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Clinton campaign hires paid staffers for California

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 at 8:36 am in 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton

Two seasoned political operatives have signed on as paid staff for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in California.

The Clinton campaign announced Wednesday that it’s deploying paid staff in each of the 50 states who’ll coordinate local grassroots organizing meetings and house parties, engaging her supporters and training volunteers. California’s paid staffers are Ian Leviste and Sam Schneidman, a Clinton campaign official said Thursday.

Schneidman, 26, the Northern California organizer, most recently worked as field director for the Australian Labor Party, but earlier was an organizer for President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns in Nevada, Alaska and Iowa. He also was a legislative intern for Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. , and for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Leviste, 28, the Southern California organizer, has been working as deputy Western field director for the Ready for Hillary PAC that was laying groundwork for the campaign.

Their mandate is old-school organizing: block-by-block, person-to-person contact. In the short term, they’ll be organizing house parties at which supporters can watch Clinton lay out her vision of the campaign during a formal kickoff next month.

As the Huffington Post noted Wednesday, hiring paid staffers all across the nation is reminiscent of “the ‘50-state strategy’ pushed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean when he was chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009. Dean argued that Democrats shouldn’t concede any state as ‘unwinnable’ and should invest resources in building an infrastructure in every single state.”

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Kamala Harris in NYC for summit & fundraiser

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 at 7:59 am in Attorney General, Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate

U.S. Senate candidate and California Attorney General Kamala Harris is in New York City today for purposes both official and political.

Kamala HarrisHarris will take part in a “Stop the Trolls” panel discussion on the issue of cyber-exploitation Thursday afternoon at the 6th Annual Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center. Other panelists will include New York Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon, actress and activist Ashley Judd, and Feminist Frequency founder and executive director Anita Sarkeesian; the moderator will be Yahoo Global News anchor Katie Couric.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak at the summit later Thursday afternoon.

Harris this month announced an 18-year jail sentence for Kevin Bollaert, who had operated a website posting nude photos of victims with personal identifying information without their consent – the nation’s first criminal prosecution of a cyber-exploitation website operator.

She also has convened 50 major technology companies, victim advocates, and legislative and law enforcement leaders to fight cyber exploitation through a public-private partnership focused in four areas: developing an industry statement of principles, education and prevention, law enforcement training and collaboration, and legislation and advocacy. And Harris in 2011 created an eCrime Unit to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.

Harris fundraiserTonight, Harris is raising funds for her Senate campaign at an “NYC Young Professionals for Kamala” reception in Manhattan’s Chelsea District, headlined by New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblyman Michael Blake, both Bronx Democrats. Tickets to the event range from $75 for young professionals to $1,000 for co-chairs.

Actually, Heastie’s name appeared on an earlier iteration of the invitation (seen at left, click to enlarge) but seems to be gone now from the ActBlue sign-up page. One has to wonder if that’s because this isn’t a great week for Heastie, what with the New York Times reporting on how he benefitted from his mother’s embezzlement.

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Neel Kashkari endorses Rocky Chávez for Senate

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 at 10:36 am in Neel Kashkari, U.S. Senate

2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari has endorsed Assemblyman Rocky Chávez for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016.

NEEL KASHKARIChávez, R-Oceanside, “is the right candidate for California,” Kashkari said in a news release. “His story reflects that of so many Californians who want to preserve the American Dream for their families, but are in need of a better education system for their kids and who seek elected leaders who will balance the budget.”

“We need experienced and tested leaders in Washington who are prepared to tackle challenges at home and abroad,” Kashkari added. “As a Marine Colonel and a California Assembly Member, Col. Chávez has the experience to effectively represent California in the United States Senate.”

Chávez thanked Kashkari for his “incredible support. He understands what it takes to meet challenges head-on, and we continue to need voices like his in California.”

Kashkari, of Laguna Beach, got 40 percent of the vote in November’s general gubernatorial election, defeated by incumbent Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown. A moderate on some issues, he had struggled all last year to shore up his standing with the GOP’s conservative wing – a struggle the relatively moderate Chávez might face as well.

Former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette opened an exploratory committee for the 2016 Senate race in late February, and is expected to announce his candidacy soon. Another former state GOP chairman, Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills, also is considering a run for the seat. Two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, have declared their candidacies, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee.

The only Democrat in the race so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who raised $2.5 million in the year’s first quarter and has been steadily rolling out endorsements in recent months. But a few other Democrats are mulling the race as well – most notably Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, who sounded like she was testing out her campaign oratory Monday in Orange County, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Bay Area House members headed to Armenia

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 at 6:04 pm in Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House

Two Bay Area House members will be part of the presidential delegation that’s leaving Wednesday for Armenia to attend Friday’s centennial memorial of a 1915 ethnic cleansing that claimed more than a million lives.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – both of whose mothers were of Armenian descent, making them the only House members with such ancestry – are making the trip. Other delegation members include Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew; Richard Mills, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia; Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.; and Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich.

Speier issued a statement saying it’s “thrilling and humbling to represent the United States and the Armenian-American community in remembering the many whose lives were coldly extinguished.

“From an early age, my mother instilled in me the importance of recognizing the genocide and the anguish the Armenian people feel about the need to acknowledge it,” she said. “I intend to speak the truth wherever I go. It is long past time for all nations, including the United States, to recognize the full horror imposed by the Ottoman empire and talk clearly about history.”

Activists are sorely disappointed that President Obama still won’t refer to the 1915 killings as genocide, for fear of souring U.S. relations with Turkey – the founding fathers of which were responsible for the tragedy, as the Ottoman Empire fell apart. Speier and Eshoo are members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, and both have strongly supported an as-yet-unsuccessful resolution recognizing the tragedy as genocide.

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SD7: The saga of the GOP elephant logo

By Josh Richman
Monday, April 20th, 2015 at 5:20 pm in California State Senate, Republican Party

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.

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Marijuana legalization measure filed in Sacramento

By Josh Richman
Monday, April 20th, 2015 at 4:23 pm in ballot measures, marijuana

A group that couldn’t get enough signatures to put a marijuana legalization measure on 2014’s ballot has launched its effort to try again for 2016.

MCLR logoProponents of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act went to the Secretary of State’s office Monday to make their initial filing; they then headed for San Francisco to join the 4/20 celebration at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill.

The proposed measure – which was immediately forwarded to the state attorney general’s office to receive an official title and summary before proponents can start gathering petition signatures – is the product of Americans For Policy Reform’s “wiki-like” open-source process, which took input from thousands of California residents.

“We hope this broad-based coalition of support will encourage further cooperation,” AFPR director and measure proponent John Lee said in a news release “We urgently encourage other advocacy groups to join us at the table.”

The measure’s backers say it keep marijuana out of minors’ hands; prevent growing on public lands; deprive cartels, gangs and other criminal enterprises of the proceeds from sales; prevent drugged driving and other adverse health effects; clarify the state’s existing medical marijuana laws; and save the state millions in law enforcement costs while generating millions in tax revenues.

AFPR tried to put a measure on 2014’s ballot but couldn’t raise enough funds for its petition drive. They’ve made some modifications to the measure since, and held a fundraiser in Los Angeles earlier this month.

“We have worked hard to bring people together and create the best law possible for legalization in California,” proponent Dave Hodges, founder of San Jose’s All American Cannabis Club, said in the release. “MCLR creates a comprehensive set of regulations to allow all types of cannabis businesses to flourish, and will net California billions in tax revenues.”

But one of the reasons the measure went nowhere in 2014 might be just as big an obstacle now. A larger Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform – chaired by Oaksterdam University executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones and including national groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project – had started collecting signatures for 2014 but then decided to hold off. The coalition now is moving forward with its own plans for 2016, with a far more extensive fundraising network as well as buy-in from many more established marijuana-related organizations.

Hodges in 2014 had said the coalition’s effort had sucked all of the fundraising air out of the room for his measure, making it impossible to bankroll a petition drive. He might find this year’s air to be just as thin.

UPDATE @ 4:38 p.m.: A marijuana legalization task force convened by the American Civil Liberties Union and chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will hold a digital town square on the issue at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at www.SafeAndSmartPolicy.org. The forum will focus on public safety, especially drugged driving, criminal justice, and environmental concerns; two more forums are planned for later this spring.

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SD7: See Susan Bonilla’s first television ad

By Josh Richman
Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 12:57 pm in California State Senate, Susan Bonilla

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.

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SD7: Would they extend Prop. 30 taxes?

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 6:05 pm in California State Senate, education, Susan Bonilla, taxes

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer says Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla flip-flopped on extending Proposition 30’s tax hikes to fund California’s schools, but Bonilla’s campaign said she has been consistent all along: She doesn’t support extending those taxes, but would support imposing new ones in their place.

The two Democrats are facing off in the 7th State Senate District’s special election, scheduled for May 19.

A new Bonilla campaign mailer that attacks Glazer for distorting her positions says she opposes extending the Prop. 30 taxes: “Glazer and his billionaire mega donor Bill Bloomfield are lying about Bonilla because they want to hide the fact that Steve Glazer was the ‘mastermind’ behind Prop 30, the $13.1 billion tax increase.”

The mailer follows that with a direct quote from Bonilla: “Steve Glazer and I both oppose extending Prop. 30.”

Bonilla

Josh Pulliam, Bonilla’s campaign consultant, said late Thursday afternoon that Bonilla has never supported an extension – whether by legislative action or another ballot measure – of Proposition 30’s taxes, and on several occasions has publicly corrected those who said otherwise.

She does, however, support a new, different, voter-approved tax hike measure to fund education in place of Prop. 30, he said.

Many apparently have been confused by this – perhaps including me.

In January, I reported on a TriValley Democratic Club forum at which Bonilla and then-candidate Joan Buchanan (who was eliminated in March’s special primary election) made their pitches.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnridge wrote this after asking questions at a televised candidates’ forum in February:

What to do when Proposition 30 expires, ending temporary increases in sales and income taxes? Buchanan, Bonilla and Kremin would put an extension before voters. Glazer would let it expire because a temporary tax, he said, is meant to be temporary.

And the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s March newsletter recounted a Feb. 4 candidates’ forum thusly:

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan favored extending Proposition 30 taxes, and a oil severance tax to continue to improve California schools—especially for the less fortunate. Steve Glazer, meanwhile, was against any new taxes and instead believed the government would have to live with the revenues it already receives.

Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis said “there are more flips and flops in the Bonilla tax position than an amusement park roller coaster.

“She blindly supported a Prop. 30 tax extension in the primary, even though the promise to voters in 2012 was that it would be temporary. Now, in the general election, she flops away from it because that broken promise hurts her,” he claimed. “After this duplicity is uncovered, she flips yet again and says she wants to raise billions in new taxes, but just not ‘Prop 30’ taxes. You can see why voters are dizzy with Sacramento politicians like Bonilla. They have had enough of the political doublespeak.”

Incidentally, the Lamorinda Democratic Club – Glazer’s home turf – was scheduled to take an endorsement vote last week, president Katie Ricklefs said Thursday. But the vote was scrapped when a Glazer campaign operative cited a club bylaw – not updated since before the top-two primary system took effect – that essentially precludes the club from picking one Democrat over another in a general election. “We did a straw poll that showed 100 percent support for Susan, though,” Ricklefs said.

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Obama honors Cal labor scholar at White House

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 2:10 pm in Barack Obama, Labor politics, Obama presidency

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.

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Rep. Eric Swalwell is having a good week

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 11:48 am in Eric Swalwell, U.S. House

It’s a banner week for the East Bay’s Rep. Eric Swalwell.

On Tuesday, the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry held a fundraising reception for Swalwell, D-Dublin, at Washington, D.C.’s Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar; contributors gave $500, $1,000 or $2,000 each.

On Wednesday, it became apparent that he barely needed Tuesday’s fundraiser. The first-quarter campaign finance report he filed with the Federal Election Commission showed he raised $330,136 from Jan. 1 through March 30, bringing his cash on hand to $534,161.

Mind you, that’s what he has left after giving $50,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and smaller contributions (usually $500 each) to a bunch of California Democrats in tougher districts, including Ami Bera, Julia Brownley, Pete Aguilar and Scott Peters – the kind of party tithing that helps members of Congress build clout for leadership positions.

And speaking of leadership positions, Swalwell – already a regional Democratic whip – on Thursday announced he’ll chair a new “Future Forum” of 14 young Democratic House members focused on issues and opportunities for millennials.

Eric SwalwellAt a kickoff announcement in Washington, Swalwell and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said forum members are starting a national listening tour with stops in New York, Boston and the Bay Area, with other cities to follow in coming months.

In the Bay Area, those events will include a town hall on rising student debt and college affordability from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. next Monday, April 20 in the event center at Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd. in Hayward. Swalwell and several other forum members also will hold a town hall on millennial entrepreneurship from 6 to 7 p.m. that night at the Impact Hub SF co-working space, 925 Mission St. in San Francisco.

“The issues of rising student loan debt, college affordability and declining millennial entrepreneurship do not just impact young Americans, they affect the health of our overall economy. Congress can’t afford to ignore these pressing challenges,” Swalwell said in a news release. “But we can’t just be talking about millennials; we need to be listening to millennials. To that end, we are crowdsourcing stories and ideas at events around the country and via social media and Medium to hear directly from our generation about how Congress can take action to better our future.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in the release that the forum members “bring the energetic, innovative, forward-looking leadership needed to meet the 21st century challenges we face. This effort is about bringing young people to the table and harnessing their dynamism, optimism, and hope to create a future where equality of opportunity exists for all, not just the ultra-wealthy and well-connected.”

Other Future Forum include Aguilar, D-Redlands; Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.; Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.; Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

All this unfolds while there’s not yet anyone clearly preparing to challenge Swalwell in 2016.

At this time two years ago, then-state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett already had announced she would take him on. But her third-place finish in last June’s top-two primary has called into question whether a challenge on Swalwell’s left flank can be effective in a district where 22.7 percent of voters are nonpartisan and 21.5 percent are Republicans.

Now, without a potential rival breathing down his neck, watch for him to spend more of his second term focused not only on serving constituents but also on shoring up his bona fides within the party to assure himself a more prominent future.

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