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California Dems respond to Obama’s ISIL speech

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 8:02 pm in Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror

In a nutshell: Supportive, with a few sounding cautionary tones.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, the President laid out his comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and his case for the expansion of military action in Iraq and Syria.

“The Constitution requires Congress to vote on the use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President and any Congress.

“We must re-establish the checks and balances laid out by the Constitution.

“The facts are clear. We are no longer talking about limited strikes to prevent genocide and protect U.S. personnel. We are talking about sustained bombing and the use of military force.

“The threat from ISIS is serious. But before we take any further military action, Congress must debate the threats to our national security, the risks to American servicemen and women and the financial costs of waging another war in the Middle East.

“As the President said “we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together,” that is why I believe the President’s plan requires a thoughtful debate and vote by Congress.”

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

“I fully support President Obama’s decision to utilize his authority to begin a counterterrorism effort against the terrorist army ISIL. I applaud him for recognizing the seriousness of the threat and for going on the offense against this threat.

“As the president said, the United States will lead a coalition of nations against ISIL to include Gulf states and other countries throughout the Middle East, Europe and around the world.

“Now that a strategy has been outlined, it is critical that Congress and the American people come together in solidarity to support the president and our armed forces. On such an important matter of national security, we must show ISIL we have the political will, the military might and the strength of a united country.

“In my 14 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have not seen a terrorist organization with the brutality and capabilities of ISIL. The group already occupies large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and poses a direct threat to the entire Middle East. ISIL has also repeatedly expressed its intent to attack the United States, most recently during the beheadings of two American journalists.

“Anyone with a sense of humanity cannot be passive in the face of this organization. It has killed, tortured and kidnapped thousands, beheaded children, raped women, crucified those it considers apostates and aspires to commit widespread genocide.

“ISIL is pure evil, and the time has come to end its reign of terror.”

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

Barbara Boxer“Tonight, the President showed what a real leader is-a President who understands the threats we face and that America must not face those threats alone.

“ISIS is a threat to the world and that is why I am so proud that President Obama has put together a broad-based coalition so that civilized nations can work together to degrade and defeat these terrorists.

“President Obama recognizes that in order to do this, we must remember the tragic mistakes of the past and conduct this operation without American combat boots on the ground. Instead, we will rely on trained and vetted forces in the region that have the most at stake from the ISIS threat.

“ISIS has already murdered two innocent Americans and has vowed that there will be more American bloodshed. These terrorists have threatened our embassies across the globe and said that ‘every American citizen is a legitimate target.’ They have also threatened our allies and all those who disagree with their demented ideology.

“There is no way the international community can stand by in the face of the beheading, crucifixion, and stoning of innocent men, women, and children by a terrorist group that numbers in the tens of thousands and has the finances to continue their campaign of carnage until they are stopped.

“Congress must stand behind the President in this effort by acting swiftly to provide funds so that the vetted Syrian rebels can take the fight to ISIS in Syria.”

Lots more, after the jump….
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Next week’s Commonwealth Club politics panel

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 5:00 pm in Uncategorized

Please come join me, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci and San Jose State University Professor and political analyst Larry Gerston at the Commonwealth Club of California’s “Week to Week” political roundtable and social next Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 in Palo Alto.

Moderated by club vice president John Zipperer, we’ll be chewing the fat about Tesla’s decision to site its battery “gigafactory” in Nevada instead of California; the campaign against Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s effort to split California into six states; and other hot political topics and campaigns.

We’ll be in the Schultz Cultural Hall at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, 3921 Fabian Way in Palo Alto; a wine-and-snacks social starts at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for club members or $20 for non-members and are available online; students get in free with valid ID.

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Holder praises ex-Oaklander leaving Justice Dept.

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 12:41 pm in Obama presidency

Here’s what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today about Tony West, the former Oakland attorney who’ll step down next week as the Justice Department’s third-in-command (to take a job at Pepsico, Bloomberg reports):

Eric HolderAlthough this is an occasion I’ve been dreading for quite some time, I must say it’s a privilege to join so many friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests in publicly thanking Associate Attorney General Tony West for his dedicated service to this Department, and to our nation, over the last five years; in celebrating the many invaluable contributions that Tony has made during that time; and in wishing him well as he opens an exciting new chapter in his extraordinary career.

I’d like to extend a special welcome to Tony’s wonderful wife, Maya Harris, and their remarkable daughter, Meena – who, as an associate at my old firm, Covington and Burling, is already following in the footsteps of her highly-accomplished parents. It’s great to have you with us today.

I understand the rigorous toll that jobs like Tony’s can exact – and the sacrifices that his high-profile roles have demanded – from the entire family. I know the many significant achievements that have characterized his tenure would simply not have been possible without your patience, your love, and your constant support.

I also know that it hasn’t always been easy. But I want to thank each of you for your service during Tony’s time in the Civil Division and the Associate’s Office. His hard work, his passion – and his steadfast commitment to our shared mission – have meant a great deal to this Department, to the American people, to the President of the United States, and to me. And your love and support have meant the world to him.

Now, we’ve still got Tony for a few more days – and we intend to make the most of that time. But I’m glad we could take this opportunity, while he’s still officially in office, to give him the sendoff that he richly deserves.

When Tony returned to the Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, in 2009, I was immediately struck not only by his skill and intelligence as a lawyer, his inclusive manner as a leader, and his capacity to motivate his team – but also by the empathy, the excellent judgment, and the seemingly boundless energy that he brought to every challenge that was laid before him.

Over the past five years, these characteristics have been clearly evident in the sense of direction he has provided, and the work he has inspired, in his colleagues and counterparts – but perhaps never more so than during the discussions leading up to the Administration’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

I’m sure neither of us will ever forget those meetings, the careful analysis and reflection that went into that decision – or the historic steps forward we have seen since then, thanks to the courage of citizens like Edith Windsor. And I will always be grateful for the sound advice and wise counsel that Tony provided at every step along the way – and that he has brought to countless other pressing issues, both before and since.

Whether shaping national policies, standing up for consumers – or helping to lead the national fight for equal rights, equal dignity, and equal justice – the impact of Tony’s work over the years has been clear. And it has been powerful.

More, after the jump…
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Checking in on money in Torlakson-Tuck race

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 at 12:06 pm in 2014 general, campaign finance, education, Tom Torlakson

In today’s story about the Field Poll showing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a dead heat with challenger Marshall Tuck, I didn’t have room to mention that Tuck appears to have outraised Torlakson in recent months.

Marshall TuckReports filed with the secretary of state’s office show Torlakson’s campaign had about $195,000 cash on hand as of June 30, and he looks to have raised at least about $239,000 in major donations since then. Tuck had about $180,000 banked at mid-year, and seems to have raised about $303,000 since.

That said, Torlakson is likely to be the beneficiary of massive independent spending by the teachers’ unions as the general-election season proceeds, just as he was before the primary. Tuck has received more modest but still-significant IE support from Manhattan Beach real estate mogul William Bloomfield Jr. (traditionally a giver to GOP causes and committees, though Tuck is a Democrat) and the California Senior Advocates League (which is funded mainly by Bloomfield and Eli Broad).

Tom TorlaksonTorlakson has fundraising receptions scheduled for Wednesday in Sacramento, with tickets costing $100 to $6,800 each, and Thursday in Salinas, for $100 to $5,000; he also is asking $75 to $6,800 for tickets to his annual BBQ on Saturday, Oct. 4 at a union hall in Martinez.

Tuck did a whirlwind bus tour last week through Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose and Oakland. He has a fundraiser set for Thursday, Sept. 18 in Costa Mesa, with tickets costing from $100 to $6,800, and he’s scheduled to address the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday, Sept. 25.

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Bay Area campaign calendar heats up

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 at 11:22 am in 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, U.S. House

The general-election season is in full swing, with a full calendar of campaign and fundraising events for Bay Area candidates. Here’s a sampling of what’s going on out there in the next week or so:

11th Congressional District: Tue Phan – the Republican retired immigration judge from Danville who’s facing off against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, for the seat from which George Miller is retiring – is having a fundraiser tonight at La Veranda Café in Clayton. Tickets cost $150 per person or $275 per couple; it’s hosted by Roger Petersen, who ran against Miller in 2008 and 2010.

16th Assembly District: California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte will be in the East Bay this weekend to stump and raise money for Catharine Baker, the Dublin attorney who’s facing off against Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti for the 16th Assembly District seat. Brulte and Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen will join Baker for a fundraiser Saturday evening at a Danville home, with tickets ranging from $100 to $4,100, and Brulte plus GOP volunteers from across the state will be out walking precincts for Baker on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, Sbranti and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, will kick off the Tri-Valley area’s United Democratic Campaign with a rally, phone bank and precinct walk on Saturday, and then wine scion Phil Wente will host a fundraiser for Sbranti on Sunday in Livermore with tickets ranging from $500 to $4,100.

15th Assembly District: Elizabeth Echols of Berkeley, one of two Democrats vying for the 15th Assembly District seat, has a fundraiser set for next Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 at the Piedmont home of Steve Schiller and Kristine Kaiser; tickets cost from $100 to $1,000. The other Democrat hoping to succeed the term-limited Nancy Skinner is Tony Thurmond of Richmond, who’s opening his campaign HQ this Saturday, Sept. 13 on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito; walking in the Solano Stroll on Sunday; and holding house parties next Wednesday and Thursday in Berkeley and El Cerrito, respectively.

Lieutenant Governor: Ron Nehring, the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, will hold a meet-and-greet next Monday evening, Sept. 15 at a San Rafael home; will address the Novato Republican Women Federated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16 at the Marin Country Club; and will appear with 10th State Senate District candidate Peter Kuo at a dinner Tuesday night in Fremont.

State Controller: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state controller, will speak at a Nob Hill Republican Women’s Club dinner next Wednesday, Sept. 17 at San Francisco’s L’Olivier restaurant. Swearengin’s opponent is Democrat Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, who has evening receptions scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 11 in Fresno; Friday, Sept. 12 in Folsom; Monday, Sept. 15 in Santa Cruz; and Friday, Sept. 19 in San Francisco.

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Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial portrait unveiled

By Josh Richman
Monday, September 8th, 2014 at 2:24 pm in Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s official gubernatorial portrait was unveiled Monday in a State Capitol ceremony featuring the ex-governator and current Gov. Jerry Brown.

Schwarzenegger portrait

Rather staid, considering he was perhaps the Golden State’s most larger-than-life governor in recent memory.

In a news release, Schwarzenegger said his seven years at California’s helm “were some of the most fulfilling of my life, and I am proud of all that we accomplished during that time – including passing groundbreaking environmental legislation, investing in California infrastructure and making landmark political reforms. It’s truly a privilege to have my portrait hang on the walls alongside California’s great leaders.”

He said Monday’s celebration “is also for all the people who served California with me during my time in office without whom none of these accomplishments would have been possible.”

Schwarzenegger paid the bill for this portrait, commissioning it from Austrian-Irish artist Gottfried Helnwein, whose past subjects include Andy Warhol, John F. Kennedy and Muhammad Ali. Helnwein’s art has been featured in prominent museums and galleries including the Legion of Honor, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor San Francisco, the L.A. County Museum, the State Russian Museum St. Petersburg, the Albertina Museum Vienna, the Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague and the Crocker Art Museum.

One piece of his work – a large painting of Death Valley – hung in the governor’s council room during Schwarzenegger’s administration.

Helnwein, 65, called Schwarzenegger, 67, “one of the most remarkable men of our times. He is larger than life, he is a myth, and he has already lived several lives that became legends.” But the former governor also is “a great lover and patron of the arts” who often visited Helnwein’s Los Angeles studio for long discussions on art, the artist said.

Portraits of former California governors have been on display in the State Capitol since 1879. Schwarzenegger’s will be hung on the State Capitol’s third floor, next to that of former Gov. Gray Davis.

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Fabian Nunez to lead campaign vs. ‘Six Californias’

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 5:49 pm in ballot measures, Fabian Nunez

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez will chair OneCalifornia, the effort opposing the “Six Californias” ballot measure pushed for 2016’s ballot by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper.

Fabian Nunez“Six Californias is an impractical, unworkable, and unconstitutional scheme that is undermining the California brand throughout the world just as our state is making an economic comeback,” Núñez said in a news release. “Our state’s diversity has always been its strength; tearing it up into six pieces is a solution in search of a problem that does nothing to address the challenges we face as a state that we need to tackle with the greatest talent pool imaginable: nearly 40 million Californians.”

The measure would split California into six states, each with its own government; much of the Bay Area, plus Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, would become the state of Silicon Valley. California’s northernmost parts would become Jefferson, as some counties up there have wanted for years; some North Bay counties would become part of North California; Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield would be among Central California’s largest cities; Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara would wind up in West California; and San Diego would anchor South California.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reports Draper’s plan to split California – now 14th among the 50 states in per capita income – would create both the nation’s richest state (Silicon Valley) and its poorest (Central California).

Núñez, 47, who served as Speaker from 2004 to 2008 and is now a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, will lead a political and legal drive against the measure. OneCalifornia was founded by Forward Observer CEO and former Gov. Wilson Cabinet Secretary Joe Rodota and Steven Maviglio, former press secretary and now a Sacramento-based Democratic political strategist.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment Thursday.

DRAPER map 022514Draper, 56, of Atherton, in July filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in hopes of qualifying the measure for the November 2016 ballot. Six Californias has yet to report any contributions by anyone other than Draper, who has put $5.2 million into it so far.

The deadline for counties to report signature verification is next Friday, Sept. 12, and OneCalifornia claims the qualification rate so far isn’t looking good: The measure is below the 71.0% validity rate required to qualify for the ballot in a majority of potential “states” and below the 67.4% validity rate required for a full count in half the “states.”

“I hope this will be a short-term gig,” Núñez said of his OneCalifornia leadership. “For our state’s sake, I’m hoping voters will not have to endure further discussion of a such an ill-conceived and meritless idea that’s become the subject of late night talk show jokes.”

If enough signatures are verified, however, Núñez says the OneCalifornia committee will explore a legal challenge. Based partly on my reporting, the OneCalifornia committee has called for the Secretary of State to investigate reports of signature-gathering fraud by the firm Draper hired, Carlsbad-based Arno Political Consultants.

UPDATE @ 3:44 P.M.: “These guys are spending an awful lot of time on something they don’t believe to be real,” Six Californias spokesman Roger Salazar said Thursday. “It’s no secret political insiders don’t like Six Californias because it decentralizes power to regional leaders. Six Californias gives us a chance, a choice and a change.”

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: Draper just issued a statement about Fremont-based electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors’ decision to site its first battery “gigafactory” in Nevada. Note that Draper is an investor in Tesla and Steve Jurvetson – who with Draper and John Fisher founded a prominent venture-capital firm – sits on the company’s board of directors:

Tim Draper“Today California has lost another opportunity to create more jobs, and improve our economic environment. Losing Tesla to Nevada is just another reminder that our state needs change. California has high unemployment and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is steadily increasing. Our state needs a massive investment in infrastructure and a streamlined process to help grow and keep businesses.”

“How much longer do we tolerate a monolithic, job losing California? We continue to live in the state ranked worst in the nation for business. Six Californias gives us a chance, a choice and a change—and more jobs.”

“Six Californias is our opportunity to solve the many problems we face today. Six Californias gives us an opportunity to create a better future for all 38 million of us. Six states that are more representative and accountable. Six states that embrace innovation and strive to improve the lives of residents. With Six Californias we can refresh our government. California is a beautiful place to live. Let’s make it a great place to thrive.”

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SD10: Wieckowski & Kuo speak out on Tesla

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 5:38 pm in 2014 general, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate

Electric-car manufacturer Tesla’s decision to site its first “gigafactory” for battery production in Nevada has brought a wave of disappointment from Californians, including the two candidates hoping to represent the Fremont-based company’s 10th State Senate District.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, looked for silver linings:

Bob Wieckowski“While I am disappointed in Tesla’s apparent decision to locate its battery factory in Nevada, I am proud of California’s partnership with Tesla resulting in significant job growth in Fremont, Santa Clara County and among the automakers’ suppliers. I am hopeful that as the company grows, Tesla may build additional battery facilities or other specialized facilities in California as it scales up manufacturing for current and future products. Our region continues to benefit from the growth of auto research and design investments in the Bay Area and Tesla is an important part of that industry growth locally. With more than 6,000 employees in our state and the new Model X on the way in 2015, Tesla will continue to contribute to California’s position as the green technology leader and highlight our commitment to job creation.”

But Republican candidate Peter Kuo noted the Legislature couldn’t reach a deal before adjourning last week on a bill to provide further incentives for Tesla to put the plant in California:

Peter Kuo “Over the past year California, and specifically the Bay Area, has seen tens of thousands of current and future jobs depart for other states. Jobs fleeing California has become common place, this is unacceptable and unsustainable for our economy.

“While my opponent Bob Wieckowski appears to dismiss the severity of this news, I am concerned about the economy and workers in this district. The type of policies that Bob has led on are a root cause of the exodus of businesses to more business friendly states. Since announcing my candidacy I have often pointed to California’s burdensome business climate that has resulted in an abysmal recovery in the Golden State. Tesla’s latest move hits close to home because many of those jobs could have filled by constituents of the 10th Senate District. I urge the legislature to take this seriously and stop the bleeding.”

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Kashkari video attacks Brown on schools

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 4:10 pm in 2014 general, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari

Republican Neel Kashkari’s gubernatorial campaign released a web video Wednesday claiming Gov. Jerry Brown is in the California Teachers Association’s pocket, perhaps presaging an avenue of attack in Thursday’s first – and probably only – debate between the candidates.

“The California Constitution guarantees that every child is entitled to an equal and quality education,” Kashkari said. “Apparently, Jerry Brown doesn’t agree that the civil rights of poor and minority children are worth fighting for.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris last week filed a brief on behalf of Brown and the state signaling they’ll appeal the recent Vergara v. California decision which struck down teacher tenure laws.

“It is clear where Jerry Brown’s priorities lie, and sadly, his priority is not the children of our state,” Kashkari said.

The one-hour debate starting at 7 p.m. Thursday is cosponsored by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California, and will be held in the California Channel’s studio with John Myers, KQED’s politics and government editor, as moderator.

KQED Public Television (Channel 9) and Telemundo stations in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno and Sacramento will televise it live and provide a simultaneous Spanish-language translation. The California Channel will also broadcast the debate live to more than 5 million homes across the state.

KQED Public Radio will broadcast the debate live on its stations in San Francisco (88.5 FM) and Sacramento (89.3 FM) and will distribute the debate live for broadcast to 30 public radio stations across California via its statewide news service, the California Report.

KQEDnews.org, Telemundo52.com and CalChannel.com will offer a live video Web stream.

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Former Oaklander to step down as Justice’s No.3

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 12:56 pm in Obama presidency

A former Oakland attorney who rose to be the U.S. Justice Department’s third-in-command will step down and return to the private sector.

Tony West 8-21-2014 (AP photo)U.S. Associate Attorney General Tony West – brother-in-law of California Attorney General Kamala Harris – will leave his post Sept. 15, the Justice Department announced; the release didn’t specify where he’s going.

West, 49, has been the department’s No. 3 since early 2012 but was there from the administration’s start, nominated to head the Justice Department’s Civil Division just two days after President Obama took the oath of office in January 2009. Before that, he’d been a prolific supporter of and fundraiser for Obama’s presidential campaign while working as a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday said West “has been an indispensable member of the Department’s senior leadership team, an exemplary and dedicated public servant, and a close advisor and good friend.”

Holder praised West for working on issues such as the Obama Administration’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s constitutionality; securing re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act; advocacy for American Indian and Alaska Native rights; and combating financial fraud, holding corporations accountable, and fighting for consumers. His work has “made a tremendous and lasting difference in the lives of millions of people across the country,” the attorney general said.

“I have been honored to count him as a colleague – and privileged to work alongside him. I thank him for his service, and his friendship, over the past five years,” Holder said. “And although I wish him the best as he opens an exciting new chapter in his career, I will miss his leadership, his many contributions, and his steadfast commitment to the cause of justice.”

A candidate in the 23rd Assembly District’s 2000 Democratic primary, he later served as a delegate for John Kerry at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 — meeting Obama there, soon after the speech that put the future president on many Americans’ radar for the first time — and then for Obama in Denver in 2008. He served as a California finance co-chairman for Obama’s first campaign, raising at least $500,000 and often speaking on Obama’s behalf at campaign events.

West holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, where he was the Harvard Political Review’s publisher, and a law degree from Stanford University, where he was the Stanford Law Review’s president.

In 1993 and 1994, he was a special assistant in the Clinton administration’s Justice Department, working on national crime policy including the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. From 1994 to 1999, he was an assistant U.S. attorney here in Northern California, prosecuting a wide range of criminal cases; his highest-profile case there might have been that of the “Orchid Club,” an international online child pornography and molestation ring involving 16 defendants in four countries — all convicted.

From 1999 to 2001, West was a California Special Assistant Attorney General appointed by then Attorney General Bill Lockyer to advise on high-tech crime, identity theft, the Microsoft antitrust litigation, police officer training, civil rights and police misconduct; in 1999, he helped lead a review of the shooting death of an unarmed woman by four Riverside police officers, which led to that department being forced to adopt new policies.

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