Part of the Bay Area News Group

Alex Padilla to stump for Clinton in Reno

By Josh Richman
Thursday, November 5th, 2015 at 8:51 am in 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla will campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday in Reno.

Alex PadillaPadilla, a former three-term president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), will host a meeting with Latino leaders at the Hillary for Nevada Reno headquarters at 1:30 p.m., visit local small businesses owners at 2:40 p.m., and speak at the Washoe County Democrats Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner at 6:30 p.m.

“I share Hillary Clinton’s commitment to voting rights and expanding access to the ballot box,” Padilla said in a Clinton campaign news release. “That’s why I sponsored California’s New Motor Voter Act, which will remove a needless barrier to registration and result in the largest sustained voter registration drive in our nation’s history. While many states are making it harder for citizens to vote, I am proud that California is providing a positive example of how we can and should expand access to the polls.”

Clinton has called for universal, automatic voter registration, so every citizen in every state would be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, unless they actively choose to opt out. She also wants a new national standard of no fewer than 20 days of early in-person voting in every state, including opportunities for weekend and evening voting.

“Hillary Clinton believes that every voting-age citizen has the right to vote, and by making universal voter registration a reality for everyone, we make it much easier for Americans to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” Padilla continued. “From fighting for immigration reform to helping small businesses grow, Hillary has laid out a plan to strengthen our democracy and our economy, and I’m proud to stand with her in this election.”

Leave a comment

Speier named to committee on Planned Parenhood

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 at 4:18 pm in Jackie Speier, U.S. House

Rep. Jackie Speier is one of six Democrats who’ll serve on the 13-member select committee that Republican House leaders have convened to investigate Planned Parenthood.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, picked Speier, D-San Mateo, and the other five Democrats for what she calls the “Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health.”

Speier, an outspoken defender of abortion rights, made headlines in 2011 when she disclosed her own decision to have an abortion during a House floor debate on a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood. On Wednesday, she issued a statement calling this new committee “part of an obsessive vendetta that Republicans have.”

Jackie Speier“On their first day in power as a majority in 2011, Republicans introduced H.R. 1, a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. They have introduced bills attacking women’s health with a vengeance ever since, and earlier this year they threatened to shut down the government unless we de-fund Planned Parenthood,” she said.

“Now they’ve set up a Select Committee with no apparent purpose but to spend millions of taxpayer dollars demonizing Planned Parenthood. We have to make sure the public gets the truth: That 2.7 million women and men a year use Planned Parenthood for health services like cancer screenings, pap smears, and STD tests, and those services save lives,” she continued. “Rest assured I will fight to make sure the needs of millions of people who use Planned Parenthood and are often ignored in this ideological debate — people whose lives will be deeply affected by the outcome — will be heard.”

Pelosi named Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., on Wednesday to be the select committee’s ranking member, and in addition to Speier, named Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.; Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.; and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., as members.

Former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ordered the committee’s creation last month in the wake of a series of videos, filmed secretly and heavily edited by an anti-abortion group, in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss prices for procuring fetal tissue for research. It will be chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Leave a comment

Sanders bill would end federal marijuana ban

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 at 3:45 pm in 2016 presidential election, marijuana, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill Wednesday to end the federal prohibition of marijuana – an utter non-starter particularly in this Republican-controlled Senate, but good fodder for Sanders’ Democratic presidential campaign.

The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015” by Sanders, I-Vt., would strike all references to marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, though it would keep in place the penalties for transporting marijuana from states or jurisdictions where it is legal to those where it is not.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have legalized adult recreational marijuana use, and California is expected to have a legalization ballot measure – maybe more than one – on next November’s ballot. Ohio voters rejected a legalization measure Tuesday, but it was opposed even by many legalization advocates because it would’ve created a cultivation monopoly.

Sanders said on the Senate floor last week that “the time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off of the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs.”

This is the first Senate bill to propose ending federal marijuana prohibition, coming from the first major-party presidential candidate ever to voice support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for recreational use by adults. Sanders voiced that support at last month’s Democratic presidential debate, while front-runner Hillary Clinton took a more wait-and-see approach.

“His actions today speak even louder than his words last month,” Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s communications director, said in a news release Wednesday. “Hopefully, this legislation will get his colleagues in Congress talking about the need for comprehensive marijuana policy reform. The science is clear that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and that should be reflected in our nation’s marijuana policy. Sen. Sanders is simply proposing that we treat marijuana similarly to how we treat alcohol at the federal level, leaving most of the details to the states.”

Leave a comment

Rule change would hide politicians’ disclosures

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 at 3:14 pm in Sacramento

The state’s political watchdog agency is mulling a rules change that would mean dropping elected officials’ economic disclosures and “behested payments” reports from its website after seven years – effectively removing them from public view.

And in a state where lots of people often hold one or more public offices for way longer than seven years, that seems like a bad idea.

The proposed rule change would require that Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests disclosures and records of behested payments – charitable contributions directed by a public official to a charity of their choice – be taken off the Fair Political Practices Commission’s website after seven years.

Keep in mind that even in this age of term limits, a person can serve up to 12 years in the Legislature and up to eight years in a particular statewide constitutional office – though many politicians play “musical chairs” through several such posts for careers spanning decades. Many officeholders would still be in office when their earlier disclosures start disappearing, these disclosures are crucial tools for exposing the influence of deep-pocketed donors and possible conflicts of interests.

A rule like this would’ve made it much harder for me and my colleague, Thomas Peele, to fully report our October 2014 story about Gov. Jerry Brown’s extensive business dealings, or my May 2015 story about the many millions Brown has directed in behested payments as California’s attorney general and governor.

The FPPC had opposed a bill this year to reduce transparency around behested payments by allowing funds solicited from government programs to go unreported, but the Brown signed the bill into law last month, Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber noted in a Capitol Watchdog article Wednesday.

“A sole contribution solicited in 2008 may not reflect direct influence over a vote or action in 2015, but it can certainly help paint a trend and pattern over time of a politician’s relationships and who they rely on for support,” Balber wrote.

“Once upon a time, too much data might have felt like dead wood, too voluminous to be used in any meaningful way. Today, technology is giving us new and innovative ways to manipulate government and campaign data every day,” she continued. “We can do more this year with data provided in 2000 than we could for the previous 15 years. It’s the worst time to be taking information out of public view.”

FPPC staff will hold an “interested persons” meeting on this proposed rule change at 2 p.m. next Thursday, Nov. 12 at the commission’s offices on the 8th floor of 428 J St. in Sacramento. People also can take part in this meeting by teleconference, by calling 877-411-9748 and using access code 723284. Or, Californians can make their opinions known in writing, addressed to Commission Counsel Val Joyce at, or via snail mail at 428 J St., 8th floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.

UPDATE @ 4:35 P.M. THURSDAY: FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga noted in an email today that the proposed regulation change would let the commission remove the forms from the website after seven years “but will not require us to do so. It will be based on a ‘as-needed’ basis, which gets to section 81009 (g) which states that we (or any agency) may remove the form for space-saving or technical purposes as long as an original is still available.”

“And as for behested payment reports, we put them online as part of our goal and attempt to provide disclosure, and to provide meaningful and timely information,” he said. “As for why only certain ones are posted with us right now, it’s been a matter of practicality and labor availability.”

Wierenga said the FPPC’s goal “is to increase transparency through technology, and the new e-filing will do so. It’s also a goal to provide meaningful, current, timely information that matters most to most people, especially before an election.”

I replied that I didn’t understand why the FPPC, once it already has the Form 700s and behested payments information online, would take them down.

Wierenga replied that the commission’s staff in reworking its website found it had more than 300,000 PDF documents and began considering “what makes common sense in balancing the public’s right to know with privacy concerns, possibly outdated information, etc.” The proposed change would give staff some flexibility rather than having to go to the commission for approval, he said, and since the agency already goes beyond the letter of state law by not only retaining records for seven years but making them available online, “we figured it’s just consistent at this point to keep the time frame the same.”

“Once e-filing is the norm, and fewer and fewer forms come in to our offices physically, taking up time to scan and space to store –, yes, you’re right, we can and probably will re-visit the issue,” he said. “And there are obviously no plans for someone to sit at a computer in a few years to start deleting information at seven years and one minute and counting. We already go above and beyond what’s statutorily required… so there’s no reason to think, and under the current Chair’s direction, no movement to do anything other than streamline, make more efficient, look for ways to improve technology and disclosure, etc.”

UPDATE @ 10:10 TUESDAY 11/10: The FPPC staff has withdrawn the proposed rule change.

Leave a comment

Mike Honda pitches ‘Gun Violence Research Act’

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 at 2:33 pm in Mike Honda, U.S. House

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would regain the authority to research the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gun injuries, under a bill proposed Wednesday by Rep. Mike Honda.

Honda’s Gun Violence Research Act, inspired by a spate of mass shootings on top of the nation’s high death-by-gun rate, also would encourage improvement and expansion of the CDC’s already existing National Violent Death Reporting System, and would give doctors the right to ask patients about firearm possession, speak to them about gun safety, and report a patient’s threat of violence to authorities.

honda.jpg“In Silicon Valley, we recognize the power of research. My Gun Violence Research Act seeks to bring this data-driven approach to the public sphere so that we may develop a more pointed strategy to understand and ultimately better address the public health crisis of gun violence,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in his news release.

“It is my hope that by conducting research into the causes of gun violence, we can better identify warning signs, address any loopholes in oversight, and get people who are prone to gun violence the assistance they need,” he added. “How many times must we bury our loved ones from senseless acts of gun violence before we pass commonsense legislation to understand the problem our society is facing?”

The House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment in July that would’ve let the CDC study the underlying causes of gun violence. That same month, a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that limits doctors’ ability to ask questions and record information about patients’ gun ownership.

Honda’s bill has 36 original cosponsors include Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, but about zero likelihood of getting even a committee hearing in the Republican-led House.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence supports it.

“When the cause of death is the same for 32,000 people every year, that’s a public health crisis that demands attention. That’s why it is so important that the Centers for Disease Control study gun violence causes, effects and solutions,” campaign president Dan Gross said. “If this were any other issue — food poisoning, seat belts, anything else — this would be a non-issue, which speaks to the corporate gun lobby’s stranglehold on Washington.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said gun violence in cities like Oakland is “intolerable and truly represents a public-health crisis.”

“We are also just beginning to understand the long-term and crushing effects of the trauma inflicted upon children and families whose lives are forever altered by gun violence,” she said. “It is vitally important that the CDC be able to study gun violence and its repercussions in order to combat this epidemic in a meaningful and smart way.”

Leave a comment

Bay Area lawmaker wants to legalize ‘ballot selfies’

By Josh Richman
Monday, November 2nd, 2015 at 12:38 pm in Assembly

A Bay Area lawmaker will introduce a bill making it legal for Californians to take “selfies” of their voting ballots and post them on social media.

Marc LevineAssemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said it’s good for voters to share their civic participation. He’ll introduce his bill when the Legislature returns to session in January.

“As voters go to the polls this week, I encourage them to declare their participation in the elections process,” he said in a news release. “California law should encourage voter pride, political speech, and civic engagement through social media. Laws prohibiting this activity were written before sharing digital images over the internet was ubiquitous. It is time to update those laws to reflect technology and the world in which we now live.”

For now, section 14291 of the state Elections Code says that “after the ballot is marked, a voter shall not show it to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.” Anyone photographic their ballot and posting that photo on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media would be in violation.

But Levine notes that a recent federal district court decision indicates this state law might be an unconstitutional denial of voters’ First Amendment free speech rights. The court ruled that a New Hampshire law banning disclosure of one’s ballot – and levying fines of up to $1,000 – is unconstitutional, finding that the ballot selfie is a form of political speech that can be restricted only by meeting the highest standard of constitutional scrutiny.

“The ballot selfie is protected political speech,” Levine said Monday. “Elections officials must demonstrate public harm through nefarious use of ballot selfies before denying voters their First Amendment rights. I encourage California voters to exercise their right to political speech.”

Leave a comment

33 new White House interns from California

By Josh Richman
Friday, October 30th, 2015 at 3:41 pm in Obama presidency

Thirty-three of the White House’s Fall 2015 interns hail from or have studied in California, including 20 with Bay Area ties.

The White House says its internships provide a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. Interns work in one of several White House departments, including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of Communications, the Office of Digital Strategy, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, the Office of the Staff Secretary, the Presidential Personnel Office, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the White House Counsel, and the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

The California interns include:

    Demi Char of San Francisco (Wesleyan University, Conn.)
    Chamroeunpaul Chhean of Long Beach (UCLA)
    Jessica Chitkuer of Fullerton (Loyola University, Chicago)
    Emily Collinson of Tustin (American University, D.C.)
    Wendy Gomez of Los Angeles (Dickinson College, Pa.)
    Joshua Gray of Simi Valley (California Lutheran University)
    Reyna Harvey of Riverside (UC Riverside)
    Logan Heley of Overland Park, Kan. (University of Southern California)
    Brian Huh of Foothill Ranch (University of Southern California)
    Jonathan Kim of Los Angeles (Duke University, N.C.)
    Cerin Lindgrensavage of Los Angeles (New York University)
    Dawn Rauch of Rutland, Vt. (UCLA)
    Janette Valenzo Venegas of Los Angeles (New York University)
    Cheryl Wilson of Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara)
Leave a comment

Former House candidate lied to feds about threats

By Josh Richman
Friday, October 30th, 2015 at 12:53 pm in 2014 primary, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House

A Republican who ran against Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 9th Congressional District last year has been charged with lying to the FBI about death threats she said she received during the campaign – threats she now admits she made up herself.

Karen DavisKaren Davis – who served as the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder from 1990 to 2001 and as the Manteca City Clerk from 1981 to 1984 – is charged with making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations to federal law enforcement officers during their investigation into the mailing of threatening letters.

Davis, 67, was arrested at her Lodi home and then released after posting $50,000 bond Thursday, court documents show. She’s scheduled to return to federal court in Sacramento on Nov. 19.

She was one of three Republicans who challenged McNerney, D-Stockton, as he sought a fifth term last year. She finished fourth out of four in the June 2014 top-two primary, with only 6 percent of the vote.

In an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Treasury Agent John Hartman wrote that Davis contacted authorities in December 2013 to report she had received an anonymous letter that read in part, “You will be stopped by those who believe in the soverign [sic] rights. A close up shot to your head or to your husband will be final. You make the decision now not to run for congress.” Federal agents and Lodi police began investigating.

Davis reported receiving a second letter in March 2014, Hartman wrote. That letter said in part, “If you don’t quit very soon, you won’t be warned. YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING! Your family will have to plan a funeral.”

Davis mentioned the threats in several news stories about her candidacy, including articles in the Manteca Bulletin, Lodi News-Sentinel and

“It’s been scary and it’s like throwing a bucket of ice water on democracy,” she told the Bulletin in May 2014. “Nobody should be threatened because they’re running for office, but I’m not somebody that runs from threats. It has changed the way that I can do things, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get the word out and talk about the sorts of things that matter.

The investigation continued, and in February, Davis went to the FBI office in Stockton to be interviewed. She agreed to take a polygraph test but failed it, and then admitted she had written both letters and sent them to herself, Hartman wrote. In a signed statement, Davis wrote that she sent herself the first letter after Lodi police told her she probably wouldn’t be granted a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Leave a comment

Report: Calif., U.S. candidates mostly white men

By Josh Richman
Thursday, October 29th, 2015 at 4:43 pm in women in politics

White men still dominate electoral politics in California, though not by as wide a margin as the entire nation, a new report finds.

infographic-1White men represent two of every three names appearing on the ballot in 2012 and 2014 from the federal level down to counties, according to the “Who Runs (in) America?” report released Thursday by the Reflective Democracy Campaign of the Women Donors Network. Overall, 90 percent of candidates are white, 73 percent are men, and 66 percent are white men.

In California, 68 percent of candidates are white, 76 percent are men, and 54 percent are white men.

The demographics of candidates almost exactly match the demographics of those who hold elected office, as shown by the national “Who Leads Us?” report that the campaign released last fall. Of 42,000 people who hold office from the federal government down to the county level, 90 percent are white, 71 percent are men, and 65 percent are white men.

“The stark imbalance between the demographics of the American people and their elected officials will not change until voters have the opportunity to choose among candidates who reflect their communities,” Women Donors Network CEO Donna Hall said in a news release. “Women are half the population and people of color are almost 40 percent, and it’s time the people on our ballots reflect that.”

The new study analyzed more than 51,000 candidates running in nearly 38,000 elections in 2012 and 2014, and found the imbalance is a bipartisan problem. While 96 percent of Republican candidates are white, so are 82 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of independents; woman make up 24 percent of GOP candidates and 33 percent of Democratic candidates.

“This data shows that the problem is not that women and people of color candidates aren’t winning—in fact, they’re winning at the same rates as men and white candidates,” campaign director Brenda Choresi Carter said in the release. “The problem is that the demographics of our office holders are set when our ballots are printed.”

That is, the population that runs for office skews towards those who can afford not to hold a regular, full-time job; people who are connected to political networks; and people who aren’t perceived as “risky” by the political parties, donors, and other gatekeepers who select candidates, the report said.

Leave a comment

Fiorina calls HP/Compaq merger ‘highly successful’

By Josh Richman
Thursday, October 29th, 2015 at 9:49 am in 2016 presidential election, Carly Fiorina

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said Thursday that the Hewlett Packard/Compaq merger she engineered as HP’s CEO in 2001 has “been described as the most successful merger in high-tech history,” but there are plenty who say exactly the opposite.

Fiorina was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when she took a question from Yahoo news and finance anchor Bianna Golodryga.

“You scored a lot of points yesterday by honing in on phony capitalism and focusing on the mergers that we’re seeing between large companies across the board that’s really, in your opinion, disturbing the smaller companies that are still trying to stay afloat,” Golodryga said. “We’re seeing a potential merger at Pfizer, we see health care mergers left, right, and center. Looking back though, you know, people talk about your record at HP and the merger with Compaq. Do you regret that merger now?”

“No, not at all,” Fiorina replied. “That was a highly successful merger. It’s been described as the most successful merger in high-tech history. It was.”

Wait, what?

Even before Fiorina was fired by HP’s board in 2005, Fortune did a cover story on “Why Carly’s Big Bet is Failing.”

Fortune Fiorina cover 2005“Beneath the public image are the yardsticks against which executives are — and should be — measured. So it is right to ask whether this whirlwind has succeeded. And inevitably that question must be answered in two parts. First, under the only lens that matters, did the famed merger that Fiorina engineered between HP and Compaq produce value for HP’s shareholders? Second, with that merger nearly three years past, is HP in shape to thrive in its brutally competitive world?

“The answers are no and doubtful.”

CIO in 2011 listed the HP/Compaq merger in its article “Match Made in Hell: 7 Worst Tech Mergers and Acquisitions.”

“The merger made HP more narrow and shareholders and Wall Street did not like it. After the deal, HP’s share price dropped by a quarter,” the article said. “In 2005, CEO Carly Fiorina was forced to step down with shares at half the price they’d been when she started in 1999. The Compaq deal is seen as the genesis of Fiorina’s troubles.”

Tom’s IT Pro in 2013 listed the HP/Compaq merger as one of the “13 Worst Tech Industry Mergers and Acquisitions.”

“The ‘surprising success’ attributed to the merger of the company most responsible for the growth and success of the personal computer industry, with HP, is perhaps on account of a heartening realization that nobody died.

“It would be both unfair and incorrect to say that neither party to the most spectacularly celebrated merger failure in tech history did not see the culture clash coming (I count AOL + Time Warner as a media merger). Indeed, HP under then-CEO Carly Fiorina performed extensive due diligence in investigating the various cultures of competence in both companies. The thing is, its investigation used HP’s classic scientific methods, which may be as thorough yet as effective as an IRS audit of the IRS.”

And ZDNet just last week listed the HP/Compaq merger among its “worst mergers and acquisitions in tech history.”

“Under Carly Fiorina’s reign, the merged ‘New’ HP lost half of its market value and the company incurred heavy job losses. Fiorina stepped down in 2005.

“Since the Compaq merger, HP has endured numerous problems with failed initiatives, dubious acquisitions (3COM, EDS, Palm, Autonomy) and has been plagued with ineffective management, including two major ethics scandals that have forced Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and two CEOs in succession, Mark Hurd and Leo Apotheker to resign.”


“On August 1, 2015, HP split into two companies — HP Enterprise, which is keeping the servers, storage, services and software businesses, and HP Inc., which will sell PCs, printers and other consumer products.”

Leave a comment