowed to use $647,000 from her 2000 Assembly re-election campaign for her 2008 state Senate re-election campaign; the FPPC claimed that money became surplus when she left the Assembly and couldn’t legally be used for the 2008 bid. The FPPC countersued, “seeking more than $9 million in damages for her consistent and deliberate failure to follow California’s campaign laws.” A judge issued an injunction letting Migden use the old funds, and the cases finally were settled in October with Migden agreeing to pay $40,000 to resolve allegations of campaign finance regulations.

Migden – who despite accessing her old campaign funds still lost her 3rd State Senate District seat last year to then-Assemblyman and former protégé Mark Leno – now serves on the California Integrated Waste Management Board that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is so hot to eliminate as wasteful (even though its current annual budget of $235.3 million comes all from fees, not the state’s crippled General Fund). Schwarzenegger appointed Migden to the $132,000-a-year board post in December.

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
Under: campaign finance, Carole Migden, General | 13 Comments »

Steinberg names state Senate committee chairs

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento – how weird not to be writing “Don Perata!” – rolled out his committee chair appointments today:

  • Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego: Appropriations Committee
  • Ron Calderon, D-Montebello: Banking & Finance Committee
  • Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego: Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
  • Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino: Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee
  • Gloria Romero, D-East Los Angeles: Education Committee
  • Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley: Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee
  • Alex Padilla, D-San Fernando Valley: Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee
  • Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto: Environmental Quality Committee
  • Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood: Governmental Organization Committee
  • Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara: Health Committee
  • Carol Liu, D-Pasadena: Human Services Committee
  • Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro: Judiciary Committee
  • Mark DeSaulnier, D-Martinez: Labor and Industrial Relations Committee
  • Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa: Local Government Committee
  • Fran Pavley, D-Augora Hills: Natural Resources & Water Committee
  • Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana: Public Employees and Retirement Committee
  • Mark Leno, D-San Francisco: Public Safety Committee
  • Lois Wolk, D-Davis: Revenue and Taxation Committee
  • Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach: Transportation and Housing Committee
  • Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, continues as assistant Pro Tem, and the Agriculture and Veterans Affairs committee chairs haven’t been named yet.

    Let’s take a spin through the Bay Area appointments, shall we?

    Although Hancock had chaired the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, it seems a natural fit for her to take the Senate Elections committee now because she has been a champion of campaign finance reform. Her AB 583, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act signed into law Sept. 30, creates a pilot project in which the 2014 and 2018 candidates for Secretary of State (SOS) will be eligible to have their campaigns funded mostly with public money if they agree not turn away most private contributions and if they collect a specified number of $5 contributions.

    Simitian already chaired the Environmental Quality Committee and Corbett already chaired Judiciary in the last session, so no changes there.

    Alquist takes over the health committee from the term-limited-out Sheila Kuehl, who had used that post to crusade for universal, single-payer health care, twice vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (SB 840 of 2005-06 and SB 840 of 2007-08). Alquist had co-authored Kuehl’s bills, and opposed the plan put forth by Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders last year. See where this is headed?

    DeSaulnier takes over Labor and Industrial Relations from the ousted Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, defeated in her primary by Mark Leno. It could be an interesting place to be if Senate Democrats again try – as Perata did in the last two sessions, meeting vetoes both times (SB 815 of 2005-06 and SB 1717 of 2007-08 – to restore permanently disabled workers’ workers compensation insurance benefits that were slashed in 2004.

    And Leno – who chaired Assembly Public Safety before running Assembly Appropriations – gets Senate Public Safety, formerly chaired by Romero. Will he use the post as a bully pulpit for pushing prison reform, as she did?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
    Under: California State Senate, Carole Migden, Darrell Steinberg, Don Perata, Elaine Alquist, Ellen Corbett, General, Gloria Romero, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno | No Comments »

    Time for an end run around the Electoral College?

    This year’s presidential election didn’t bring us the sort of one-state Electoral College cliffhanger that we had in 2000 and 2004, but there are those who still believe the EC as it stands is an outdated relic.

    A leader of that movement — John Koza, a computer scientist who’s a consulting professor in Stanford University’s Electrical Engineering and Medicine departments — is delivering a lecture this afternoon at the University of California, Berkeley. His argument is that in the existing system, a candidate has no reason to poll, visit, advertise in or even pay much attention to states where he/she or his/her opponent enjoys a seemingly insurmountable lead; witness how California usually serves as little more than a campaign-cash ATM for candidates. But if the president is picked by a direct national popular vote, he says, every state becomes a battleground.

    It wouldn’t even take a constitutional amendment. National Popular Vote — a nonprofit of which Koza is vice president, and Lafayette political attorney Barry Fadem is president — notes the Constitution’s Article II, Section I lets each state appoint electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” That means there’s nothing stopping state Legislatures from agreeing — via an interstate compact — to throw their electors to the candidate who won the most votes nationwide.

    So far, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey have enacted laws approving such a compact. Legislatures in some other states, including Rhode Island, Vermont and California, have passed such bills but seen them vetoed; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed them twice, in 2006 and 2008.

    This year’s bill was SB 37 by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco; in his Sept. 30 veto message, Schwarzenegger said the bill “represents a significant departure away from letting each individual state choose how to award its presidential electoral votes and towards a national vote for president. Because California’s endorsement of a national popular vote would significantly change the debate on the matter, enactment of this bill would represent a major shift in the way not only Californians but all Americans choose their president. Such a significant change should be voted on by the people. As such, I cannot support this measure but encourage the proponents to seek approval of the people for the changes it proposes.”

    Foes of the plan say relying only on national numbers would send candidates careening to the coasts and big cities, leaving the nation’s interior as nothing but “flyover states.”

    But supporters note the smallest states aren’t getting presidential attention anyway — for the past 20 years, six of the 13 least populous states have regularly gone Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota) and six others have regularly gone Democratic (Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, and the District of Columbia); only New Hampshire has been a battleground state.

    Those 12 small, non-competitive states have a combined population of about 11.4 million and have a total of 40 electoral votes, National Popular Vote advocates note. Meanwhile, the battleground state of Ohio has about 11.5 million people and candidates trip over themselves to court its 20 electoral votes. A national popular vote would make a vote cast in a small state as important as a vote cast in Ohio or anywhere else, advocates say.

    Now, I don’t think this takes into account the fact that candidates might still gravitate to the big coastal population centers not only for raw numbers but because major television markets provide more advertising bang for the campaign buck. It also doesn’t take into account the cutting-edge, grassroots ground game that Barack Obama brought this year, putting boots on the street and money on the airwaves in several previously ignored states.

    Still, it’s an interesting proposal and shows no sign of going away; Migden’s gone, but NPV reportedly is keeping all options on the table for the coming Legislative session.

    Posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carole Migden, Elections, General | 5 Comments »

    Mark Leno swamps Joe Nation, Carole Migden

    leno.jpgAssemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, seems to have easily snuffed former Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, and incumbent state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, to seize the Democratic nomination for Migden’s 3rd State Senate District seat.

    Some had thought it would be a close race between the two challengers, with the troubled incumbent a distant third. But my count — with all San Francisco and Marin County precincts reporting, and all but six in Sonoma County — shows Leno at 43,732 votes, Nation at 29,713 and Migden at 28,184. That’s 43 percent, 29 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

    The district is more than 3-to-1 Democrats to Republicans, so barring the unforeseen, Leno is movin’ on up to the state Senate come November.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
    Under: California State Senate, Carole Migden, Elections, Mark Leno | No Comments »

    What’s left for the Democrats

    With the Florida and Michigan delegates seated with half-votes, the new threshhold to clinch the Democratic nomination is 2,118. The Washington Post says Obama has 2,052 (66 short) while Clinton has 1,877 (241 short).

    Puerto Rico votes today, with 55 delegates; Clinton is expected to do well there. Montana and South Dakota vote Tuesday, with 16 and 15 delegates respectively; Obama is expected to do well there.

    And so it’ll go to the superdelegates. Politico says the superdelegate count now stands at 324.5 for Obama, 279.5 for Clinton and 163 undecided. The undecideds include 86 Democratic National Committee members; 48 House members and 15 U.S. Senators. And of the undecideds, 14 are from California:

  • Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego
  • Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel
  • Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego
  • Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton
  • DNC member state Sen. Carole Midgen, D-San Francisco
  • DNC member and state Democratic Party campaign advisor Bob Mulholland
  • DNC member, attorney and author Christine Pelosi of San Francisco
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco
  • DNC member and labor union political director John A. Perez of Los Angeles
  • DNC member and retired chemical worker Robert Rankin of Carson
  • DNC member and state party chairman Art Torres
  • DNC member and state official Keith Umemoto of Sacramento
  • DNC member and attorney Steve Ybarra of Sacramento
  • U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday in San Francisco that he, Pelosi and DNC chairman Howard Dean have agreed to try to end the race by the end of this week by urging the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to weigh in.

    Posted on Sunday, June 1st, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, California State Senate, Carole Migden, Democratic Party, Elections, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    Campaigns around the Bay this weekend

  • Bay Area supporters of Barack Obama will decsend upon Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza at noon tomorrow, Saturday, April 19, as part of a Nation for Change Nationwide Rally in advance of next Tuesday’s crucial Pennsylvania primary election. Among those scheduled to speak in Oakland are Change Congress founder Lawrence Lessig; Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel; Richmond City Councilman Tony Thurmond; prominent Obama fundraiser and volunteer Tony West; and the Rev. Elouise Oliver of the East Bay Church of Religious Science in Oakland.
  • Local supporters of Hillary Clinton will gather from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at an Oakland home for a “last big weekend push into Pennsylvania” via phone-banking (BYO cell phone). E-mail hillary4prez@att.net for location and other details.
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is kicking off his re-election campaign in earnest Saturday with door-to-door canvassing in Dublin, Stockton, Tracy and Morgan Hill; volunteers are asked to RSVP though his campaign Web site. He’s unopposed in June’s primary, and faces Stockton Republican Dean Andal in November.
  • State Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, kicks off her re-election campaign (she’s being challenged by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, in the June 3 primary) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, joined by state Senate President Pro Tem Elect Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and former state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, at her campaign headquarters, 121 9th St. (between Mission and Howard) in San Francisco. After bagels and coffee, they’ll hit the streets and the phones all morning…
  • 9th State Senate District candidate and former Assembly Majority Leader Wilma Chan is holding a fundraiser at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 20, at a Los Gatos home; see her campaign Web site for more details. Her rival in June’s Democratic primary is Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.
  • Posted on Friday, April 18th, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Carole Migden, Darrell Steinberg, Dean Andal, Elections, General, Hillary Clinton, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Wilma Chan | No Comments »

    Politics trumping policy on toxic chemicals bill?

    Activists including a mother of the online organizing movement will be outside the downtown Oakland office of state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, today demanding a floor vote on AB 706, a bill that would ban toxic flame retardants from furniture and bedding effective Jan. 1, 2010 while updating fire-safety standards.

    Speakers at the noon rally outside the state office building at 1515 Clay St. will include Joan Blades of Berkeley, co-founder of online political organizing powerhouse MoveOn.org as well as the founder of MomsRising; and Mary Brune of Alameda, founder of Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS).

    The activists say brominated and chlorinated flame retardants have been linked to health effects including reproductive and neurological problems, endocrine disruption, and cancer; elevated rates of certain cancers among firefighters are believed to be a result of chemical exposure from smoke and soot created when these products burn. Thus far, AB 706 is being held in the Senate Appropriations Committee; if it doesn’t get out by Tuesday, it’ll be done for in this Legislative session. Environmentalists and firefighters are pretty solidly behind it; industry groups, not so much.

    But some observers, including Beyond Chron and the Los Angeles Times, believe the bill actually is doomed because it was introduced by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who happens to be running to unseat state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco. The LA Times listed AB 706 among its “must pass” bills… but will old-fashioned electoral politics get in the way?

    Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2007
    Under: California State Senate, Carole Migden, Don Perata, Mark Leno, Oakland | No Comments »

    Committee to hear bills on wrongful convictions

    The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice — a 15-member panel created in 2004 to studying the state’s past failures leading to wrongful convictions or death sentences — is rallying support for a trio of bills that’ll be heard Tuesday by the state Senate Public Safety Committee addressing false confessions, false informant testimony and mistaken eyewitness identifications.

    Commission chairman John Van de Kamp, a two-term former state Attorney General and 1990 Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate, says the bills “will protect the police, defendants, victims and the state of California from wrongful convictions.”

    SB 756, authored by Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Leimert Park, would require the Attorney General to develop new guidelines for conducting suspect line-ups, including using “fillers” who are similar in appearance to the suspect as well as separating multiple witnesses. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, last year; Ridley-Thomas reintroduced it after tweaking it to meet concerns expressed in the governor’s veto message.

    SB 511, authored by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, would require electronic recording of police interrogations in order to help put an end to coerced confessions. “California would not be the first state to enact this critical legislation and in fact Santa Clara County has implemented these reforms successfully for years,” Alquist said in a news release. Again, Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year, and Alquist reintroduced it after tweaking it based on the veto message.

    SB 609, authored by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, would seek to curb false testimony by jailhouse informants — who have strong motivation to lie in return for lenience — by requiring corroborating evidence for all such testimony.

    Appearing at tomorrow’s hearing will be Timothy Atkins of Los Angeles, who spent 20 years in state prison after being wrongfully convicted — based on mistaken eyewitness testimony and false informant testimony — of second degree murder and two counts of robbery; he has been exonerated, and went free in February. Also present will be Harold Hall of Los Angeles, who spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit as a result of a false confession and jailhouse informant testimony, and Arthur Carmona of Garden Grove, who was 16 years old when wrongfully convicted based on mistaken eyewitness identification.

    Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2007
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Carole Migden, Elaine Alquist, General, Gloria Romero | No Comments »