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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 »

California politicos praise Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Friday he won’t seek re-election in 2016.

As jockeying begins to see who’ll replace him as Senate Democrats’ leader (Chuck Schumer? Dick Durbin? Elizabeth Warren?) and as Nevada’s senator (Brian Sandoval? Joe Heck? Ross Miller?), California Democrats were effusive in their praise of Reid.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“There’s no one I’d rather have on my side in a legislative battle than Harry Reid. His leadership, friendship and passion will be missed when he leaves the Senate.

“I’ve known Harry and Landra for more than 20 years and have enjoyed their friendship. Together, Harry and I have taken on a host of issues on behalf of our neighboring states. It’s especially been a pleasure working with Harry on the preservation of Lake Tahoe and other issues that bring out the best in us.

“I’m particularly thankful for Harry’s support during the process of releasing the CIA torture report. Harry knows what it’s like to be in a dogfight. He knows what it’s like to be attacked from all sides. I always knew that after a particularly bad week I’d get a call from Harry offering his support, telling me he was behind me all the way.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and I look forward to two more years of working side-by-side to do even more. The nation is better off because of Harry Reid.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“I have known Harry Reid for more than thirty years and since the day I met him, Harry has given every bit of his energy and every bit of his devotion to his job and his loving family. Harry is a fearless leader who listens to all sides before taking a stand. He has known heartache in many forms, but he never let it get in the way of his hopes and dreams and dedication to every family in America. Harry is one of a kind and I am grateful that we worked together for so many years for the good of Nevada, California and the country we love.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“With Harry Reid’s decision to retire, Congress and our country will lose a patriot, pioneer, and one of the greatest leaders the Senate has ever known. Senator Reid is a master of the Senate, a reliable fighter for America’s hard-working families, a legislator whose leadership stretches back more than three decades.

“From his earliest days in the House to his tenure as Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid never forgot the hard-working families of Nevada he is so proud to represent. He has brought their values, their pioneer spirit and their determination to the Congress, and he has been an unsurpassed champion for the rights and opportunities of every American.

“It has been my great honor to call Senator Reid a dear and trusted friend for so many years. More so, I have been privileged to work with him in enacting historic and consequential legislation for our country.

“In the darkest days of the financial calamity, we worked together to pass the legislation that rescued our economy. We worked to pass the landmark Dodd-Frank consumer Wall Street reform bill, the most significant consumer financial reforms in a generation. We passed the Affordable Care Act and ensured that, in the United States of America, affordable, quality health care is the right of every American, not the privilege of the few.

“Senator Reid leaves a historic legacy of strength and achievement on behalf of the American people. He has helped to dramatically expand American investments in clean energy, passed bold and comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate, championed the Violence Against Women Act, and welcomed a record-breaking generation of new women Senators.

“His leadership and ability command respect on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress. Without question, Senator Reid’s departure is an irreplaceable loss for our entire country. But as he announces his hard-earned, well-deserved retirement, I wish him, his wife Landra, and the entire Reid family all the best in happy years ahead.”

Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Shocker: Ernie Konnyu won’t run for U.S. Senate

Attention, all 13 of you who knew that former congressman Ernie Konnyu was considering a U.S. Senate run in 2016: He’s out.

Ernie KonnyuKonnyu, 77, of San Jose, wrote an open letter to California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte on Wednesday saying the past week had been “brutal” to his hopes of running against Democrat Kamala Harris for the senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate next year.

Konnyu wrote that his longtime strategist, Tea Party Express mastermind Sal Russo, told him over “a great steak dinner smothered with onions at Frank Fats in Sac” that a run was inadvisable. Though he’s a longtime California Republican Assembly member, nobody deigned to introduce him at the group’s banquet Saturday. On Sunday, the president of the Bay Area Hungarian Freedom Fighters Association “pulled me aside and in a loving way chewed me out for even thinking about making ‘an unwinnable Senate run’.” And on Tuesday, his dinner conversation with his own wife and daughter “turned bitter as they could not see a chance to win the fight.”

“I know that I do have a responsibility to the Republican party in this Senate race which I take very seriously,” Konnyu wrote, outlining a long-shot scenario pipe dream in which enough Democrats would split that party’s vote to let him and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez – who declared candidacy March 5 – finish first and second in the top-two primary.

Riiight. Konnyu’s tenure in Congress might be remembered mostly for the sexual harassment claims he faced, which were part of the reason members of his own party ensured he served only one term. His letter Tuesday would be sort of funny, if not for the fact that Konnyu actually did slightly better than Chavez in a January-February Field Poll measuring the popularity (read as: “name recognition”) of 18 possible senate contenders.

“So Chairman Brulte, since I am now OUT, you would do well to find another strong Ernie Konnyu for the Senate race to increase the R win chances,” Konnyu wrote. “I state that as it would be a crying shame to simply waste Assemblyman Chavez on just improving future Republican support among Hispanics, as good as that is.”

Dry your tears. Konnyu promised he’ll “still still write a few checks to the G.O.P. and I’ll still help make the good fight on behalf of worthy Republican candidates.” He also promised to help “a brilliant Demo, Ro Khanna, who is willing to work with the Republican congressional majority, finally oust another Demo, the atrocious and uncooperative liberal, Congressman Mike Honda in the 17th C.D. (I hope the GOP will stay out this time in that unwinnable for a Republican district.)”

Yikes. With friends like these…

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Barbara Boxer cosponsors medical marijuana bill

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Tuesday became an early cosponsor of a bipartisan bill to end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana.

Perhaps she was feeling particularly green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Barbara BoxerSenators Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rand Paul, R-Kent.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., last week introduced S.683, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015. The bill would move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act – a list of drugs not recognized to have any valid medical use – to the less-restrictive Schedule II.

States would be freer to enact and implement medical marijuana laws without federal interference; veterans’ doctors could recommend the drug; research would speed up; and bankers could breathe easier when dealing with the industry if this bill became law.

Some advocates say having Boxer, D-Calif., sign onto the bill is a big deal.

“Sen. Boxer represents the state that led the way on medical marijuana, and it’s about time she took some action to defend the will of California’s voters from federal interference,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.

“We would have expected her to do something on this years ago, but better late than never,” he said. “A new generation of senators like Cory Booker, Rand Paul and Kirsten Gillibrand are leading the way on this issue, and it’s nice to see that even some lawmakers who have been around for awhile are starting to notice which way the political winds are blowing. This is a sign that the dam is about to break. Expect more old-school politicians to get on board soon.”

Boxer spokesman Zachary Coile said the senator “is a strong supporter of California’s medical marijuana law and she believes that patients, doctors and caregivers in states like California should be able to follow state law without fear of federal prosecution.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, marijuana, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Dianne Feinstein endorses CA’s assisted-suicide bill

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed California’s assisted-suicide bill.

“The right to die with dignity is an option that should be available for every chronically suffering terminally ill consenting adult in California,” Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to the authors of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act. “I share your concern that terminally ill California residents currently do not have the option to obtain end-of-life medication if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, one of the bill’s authors, said Feinstein’s support “is a big boost for our effort, sending a strong signal that the political momentum has shifted. When one of California’s most respected, thoughtful, and longest serving political leaders takes the unusual step of speaking out in strong support of a bill like this you know you are on the right track.”

The bill’s other authors are state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton. They released a list Tuesday of 70 current and former lawmakers who support the legislation, including 19 current lawmakers who have signed on as co-authors.

SB 128, modeled on Oregon’s law, will have its first hearing next Wednesday, March 25 in the Senate Health Committee. The bill would let a terminally ill competent person get a prescription for drugs to hasten and make painless his or her death. The authors say it has “numerous protections to prevent abuse” and “all participation is voluntary;” they note Oregon’s law has been in place for 17 years with no reported cases of abuse. Last year, 155 Oregonians used the law to help end their lives.

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Under: Bill Monning, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Lois Wolk, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, education, Oakland, Obama presidency, San Francisco politics | 12 Comments »