Tom Steyer at center of union fight

A major union get-out-the-vote drive is in jeopardy as trade unions scoff at the inclusion of Tom Steyer, a Bay Area billionaire hedge fund manager and environmentalist.

Steyer had pledged $5 million toward the For Our Future SuperPAC in collaboration with the A.F.L-C.I.O. and individual unions aimed at creating a unified effort to help Democrats in key battleground states.

But Steyer’s involvement didn’t sit well with the trade unions who say that his environmental advocacy has cost them jobs. Steyer most recently opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a letter obtained by the New York Times, the trade unions made clear to A.F.L-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka that they wouldn’t join forces with Steyer:

“It saddens us that the very labor movement we have fought for and supported for over a century seems to have lost sight of its core mission and has moved away from us and our membership in the interest of headline-grabbing political expediency,” wrote the union presidents. The letter was signed by leaders of the operating engineers, plumbers, elevator constructors, roofers, laborers, plasterers and heat and frost insulators. Many of them have members who would stand to gain if the sort of energy projects Mr. Steyer has opposed went forward.

In a separate and even more harshly worded letter to Mr. Trumka, the president of the 500,000-member laborers union, Terry O’Sullivan, called the partnership a “politically bankrupt betrayal” of union members. “We object to the political agenda of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. being sold to a job-killing hedge fund manager with a bag of cash,” he wrote.

Steyer’s political advocacy group NextGen Climate didn’t shoot back at his union critics:

“NextGen Climate is committed to preventing climate disaster and promoting prosperity for every American and that is precisely what our partnership with For Our Future aims to do. Our new unified effort will help elect progressive leaders who are committed to a just transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit working families across the nation.”


Latinos not leading California voter registration surge

The surreal primary season has spurred record voter registration in California so far this year, but Latinos are not leading the charge despite being disproportionately dissed by the Republican presumptive nominee, new state data shows.

About 1.5 million Californians  have registered or re-registered to vote since the start of the year, according Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc. (About 900,000 of the registrants were brand new voters)

That’s more than double the number of people who registered in the first four months of 2012. The state hasn’t seen anything like this since in advance of a presidential primary since Reagan ran in 1980. Here’s the breakdown:

TOTAL 125%
AGE 18-24 88%
AGE 25-30 190%
Comparing 2012 and 2016 registration from Jan 1 – May 1.


So Latino registration is up, but it’s up in proportion with everybody else. The big driver are Democrats of all stripes. The party is getting an even bigger lion’s share of the new registrants than usual.

The Latino share of new registrations has actually dropped a tad —  from 26 percent last year to 25 percent so far this year. Overall, Latinos comprise 38 percent of California’s  population and 24 percent of registered voters. When it’s all said and done this year, the Latino share of the electorate might inch up a percentage point or two, Mitchell said, but the wave isn’t here yet.


Bay Area’s lone Republican state legislator can’t see voting Trump

catharine baker

There are few Bay Area jobs more precarious than Republican politician. And Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, the region’s only GOP lawmaker in Sacramento, knows knows she’s in for an even tougher re-election fight now that Donald Trump is the snarling face of her party.

“I know there is a possibility there will be drag,” said Baker a first-term incumbent from Dublin, who is facing off with former Pleasanton councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio.

Baker said she had supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich for President, and doesn’t know who she’ll back in November.

“I have not been able to imagine a scenario in which I would be voting for Donald Trump,” Baker said. “I disagree with him on so many things.” But she  has no intention of voting for Hillary Clinton either.

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Rep. Mark DeSaulnier discloses cancer diagnosis


Click here for an exclusive on Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s cancer scare. DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was diagnosed with leukemia last summer, but he has responded well to treatment and is planning to run for re-election this year.

Our story is by Dan Borenstein, who survived his own bout with cancer and is well acquainted with  DeSaulnier.

When he was the Contra Costa Times political editor, Borenstein wrote a 3,000 word profile on DeSaulnier, who was then a county supervisor. It’s hard to imagine any paper these days devoting so many words to a politician deciding on his next move, but it is a heck of a read. Check it out here, if you have a little spare time.


Mike Honda’s legal expense fund anything but flush

Rep. Mike Honda’s fundraising drive to pay legal bills stemming from an ongoing ethics probe is off to a surprisingly slow start. And his top adversary is questioning whether the incumbent from San Jose purposely stalled the effort so contributions wouldn’t be reported until after the June 7 primary.

The House Committee on Ethics granted Honda permission in January to set up a legal expense trust fund to defend himself amid a continuing investigation into whether his taxpayer-funded congressional office worked in tandem with his re-election campaign two years ago — in violation of House rules.

Honda spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds last year on the matter, but through the first three months of this year, his new legal expense trust fund had received three contributions totaling just $1,750.

Here is a copy of the filing: Honda legal defense fund.

The filing immediately raised red flags with Ro Khanna, Honda’s top rival for his Silicon Valley congressional seat. Khanna’s spokesman, Hari Sevugan, called on Honda to release the names of donors making contributions since the March 31 filing deadline. Those contributions won’t have to be released until the end of July.


“Given that the next reporting period isn’t until two months after primary day, and Mike Honda’s pattern of providing special favors to his top donors, the voters have the right to know who is funding his legal defense before they vote. Congressman Honda should immediately disclose all contributions to his legal defense fund between April 1 to today, and on a rolling basis going forward till primary day, as well as all expenses incurred for legal work done this year related to his defense before the House Ethics Committee.”

Honda’s  spokesman, Vedant Patel, demurred on disclosing names of donors and went on the attack against Khanna:


“Ro Khanna consistently tries to score cheap political points and smear the reputation of a well respected progressive champion while filling his campaign coffers with money from right wing millionaires and billionaires who want to dismantle social security, outsource good paying middle class jobs, and don’t have the best interest of Silicon Valley’s middle class families at heart.”