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SD7: Money & endorsements as endgame nears

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 at 3:07 pm in California State Senate

Independent spending has continued to run amok in the all-Democrat 7th State Senate District special election since I last updated the tsunami Friday.

To recap, unions are spending big for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and against Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – though Glazer has his own deep-pocketed, anti-union benefactors. Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan looks to be caught in the crossfire, and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin remains beneath the radar.

Mailers are flooding the district’s mailboxes, often several a day, as the candidates plan get-out-the-vote efforts like precinct-walking and phone-banking for the campaign’s final days.

Here’s where the independent spending stands as of Wednesday:

    Bill Bloomfield, businessman: $552,984 (pro-Glazer)
    JobsPAC (California Chamber of Commerce): $297,494 (pro-Glazer or anti- the other two)
    California Charter Schools Association Advocates: $128,202 (pro-Glazer)
    EdVoice: $23,570 (pro-Glazer)
    Independent Voter PAC: $7,539 (pro-Glazer)
    California Dental Association: $336,631 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Professional Firefighters: $154,928 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Medical Association: $83,439 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Building Industry Association: $66,526 (pro-Buchanan)
    Working Families Opposing Glazer (labor unions): $240,829 (anti-Glazer)
    Asian American Small Business PAC: $122,478 (anti-Glazer or pro-Michaela Hertle, a Republican who dropped out and endorsed Glazer)

The grand total: $2,014,619. And that, of course, doesn’t include the $669,000 the three candidates had spent as of Feb. 28 – a figure that will surely rise in these final weeks before next Tuesday’s special primary.

Buchanan’s campaign bankroll includes $75,000 that she loaned out of her own pocket on Feb. 28 – about 26 percent of what her campaign has collected this year.

There’s been no movement yet on the federal trademark-infringement lawsuit that the California Republican Party filed last week against the Asian American Small Business PAC. As previously reported here, the PAC – which almost always supports Asian American Democrats – has been using union money to buy fliers on behalf of Michaela Hertle, the Pleasanton Republican who quit the race Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer. Hertle and the state GOP contend unions are funneling money through the PAC to produce mailers urging Republicans to vote for Hertle, thereby sapping votes from Glazer.

The party complains the PAC used its elephant logo without permission; party vice chairwoman and attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Wednesday she has not yet been able to serve the committee with the complaint, but she’s sending its officers and vendors letters warning them to preserve evidence for the case.

In other news, Bonilla has continued to rack up significant endorsements in the past few weeks, including those of the California Labor Federation and former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. Miller called her “a proven leader who has delivered balanced budgets, improved our schools, fought to protect the Delta, and created new opportunities for middle-class families.”

Clean Water Action endorsed Buchanan last week.

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Boxer & Feinstein blast GOP senators’ Iran letter

By Josh Richman
Monday, March 9th, 2015 at 3:50 pm in Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Iran, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate

California’s U.S. Senators say 47 Republicans led by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., went out of bounds by sending an open letter to Iran’s leaders to undermine the State Department’s work to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal.

The letter notes any treaty the Obama administration might ink would require a two-thirds Senate vote for ratification, and another type of agreement would require two-thirds votes of the House and Senate. “Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” it says, before observing that Obama will leave office in 2017 “while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”

“What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” the letter says. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Before anyone goes saying, “Aw, gee, that’s just a ‘Schoolhouse Rock!‘ lesson in American government, no harm done,” consider how inane and condescending it would be to believe Iran’s government and negotiators don’t know how our government works.

Clearly it’s Republicans’ attempt to scuttle these negotiations without running afoul of the Logan Act – a federal law that makes it a felony for any American to attempt to negotiate with a foreign government or attempt to influence foreign policy without clear authority from the executive branch. By sticking to an explanation of how Congress and the executive branch work, the Republicans can say they’re just engaging in discussions with foreign officials in pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution – perfectly legal.

Of course, Cotton said plainly in January that he hoped to scuttle these negotiations. He also was ready to upend the Constitution in 2013, proposing to imprison the families of anyone who violates U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Democrats reacted to Cotton’s ploy angrily Monday.

From Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This is a brazen attempt by Senate Republicans to sabotage negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. This bizarre, inappropriate letter is a desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement and the chance for a peaceful resolution, which is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world.”

From Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I am appalled at the latest step of 47 Republicans to blow up a major effort by our country and the world powers to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear program.

“This is a highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion into the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign affairs and is not befitting this chamber. This letter only serves one purpose—to destroy an ongoing negotiation to reach a diplomatic agreement in its closing days.”

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Snoop Dogg & Ron Conway do an anti-gun duet

By Josh Richman
Monday, March 9th, 2015 at 11:38 am in gun control

With their minds on their money and their money on their minds, Snoop Dogg and Ron Conway have teamed up to call for divestment from the gun industry.

It’s hard to picture the iconic Los Angeles rapper and the renowned San Francisco “angel investor” kicking back over some gin and juice, but they’ve gone in together on a public service announcement for a cause they both hold dear. Conway is calling on the c-suite of tech companies to offer socially responsible, “no guns allowed” investment options, and Snoop Dogg is enlisting the support of the entertainment industry and his fans to declare #ImUnloading in the name of those touched by the tragedy of gun violence.

Also in the video are Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Los Angeles Clippers small forward Matt Barnes; actress/singer Margot Bingham; singer/songwriter/producer Aloe Blacc; singer/songwriter Jhené Aiko; and League Of Young Voters’ Executive Director Rob Biko Baker.

“I’m unloading for my loved ones that I’ve lost,” Snoop Dogg said. “I’m going all in for gun-free investing.”

The PSA, from Campaign to Unload and States United to Prevent Gun Violence, is the second installment of support for their Unload Your 401k project, a resource that lets people find out whether their retirement funds are invested in gun makers and supporting groups like the National Rifle Assocaition.

“There is a straight line from gun industry investment, to gun industry profits, to funding of the NRA,” Jennifer Fiore, Campaign to Unload’s executive director, said in a news release. “Half the value of these companies comes from mutual funds and most of the ‘investors’ in these funds have no idea they are inadvertently part of the problem. Now they can be part of the solution.”

Snoop Dogg partnered with the League of Young Voters in 2013 to launch “No Guns Allowed,” a non-partisan anti-gun violence campaign to raise awareness about our nation’s ongoing battle with gun violence. The campaign was inspired by Snoop Dogg’s peaceful song of the same name from his Reincarnated album.

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Kashkari and Whitman sign same-sex marriage brief

By Josh Richman
Friday, March 6th, 2015 at 8:39 am in Meg Whitman, Neel Kashkari, Republican Party, Republican politics, same-sex marriage

Former California gubernatorial candidates Neel Kashkari and Meg Whitman are among more than 300 Republicans and conservatives who signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Project Right Side and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman formally filed the amicus brief Thursday evening involving four cases to be heard on April 28 concerning government recognition of the freedom to marry.

The signers “want to convey to the court that they support traditional conservative values, including the belief in the importance of stable families, as well as the commitment to limited government and the protection of individual freedom,” a news release said. “Furthermore they believe that those conservative values are consistent with affording civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held marriage to be a fundamental right.”

Mehlman said the brief “adds an important and different voice in the struggle for marriage equality both before the Court and also to millions of Americans at a ‘teaching moment.’ It is another reflection of the growing national support for freedom and liberty for gay and lesbian Americans – support that clearly crosses partisan and ideological lines.”

In 2013, Mehlman submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry – the case that resulted in California’s Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage being overturned – with 131 Republican signers.

Other signers of this new brief include former California House members Mary Bono and Michael Huffington; the consultants who have run California’s past three Republican gubernatorial campaigns – Steve Schmidt, Mike Murphy, and Aaron McLear; Josh Ginsberg, former political director for Arnold Schwarzenegger; Tucker Bounds, former communications director for Whitman; and Andrea Saul, former communications director for 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina.

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Rocky Chávez declares candidacy for Senate

By Josh Richman
Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at 10:13 am in Barbara Boxer, Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez on Thursday became the first prominent Republican to declare candidacy for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016.

Chávez, R-Oceanside, said he plans to focus on strengthening national security, creating more education opportunities for our children and improving our economy for all Californians.

Rocky Chávez“Our national security is a major concern, with ISIS growing bolder every day,” Chávez said. “If things get worse overseas, who would Californians want representing them in the Senate? A lawyer from San Francisco, or a Marine Colonel who knows how lives can be protected and understands the importance of keeping America and her allies safe and secure?”

Chávez, 63, said Californians “want to take their state back” and “are looking for someone who shares their story.”

“My father taught me the value of hard work in the grape fields with my uncles and cousins, which led to my success in the military and desire to give back through public service,” he said. “I learned about the American Dream from my father, but I’m afraid we risk losing that dream for our children if we can’t get our country back on track.”

Chávez is in his second term representing the 76th Assembly District in northern San Diego County. Earlier, he was acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs and an Oceanside councilman; he’s retired from the Marine Corps.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, declared candidacy in January for the senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate next year. Harris polls strongest among those who have expressed interest in the race; a Field Poll last month found 46 percent of likely voters would be inclined to vote for her, while 20 percent would be inclined to vote for Chávez.

Two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, say they’re running too, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has formed an exploratory committee for the race.

On the Democratic side, two who were thought to be potential rivals to Harris – hedge fund billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer of San Francisco, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have decided not to run. But several other Democrats still are pondering the contest, including House members Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles; and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.

Chávez’s status as a moderate – on issues such as same-sex marriage, immigration and his statement that he wouldn’t vote to repeal Obamacare – has some conservatives chafing.

“Rocky Chávez is not so much a Republican, or a Democrat or nonpartisan as he is a opportunist. To get where he wants to go, Rocky Chávez will say whatever he things it will take,” Stephen Frank, publisher of California Political News and Views and a past president of the conservative grassroots California Republican Assembly, wrote in his online column Wednesday.

Frank, who said he supports Del Beccaro for this race, said Chávez’s candidacy “is being supported by the same folks that talked Neel Kashkari into running. But Kashkari was new to politics, did not understand the goal was not to win in November, but to assure a solid Republican was not the nominee. Poor Neel, after he won the primary, his primary ‘friends’ stopped returning his calls. So he lost by 20 points.”

“Is Rocky the 2016 version of Kashkari, put into the race to assure NO Republican is on the November 2016 U.S. Senate ballot?” Frank wrote. “Only time will tell. What is certain now is that it is uncertain who Rocky will be and what he will believe in the future – being a member of the Opportunist Party does that to a guy.”

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Ballot measure proposes all LGBT people be shot

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 4:41 pm in ballot measures

Insane, the work of a bigoted asshat, or a miserably failed attempt at satire? You decide.

Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin last week submitted to the California Attorney General’s office a proposed ballot measure that would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Yes, you read that right.

“Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,” the proposed measure reads.

McLaughlin’s “Sodomite Suppression Act” also would make distribution of “sodomistic propaganda” – which McLaughlin defines as “anything aimed at creating interest in or acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman” – punishable by a $1 million fine, up to 10 years in prison, and expulsion from California. And it would bar anyone “who is a sodomite, or who espouses sodomistic propaganda or who belongs to any group that does” from holding public office or receiving public benefits – though that seems redundant, since the measure would ensure such people already are dead or in prison.

Finally, the proposed measure specifies that it “shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder.”

The “hereunder” is a nice touch, sort of gives it a ring of legalese. Never mind that almost every part of this measure is blatantly unconstitutional – and, very likely, utterly insane.

Remember, McLaughlin is an attorney: His State Bar of California record shows he earned an undergraduate degree from UC-Irvine and a law degree from George Mason University School of Law in Virginia – his professors must be SO proud – before being admitted to practice law in 1998.

Opponents have begun an online petition urging the State Bar to disbar McLaughlin.

“Advocating the murder of innocent citizens clearly demonstrates moral turpitude and abuse of the law,” the petition says. “It is disturbing and outrageous that a lawyer admitted to the California State Bar would disgrace the profession and the state. This immoral individual is unfit to practice law. He should be immediately be barred from practicing law in California.”

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office has no choice but to take it seriously, and begin the process of developing a title and summary under which McLaughlin can circulate petitions to place this on next year’s ballot.

Your tax dollars will pay for the time and effort it takes to do this. Unlike those in some arguably wiser states, California’s ballot-measure process doesn’t include any review to determine whether an idea is constitutionally plausible before it hits the streets.

But oh, to be a fly on the wall as McLaughlin goes out asking people to sign his petitions. It should be quite a sight to see.

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Sandra Fluke to direct liberal group’s CA office

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 12:58 pm in California State Senate

Sandra Fluke – the Los Angeles attorney who came to national prominence in 2012 as Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” after her testimony to House Democrats on Obamacare’s contraception mandates – has a new job.

Sandra FlukeFluke, 33, who ran unsuccessfully last year in the 26th State Senate District, will head the new California office of Voices for Progress, a national liberal advocacy group. She said the group recognizes that “as the world’s seventh largest economy, California can provide a model for the states, the federal government, and even other countries.

“We must transition to an environmentally sustainable economy, ensure that economic opportunity is shared by all, and guarantee that all have a voice in our democracy,” she said. “I look forward to working with Voices members, industry and labor leaders, the advocacy community, and our elected officials to ensure that California consistently leads in these areas and in shaping federal policy as well.”

Voices for Progress since 2010 has been working on issues such as ending filibuster abuse that halted judicial confirmations in the Senate; reducing income inequality; and combating climate change, including opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. The group’s prominent California members include Democratic activists and fundraisers such as Quinn Delaney and Wayne Jordan of Piedmont and Wade and Lorna Randlett of San Francisco.

“With Sandra’s great leadership, we will be able to increase this federal work while we also help California continue its leadership on climate, and restore its past leadership in providing a first-rate education and economic opportunity,” said Voices for Progress founder and president Sandy Newman.

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House members reintroduce background-check bill

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 12:08 pm in gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House

A bipiartisan group of House members led by the Bay Area’s Mike Thompson and Pete King, R-N.Y., has re-introduced a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

But with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, the bill seems doomed from the get-go – especially given that it went nowhere in the last Congress.

H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, would provide exceptions for family and friend transfers. Its original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Bob Dold, R-Ill.; Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y.

Mike Thompson“This anti-criminal, pro-Second Amendment bill will help keep spouses, kids and communities safe by preventing dangerous people from getting guns,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Background checks are the first line of defense in our efforts to keep guns from criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, and Congress should fortify that first line of defense by passing our bipartisan bill to close the system’s loopholes.”

King noted the bill also would improve state and federal record-keeping to strengthen the background-check database, and would create a commission to examine mass-violence incidents.

“When background checks are used, they keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” he said. “It is estimated that four out of 10 gun buyers do not go through a background check when purchasing a firearm – meaning those with criminal records can easily bypass the system. As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and when it comes to gun violence we must do more.”

The bill’s authors say studies show that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. But in much of the nation, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked.

But the bill also bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also provides exceptions for firearms transfers between family members, friends and hunting buddies; lets active military personnel buy guns in the state in which they are stationed; and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s identical to the bill Thompson and King authored introduced in 2013 – but though it had 188 co-sponsors, H.R. 1565 was never even heard in committee. It’s also the same as the Manchin-Toomey amendment that failed in the Senate in April 2013.

The National Rifle Association opposes expanding background checks, claiming they won’t stop criminals from getting firearms by theft or via the black market.

But Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said this should be “a no-brainer.”

Ninety-two percent of the American public supports this measure to keep guns out of the hands of people like domestic abusers, rapists, and fugitives,” Gross said. “More importantly, it will save lives. We need to let our representatives know that we will not tolerate them putting the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the lives and safety of the citizens they have been elected to represent.”

This new bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees; don’t hold your breath waiting for a hearing date

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Federal Glover awaiting heart & kidney transplant

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 9:05 am in Contra Costa Board of Supervisors

Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover is in the hospital awaiting a heart and kidney transplant.

Glover, 58, of Pittsburg, issued this statement about an hour ago:

“As you may have heard, on Thursday I checked myself into UCSF Medical Center to finish a battery of tests to determine whether I am eligible to receive a heart and kidney transplant. The expert doctors at UCSF successfully conduct hundreds of these types of surgeries and have determined that I am an excellent candidate for a dual heart and kidney operation.

“So, I wait comfortably here at UCSF, with my wife, Janis, and our two children by my side, for a donor heart and kidney, which I am told could come at any time. I feel confident and strong and I anticipate that this amazing new technology will give me many more quality years with my family and of service to the residents of District 5, who matter a great deal to me.

“That being said, I will be asking our County Administrator David Twa and my staff to keep me updated daily on issues important to the County and I will be requesting the opportunity to work remotely, on my laptop and through whatever means possible, to continue making sound decisions for the people I represent.

“Life is precious. I ask for your prayers. I am excited about a future of improved good health and our continuing to do good work for our community – together.

Glover has represented District 5 on the Board of Supervisors since 2000. He fell gravely ill and was hospitalized for about a month in 2007, receiving treatment for meningitis, pneumonia and kidney problems; after that, he was undergoing dialysis three times per week.

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John Pérez endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 8:45 am in John Perez, Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate

Former California Assembly Speaker John Pérez has endorsed state Attorney General Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate in 2016 and will co-chair her campaign, a coup for a candidate who’s trying to shore up her bona fides among Latino voters as several potential rivals still consider running.

John Perez“I am proud to support Attorney General Kamala Harris’ candidacy to succeed Senator Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate, and I am honored to serve as campaign co-chair,” Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said in a news release. “As Attorney General, she has been a fighter for middle class families, for children, for immigrants, and for the environment. She will continue to be a tough, practical, results-oriented leader when she is in the Senate. I look forward to campaigning alongside Kamala Harris and working with her when she is representing California in Washington, D.C.”

Harris said she’s grateful for his support. “He has served his community and his state so effectively and passionately, as a leader in elected office, in the labor movement, and in the Democratic Party. He has a proven track record of working for the middle class and promoting economic fairness, and is a tireless campaigner. My campaign will benefit greatly from his service as co-chair.”

Pérez, who was Speaker from 2010 to 2014, was the first openly gay person of color to be elected speaker of any state legislature in the nation; earlier, he worked as political director for the California Labor Federation. In addition to his Latino and LGBT status, the fact that he’s from Los Angeles is good for Harris too, as she looks to strengthen her support in the voter-dense Southland.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had been thought of as a prime possible contender for the Senate seat, announced last week announced he won’t run. But there’s still buzz among the state’s Latino Democrats that they’d like to field someone as an alternative to Harris, and House members including Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, have said they’re considering running.

On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, and former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette have formed exploratory committees for this contest.

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