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SD7: Open thread

Well, ladies and gents, it’s almost over – in a few hours, polls will close in the 7th State Senate District‘s special election, and either Steve Glazer or Susan Bonilla could be declaring victory soon thereafter.

Polls close at 8 p.m., and if you haven’t voted yet, please get up off your keister right this instant and go cast your ballot. If you need to find a polling place, check online with the registrars in Contra Costa County and Alameda County.

Here’s your final chance to embarrass – er, assert yourselves with predictions and prognostications, credit and blame, or just expressions of relief that your mailboxes will no longer be stuffed chock full of ugly accusations. Post your comments below; keep it clean, don’t get personal.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 11 Comments »

SD7: IE group denies Koch ties, ethics claims

7th State Senate District candidate Susan Bonilla’s campaign has filed a complaint with the state’s political watchdog agency claiming a Koch-brothers-related group has broken state laws in part by violating its nonprofit status by spending money against her.

But the group – Washington, D.C.-based Independent Women’s Voice – says it didn’t do anything wrong, and hasn’t received any money from Charles and David Koch’s network of conservative organizations.

Tuesday’s actually is the second complaint Bonilla’s campaign has made to the Fair Political Practices Commission about IWV. Bonilla, a Democratic assemblywoman from Concord, faces fellow Democrat and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer in next Tuesday’s election.

The initial complaint, filed last week, claimed IWV had failed to timely disclose its spending on a video ad it had produced attacking Bonilla. IWV since has reported spending $8,600 to produce the ad, promote it online, and do some phone surveys.

The new complaint reiterates the timeliness charge, but also claims IWV incorrectly reported the anti-Bonilla ad as being pro-Glazer and – because it’s not spending on other races – didn’t properly identify itself under California law as a single-purpose committee. The complaint also claims IWV is abusing its nonprofit status by getting involved in this race.

“IRS tax filings show that Washington, DC-based Independent Women’s Voice is prohibited from making political expenditures, but that isn’t stopping this right-wing group from dumping thousands of dollars so far into the 7th Senate District,” Bonilla campaign spokesman Josh Pulliam said in a news release. “It is imperative that the FPPC step in to require out-of-state billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Los Angeles mega developers like Bill Bloomfield to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Pulliam noted IWV received $250,000 in 2009 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights. That center and Americans for Responsible Leadership, both based in Arizona, agreed in 2013 to pay California a $1 million settlement for failing to disclose independent spending they’d done to oppose one 2012 ballot measure and support another.

But IWV issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that although “CPPR eventually seems to have become a vehicle for Koch funding,” that didn’t happen until 2010 “when its director started working for the Kochs, well after IWV’s work was done and complete.”

Thus, IWV “has never received any funding from the Koch’s or from any Koch-related entities,” the group said in its statement. “We wouldn’t mind receiving same, but we don’t seem to be their cup of tea.”

As for the FPPC complaint, IWV said it’s a 501(c)(4) advocacy group and as such is allowed to spend on politics.

“We are not a single-purpose committee, much as the Bonilla campaign might wish we were,” the group said in its statement. “We care about ethics and about fiscal sanity, and so are working, independent of any campaign, to educate people both for Steve Glazer and against Susan Bonilla and the special interests she represents – all while accurately and scrupulously following the laws as established by the Fair Political Practices Commission.”

“It is sad that the Bonilla campaign is so desperate for sympathy and attention, and so short of an appealing track record, that they would manufacture wholesale charges to throw at Independent Women’s Voice,” the group said. “Really, isn’t it time politics got out of that gutter?

As reported, IWV’s role in this race is an infinitesimal drop in the vast, $7-million-plus ocean of independent spending that has drowned local voters in mailers, broadcast ads and other annoyances. A union-backed group has spent tremendously to benefit Bonilla, while Glazer’s big spenders include Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield and JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee. IWV’s spending inspired hedge fund billionaire turned environmentalist Tom Steyer of San Francisco to give $150,000 last week to the union PAC backing Bonilla.

Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 7 Comments »

SD7: Glazer blasts campaigning on BART property

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, one of two Democrats competing in the 7th State Senate District special election, wants the BART board of directors to probe what he says is inappropriate union campaign work on BART property to benefit his opponent, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

Glazer news conference 5-11-15 (photo by Josh Richman)In a news conference Monday morning outside BART’s Oakland headquarters, Glazer displayed photos of BART workers at the Richmond, Concord and Hayward yards, accompanied by a Service Employees International Union Local 1021 organizer, displaying Bonilla campaign signs or fliers. Another photo showed workers, apparently in a training classroom at the Hayward facility, watching the Bonilla-Glazer debate.

Glazer said that despite serious maintenance problems that have snarled commutes in recent weeks, workers apparently had the time to organize for his opponent on BART property. He acknowledged he didn’t know whether the photos were taken during work hours, but called it “an outrageous use of public property.”

He said he would deliver a letter Monday to BART Board of Directors President Thomas Blalock demanding an independent third-party investigation of the union workers who took part in the activities, and whatever managers allowed it to happen on BART property. Management must be notified of work-site union activities, he said, and so is “at some level involved in this illegal campaign activity and they should be held to account as well.”

Glazer’s call to ban BART strikes is among the centerpieces of his campaign.

Steve Maviglio, organizer of the union-backed Working Families Opposing Glazer committee that has spent millions to support Bonilla, dismissively called Glazer’s news conference “nothing more than a Hail Mary publicity stunt for Steve Glazer to deflect the criticism away from the Koch Brothers and a Tea Party developer from LA funneling millions of dollars into his campaign.”

The Working Families committee launched a new ad along these lines Monday:

Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based group with ties to the Koch brothers, has spent $8,600 to produce an anti-Bonilla ad, promote it online, and conduct some phone surveys; Bill Bloomfield, a laundry and real-estate millionaire from Manhattan Beach, has spent almost $1.79 million so far to support Glazer. Maviglio said Bloomfield has supported Tea Party candidates, but Bloomfield has said he quit the GOP and became an independent because he believes the party has grown too extreme; last year, he supported moderate Republican Neel Kashkari over Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly in the gubernatorial primary.

The election is next Tuesday, May 19. Glazer said Monday morning that about 71,000 vote-by-mail ballots already have been received by the Contra Costa and Alameda county registrars, of which about 15 percent are from voters who didn’t cast ballots in the March primary. He also said about 33 percent of the ballots returned so far are from registered Republicans, whom he has been actively courting – which means GOP voters are outperforming their 29 percent voter registration in what’s expected to be a very low-turnout election.

UPDATE @ 12:52 p.m.: Bonilla agrees union workers shouldn’t be campaigning on BART property – and neither should Glazer and his supporters.

“I am appalled that BART platforms and BART property have been used for electioneering by Steve Glazer, Los Angeles billionaire Bill Bloomfield (who has spent $2 million on Steve Glazer campaign advertising), and by BART employees who were holding my campaign signs,” she said in a statement emailed to reporters early Monday afternoon. “These parties should immediately stop using BART property for electioneering, including candidate Steve Glazer who has repeatedly used internal BART property for self-advertising.”

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 12 Comments »

SD7: First the Kochs, now Tom Steyer

Where the Koch brothers go, Tom Steyer can’t be far behind – and the independent-spending maelstrom surrounding the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election is no exception.

Days after a Koch-related group launched an ad attacking Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord – and so benefiting her rival, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – the San Francisco hedge fund billionaire turned environmentalist gave $150,000 Friday to Working Families Opposing Glazer, a committee created by labor unions to help Bonilla win.

Tom Steyer“We need to elect leaders willing to stand up and do what’s right to protect the health and financial security of hardworking East Bay residents, no matter the political consequences,” Steyer said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “Susan Bonilla has stood up to Big Oil and opposed the $2 billion tax loophole that benefits oil companies at the expense of California families. That’s the kind of thoughtful leadership we need in Sacramento.”

No mention of the campaign contributions Bonilla has taken for this race from oil and gas companies including Chevron, Phillips 66 and Tesoro.

Glazer said Friday he thinks voters “are fed up with all the negative campaigning. Steyer’s money goes to the group that is the biggest contributor to the garbage pile of slick mailers filling voter’s mailboxes.”

“Voters should read our ballot statements, access newspaper editorials and other neutral sources for factual information, and ignore the power plays and smear tactics by all the special interests,” said Glazer, who has had plenty of such power plays and smear tactics deployed on his behalf as well. “When I declared for this office, I promised that I would be a thoughtful and independent representative who would work across party lines as a problem solver not a partisan. It doesn’t surprise me that the interests who want to maintain a dysfunctional status quo are campaigning so hard against me.”

Steyer, who hosted a fundraiser for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at his home on Wednesday, spent around $76 million last year to influence elections across the nation. His group, NextGen Climate, already is working hard to hold Republican presidential candidates’ feet to the fire on climate-change issues. He flirted with but later ruled out a run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, but many believe he has his eye on the governor’s office in 2018.

The independent spending in this race now totals somewhere between $6 million and $7 million, roughly evenly split between support for Bonilla and support for Glazer.

But it seems the Koch brothers aren’t nearly as involved in the race as it first seemed.

In a memo to reporters Tuesday, Working Families spokesman Steve Maviglio had written that “a new TV ad went up on cable television last night” from Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based group with ties to the Koch brothers. But in papers filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s office, IWV reported spending only $5,700 to produce the ad and buy online advertising – no mention of any TV airtime.

In an email to Democrats sent Wednesday, Contra Costa County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Koertzen urged support and contributions for Bonilla because “the KOCH BROTHERS have contributed several hundred thousand dollars to support her opponent.”

Koertzen said Friday that “he was told by someone else that they saw it on TV,” and “we know from experience” that producing and airing a television ad “is at least $100,000, so we’re basing it on that.” Asked about IWV’s $5,700 filing, he said, “They’re hiding something.”

But Maviglio said just a few minutes later that it appears the ad has not aired on television at all; he said they checked with Comcast, who reported there’d been an inquiry but no ad buy.

So $5,700 indirectly from the Koch brothers seems to have leveraged $150,000 from Steyer and God knows how much more from other anti-Koch donors. Nice leverage if you can get it…

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 7 Comments »

The East Bay’s next big intra-Democratic battle

Sick and tired of the Democrat-on-Democrat showdown that’s drawing an obscene amount of special-interest spending and burying voters beneath an avalanche of sleazy mailers in the 7th State Senate District special election? Well, the East Bay might have another Democrat-on-Democrat fight right around the corner.

Actually, make that Democrat-on-Democrat-on-Democrat. Former assembly members Wilma Chan, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson all seem primed to run for the 9th State Senate District seat, from which Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out in 2016.

Wilma ChanChan, 65, of Alameda, served in the Assembly from 2000 to 2006, including a two-year stint as majority leader. She ran unsuccessfully against Hancock for this seat in 2008’s Democratic primary. An Alameda County supervisor from 1994 to 2000, she returned to the board in 2010.

Chan’s 2016 Senate committee hasn’t filed any reports yet, but wrote in a recent fundraising email that she has “had a busy Spring meeting friends old and new, and introducing my campaign for California State Senate representing the communities of the East Bay.” Her next campaign event, hosted by fellow supervisors Scott Haggerty and Richard Valle, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at the Spin-A-Yarn Steakhouse in Fremont; tickets start at $125, but co-hosts are paying up to $8,500 each.

Skinner, 60, of Berkeley, was a Berkeley City Councilwoman from 1984 to 1992 and was elected to the Assembly in 2008; she was term-limited out of the 15th Assembly District seat last year, succeeded by Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond. She’s now a part-time senior policy fellow at UC Davis’ Energy Efficiency Center, Institute of Transportation Studies, and the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy.

Skinner’s 2016 Senate campaign reported having $395,816.39 banked as of Dec. 31, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278.05 to the Senate committee – so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

Swanson, 66, of Alameda, was a top aide to Rep. Ron Dellums and Rep. Barbara Lee for 30 years before serving in the Assembly from 2006 to 2012, and then serving as Oakland’s deputy mayor through the end of last year. He considered challenging Hancock in 2012, but withdrew – and she responded by endorsing him for 2016.

Swanson’s 2016 Senate committee started the year with $13,461.93 cash on hand but $25,659.86 in debts; in April, it reported $8,500 in contributions from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. He has a fundraiser scheduled for Sunday, June 7 at a home in the Oakland Hills, with Barbara Lee as a headliner; tickets start at $250, but campaign sponsors can pay $4,200 to bring up to eight guests.

This race probably will have a very different dynamic from the current 7th District contest, where Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, is the labor favorite, while big business is spending money on centrist Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer’s behalf. Chan, Skinner and Swanson are all dyed-in-the-wool East Bay labor liberals – you’re not likely to see the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC anointing any of them as it has Glazer – and will be fighting over many of the same endorsements, contributors and voters.

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 3 Comments »

SD7: The Movie

No, not really. But the creative folks at the Contra Costa County Elections Division are trying to drum up awareness of, and participation in, the 7th State Senate District’s May 19 special election by casting the Democrat-on-Democrat showdown as a blockbuster action movie.

Cute. But I might’ve suggested any a more descriptive title for the movie, even though “The Money Pit,” “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “The Color of Money,” and “All About Steve” already have been used.

Maybe, “The Glazer’s Edge,” “Bonilla Soup,” “Bloomfield’s Millions” or “Susan Rae?” Leave some suggestions in the comments, readers; as always, keep it clean.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 6 Comments »

SD7: Sierra Club cries foul over use of its logo

One of the state’s best-known environmental groups is crying foul over misuse of its logo in the 7th State Senate District special election race.

Sierra Club logoApparently, JobsPAC – the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, which has independently spent at least $1.24 million on behalf of Democrat Steve Glazer – sent out a mailer to voters that prominently includes the club’s logo.

But the club has endorsed neither Glazer, who is Orinda’s mayor, nor Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

“The mailer from JobsPAC to Senate District 7 voters is deceptive,” Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

“The irony is that one of the long-time barriers to environmental policy progress, the California Chamber of Commerce, has used the Club’s logo on its JobsPAC mailing to try to win votes for its favored candidate,” she said. “Is this the start of a trend? Has the Chamber decided environmental groups are correct after all? Can we now expect the California Chamber to actually support good environmental legislation?

“I doubt it. But hope springs eternal.”

JobsPAC’s money is just part of the torrent of cash – not totaling between $6 million and $7 million – that special-interest groups have independently spent, roughly evenly split between support for Glazer and support for Bonilla. The special election is scheduled for May 19, after which the district’s voter surely will take long (as drought conditions allow) showers to wash away the stench of this obscene political money orgy.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 1 Comment »

SD7: Enter the Koch Brothers

The latest salvo in 7th State Senate District special election’s independent-spending war – which now totals at least about $6.23 million – comes from an out-of-state group with ties to the Koch brothers, America’s favorite/most-despised conservative money men.

The only good thing left to say about this East Bay Democrat-on-Democrat showdown between Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer might be that it’ll be over on May 19, two weeks from today.

Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative nonprofit, started airing a television ad Monday night on cable channels in the district, (see update below) attacking Bonilla for accepting gifts and travel from special interests:

As noted by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch, Independent Women’s Voice has received funding from the Koch-bankrolled Center to Protect Patient Rights, and has several staffers who’ve worked for other Koch-affiliated groups.

“So why are the Koch Brothers trying to come to Steve Glazer’s rescue?” asked Steve Maviglio, who runs a union-funded independent expenditure group that’s backing Bonilla. “That’s a good question. Maybe Steve Glazer can answer it – or denounce the special interests that are working overtime to get him elected for airing it.”

Glazer “dislikes the independent expenditure activity by all sides,” spokesman Jason Bezis replied Tuesday. “He said at the recent League of Women Voters debate that voters should immediately throw away and recycle all of the flyers in the mail. Similarly, he feels that voters should ignore all of the misleading media advertising.”

Bezis said Glazer would rather that voters consult “trusted sources of analysis such as newspaper editorials and local leaders who have knowledge of these candidates.” Judge their respective endorsements for yourself: Bonilla here, and Glazer here.

By my count, about $3.2 million has been independently spend on Glazer’s behalf, mostly by Bill Bloomfield – a Republican-turned-independent businessman from southern California – and by JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

And about $3.03 million has been spent independently on Bonilla’s behalf, mostly by Maviglio’s labor-funded group, Working Families Opposing Glazer; Putting the East Bay First, another union-funded group; and the California Dental Association.

Please note that these figures are changing by the hour, as more TV ads are aired and district voters’ mailboxes are increasingly choked with several mailers per day. Everyone on both sides is convinced they’re doing the right thing; I’m coming to believe that practically none of them are.

Glazer later Tuesday agreed the “campaign spending and special interest involvement in this race is over the top.” He said this underscores the importance of requiring more integrity and transparency of campaigns and elected officials, per a “clean government code of conduct” he rolled out several weeks ago.

Glazer’s plan would require lawmakers to refuse all gifts, food and drink from those trying to influence the legislative process, and would ban campaign contributions during the “crunch times” when most laws are being passed. It also would require candidates to make public any questionnaires they complete while seeking endorsements, ban any per-diem payments to lawmakers for weekends and holidays when the Legislature isn’t in session, and ban use of campaign funds to pay family members for services.

Not a blessed one of which would change anything about how this ugly this contest has become.

UPDATE SATURDAY 5/9 8:50 A.M.: It now appears this Koch-related ad has NOT aired on television as pro-Bonilla people said, only online – yet it has inspired a $150,000 contribution from Tom Steyer to the labor group supporting Bonilla. More details here.

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 6 Comments »

SD7: The saga of the GOP elephant logo

There’s more cross-party sniping in the 7th State Senate District special election, as the California Republican Party has told a Contra Costa County prosecutor to cease and desist from telling Democrat Steve Glazer’s campaign to cease and desist using GOP logos.

Confused? That’s probably how some want it. But here’s the breakdown:

Back in December, the Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorneys’ Association endorsed Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in this race. Association president Paul Graves said in a news release at the time that her “commitment to doing the right thing for crime victims has always impressed our membership, including her recent success in passing Assembly Bill 2501 which bans so-called ‘panic defenses’ in court.”

Graves, 46, has been a deputy district attorney for 20 years; voter registration records show he’s a Republican.

On April 9, Graves sent a personal letter to Glazer’s campaign demanding that it cease and desist using Republican logos and images in its campaign advertising. “For a liberal Democratic candidate like Mr. Glazer to deceive Republican voters by superimposing iconic Republican Party images … such as the GOP elephant on Mr. Glazer’s campaign material is a new low in dishonest political campaigning,” he wrote.

Glazer1 Mailer Rep Logo

Glazer2 mailer

Graves wrote that the California Republican Party has a long history of suing people and campaigns who deceptively use its images without permission. He demanded that Glazer’s campaign immediately stop distributing any such mailers, destroy any copies that haven’t been mailed out yet, and stop producing them; he also demanded a public apology from Glazer. And he demanded proof that the campaign had complied, noting he reserved the right to sue.

But the very next day, California GOP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon – a San Francisco attorney – sent Graves a letter telling him to knock it off.

“As you well know, you are not an authorized representative of the CRP, nor do you own any license, title or interest in or to any CRP trademarks,” Dhillon wrote. “As such, you lack standing to speak on behalf of the CRP, file a lawsuit concerning Mr. Glazer’s alleged infringement of trademarks belonging to the CRP, seek injunctive relief or damages, or take any similar conduct on behalf of the CRP.”

“In fact, the CRP became aware of Mr. Glazer’s campaign activities weeks ago, and resolved the matter… to the CRP’s satisfaction,” Dhillon wrote. Dhillon said Monday that she can’t discuss that settlement’s terms, but Glazer no longer can use the logo.

In her April 10 letter to Graves, Dhillon wrote that his letter to Glazer violated state law and professional conduct rules. “Your conduct in using your status as an attorney, which includes the publicly known fact that you are a prosecutor with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office, to gain leverage in this matter by masquerading as a person with standing to make threats, is an abuse of those positions and of ethical standards.”

Dhillon demanded that Graves cease and desist from holding himself out as an attorney for or representative of the party. “Should we not receive some written confirmation, preferably by return email, of your agreement to never repeat this conduct, then we will be forced to escalate this matter to the next levels on several fronts.”

Graves withdrew his letter and agreed to take no further action, Dhillon said Monday, adding the party enforces its trademark powers against Democrats and Republicans alike.

“In fact, the majority of the cease and desist efforts the party has done is against Republicans who use it to falsely imply the endorsement of the California Republican Party,” she said. “We always attempt to reach an amicable resolution to these matters.”

Dhillon in early March filed a federal lawsuit against the Asian American Small Business PAC for using the elephant logo without permission. That political action committee – which previously had almost exclusively supported Asian-American Democrats – funneled union money into mailers supporting Michaela Hertle in this contest’s March 17 primary. Hertle, a Republican from Pleasanton, had dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer; by supporting Hertle, the PAC clearly was trying to sap votes from Glazer.

The PAC has been granted several time extensions in which to file a response to the GOP’s lawsuit; its current deadline is May 4.

Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Republican Party | No Comments »

SD7: See Susan Bonilla’s first television ad

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla is launching her first television ad in the 7th State Senate District special election.

The clip includes former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, saying “Susan Bonilla is an effective legislator bringing people together to get things done.” Contra Costa County District Attoreny Mark Peterson and others then praise her record of balanced budgets, “fixing schools, creating jobs, fighting crime, passing historic pension reform, protecting the Delta and opposing the tunnels.” Miller then returns to say Bonilla “is true to her word and her actions,” hence her support by Democrats, Republicans, businesses, law enforcement and so on.

Bonilla campaign spokesman Patrick McGarrity said the ad started airing today and will keep running through the May 19 election on cable channels in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The campaign’s TV budget “is in the low six figures,” he said.

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »