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Obama honors Cal labor scholar at White House

A Berkeley labor scholar and consultant was among those honored by President Obama at the White House on Thursday as “Champions of Change” for working families.

Netsy FiresteinNetsy Firestein, 62, is a senior fellow at UC-Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and a consultant on work and family, child care, women and labor issues.

As founder and director of the Labor Project for Working Families, Firestein led a coalition that passed paid family leave in California, which covers almost every worker in the state. She also co-founded Family Values @ Work, a network of 21 states working to build a movement for family-friendly workplace policies such as family leave insurance and paid sick days.

Obama’s Champions of Change program lets the White House honor people who do extraordinary things to empower and inspire their communities. Thursday’s batch of 11 honorees were selected for having worked within their companies, communities or organizations for commonsense paid sick and paid leave policies, equal pay and an end to pregnancy discrimination to support families, businesses, and the economy.

The president singled out Firestein’s case as an example, citing her lead role in enacting California’s first-in-the-nation paid family leave law in 2002.

“People said it was a long shot,” Obama said. “And 13 years later, only two other states have done the same. But Netsy has proved that it’s possible – California is growing, businesses are being created. Not only is it possible, it’s the right thing to do. It’s patriotic. We should learn from her example and get those numbers up. We need more states to join in.”

Also speaking at Thursday’s ceremony were senior advisor Valerie Jarrett – chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls – and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The honorees took part in two panel discussions on working families moderated by Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Roy Austin, deputy assistant to the president for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity.

Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Labor politics, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Clinton taps Kamala Harris’ sister as policy advisor

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has named California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ younger sister, civil rights attorney Maya Harris, to help lead her campaign’s policy team.

Maya HarrisMaya Harris – who also is the wife of former Associate Attorney General Tony West, who stepped down last year from his third-in-command post at the U.S. Justice Department – most recently was a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. Before that, she was vice president for democracy, rights and justice at the Ford Foundation; before that, she was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, based in San Francisco.

Harris, 48, is one of three senior policy advisers Clinton named Tuesday to lead the development of her campaign’s agenda, Politico reported. The others are Ann O’Leary, a former legislative director to Clinton when she was in the Senate; and Jake Sullivan, a top aide to Clinton while she was Secretary of State and a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris | 2 Comments »

Clinton aims to break James Buchanan’s curse

James_BuchananMy article in today’s editions about the Bay Area being “Ready for Hillary” included this historical fact: “Six American presidents had prior experience both as members of Congress and as cabinet secretaries; the most recent one, James Buchanan, left office in 1861. Then again, Buchanan is widely panned for letting the nation slide into the Civil War; as divisive a figure as Clinton might be, she’ll never top that.”

In case you were wondering, the other presidents who had been both members of Congress and cabinet secretaries were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren.

Also, Buchanan both was the last to succeed a fellow Democrat to the presidency by election, and was the last former U.S. Secretary of State to win the White House — a pair of 19th-century curses Clinton hopes to break.

Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton | 6 Comments »

San Diego’s Faulconer endorses Chávez for Senate

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, on Friday for California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race.

With state Attorney General Kamala Harris having locked down a lot of prominent Democratic side, Faulconer’s nod marks one of the highest-profile GOP endorsements so far.

Kevin Faulconer“It’s time we united Californians on the issues that matter to them,” Faulconer said in a news release. “Colonel Rocky Chávez is a fiscal conservative who’s bringing people together on issues like national security, education and making government more efficient.”

Faulconer apparently acceded to Chávez’s desire to use the title “colonel” – he retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2001 after 28 years of service – than his current title of “assemblyman.” That’s probably not surprising, given most Californians’ relatively low opinion of the Legislature.

“San Diego is home to thousands of veterans and active-service military personnel,” Faulconer said. “Colonel Chávez cares about our veterans – and as a Marine colonel, he knows what it takes to have an effective national security strategy, something that’s lacking in Washington.”

Faulconer is that rarest of birds – a California GOP rising star. Though he almost immediately ruled out a run for the Senate seat that Democrat Barbara Boxer will vacate next year, many in the GOP see him as a leading contender for statewide office in 2018. A San Diego city councilman since 2006, he won a special mayoral election in early 2014; his term expires at the end of next year.

Rocky Chávez“Mayor Faulconer has a passion for getting things done in his city,” Chávez said in his news release. “That’s why his support means so much, because as U.S. Senator, I want to create real immigration reform, bring our education system into the 21st century and ensure our men and women in uniform are fighting for just causes – and fighting to win.”

Two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, also have declared their candidacies, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, has formed an exploratory committee.

Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2015
Under: U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Hillary Clinton hires Google exec for campaign tech

A longtime Google executive will run the tech division of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Washington Post reports.

Stephanie HannonStephanie Hannon, Google’s director of product management for civic innovation and social impact, will be the Clinton campaign’s chief technology officer, charged with building new ways for the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady to engage with voters, sources told the Post. Hannon, a 40-year-old Democrat from San Francisco, is the first woman to hold the top tech post in a major presidential campaign.

My colleague Matt O’Brien has confirmed with Google that Hannon is departing to go work for Clinton.

Hannon’s LinkedIn profile shows she has held her current post at Google since March 2013, “building innovative technology to help people broaden engagement with their community, government and nonprofits” with a focus on “changing how the world prepares and responds to natural disasters, using big data and experiments to enable cities to make evidenced based decisions and sharing transparent election ballot, candidate and results globally.”

Here’s Hannon speaking last year about share how Google helps cities make better decisions with data:

Earlier, she was a product manager at Facebook from 2012 to 2013, working in site integrity and trust engineering – that is, “building product features and operations tools to ensure Facebook is a safe space for communication where people use their authentic identities.”

Earlier still, she was a vice president at Eventbrite from late 2011 to early 2012; a cofounder at Sensey, a startup that aimed to bring web technology to residential energy management through smart thermostats, in 2011; and a Google product manager from 2004 to 2011 in Mountain View, Zurich, and Sydney, Australia. And she was a software engineer at Cisco Systems from 1996 to 2002.

Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton | 1 Comment »

Ben Affleck for Senate? You can pledge $$$ now…

A Palo Alto-based political engagement startup has launched a new page giving people the power to pledge money to candidates for California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race – even if those potential candidates have not yet even expressed interest in running.

Crowdpac – described by Yahoo News last fall as “a Kickstarter for politics and a Match.com for web-savvy politicos” – has set up a pledge system in accordance with an August 2014 Federal Election Commission ruling allowing pledges, but not actual donations, before a candidate forms a campaign. Only if and when a candidate chooses to run will the user be charged.

Ben AffleckSo the group’s 2016 California Senate page includes declared candidates like state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, and Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, D-Oceanside; people who’ve expressed interest but haven’t yet declared, like House members Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; and celebs who’ve said nothing about entering the race, like actors Ben Affleck (D) and Kelsey Grammer (R).

Crowdpac already has a similar pledge page for the 2016 presidential race, including “say WHAT?” candidates like former Vice President Al Gore and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

The idea is to alleviate the chicken-or-egg problem in modern campaign finance: Many ordinary Americans won’t make political contributions because they feel good candidates aren’t stepping forward, and many good potential candidates won’t step forward because they don’t think they can raise the tremendous sums required to run a big campaign. The Crowdpac team believes their pledge system will get more people engaged and invested in the process, and avoid having a few rich people anoint their chosen candidates.

It’s an interesting team. CEO and cofounder Steve Hilton is a visiting professor at Stanford, and a former senior advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cofounder Adam Bonica is a Stanford assistant professor of political science who studies the quantitative measurement of political ideology; he built the algorithms driving Crowdpac’s various services. And chief operating officer and cofounder Gisel Kordestani is a tech entrepreneur who has worked in early stage startups, management consulting and spent more than eight years at Google in senior global roles in finance and new business development.

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Under: campaign finance, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Loretta Sanchez to meet with SF Latino Dems

Sure, Attorney General Kamala Harris already has raised a cool $2.5 million for her 2016 Senate run, but that doesn’t mean other Democrats aren’t still seriously considering taking her on – even on her home turf.

Loretta SanchezRep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, is meeting with the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club from 5 to 7 p.m. this Friday at Don Ramon’s Mexican restaurant, 225 11th St. in San Francisco. The event is co-sponsored by a bunch of local Latino organizations; there’s been some dissatisfaction voiced among Latino Democrats at not having one of their own in the Senate race.

This isn’t Sanchez’s first trip to Kamala Harris’ home base since she first expressed interest in running in January. Photos posted to her Facebook page show her at Don Ramon’s restaurant in mid-March with California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, and at North Beach’s Stella bakery the next day with former San Francisco supervisor Angela Alioto.

Sanchez isn’t the only Southern California House member pondering a run for the seat Barbara Boxer will vacate next year; others include Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

Harris is the only prominent Democrat who has declared her candidacy for the seat so far; Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, is the only prominent Republican to throw his hat into the ring so far.

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Under: U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Joe Biden to visit San Francisco, Oakland this week

Vice President Joe Biden is coming to the Bay Area this week.

The White House announced Tuesday that Biden will arrive in San Francisco on Thursday for a political event, and on Friday is scheduled to visit a PG&E center in Oakland to discuss the importance of workforce development and investing in job-training programs across the country.

His wife, Jill Biden, is coming as well, and plans to visit De Anza College in Cupertino to highlight the administration’s commitment to community colleges and their importance to the nation’s future.

The vice president last visited San Francisco in early October to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, and before that in late May.

More details to come…

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Under: Joe Biden | 2 Comments »

Rand Paul launches his presidential campaign

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul declared his presidential candidacy Tuesday.

“I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government,” Paul, R-Kent., said on his website, which features the slogan, “Defeat the Washington machine.” The website also features his first presidential campaign video:

Rand held a rally Tuesday morning in Louisville, and then is scheduled to start a campaign tour through the early-primary states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.

Paul might have an edge up on other GOP contenders by way of his appeal to younger voters from a wider political spectrum, as well as to the “disruptor” culture of Silicon Valley. His outspoken criticism of government surveillance programs and the war on drugs help him draw huge crowds at his appearances across the nation, including the fervent, standing-room-only throng that welcomed him a year ago at the University of California, Berkeley. And Paul has a head start on building a ground campaign, given the many loyalists he inherited from his father, three-time presidential candidate and former congressman Ron Paul.

But libertarians still comprise a relatively small part of the GOP electorate, and some libertarians fault Paul for being too open to military interventions abroad, his opposition to same-sex marriage, and his opposition to marijuana legalization.

His website also features merchandise including the Rand Paul campaign eye chart (he’s an ophthalmologist, remember?) and the NSA spy cam blocker, a campaign-logoed doohickey to place over your laptop’s webcam. (Heh.)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his own candidacy March 23, issued a statement saying he’s glad to welcome his friend into the primary race.

“Rand is a good friend, and we have worked side by side on many issues,” said Cruz, R-Texas. “I respect his talent, his passion, and the work he has done for Kentuckians and Americans in the U.S. Senate. His entry into the race will no doubt raise the bar of competition, help make us all stronger, and ultimately ensure that the GOP nominee is equipped to beat Hillary Clinton and to take back the White House for Republicans in 2016.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is expected to launch his campaign next week, and about 10 other potential GOP candidates are circling as well.

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Rand Paul | 1 Comment »

Reactions for and against the Iran nuclear deal

Members of Congress are weighing in for or against the framework for a final agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, reached by a group of world powers including the United States and announced today by the White House.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a Foreign Relations Committee member:

Barbara Boxer“Now that all parties have agreed to a framework, Congress has a choice: support these negotiations or disrupt them and potentially jeopardize this historic opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We don’t yet know the details of a final deal, but initial reports are promising, and if the U.S. had prematurely ended talks on nuclear issues in the past, we would never have had historic and critical international agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the New START Treaty.

“The Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to reach this point and I will work to ensure that Congress has the patience to support this diplomatic effort because the risks of walking away from the table are simply too high.”

From U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who led 46 other senators in writing to Iran to undermine the negotiations:

Tom Cotton“There is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons. Iran will keep a stockpile of enriched uranium and thousands of centrifuges—including centrifuges at a fortified, underground military bunker at Fordow. Iran will also modernize its plutonium reactor at Arak. Iran won’t have to disclose the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, despite longstanding UN demands. In addition, Iran will get massive sanctions relief up front, making potential “snap-back” sanctions for inevitable Iranian violations virtually impossible.

“Contrary to President Obama’s insistence, the former deputy director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has said terms such as these will allow Iran to achieve nuclear breakout in just a few months, if not weeks. But in any case, even these dangerous terms will expire in just 10-15 years, even though it only took North Korea 12 years to get the bomb after it signed a similar agreement in 1994.

“These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior. Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East. And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.

“I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to protect America from this very dangerous proposal and to stop a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“If fully implemented, today’s framework agreement would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, enhance our national security and show that diplomacy works.

“This is a major step forward for diplomacy, national security and global peace. This type of smart, strategic diplomacy brings us closer to a more peaceful and secure world while promoting U.S. national security.

“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and his diplomatic team for negotiating this framework agreement that promotes regional and global security.

“Today’s announcement is an important achievement for diplomacy, non-proliferation and President Obama.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president says negotiators have cleared the basic threshold needed to continue talks, but the parameters for a final deal represent an alarming departure from the White House’s initial goals. My longtime concerns about the parameters of this potential agreement remain, but my immediate concern is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief. Congress must be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted.

“After visiting with our partners on the ground in the Middle East this week, my concerns about Iran’s efforts to foment unrest, brutal violence and terror have only grown. It would be naïve to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.

“In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will continue to press this administration on the details of these parameters and the tough questions that remain unanswered. We will stand strong on behalf of the American people and everyone in the Middle East who values freedom, security, and peace.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Iran, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »