Part of the Bay Area News Group

CA17: Gentlemen, start your engines…

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 8:26 am in Mike Honda, U.S. House

It seems Ro Khanna will announce his widely expected 2016 rematch challenge to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District at the end of this month.

Khanna supporters received an email Tuesday inviting them “to hear his special announcement in person on May 30th! As a supporter of change and fresh thinking in Washington, you won’t want to miss it!”

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 30 at the Santa Clara Civic Center, 1500 Warburton Ave. An RSVP form has been added to Khanna’s campaign website.

Khanna, 38, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lives in Fremont, finished 3.6 percentage points behind Honda in November’s election after one of the nation’s costliest House showdowns of 2014. As I reported last month, Khanna raised about $800,000 in this year’s first quarter – or more precisely, in March, after CSPAN’s video of Honda, 73, dozing on the House floor Feb. 27 as his colleagues debated the Homeland Security Department’s funding.

Leave a comment

SD7: Open thread

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 at 4:31 pm in California State Senate

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Rep. Mike Thompson is quite the marksman

By Josh Richman
Friday, May 15th, 2015 at 2:33 pm in gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House

House Democrats’ point man on gun control is a pretty good shot, it seems.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, named by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to lead the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force after 2012’s Connecticut schoolhouse massacre, won “Top Gun” honors at this week’s Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation annual shooting competition.

Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus joined the foundation and representatives from the sportsmen’s community Tuesday at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Md., to shoot rounds of trap, skeet and sporting clays.

Thompson, a Vietnam combat veteran and avid hunter, outshot 35 other members of Congress who participated to win the top individual prize. But in team competition, Republicans led by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., prevailed over Democrats led by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., with a score of 235-227.

“This annual shoot-out is a great event that brings together folks from both political parties for an afternoon of fun and comradery,” Thompson, a former two-time chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, said in a news release.“It was an honor to win the ‘Top Gun’ award, and I look forward to working with my fellow members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to advance conservation, recreation and safety issues that are important to us all.”

Thompson in March joined with Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., to re-introduce a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads. Their H.R. 1217, with only six other cosponsors, was referred to Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs subcommittees and hasn’t moved an inch since in the Republican-led House.

Leave a comment

House passes bill on NSA phone records program

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 at 3:10 pm in Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House

The House voted 338-88 Wednesday to pass a bill that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records, the Washington Post reports.

Supporters say the USA Freedom Act would keep phone “metadata” out of government hands and make other changes to surveillance practices; some critics say that it goes too far, others that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The Senate still must take up the bill amending Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which without congressional action will expire June 1.

Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, voted against the bill Wednesday, while the rest of the Bay Area’s all-Democrat delegation supported it.

“Congress may have changed the name but the USA Freedom Act is just a watered-down version of the Patriot Act,” Farr said in a news release. “I commend the bipartisan effort to adhere to the 2nd Circuit Court’s ruling and to develop more safeguards to protect our civil liberties. Unfortunately, this bill still contains too many provisions that threaten the privacy of American citizens.

“I cannot vote for a bill that does not protect the privacy rights enshrined in the 4th Amendment,” Farr added. “The risk of faulty information collection is not a risk I am willing to take with any American’s privacy. Upholding the Constitution is non-negotiable.”

But Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, issued a statement saying “our government has a responsibility to respect people’s civil liberties and protect our national security. This legislation does both.

“It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe,” Thompson said.

Records of phone numbers, call dates, times and durations would be kept by telecommunications companies under this bill, not by the government. Company employees could still search such records under a court order specifying a particular person, account or address, but not an entire phone or Internet company or a broad geographic region, such as a state, city or Zip code.

The bill has the rare combined support of House Republican leaders and President Obama.

“In order to stay secure in these dangerous times, we must have the tools to track terrorists and spies. But the American people have strong concerns about a big government watching over our phone calls, collecting our metadata, and possibly invading our privacy,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“So the House has looked at the facts on the ground and recalibrated our approach to keep America safe while protecting civil liberties,” he said. “The USA FREEDOM Act stops bulk data collection while still making sure those fighting terrorism have access to what they need so they can do their job and prevent future terror attacks. That’s what makes it a good, bipartisan bill.”

But in the wake of last week’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the NSA’s phone-records collection program as illegal, civil libertarians aren’t happy with this bill.

“Last week’s historic court decision makes clear that this bill must be strengthened to protect privacy rights,” Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, had said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Following the court’s ruling, the House should have amended the bill to prevent the government from amassing and keeping the information of innocent Americans. The Senate should not make the same mistake and instead remedy the bill’s many deficiencies, which have been criticized on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “Letting Section 215 expire would be preferable to passing the current version of this bill, which fails to adequately protect Americans’ information from unwarranted government intrusion.”

Leave a comment

Sanchez is NOT declaring Senate candidacy. Yet.

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 7:43 pm in U.S. House, U.S. Senate

The Sacramento Bee, Politico and other outlets reported Tuesday afternoon that Rep. Loretta Sanchez had sent an email to supporters saying she would announce her 2016 U.S. Senate candidacy Thursday morning in Santa Ana.

Loretta SanchezBut a short while later, the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Finnegan tweeted that Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, had told him that a draft announcement had been released mistakenly. “I have actually not made a decision,” he quoted her as saying. “That is the truth.”

And a short while after that, the Bee reported that a Sanchez campaign consultant had confirmed the email was sent out in error. I left a message with Sanchez’s office a few hours ago, but it wasn’t returned.

Sanchez has been busy in recent months meeting with Latino Democrats up and down the state, many of whom have been concerned that Attorney General Kamala Harris – the only prominent Democrat in this race so far – seems headed for a coronation that keeps their growing bloc out of the loop. And the timing seemed right, as Sanchez, Harris and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles – who also is contemplating a Senate run – all are scheduled to address the Chicano Latino Caucus at the California Democratic Party convention this Saturday in Anaheim.

But this “She has decided! No she hasn’t!” fiasco isn’t a good omen for Sanchez, said Larry Sabato, who directs the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“When a horse stumbles out of the gate, it almost never wins,” he said. “It’s highly embarrassing and it’s a terrible start to what will be an uphill challenge anyway.”

Sabato acknowledged this must be “a tough decision for her because she’s giving up a safe seat in the House for a chancy run at the Senate. She certainly will not be the frontrunner; Harris has lined up a remarkable team and war chest.”

It’s rare for a single candidate like Harris to essentially clear the field for an open seat in so big a state, but given Democrats’ strong advantage, this race “is over before it starts if there isn’t a strong second Democrat in the runoff,” Sabato said.

Sanchez and Becerra would be wooing many of the same Latino and Southern California audiences, he added. “I would be stunned if both of them ran, I would be a little surprised if neither of them ran.”

UPDATE @ 3:38 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Aaaaand now Sanchez IS indeed making “a significant political announcement” at 11 a.m. Thursday in Santa Ana. Full story here.

Leave a comment

Boxer, DiFi oppose fast-track trade authority

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 3:39 pm in Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Senate Democrats derailed one of President Obama’s major second-term priorities Tuesday, voting to hold up consideration of “fast track” trade authority unless related measures are guaranteed to proceed alongside it, the Washington Post reports.

Sixty votes were needed to begin formal debate of measures that would pave the way for approval of a complex Pacific trade accord and provide relief to unemployed workers affected by trade deals. The vote was 52-45, with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the only Democrat voting aye.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had said last week she would vote for trade promotion authority only if it was accompanied by other bills providing income support and retraining funds for workers displaced by international trade; more power to enforce trade agreements and punish violations; and a trade-preferences package for developing nations in Africa.

“Whether or not Congress should grant the president fast-track trade authority is important, but I believe the debate shouldn’t occur in isolation from these related issues,” she said at the time. “If this larger package of bills comes before the Senate, I look forward to its consideration.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., spoke against fast-track authority before Tuesday’s vote.

Barbara Boxer“The last major deal Congress approved cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, lowered the wages of American workers, and increased income inequality. And we are still dealing with the legacy of NAFTA,” she said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. (Boxer and Feinstein both voted against NAFTA in late 1993, too.)

“They say timing is everything in life. Well, if that’s true, the timing of this free-trade agreement could not be worse for the middle-class families who we are supposed to be fighting for,” Boxer said. “We should immediately put this legislation aside and take up legislation that will help the middle class.”

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement after the Senate vote saying “free and open trade means a stronger America with more jobs and opportunity.

“This is something that both Republicans and Democrats support, including the President,” McCarthy said. “History has shown that in times of divided government, positive changes can be made on behalf of the American people. Unfortunately, it is the President’s own party stopping progress. The decision by Senate Democrats to block this bipartisan bill from moving forward is disappointing and a step backwards for our already beleaguered economic recovery. The House will continue to work towards passage of free and open trade.”

Leave a comment

SD7: IE group denies Koch ties, ethics claims

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 2:56 pm in California State Senate, Susan Bonilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Rep. Adam Schiff won’t run for U.S. Senate

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 10:09 am in Kamala Harris, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

One of several Southern California House members who had been considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year has bowed out.

Adam Schiff“After giving it much thought, I have decided that I will not run for the open Senate seat next year,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.” I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve as the Ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and feel I can continue to make a significant contribution to the nation’s security in that position.

“I want to thank my friends and supporters for all of their encouragement and advice, and my family for their support, and I look forward to other challenges in the future,” he said.

Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, are believed to be still considering it. The only prominent Democrat to declare candidacy so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro have declared their candidacies, while former GOP chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills continues to explore the possibility.

Leave a comment

SD7: Glazer blasts campaigning on BART property

By Josh Richman
Monday, May 11th, 2015 at 9:40 am in California State Senate, Susan Bonilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Ron Nehring to chair Ted Cruz’s CA campaign

By Josh Richman
Monday, May 11th, 2015 at 7:39 am in 2016 presidential election

Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring will serve as chairman of 2016 GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s campaign in the Golden State.

Ron NehringNehring, 44, of El Cajon, unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor last year against incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom. He was the state GOP’s chairman from 2007 to 2011, leading a robust fundraising program to pull the party out of debt; he also chaired the Republican National Committee’s State Chairmen’s committee during those years. Earlier, he chaired the Republican Party of San Diego from 2001 to 2007.

Cruz “is an exciting, Reaganite candidate for president who has demonstrated the courage needed to get the country on track,” Nehring said Monday morning, noting California’s relatively high poverty and unemployment rates “and a middle class squeezed between sky high taxes and a high cost of living.”

“To help Californians regain lost ground, we need a President who will set a new course for the nation that will re-ignite our economy by expanding economic freedoms and opportunity. Ted Cruz has proven he has the courage, skill, principles and experience to make it happen and I’m proud to join his team,” he said. “Our job in California is clear: to build the volunteer army and donor support to win the California primary in June when we’ll elect the largest delegation to the national convention in Cleveland and prepare the battlefield for the general election.”

Cruz, the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, also Monday named former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis to chair his campaign in that state. Cruz, 44, in late March became the first major Republican to declare candidacy for 2016’s presidential race – since then, he has been joined by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

“I am excited to add two incredibly experienced, courageous conservatives to our team,” Cruz said in a news release. “Saul has a strong record of leadership, success, and exemplary management in Michigan. Ron has had the courage to believe the GOP can win in California and has a record to prove it in San Diego. With their guidance, our campaign is going to perform exceptionally well in both Michigan and California.”

Leave a comment