Part of the Bay Area News Group

Joe Biden to visit San Francisco, Oakland this week

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 at 1:40 pm in Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden is coming to the Bay Area this week.

The White House announced Tuesday that Biden will arrive in San Francisco on Thursday for a political event, and on Friday is scheduled to visit a PG&E center in Oakland to discuss the importance of workforce development and investing in job-training programs across the country.

His wife, Jill Biden, is coming as well, and plans to visit De Anza College in Cupertino to highlight the administration’s commitment to community colleges and their importance to the nation’s future.

The vice president last visited San Francisco in early October to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, and before that in late May.

More details to come…

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Rand Paul launches his presidential campaign

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 at 9:53 am in 2016 presidential election, Rand Paul

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul declared his presidential candidacy Tuesday.

“I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government,” Paul, R-Kent., said on his website, which features the slogan, “Defeat the Washington machine.” The website also features his first presidential campaign video:

Rand held a rally Tuesday morning in Louisville, and then is scheduled to start a campaign tour through the early-primary states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.

Paul might have an edge up on other GOP contenders by way of his appeal to younger voters from a wider political spectrum, as well as to the “disruptor” culture of Silicon Valley. His outspoken criticism of government surveillance programs and the war on drugs help him draw huge crowds at his appearances across the nation, including the fervent, standing-room-only throng that welcomed him a year ago at the University of California, Berkeley. And Paul has a head start on building a ground campaign, given the many loyalists he inherited from his father, three-time presidential candidate and former congressman Ron Paul.

But libertarians still comprise a relatively small part of the GOP electorate, and some libertarians fault Paul for being too open to military interventions abroad, his opposition to same-sex marriage, and his opposition to marijuana legalization.

His website also features merchandise including the Rand Paul campaign eye chart (he’s an ophthalmologist, remember?) and the NSA spy cam blocker, a campaign-logoed doohickey to place over your laptop’s webcam. (Heh.)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his own candidacy March 23, issued a statement saying he’s glad to welcome his friend into the primary race.

“Rand is a good friend, and we have worked side by side on many issues,” said Cruz, R-Texas. “I respect his talent, his passion, and the work he has done for Kentuckians and Americans in the U.S. Senate. His entry into the race will no doubt raise the bar of competition, help make us all stronger, and ultimately ensure that the GOP nominee is equipped to beat Hillary Clinton and to take back the White House for Republicans in 2016.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is expected to launch his campaign next week, and about 10 other potential GOP candidates are circling as well.

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Speier raises alarm on spoofed ‘constituent’ emails

By Josh Richman
Friday, April 3rd, 2015 at 4:01 pm in Jackie Speier, U.S. House

A Bay Area congresswoman raised an alarm this week that emails that were intended to look like they came from district constituents might instead have come from big-money special interest groups.

POLITICO reported that some “constituent” messages to lawmakers urging opposition to the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules had identical wording as those organized by American Commitment, a group led by a former top aide at the Koch-brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity.

Jackie SpeierAnd Rep. Jackie Speier’s staff determined some of the messages came from constituents who didn’t recall sending them. Her staff produced a memo sent out by Lockheed Martin, which runs the technology powering some House members’ contact web pages, which said “a vast majority of the emails do not appear to have a valid in-district address.” The Lockheed memo also questioned whether the email addresses on the messages were even legitimate at all.

Speier posted a statement on Facebook on Thursday saying she’s “deeply concerned by this suspicious activity, and rest assured I will never, ever tolerate an attempt to subvert the democratic rights of my constituents.”

“This is identity theft, pure and simple,” she wrote. “But instead of impersonating for financial gain, the originators of this theft are striking at the heart of our representative democracy. The idea that an outside group could use consumer data to impersonate constituents suggests an attempt to hijack the important feedback members of Congress need to truly represent their districts. You can’t buy or steal hearts and minds.”

She said she’s pressing for a full investigation and developing a bill to criminalize this activity.

Phil Kerpen, who runs American Commitment, told POLITICO his group didn’t impersonate anyone, but other groups mounting similar campaigns had borrowed the text from his web site.

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Reactions for and against the Iran nuclear deal

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 at 1:48 pm in Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Iran, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Members of Congress are weighing in for or against the framework for a final agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, reached by a group of world powers including the United States and announced today by the White House.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a Foreign Relations Committee member:

Barbara Boxer“Now that all parties have agreed to a framework, Congress has a choice: support these negotiations or disrupt them and potentially jeopardize this historic opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We don’t yet know the details of a final deal, but initial reports are promising, and if the U.S. had prematurely ended talks on nuclear issues in the past, we would never have had historic and critical international agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the New START Treaty.

“The Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to reach this point and I will work to ensure that Congress has the patience to support this diplomatic effort because the risks of walking away from the table are simply too high.”

From U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who led 46 other senators in writing to Iran to undermine the negotiations:

Tom Cotton“There is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons. Iran will keep a stockpile of enriched uranium and thousands of centrifuges—including centrifuges at a fortified, underground military bunker at Fordow. Iran will also modernize its plutonium reactor at Arak. Iran won’t have to disclose the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, despite longstanding UN demands. In addition, Iran will get massive sanctions relief up front, making potential “snap-back” sanctions for inevitable Iranian violations virtually impossible.

“Contrary to President Obama’s insistence, the former deputy director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has said terms such as these will allow Iran to achieve nuclear breakout in just a few months, if not weeks. But in any case, even these dangerous terms will expire in just 10-15 years, even though it only took North Korea 12 years to get the bomb after it signed a similar agreement in 1994.

“These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior. Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East. And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.

“I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to protect America from this very dangerous proposal and to stop a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“If fully implemented, today’s framework agreement would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, enhance our national security and show that diplomacy works.

“This is a major step forward for diplomacy, national security and global peace. This type of smart, strategic diplomacy brings us closer to a more peaceful and secure world while promoting U.S. national security.

“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and his diplomatic team for negotiating this framework agreement that promotes regional and global security.

“Today’s announcement is an important achievement for diplomacy, non-proliferation and President Obama.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president says negotiators have cleared the basic threshold needed to continue talks, but the parameters for a final deal represent an alarming departure from the White House’s initial goals. My longtime concerns about the parameters of this potential agreement remain, but my immediate concern is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief. Congress must be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted.

“After visiting with our partners on the ground in the Middle East this week, my concerns about Iran’s efforts to foment unrest, brutal violence and terror have only grown. It would be naïve to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.

“In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will continue to press this administration on the details of these parameters and the tough questions that remain unanswered. We will stand strong on behalf of the American people and everyone in the Middle East who values freedom, security, and peace.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

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Chiang urges CalSTRS to divest from gun maker

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 at 7:22 pm in gun control, John Chiang

California Treasurer John Chiang is concerned that the state’s teachers’ pension system still has investments managed by a firm that hasn’t kept its promise to sell off its firearm-manufacturing holdings.

This all started with the December, 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which a Bushmaster AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle – which fit California’s definition of an assault weapon – was used to kill 20 children and six adults. Bushmaster – along with Remington, Marlin and several other firearm brands – belongs to the Freedom Group, which in turn is owned by Cerberus Capital Management.

Bushmaster XM15

Soon after the Newtown shooting, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) issued a statement expressing concern that Cerberus – which manages some private equity funds in which CalSTRS is invested – owned Freedom Group. But Cerberus had just announced that it intended to sell Freedom Group, so CalSTRS was satisfied.

Yet Cerberus still owns Freedom Group today.

“Two years ago, I was proud to support the effort of CalSTRS to divest from assault weapon manufacturers,” Chiang wrote this week CalSTRS investment committee chairwoman Sharon Hendricks. “I am frustrated that two years have passed and the Freedom Group remains in their portfolio, indirectly financed by the pension contributions of California teachers.”

Chiang acknowledged the pension fund is obliged to find sound investments, but “it must consider how those investments may be used to finance business interests that run counter to the beliefs of CalSTRS and its members.”

“We rightly determined that there is significant risk in investing in the Freedom Group, a business that manufactures weapons that are susceptible to sanctions, regulations, and actions that could be detrimental to the fund,” he wrote, urging the CalSTRS board to do whatever is necessary to fully divest from the Freedom Group.

Chiang also asked that Cerberus’ leadership attend the CalSTRS board meeting this Friday “to explain why the Freedom Group remains in its portfolio despite agreeing to remove it more than two years ago. It is vital that Cerberus understand the strong desire of CalSTRS, its Board, and teachers in California, that none of its funds be used to fund the manufacturing of weapons used to commit such terrible atrocities.”

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SD7: Steve Glazer files FPPC complaint on unions

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 at 10:56 am in California State Senate

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, vying with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the 7th State Senate District special election, filed a complaint Wednesday with the state’s political watchdog agency claiming labor unions are hiding their role in a group that’s attacking him.

Steve GlazerGlazer informed the Fair Political Practices Commission that the “Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate” group received hundreds of thousands of dollars from union committees, but failed to list on its mailer the names of the top two union donors who had contributed $50,000 or more, as state law requires.

“The disclosure rules are in effect to give voters full knowledge of the special interests who are funding these communications,” Glazer said in a news release. “These groups are sophisticated political players who circumvented disclosure laws for the sole purpose of misleading voters.”

Glazer cited filings with the Secretary of State that show the State Council of Service Employees gave $185,000 and the California School Employees Association gave $75,000 to support this mailer.

Before the March 17 primary, unions had contributed money to the Asian American Small Business PAC, which put out mailers supporting Republican Michaela Hertle – who had dropped out of the race Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer. The PAC previously had almost exclusively endorsed Asian American Democrats, and the mailers were seen as an effort to sap votes from Glazer.

“Special interest groups are fearful of my candidacy because I won’t do their bidding. They need to come out of the shadows and play by the rules. I have asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to hold them accountable,” Glazer said.

Glazer has also benefitted from extensive independent spending, with massive outlays from Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield and the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC.

The special general election – to succeed Democrat Mark DeSaulnier, who was elected to Congress in November – will be held May 19.

UPDATE @ 3:06 P.M.: Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate, called the complaint “nothing more than a meritless publicity stunt cooked up by Big Tobacco political consultant Steve Glazer to deflect from the fact that his campaign is being bankrolled big insurance and drug companies, out-of-state corporations, and other special interests. We look forward to the FPPC quickly dismissing this smear.”

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Mike Honda introduces the ACRONYM Act

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 at 8:57 am in Mike Honda, U.S. House

Rep. Mike Honda, annoyed by what he calls “an avalanche of verbiage in the name of every bill,” announced his introduction Wednesday, April 1 of the Accountability and Congressional Responsibility On Naming Your Motions (ACRONYM) Act of 2015.

The bill will prohibit the addition of words to the title of any bill just to create an acronym.

Sing it, Mike!“It’s gotten ridiculous,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “We’re getting bills that have over 10 words in the title just so they can spell something that’s supposed to be clever. The last straw was The Pension And Social Security Measuring Equivalence Permanent Linking of Everyone’s Actual Savings Environment (PASS ME PLEASE) Act, which only corrected a typo on Page 346 of the tax code.” The bill failed along party lines.

The ACRONYM Act was immediately endorsed by the Association of House Reading Clerks, the House Transcription Guild, the Association of Print Journalists, and the Teachers and Educators Resource Society of Editing (TERSE). The bill was condemned, however, by the Venerable Enclave of Repetitive But Official Stylistic Engineers (VERBOSE).

“My goal is to rid this Congress, and all those after it, of bills with names like the Utility and Nuclear Defensive Energy Rehabilitated Facility Upkeep and Notification Determination for Every Democracy (UNDERFUNDED) Act; the National Environmental Versus Economy, Reflection, and OUTcome OF Congressional Outlays, Minus Military Information Technology Terminology, Electricity Enhancement (NEVER OUT OF COMMITTEE) Act, and the People Are Ready To Inhabit Saturn And Neptune (PARTISAN) Act,” Honda added.

Honda said that as an educator for more than 30 years, it offends him to see the language so brutally abused. “And I was a science teacher! We wrote the book on adding unnecessary words and phrases to make things sound more important. But this has gotten out of hand.”

Honda has high hopes for the bill passing out of the Nation’s Operational and Clerical Habits Application and Notification for Congressional Excellence (NO CHANCE) House subcommittee.

(Yes, we get it. And a very happy April Fool’s Day to you too, congressman.)

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Silicon Valley types launch D.C. think tank

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 at 11:49 am in Uncategorized

Some prominent Silicon Valley names are behind a think tank and advocacy group that launched today in Washingotn, D.C.

The Economic Innovation Group describes itself as “an ideas laboratory and advocacy organization dedicated to forging a more dynamic, entrepreneurial, and innovative U.S. economy for the 21st century” which will “convene leading voices from the public and private sectors, develop original policy research, and work with policymakers to advance legislation designed to bring new jobs, investment, and economic growth to communities across the nation.”

It’ll be led by former Obama Administration senior economic advisor Steve Glickman and John Lettieri, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and trade association executive. And the group’s Founders Circle includes angel investor Ron Conway of San Francisco; Rebecca Lynn, co-founder of Canvas Venture Fund in Menlo Park; Brigade chairman Sean Parker of Los Angeles, formerly of Napster and Facebook; Joseph Sanberg of Los Angeles, co-founder of Aspiration.com and Pt Capital; Dana Settle of Los Angeles, co-founder of Greycroft Partners; and Ted Ullyot of Hillsborough, investor and Facebook’s first general counsel.

“It’s time for a paradigm shift in the way we think about growth, investment, and job creation. Important voices are missing from the policy debate, and Washington is mired in the same, stale conversations,” Glickman said in a news release. “We’re bringing together entrepreneurs and investors who are at the vanguard of our economy to tap into their ideas, resources, and creativity to help increase economic opportunity around the country.”

Settle said the uneven economic recovery has left many communities behind. “We need greater engagement from leaders in the private sector – not simply to advance their own interests, but to help address national challenges that go beyond the boundaries of any single industry.”

EIG’s Economic Advisory Board will be led by Kevin Hassett, economic policy director at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and former advisor to several Republican presidential candidates; Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden; Steven Davis and Austan Goolsbee, both at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business; Kenneth Rogoff at Harvard University, and Matthew Slaughter at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.

Hasset said the group “inhabits a unique space in the policy ecosystem that has been vacant for far too long, bringing a fresh and entrepreneurial voice to Washington” and will “take the best bipartisan ideas from the academic and think tank communities, and help ensure they receive the attention and support they deserve.”

EIG will first policy event is scheduled for April 15, 2015, in partnership with The Atlantic and coinciding with the release of the group’s first white paper, authored by Hassett and Bernstein and focused on unlocking capital to revitalize distressed communities.

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Political transparency protests set for Thursday

By Josh Richman
Monday, March 30th, 2015 at 5:22 pm in campaign finance

Activists are planning 50 events in cities coast to coast – including Berkeley and Walnut Creek – on Thursday urging President Obama to sign an executive order requiring contractors that do business with the government to disclose their political spending.

The rallies will include a news conference outside the White House, at which hundreds of thousands of petitions will be delivered.

For now, companies bidding for public contracts need not disclose their campaign spending; activists say this creates a corrupt pay-to-play system in which money from government contracts can secretly be used to re-elect those who award the deals. With an executive order, Obama could force contractors to disclose their spending so citizens can see which elected officials get the most contributions from them.

Thursday was picked for the national event because it’s the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, which increased the flow of money from corporations, unions and the wealthy into politics.
Activists will gather at from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at South Main Street and Olympic Blvd. in Walnut Creek with signs, music, petitions and information sheets.

In Berkeley, activists will have a table on the University of California’s Sproul Plaza near Sather Gate from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with en masse photos – featuring a large prop flashlight to “shine the light on political corruption – at noon and 2 p.m.

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California politicos praise Harry Reid

By Josh Richman
Friday, March 27th, 2015 at 4:13 pm in Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Friday he won’t seek re-election in 2016.

As jockeying begins to see who’ll replace him as Senate Democrats’ leader (Chuck Schumer? Dick Durbin? Elizabeth Warren?) and as Nevada’s senator (Brian Sandoval? Joe Heck? Ross Miller?), California Democrats were effusive in their praise of Reid.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“There’s no one I’d rather have on my side in a legislative battle than Harry Reid. His leadership, friendship and passion will be missed when he leaves the Senate.

“I’ve known Harry and Landra for more than 20 years and have enjoyed their friendship. Together, Harry and I have taken on a host of issues on behalf of our neighboring states. It’s especially been a pleasure working with Harry on the preservation of Lake Tahoe and other issues that bring out the best in us.

“I’m particularly thankful for Harry’s support during the process of releasing the CIA torture report. Harry knows what it’s like to be in a dogfight. He knows what it’s like to be attacked from all sides. I always knew that after a particularly bad week I’d get a call from Harry offering his support, telling me he was behind me all the way.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and I look forward to two more years of working side-by-side to do even more. The nation is better off because of Harry Reid.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“I have known Harry Reid for more than thirty years and since the day I met him, Harry has given every bit of his energy and every bit of his devotion to his job and his loving family. Harry is a fearless leader who listens to all sides before taking a stand. He has known heartache in many forms, but he never let it get in the way of his hopes and dreams and dedication to every family in America. Harry is one of a kind and I am grateful that we worked together for so many years for the good of Nevada, California and the country we love.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“With Harry Reid’s decision to retire, Congress and our country will lose a patriot, pioneer, and one of the greatest leaders the Senate has ever known. Senator Reid is a master of the Senate, a reliable fighter for America’s hard-working families, a legislator whose leadership stretches back more than three decades.

“From his earliest days in the House to his tenure as Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid never forgot the hard-working families of Nevada he is so proud to represent. He has brought their values, their pioneer spirit and their determination to the Congress, and he has been an unsurpassed champion for the rights and opportunities of every American.

“It has been my great honor to call Senator Reid a dear and trusted friend for so many years. More so, I have been privileged to work with him in enacting historic and consequential legislation for our country.

“In the darkest days of the financial calamity, we worked together to pass the legislation that rescued our economy. We worked to pass the landmark Dodd-Frank consumer Wall Street reform bill, the most significant consumer financial reforms in a generation. We passed the Affordable Care Act and ensured that, in the United States of America, affordable, quality health care is the right of every American, not the privilege of the few.

“Senator Reid leaves a historic legacy of strength and achievement on behalf of the American people. He has helped to dramatically expand American investments in clean energy, passed bold and comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate, championed the Violence Against Women Act, and welcomed a record-breaking generation of new women Senators.

“His leadership and ability command respect on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress. Without question, Senator Reid’s departure is an irreplaceable loss for our entire country. But as he announces his hard-earned, well-deserved retirement, I wish him, his wife Landra, and the entire Reid family all the best in happy years ahead.”

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