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Black Caucus members seek Silicon Valley diversity

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 30th, 2015 at 12:08 pm in Barbara Lee, U.S. House

Rep. Barbara Lee will join Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on a Silicon Valley junket aimed at increasing African Americans’ representation in the tech industry.

lack of diversityLee, D-Oakland; Butterfield, D-N.C.; and Jeffries, D-N.Y., will spend this Sunday through Tuesday meeting with tech executives and local organizations as part of the caucus’ TECH 2020 initiative, a five-year diversity launched in May. The lawmakers will visit companies including Apple, Bloomberg, Google, Intel, Kapor Capital, Pandora, and SAP.

“Our goal for this trip is to encourage and partner with these organizations to implement a diversity plan that will place more African Americans in the tech pipeline,” Butterfield said in a news release. “This will potentially lead to a wide range of opportunities, from student internships to positions on the boards of tech companies. Building a coalition of leaders from the public and private sectors ensures greater diversity and full representation of African Americans at every level of tech by 2020.”

Lee said she’s pleased to welcome her peers to the Bay Area.

“This visit is another step toward opening doors of opportunity for African Americans in the booming tech sector,” she said in the release. “Increasing diversity and inclusion within the tech sector is not only a moral imperative, it’s good for business and vital to continue economic growth. As we work to advance the TECH 2020 initiative and achieve full representation of African Americans in the tech sector, I look forward to continuing to work with these companies. We must all play a role in finding innovative solutions that bring diversity to Silicon Valley.”

As part of its TECH 2020 plan, the caucus has outlined diversity principles, best practices, and resources for African American students and entrepreneurs, and has introduced legislation focused on increasing STEM education.

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Speier offers bill to allow alcohol via U.S. Mail

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 30th, 2015 at 11:31 am in Jackie Speier, U.S. House

A Bay Area congresswoman wants to lift the ban on shipping alcohol through the U.S. Mail.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said she’s joined by 24 original cosponsors in introducing the bipartisan USPS Shipping Equity Act, which would change the Prohibition-era law preventing shipping of beer, wine, distilled spirits and other alcoholic drinks to consumers by mail.

Jackie Speier“Prohibition is history, and this ban should be too,” Speier said in a news release “It’s ridiculous that we’re allowing UPS, FedEx, and other companies to ship spirits, wine, and beer to consumers, while banning the U.S. Postal Service from doing the exact same thing. As more states allow direct to consumer delivery, we need to lift this dated ban on so-called ‘spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors,’ to give consumers more shipping choices when they check out.”

Speier said the ban puts the Postal Service at a competitive disadvantage and limits shipping options for manufacturers and customers. Her H.R. 3412 would let the Postal Service ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would provide the Postal Service with an additional $50 million per year.

This bill is endorsed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, WineAmerica, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

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Newsom teams with tech to seek water solutions

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 30th, 2015 at 11:14 am in Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, Technology in politics, water

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is teaming up with Silicon Valley’s Singularity University to challenge entrepreneurs around the world to come up with solutions to California’s water-supply woes, he announced Thursday.

Three winning teams will be selected as Entrepreneurs in Residence at SU Startup Labs so they can interact with Singularity University’s startup community, corporate partners and other humanitarian partnerships to develop solutions for global impact and sustainability. Three runners-up will have a chance to pitch their solutions at SU Startup Lab, giving them access to a valuable network of technological expertise and potential funders.

This challenge is open to teams from around the world and will be judged on the use of exponential technology, technical feasibility and rigor, innovation, market viability, salability, and design and utility functionality. Preference will be given to applicants that demonstrate their proof of concept in the form of a working prototype to validate their solutions. Proposals must be submitted by Sept. 15, and the winning teams will be announced by Sept. 30.

Gavin Newsom“California produces almost half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States therefore the impact of our solutions are both local, national, and global,” Newsom said in a news release. “In the spirit of the Orteig Prize of 1919, my goal in working with Singularity University is to activate the incredible talent and ingenuity of Californians and the SU global community to solve twenty-first century challenges with twenty-first century solutions.”

Newsom both is author of the 2013 book “Citizenville,” which calls on government to collaborate with private citizens in order to reap the most innovate solutions, and a candidate for governor in 2018.

Singularity University – funded by corporations including Google and located in the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field near Mountain View – provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a startup accelerator to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments understand cutting-edge technologies, and how to utilize these technologies to help people.

Rob Nail, Singularity University’s CEO and associate founder, said he can “think of no greater effort” than putting international expertise to work for solving California’s water issues. We are particularly pleased to be working with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and his team, who can provide the pipeline of leadership to insure that the winning solutions have a direct line to decision-makers and the infrastructure of California to get them quickly into practice.”

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Spinning the public pension reform initiative

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 at 2:10 pm in ballot measures, pension reform

California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office this week released its review of the public pension reform initiative proposed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio – and what that review says seems to depend on your point of view.

The 11-page document ends with a summary of fiscal effects predicting “significant effects—savings and costs—on state and local governments relating to compensation for governmental employees. The magnitude and timing of these effects would depend heavily on future decisions made by voters, governmental employers, and the courts.”

Opponents were hot out of the gate Tuesday morning with a statement noting the LAO found there’s “significant uncertainty as to the magnitude, timing, and direction of the fiscal effects of this measure and its effects on current and future governmental employees’ compensation.”

“This measure is a Trojan horse that will undermine the retirement security of millions of California families with unknown costs to taxpayers under the guise of giving them more power,” Dave Low, Chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, said in Tuesday’s statement. “Voters have consistently said they will reject proposals that threaten the death and disability benefits of public safety workers, undermine collective bargaining, and eliminate retirement security for teachers, bus drivers, and other public servants. This measure would be dead on arrival to voters, just like previously over-reaching measures.”

But DeMaio and Reed issued a statement Wednesday morning saying the LAO had confirmed “that the mandatory requirements of the measure would produce ‘significant savings.’ Even better, in addition to what is specifically mandated by the measure, the LAO confirmed that voters would have new powers to add to the savings.”

“Government union bosses are desperate to protect their gravy train at taxpayers’ expense. That’s why they are spinning a web of lies about the measure,” they said. “Astonishingly, the government union bosses even going so far as to claim voters will opt to spend MORE money than the politicians if given the new powers our initiative grants the people. At the core of their argument, the unions, along with the politicians, are arguing that voters might make bad decisions with the new powers our initiative grants them. Telling voters they cannot be trusted to make good decisions is not exactly a winning message.”

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Tauscher names GOP co-chair for redistricting push

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 at 10:43 am in Ellen Tauscher, redistricting

Former East Bay Rep. Ellen Tauscher announced Tuesday that she’s bringing on a former colleague from the other side of the aisle to co-chair her effort to export California’s citizen-redistricting model to the rest of the nation.

Ellen TauscherTauscher, a Democrat formerly of Alamo who represented part of the East Bay from 1997 to 2009, said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will co-chair YouDrawTheLines2021, an organization she formed to take reapportionment power away from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions. She launched the effort in the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission – and by extension, California’s as well.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tauscher said she’s thrilled to share the group’s leadership with Davis. “Independent non-partisan redistricting commissions, like the one we have in California, create the opportunity for more competitive districts and for more moderates of both parties to get elected to Congress,” she said.

Davis said the effort is “critical to getting Congress working again.”

“Creating independent non-partisan citizen advisory commissions in even five or six states before the 2020 census could make all the difference to the make-up of Congress in the next decade,” Davis said. “Ellen and I will be reaching out to our former colleagues and like-minded state elected officials of both parties in these key states to put the wheels in motion to get this done over the next five years.”

The project will focus on passing ballot initiatives in key states over the next three election cycles to approve the formation of independent, non-partisan citizen redistricting commissions based on California’s model that was passed in 2008.

Tauscher left her House seat in 2009 to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs – serving under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – until February 2012, and then served as Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense until August 2012. She now splits her time between San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

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Fiorina blasts Obama, Clinton on national security

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 4:02 pm in 2016 presidential election, Carly Fiorina

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina will blast President Obama’s and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s national security policies, and cast China as “our rising adversary,” in a speech she’s scheduled to give Monday evening at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

Fiorina 5-14-2015 AP photo“President Obama has richly rewarded the bad behavior of Cuba, Russia, Syria, Iran and China — and Mrs. Clinton has signaled her approval,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO will say, according to the speech’s prepared text. “It is really quite simple. When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it.”

Fiorina will promise that on her first day in the Oval Office, she would call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm the United States’ support of Israel. She also would call Iran’s Supreme Leader to tell him that the P5+1 deal is off, and “unless and until Iran opens itself to full and unfettered inspections of all nuclear and military facilities, we are going to make it very hard for Iran to move money around the global financial system.”

“I will not call Vladimir Putin,” she’ll say. “We have talked way too much to him. But he too will get the message.”

Meanwhile, she’ll say, “China is building their economic power and will wield it ruthlessly.”

Her plan calls for America moving firmly against China’s internet censorship, economic domination, cyberterrorism, and aggressive push into the South China Sea – the latter by working with Vietnam and the Philippines to increase surveillance, and by joint military exercises with the Philippines. And America also must push harder for human rights, women’s rights and democracy there and elsewhere around the globe, she’ll say.

“China, Russia, Iran, and terrorist groups such as ISIS — these are the big human rights tests of our time,” the prepared speech says. “Women and girls are systematically targeted, subjugated, murdered, raped and sold into bondage. It is the height of hypocrisy for Hillary Clinton to run for President as a champion of women’s rights when her record as Secretary of State is this dismal.

“Our ideals are a light that shines in the very darkest corners of the world. Today, without American leadership, we have too many dark corners.”

Fiorina’s campaign said she’ll deliver the speech to a sold-out crowd of more than 1,000.

With little time remaining before Fox News selects the top 10 candidates to participate in the first debate (scheduled for Aug. 6 in Cleveland), it’s looking like Fiorina will be among those shut out. Of 16 Republicans already in the race, Fiorina is tied for 13th place with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – each with 1.3 percent support – according to an average of six recent national polls tabulated by Real Clear Politics; only U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and former New York Gov. George Pataki fare worse.

Fiorina’s speech will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. But you can read the entire text of the speech as prepared, after the jump…

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Will state GOP amend abortion, marriage stances?

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 2:34 pm in gun control, Immigration, Republican Party, Republican politics, same-sex marriage

Several California county GOP chairpeople are pushing to make sure the party doesn’t soften its stances against same-sex marriage, abortion rights, illegal immigration and gun control at its convention this September in Anaheim.

CA-GOP logoEight county chairs – including two from the Bay Area – wrote a memo to California Republican Party delegates last week urging support for the party’s current platform.

“We believe this is an excellent platform, reflective of our principles as a party,” the memo said. “It is one that Republicans have united around before and one that is consistent with Republican values nationwide. Tampering with the existing document at this juncture will divide the party and discourage the Republican voters.”

The chairs wrote that they expect the party’s drafting committee might amend four key planks at its meeting next Saturday, Aug. 1 in Los Angeles.

“There may be an effort to significantly change the language and message of three of these planks – Family/Marriage, The Right to Life, and Immigration. Also, we believe we may see an attempt to dilute a fourth plank – The Right to Bear Arms,” the memo said. “If this takes place, these four re-written and significantly weakened planks will be reflected in the Draft Platform. These changes would then make it to the Floor for a vote by all State Delegates at our Fall 2015 State Republican Convention.”

“It is crucial that these four planks be upheld rather than be incrementally chipped away,” the memo concluded. “This Platform will serve to motivate our numerous volunteers and voters who will be needed to Get Out the Vote and rally around our candidates in 2016.

The memo was signed by Alameda County GOP Chairwoman Lori Drake; Calaveras County GOP Chairwoman Vicky Reinke, Contra Costa County GOP Chairman Rohit Joy, Del Norte County GOP Chairwoman Karen Sanders, Fresno County GOP Chairman Fred Vanderhoof, Humboldt County GOP Chairwoman Annette De Modena, Mariposa County GOP Chairman Richard Westfall, and Siskiyou County GOP Chairman Richard Marshall.

The California Republican Party’s current platform says that because family is the foundation on which American society has grown and prospered, “we support the two parent family as the best environment for raising children, and therefore believe that it is important to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. We believe public policy and education should not be exploited to present or teach homosexuality as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle. We oppose same-sex partner benefits, child custody, and adoption.”

On abortion rights, the current platform says the party supports “laws that protect unborn children from partial birth, sex selection, and tax-payer funded abortions, and abortions performed as a form of birth control or on minor girls without their parent’s notification and consent.”

“We believe that the question of abortion is a matter that should be left to the people through their elected representatives, not usurped by the United States Supreme Court, and believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be reversed,” the platform continues.

On immigration, the state GOP’s current platform says controlling the border and enforcing all current laws is the only way to be fair to those who’ve come to the country legally. English should be the government’s official language, it says, with all election ballots and other government documents in English only. It calls for a worker visa program with tamper-proof, biometric ID cards for participants and heavy fines for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. It calls for cross-deputization of state and county law enforcement personnel so immigrants who’ve come here illegally can be deported immediately upon completion of any criminal sentences. And it calls for “the termination of all federal and state benefits to illegal aliens other than emergency medical care.”

And on the right to bear arms, the state GOP’s current platform says “one of the first acts of a totalitarian society is to disarm its people. California’s gun control laws only serve to disarm law abiding citizens, not criminals. We oppose any further gun control legislation and support the right of all California citizens to own and bear guns and ammunition for any lawful purpose.”

The platform calls for statewide legislation setting reasonable criteria to let law-abiding citizens carry concealed weapons, and supports “allowing citizens to use deadly force to protect lives and property. We also support including all of these rights in the California constitution.”

“Finally, we call for the elimination of waiting periods to purchase firearms and instead support complete implementation of instant background checks,” the platform says.

See how these platform planks compare to polls of Californians’ public opinion, after the jump…
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CA17: Updated 2Q totals, and the ethics probe

By Josh Richman
Friday, July 17th, 2015 at 9:49 am in Mike Honda, U.S. House

Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign cash situation isn’t quite as dire as I first reported, although it still isn’t looking great.

A report filed this week with the Federal Election Commission shows Honda, D-San Jose, raised about $368,000 in the year’s second quarter while spending about $213,000, leaving him with about $360,000 cash on hand as of June 30 – or, less about $34,600 in debt, about $325,000 cash on hand.

But that’s somewhat better than the $265,000 cash on hand that his campaign estimated when I asked them earlier this month. Compared to the $1 million that Democratic challenger Ro Khanna had in the bank as of June 30, it’s a three-to-one margin rather than the four-to-one margin it had seemed.

Honda’s campaign told me a key member of its finance team was in labor at the time that I sought the figures earlier this month, so their estimates were a bit off. (Here’s hoping everything went well…)

Khanna’s report shows he still has much of the Silicon Valley elite on his side, with contribution from prominent venture capitalists like John Doerr, Bill Draper and Steve Krausz as well as executives like Integrated Archive Systems’ Amy Rao, Nexenta’s Tarkan Maner and a smattering of names from Salesforce and Google.

But Honda’s contributions include money from the corporate PACs of Intel, Oracle, Applied Materials, Yahoo!, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and Microsoft, so it’s not as if he’s being shunned by the tech world.

Honda remains the pick of the Democratic establishment. He had contributions this past quarter from the campaign committees or PACs of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., as well as Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park; John Larson, D-Conn.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; and Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.

In other CA17 news, San Jose Inside’s Josh Koehn reported this week that the Office of Congressional Ethics has been investigating the complaint Khanna supporters made last fall about allegedly improper coordination between Honda’s campaign and his official staff.

Koehn’s story links to a transcript of OCE’s interview with Ruchit Agrawal, a former Honda staffer and whistleblower. Agrawal was arrested in December 2013 after allegedly threatening violence against Honda staffers, but he was never charged and he has denied making any such threats.

Honda’s chief of staff apologized in October for her “oversight” in coordinating with Honda’s campaign, though she insisted she didn’t use official resources or time to do so. It’s not surprising that OCE is following up on the complaint, and it’ll be interesting to see what the office’s conclusion turns out to be.

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More from Jeb Bush’s San Francisco event

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 16th, 2015 at 3:15 pm in 2016 presidential election

We’ve posted my story on Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s visit to San Francisco startup Thumbtack this morning, but as usual, there’s lots more in the notebook than there was room in the story.

Jeb Bush arrives at Thumbtack 7-16-2015 (photo by Josh Richman)Thumbtack cofounder and CEO Marco Zappacosta, 30, a Libertarian from Atherton, asked Bush what his motivation was for running for president. Bush quipped that the crowd might not realize that his father and brother served as president, a fact which “adds complication to my life” by creating expectations. He said he’s running “not to fulfill some sort of dynastic notion,” but to help the nation achieve the greatness of which he believes it’s on the cusp, and without which many Americans will suffer.

He added that he’s not “angry” like some of his rivals seem to be. “They’re good at preying on people’s angst and legitimate concerns about the future of our country.”

Bush praised the “well-intentioned” efforts of President Barack Obama to bring cutting-edge technology into government. “The reason it isn’t working is because all this institutional crud, if you will, needs to be cleaned out.”

That means not only reducing regulations and bureaucracy, but also addressing an educational system which spends more per student than any other in the world yet leaves only 40 percent of high-school graduates college- or career-ready. “We have to build quality, build capacity for people to achieve success.”

One Thumbtack employee identified himself as a Miami native and gun owner, but said he’s troubled by Bush’s lack of support for adequate gun controls including universal background checks for all firearms purchases. Bush said Florida’s background checks are “helpful,” but “that should be driven by the states;” he also noted that although Florida has a high number of concealed-carry permits, its crime rate fell during his gubernatorial tenure due to “a certainty of punishment when people commit a crime with a gun.”

“We may have to disagree on this,” Bush told the worker.

Bush said he believes in equal pay for women who do the same work as men, and said laws already are in place to let workers challenge discrimination in court.

Jeb Bush at Thumbtack 7-16-2015 (photo by Josh Richman)Afterward and outside, Bush told reporters he’s touched by the tragedy of Kathryn Steinle’s July 1 slaying on San Francisco’s Pier 14 allegedly at the hands of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a 52-year-old felon who earlier had been deported five times. But he said fiery, anti-Mexican rhetoric from rival Donald Trump isn’t the answer: “I don’t think it’s appropriate as a potential president to prey on that fear.”

Asked about rival Rick Perry’s comment that Trump is offering “a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense,” Bush replied that Perry has been running the kind of principled campaign of policy proposals “that I’m respectful of.”

Bush also said “sanctuary cities” like San Francisco that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities should not be given federal law enforcement funding.

After Bush’s departure, Zappacosta said the issues likely to sway this election are less those of specific interest to Silicon Valley and more the broad areas of job creation, education and national security. As a company that represents “hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country,” he said, Thumbtack was a great venue for Bush to discuss fostering small-business innovation. “It’s clearly a topic that he’s thought hard about.”

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Jeb Bush names some Silicon Valley favorites

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 at 3:57 pm in 2016 presidential election

In advance of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s upcoming visit Thursday to a San Francisco tech startup (and his fundraisers Wednesday night in San Francisco and Thursday in Woodside, the former Florida governor has made a brief video naming some of his Silicon Valley favorites.

As the campaign notes, “SPOILER: Jeb is the first politician in history to side against apple pie.”

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