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Endorsements, pledges in 2016 U.S. Senate race

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at 11:21 am in U.S. Senate

Candidates in California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race continue to roll out their endorsements and commitments.

Rocky ChávezAssemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, announced Tuesday that he has the endorsements of 22 GOP assemblymemebers including Republican Leader Kristin Olsen.

“Rocky Chávez is the leader we need in Washington,” Olsen, R-Modesto, said in Chávez’s news release. “He has incredible experience in keeping our nation safe as a Marine colonel who served 28 years. He knows how to support our nation’s veterans, having served as California’s Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Finally, he knows the importance of a good education and has fought to improve California’s schools as a member of the state assembly.”

Meanwhile, former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette announced Tuesday that he has taken the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” offered by Americans for Tax Reform. The pledge commits him to oppose any and all efforts to increase marginal income tax rates for people or businesses, and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of tax deductions and credits unless they’re matched dollar-for-dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Tom Del Beccaro“California has the highest tax, regulations and debt burden of any state in the country,” Del Beccaro said in a news release. “That burden plays into California’s high unemployment rate and leader of poverty in the nation. No sensible candidate for U.S. Senate for California could advocate for even more taxes. I call upon Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez, Rocky Chavez, and anyone considering a run, to join me it protecting California tax payers from further tax increases.”

Del Beccaro favors a flat tax – a single, low rate for everyone, regardless of income – which he says would decrease the size of the IRS while boosting economic activity, creating jobs and reducing poverty. Critics say a flat tax would shift much of the nation’s revenue burden to middle- and lower-income Americans – who already spend a larger percentage of their income on necessities like food, housing and health care – while letting the rich pay far less.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Del Beccaro “has been a proponent for tax reform from the moment he came on the scene.”

Kamala HarrisAnd the Service Employees International Union California announced Tuesday that the 700,000-member union has endorsed Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, in this race to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year. The huge union made its choice in a town-hall process in which all members had a chance to hear from and evaluate candidates’ policies.

“We know she’ll be a tough fighter for working families in Washington, the same way she’s shown courage and commitment to stand up for hard-working Californians as Attorney General,” union president Laphonza Butler said in a news release. “SEIU’s endorsement means our members will put our boots on the ground to deliver votes across California and put our hearts into a winning campaign to put Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.”

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Pool report from Obama’s DCCC fundraiser

By Josh Richman
Friday, June 19th, 2015 at 6:42 pm in Barack Obama, Obama presidency

Here’s the White House pool report I just filed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser that President Obama headlined, hosted by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood.

But first, the view from outside:

The view from Sea Cliff (photo by Josh Richman)

Between 50 and 100 of the Bay Area’s well-heeled mixed and mingled with drinks and snacks in a bright, skylit room while awaiting POTUS’ remarks. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. (wearing a blue pantsuit and gold blouse with a Golden State Warriors button on her jacket lapel); Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; and DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened the program, citing the Golden State Warriors’ championship win so soon after the championship San Francisco Giants were honored at the White House. She repeated the sentiments she had spoken to the U.S. Conference of Mayors a few hours earlier, noting that during Obama’s presidency, job growth has boomed, the deficit has shrunk, the stock market has soared, and 17 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage.

“You’ve come to a state that is in the lead on climate change,” she said, noting Steyer and Taylor have invested much to protect California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

Steyer thanked Pelosi for her service and leadership. Climate and energy is “part of the progressive agenda,” and many in the room care deeply about higher education, immigration reform, LGBT rights and more. But with climate change, Obama “hasn’t gotten nearly the support he deserves” given what the president has accomplished with regulations and international agreements. “It’s been under the most difficult political circumstances I’ve ever witnessed,” Steyer said, and perhaps the most difficult since 1860. Yet with all due respect to Warriors star Steph Curry, Obama is “still our go-to guy in a clutch,” Steyer said.

POTUS began speaking at 5:40 p.m.

“I think the Bay Area has been a little bit greedy with championships,” he said, noting at least the Blackhawks just had their victory parade, too.

But “it is actually really impressive to see what both organizations have done, and they do it the right way,” he said, offering his congratulations to Giants and Warriors alike. Obama noted Curry donates anti-malaria mosquito nets for each 3-point shot he makes.

POTUS thanked Steyer and Taylor on their civic engagement, as well as on good parenting; he’d just met their kids backstage. “I can’t thank them enough not just for supporting me but for supporting the issues that matter to everyone in this room.”

POTUS also thanked Pelosi for being “an extraordinary partner in Congress” who has made most of his administration’s accomplishments possible. And he thanked the members of Congress present at Friday’s event individually.

POTUS’ tone turned sober in addressing the Charleston massacre. “In addition to heartbreak and wanting to extend love and prayer and support to the families that have been affected” and amazement at their forgiving statements Friday to the shooter, “in addition to all those things I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that this stuff happens way too often. These mass shootings do not happen in other advanced countries around the world – they are unique in their frequency to America.”

And that’s due to this nation’s easily availability of guns, too often without background checks, he said. “It’s not enough for us to express sympathy. We have to take action.”

His partners in Congress have helped him reduce unemployment, buoy the economy, stabilize the housing market, reduce the deficit, insure the uninsured, increase high school graduation and college attendance rates, doubled production of clean energy (and increased solar tenfold), improved fuel efficiency standards, and more.

“We’ve ended two wars,” he said, while protecting the American homeland and conduct operations against enemies while staying true to the Constitution and the law. LGBT rights have leapt forward. “I’m really proud of this record.”

“But the amount of work left undone is remarkable,” POTUS said, citing both challenges and opportunities to better the nation for future generation.

“First is the changing nature of the economy,” he said.

We’ve overperformed the world economically, yet haven’t addressed growing income inequality. “Until we tackle that, people aren’t going to feel better.”

That means investing in early-childhood education, investing in science and research, and adopting new trade policies that don’t shy away from the new world economy but “lean into it,” he said.

“The second thing I spend time thinking about is climate change,” he said, and if we don’t get that right, it barely matters what else we do.

Reading the latest climate science reports scare him, he said; by 2050, “well within our current children’s lifetime,” sea levels rise by two to four feet. Within the lifetimes of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, “it could be 10 feet, 16 feet. The magnitude of the changes that could be taking place if we don’t get a handle on this are irreversible.”

“This is a matter of us taking some basic steps to increase efficiency and expand clean energy production and change our grid and develop new technologies, and it’s well within our reach,” he said. “There is something we can do.”

“If Japan is 20 percent more efficient in terms of its energy use… that’s existing technology and we can adapt it here,” he said.

“If we know how we produce power is unsustainable, we have the tools or we will develop the tools” to replace that, he said.

“Imagine what we could do if Congress actually starting moving with us instead of moving against us,” he said, drawing murmurs of assent from the audience.

China was compelled to negotiate on climate change because we’re setting the example, he said.

POTUS says he tells his White House interns that we live in the most technologically advanced time in history, with lifestyles our predecessors couldn’t have imagined, he said. “What you can’t do is give into this notion that things can’t change, because they change all the time and they change remarkably.”

“We never make as much progress as we should… we’re always a little bit battered and bruised, we’re always a little frustrated, but we make it a little better,” he said. “And by making it better, we add our little bit to this journey towards progress and more justice and more equality and more empathy and more compassion. And then we leave some work for our amazing kids to do, because we wouldn’t want to solve all their problems.”

But we must tackle income inequality and climate change now, before they become insurmountable in the future, he said.

“If we’re going to make things better, you have to have a Congress that cares and is willing to do tough stuff,” he said, adding he and his allies in Congress don’t agree on everything – a jibe that drew laughter from the audience.

“Ultimately, the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen,” he said. “I need you to feel the same sense of urgency.”

POTUS finished at 6:05 p.m.; press was ushered out as crowd applauded.

Motorcade departed site at 6:11 p.m. en route to Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco’s South of Market area.

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Bay Area lawmakers OK medical device tax repeal

By Josh Richman
Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 4:13 pm in Eric Swalwell, healthcare reform, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, taxes, U.S. House

Three Bay Area House members were among the 46 Democrats who joined with Republicans on Thursday to approve repealing the medical-device tax enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act.

As the Associated Press reports, the tax took effect two years ago and was designed to help pay for expanded coverage for millions of people. It’s levied on equipment like artificial hearts and X-ray machines but not on items used by individuals, like eye glasses. Foes of its repeal say that this and other taxes the law imposed on the health care industry were outweighed by added customers the law has created, and that repealing it means paying that $24 billion, 10-year cost with bigger federal deficits.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, which passed on a 280-140 vote. Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton voted for it, while the rest of the Bay Area delegation was opposed.

“I support the Affordable Care Act and policies that improve our ability to conquer illnesses and diseases before they conquer us,” Swalwell said in a statement emailed later Thursday. “Today’s vote will help more start-up bio-innovation companies create devices that have the potential to make us healthier.”

McNerney emailed a statement saying that “medical research and technology contribute significantly to California’s economy with more than 75,000 jobs, and advancements in the field are resulting in new treatments and cures that improve the lives of people across the country.

“We should be doing everything to encourage further innovation by removing unnecessary barriers that hinder new research and job growth – especially in California, the home to more medical device companies than any other state in the nation,” he said. “As I’ve said before, this law is not perfect and we should continue to look at ways to improve it. Doing so will not only benefit medical innovation, but lower costs and improve care for individuals and families as well.”

Speier’s office said she was on a plane Thursday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for comment.

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SD9: Sandre Swanson rolls out early endorsements

By Josh Richman
Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 3:12 pm in California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson

Former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson is seeking early dominance in next year’s three-way (at least) Democratic showdown for the 9th State Senate District – in part, at least, by calling in old favors.

Swanson, D-Alameda, will face former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – also a former assemblywoman – in the race to succeed state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out in 2016.

Swanson on Thursday announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, whose district includes about half of the 9th Senate District’s voters. Thurmond said Swanson’s “Swanson’s record of standing up and fighting for our children, seniors, and working families is second to none.” Swanson was one of Thurmond’s earliest endorsers – way back in June 2013 – in last year’s very crowded 15th Assembly District race, while Skinner backed Elizabeth Echols. Chan endorsed Thurmond too, but not until well after the June primary.

On Wednesday, Swanson had announced his endorsement by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who has the other half of the 9th District’s voters. “He is someone that has stood up and done the right thing for our community, time and time again, showing a track record of being a true leader,” Bonta said. Swanson in 2012 had endorsed Bonta to succeed him.

And Swanson two weeks ago reminded everyone that he has the incumbent’s stamp of approval from Hancock – although that’s old news, given that she actually endorsed him for this race way back in 2012 in exchange for his dropping a possible challenge to her.

But Swanson’s early rollout of prominent endorsements might be to compensate for a cash disadvantage.

Filings with the Secretary of State’s office show Swanson’s campaign had about $13,500 banked at the start of this year, and has raised about $8,500 in big-ticket contributions since then. He has a fish-fry fundraiser scheduled for next Friday, June 26 near his Bay Farm Island home.

By contrast, Skinner started 2015 with almost $396,000 banked, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278 to the Senate committee — so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

And according to filings with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office, Chan’s 2014 supervisorial campaign committee started this year with about $57,000 in the bank – money that’s transferrable to her 2016 senate committee. Chan’s state senate committee then held a May 27 fundraiser at a Fremont steakhouse, for which tickets ranged from $125 to $8,500; she has not yet had to file a report reflecting how much she raked in. Don’t forget, Chan – who was term-limited out of the Assembly in 2006 – has wanted this seat for a loooong time, having lost the 2008 primary to Hancock after a sometimes-ugly race.

As I’ve noted before, this will be a very different dynamic from this year’s 7th State Senate District special election in which centrist Democrat Steve Glazer defeated liberal Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Because Swanson, Chan and Skinner will be fighting over the same pool of liberal endorsements and contributions, who gets what could be a better-than-usual indicator of which way the winds are blowing.

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Ohio’s Brown pays up on NBA bet with Boxer

By Josh Richman
Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 1:08 pm in Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, paid up on his NBA finals bet with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Thursday morning.

Boxer had put up Peet’s “Warriors Grounds” coffee and a case of Linden Street Brewery’s “New Oakland Glow” pilsner against beer that Brown would provide from Akron’s Hoppin’ Frog Brewery. The bet also called for the loser to deliver the bounty to the winner’s office while wearing a jersey from the victor’s team.

Brown and Boxer 6-18-2015

Lest we forget, here’s what Brown had said when laying the bet June 3:

“Like many fans, I go back to the days of the Cavs playing at Richfield and remember watching Bingo Smith, Mel Turpin, and Dick Snyder, World B. Free, and Nate Thurmond. This year, it’s going to be different – we’re going to win it all. This Cavaliers team is the pride of Cleveland – showing perseverance through adversity and true grit throughout the season. As the Cavs travel to the West Coast, I’m proud to join my fellow Clevelanders and Cavs fans around Ohio in saying that I’m ALL IN!”

You look good in blue and gold, Sen. Brown!

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Anna Eshoo decries GOP’s cut of FCC budget

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 at 2:24 pm in Anna Eshoo, U.S. House

The House Appropriations Committee approved a Financial Services and General Government budget bill Wednesday that would slash the Federal Communications Commission’s budget by $25 million – and Democrats are crying foul.

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., say the bill also includes politically-motivated policy riders that attempt to block the commission from protecting net neutrality – a stance that’s been a tough sell for the GOP in Silicon Valley.

“House Appropriations Committee Republicans kept up their business-as-usual attack today on the Federal Communications Commission, but these efforts hold the potential for extraordinarily bad outcomes for American consumers,” Eshoo and Pallone said in a joint statement.

“The appropriations bill approved by the Committee undermines the FCC’s consumer protection mission by slashing the Commission’s budget and attaching a litany of partisan policy riders, even on FCC issues that the Energy and Commerce Committee has addressed in a bipartisan manner,” they said. “This is yet another attempt by House Republicans to wrangle a political win at the expense of good policy for the American people.”

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Fiona Ma: Warriors boost economy, tax revenue

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 at 9:53 am in Fiona Ma

Even amid the transcendent joy of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship win, California’s tax officials are keeping their eye on the bottom line.

Fiona MaBoard of Equalization member Fiona Ma, whose district includes the Bay Area, issued a news release Wednesday morning noting that the championship ring comes with a monetary bonus for the players, meaning a modest increase in tax revenues for the state. But on a larger scale, as the series and victory reverberate through the economy – merchandise sold, extra hours for arena employees, restaurants and bars packed with fans – there’s even more money coming in.

Ma’s statement noted that $10 million might seem like a drop in the bucket of the state’s world-class economy, but that sum could hire 320 full-time employees at $15 per hour; open 100 small businesses; or buy for school supplies for 103,000 kids.

“The Warriors gave as good as they got throughout the entire season, and they’re bringing home a championship trophy,” Ma said in the news release. “Even better, they’ve made winners of us all, and I congratulate them on a stunning season! … Here’s to another win in 2016!”

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Trump 2016. Or something like that.

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 at 6:14 pm in 2016 presidential election

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CA17: Playing it cagey on trade authority debate

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 at 3:39 pm in Mike Honda, U.S. House

In reporting my story today on Rep. Mike Honda’s declaration of candidacy for a ninth term, I tried to contrast his position on the trade package that House Democrats sank last week with that of Ro Khanna, his Democratic challenger.

But Khanna – a former Obama administration Commerce Department official – isn’t making that easy.

honda.jpgHonda last Friday joined most Democrats in voting against the trade package for which President Obama and Republican leaders had pushed hard. The “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority bill “did not include a voice for working families” and limits Congress’ power to represent labor, business and environmental interests, he said in a statement issued Friday, while the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill was underfunded, “ignores public sector workers, and is propped up on the back of continued cuts to Medicare.”

Khanna was out of town Tuesday, but I asked him and his acting campaign manager, Brian Parvizshahi, to provide me a succinct summation of how he would’ve voted on the bills.

Ro Khanna“Ro agrees with Secretary Hillary Clinton’s recent, thoughtful comments on the issue,” Parvizshahi replied by email. “He agrees with her that we need to increase TAA funding and fight for a fully funded highway bill to find a way forward.”

Yet Clinton – who supported TPA while serving as Secretary of State – has been very cagey in what she says about it now, as frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

At a campaign rally Sunday in Iowa, Clinton spoke more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim nations – than about the TPA and TAA bills that would let the Obama Administration finish negotiating it. She urged President Obama to listen to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats and make changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that reflect their concerns about protecting American jobs and wages.

“She declined to take sides on the Friday vote itself but instead allied herself with Democratic critics of the deal — without actually opposing it,” the New York Times reported.

And CNN reported Monday that Clinton in New Hampshire had once again declined to say whether she thinks Obama should have authority to fast-track the Pacific trade deal through Congress without amendments. She dismissed the fight over that legislation, known as trade promotion authority, as “a process issue.”

Of course, as president Clinton would stand in Obama’s shoes, not those of Congress. But Khanna wants to fill congressional shoes, and only 3.6 percentage points in November prevented him from being part of Friday’s roll calls. It would be nice to know, definitively, how he would have voted.

Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University professor emeritus and political expert who closely watched the 2014 Honda-Khanna showdown, said Honda seems to be poised to make a case to voters for why the trade package would have cost jobs in the 17th Congressional District. For Khanna to make a different case “would be a large contrast,” Gerston said.

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Finding humor in the presidential campaign stores

By Josh Richman
Friday, June 12th, 2015 at 2:28 pm in 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, Uncategorized

As a father, I can safely tell you there’s nothing I’d like less as a Father’s Day gift than a piece of presidential campaign swag.

That said, there’s some mildly amusing stuff going on some of the candidates’ online stores.

Marco PoloFor example, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has some of the usual bumperstickers, buttons, mugs and apparel, but he also has a certain $45 shirt available in red, white or blue (of course). A polo shirt.

A Marco Polo shirt.

Get it?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s store is rocking the “Pant Suit Lapel Pin” for $15, the “A Woman’s Place is in the White House” throw pillow for $55, and the “Yaaas, Hillary!” t-shirt for $30.

Supporters of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, can pay $10 for a campaign-logoed bumper sticker that declares, “This vehicle makes right turns only.

But U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seems to be winning the merchandising war by making good use of his reputation as a crusader against government surveillance programs. One of the t-shirts you can buy for $18 – one of four chosen from 160 submitted in a t-shirt contest – reads “The NSA knows I bought this Rand Paul tshirt.”

Or, for $15 you can have the “NSA Spy Cam Blocker,” a little Paul-logoed doohickey that fits over your computer’s webcam lens.

“That little front facing camera on your laptop or tablet can be a window for the world to see you – whether you know it or not!” the campaign says. “Stop hackers and the NSA with this simple camera blocker. Safe and practical.”

Hillary's hard driveAnd the Paul campaign also would be happy to sell you “Hillary’s Hard Drive” for $99.95.

“CLEARANCE SALE! You’ve read about it on the news, now you can get one for yourself,” the pitch goes. “Hillary’s Hard Drive. 100% genuine erased clean email server. Buyer beware, this product has had heavy use and it currently is no longer working, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to someone. Anyone? Limited edition. We have 80 of these and when they’re gone, they’re gone forever.”

Heh. But all of it invariably makes me think of…

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