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Report from Obama’s Los Altos Hills fundraiser

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 at 12:52 pm in Barack Obama, Obama presidency

My story will be posted soon to mercurynews.com, but here’s the entire pool report I just filed from President Obama’s remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus:

Press was shown into backyard of real estate mogul George Marcus’s sumptuous back yard at 11:53 a.m., where guests were gathered at tables under a tent next to the tennis court. Tickets for this event cost $10,000 per person, or $32,400 per couple with a VIP photo opportunity.

The president strode into the tent at 11:59 a.m. and was briefly introduced by Marcus. Remarks began at noon.

Obama said there are two reasons he’s here: the fine weather, and the connection he made with George and Judy Marcus’ infant granddaughter. “I may take her with me.” He lauded Marcus as someone who has lived the American dream, remembers it and wants to give back. He praised House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who was seated in the middle of the crowd, saying he needs her back as Speaker. He also recognized Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, as well as Democratic House candidates Michael Eggman (CA10) and Amanda Renteria (CA21).

Also spotted in the audience: Pelosi’s daughters Christina and Alexandra, and her son Paul Jr.

“One of my main functions here is to just say thank you” for all the support in years past, the president said.

“When we came into office, we were going through the worst economy since the Great Depression,” he said, but the record of the past five years is “some pretty remarkable progress” with the economy improved by almost every measure. Also, millions more Americans have health care, he noted, while high school dropouts have decreased and college enrollments have increased.

Silicon Valley represents the spirit of dynamism that typifies the American economy, he said, yet there’s still a lot of anxiety as profits have accrued almost only to those at the very top while the middle class “is stuck, they feel like they’re treading water.”

“It feels as if Washington doesn’t work” and ignores those in need, he said.

Investing in things like early childhood education will bring massive returns, Obama said, and 28 million would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage. Helping working families with child care would relieve a great burden, and ensuring equal pay for women who do equal work would help support families, he said.

“We have some big technical issues – what’s the next big energy breakthrough that’s going to help us fully contain the impacts of climate change,” he said, and economic issues, too.

“But if we just took some commonsense steps, this country would grow faster… and families would be better off,” he said.

The reason things aren’t working is that one party is interested only in proving that government doesn’t work, and saying no to these commonsense steps, Obama said.

“I hope that the reason you’re here today is that you want to get something done… We have to break this cycle of gridlock and cynicism,” he said – and both parties can and should work to advance the common good. “I’d love nothing more than a loyal and rational opposition, but that’s not what we have right now.”

Democrats must overcome their “congenital defect” of not voting in midterm elections, he said, and get as fired up about November as they did about his own campaigns in 2008 and 2012. “I need partners, I need help.”

POTUS concluded his remarks at 12:13 and the press was ushered out before he began taking questions. He did acknowledge his admiration of one reporter’s fedora as the press departed; sadly, the aforementioned headgear was not worn by your pooler.

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Miller, Dems offer ‘Schedules That Work Act’

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 at 2:11 pm in George Miller, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Rep. George Miller helped introduce a bill Tuesday that supporters say would give hourly workers greater scheduling flexibility and certainty, and stem some employers’ abusive scheduling practices.

George MillerMiller, D-Martinez, the ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, said H.R. 5159, the Schedules That Work Act, “is about protecting basic dignity: the dignity of work and the dignity of the individual.”

“Workers need scheduling predictability so they can arrange for child care, pick up kids from school, or take an elderly parent to the doctor,” he said. “The Schedules That Work Act ensures that employers and employees have mutual respect for time dedicated to the workplace.”

Miller introduced the bill with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; they were joined at a Capitol Hill news conference by representatives from the National Women’s Law Center and two hourly workers. The bill already has 27 co-sponsors, and U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are introducing a companion bill.

The lawmakers say workers in some of the economy’s fastest-growing but lowest-paying industries — including the retail, food service, and janitorial work — face erratic and irregular work schedules, making it hard to earn a decent living while meeting family responsibilities.

This bill, they say, would protect all employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible, predictable or stable schedule, and would create a balanced process for employers to consider requests. Workers making such requests due to caregiving duties, a health condition, education or training courses or a second job would have to be granted the schedule change unless the employer has a bona fide business reason for denying it.

The bill would require paying retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early. It also would provide that retail, food service, and cleaning employees receive work schedules at least two weeks in advance; though schedules may later be changed, one hour’s worth of extra pay is required for schedules changed with less than 24 hours’ notice.

And the bill would require an extra hour of pay for workers who are scheduled to work split shifts, or non-consecutive shifts within a single day.

“Low-wage workers in America are too often being jerked around,” DeLauro said. “These women — and they are usually women — cannot plan ahead, or make arrangements to see that theirs kids and family are being taken care of. This bill would protect low-wage workers from abuse and help ensure they can look after their families. Congress needs to ensure that people putting in a hard day’s work get a fair day’s pay and the ability to care for their loved ones.”

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Net neutrality activists will target Obama event

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 at 10:07 am in Barack Obama, Obama presidency

Activists from more than a dozen liberal grassroots groups are planning a “Don’t Kill the Internet” protest in favor of net neutrality outside President Obama’s Democratic fundraiser Wednesday in Los Altos Hills.

US-IT-INTERNET-FCCThe rally, organized by MoveOn.org Political Action and Free Press, will urge Obama to defend the open internet from a proposal by his Federal Communications Commission appointee that activists say would divide the Internet into fast lanes for wealthy businesses and slow lanes for most everyone else.

They note that Obama since his first campaign “has promised to preserve the open internet that helped him get elected and that every American relies on to access information, start a new business, and compete on a level playing field.”

Obama arrives in the Bay Area on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday will attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus. Tickets cost $10,000 per person, or $32,000 per couple with a VIP photo opportunity.

Groups taking part in the net-neutrality rally – scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. at South San Antonio Road and West Edith Street in Los Altos – include MoveOn.org Political Action, Free Press, Common Cause, CREDO Action, Presente.org, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress, the Media Alliance, Code Pink, Daily Kos, SumOfUs, Progressives United, ACLU, and the Greenlining Institute. A similar rally is planned for another Democratic fundraiser Obama will attend later Wednesday in Los Angeles.

More than 1 million Americans have already submitted comments to the FCC on the need to preserve the open Internet, recently causing the FCC’s comment website to crash.

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Highlights from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook Q&A

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 21st, 2014 at 3:08 pm in Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took part in a far-ranging Facebook Q&A on Monday while visiting the social media giant’s Menlo Park headquarters, giving answers on everything from holding Russia responsible for the shoot-down of a jetliner to letting dogs on the sofa.

Here are some of the highlights:

Melinda Arons, Los Angeles: Secretary Clinton: What is your response to President Obama sayin earlier today that Putin has “direct responsibility” for the downing of MH17, and what can we do to bring justice to the families? How can we realistically hold Putin accountable with anything other than sanctions?
HRC: I agree with the President’s comment today and we should do more to ensure a thorough investigation that not only respects those who were murdered in the attack on the plane, but also tries to find answers to who is responsible. In addition, we should work to bring our European allies together with us on tougher sanctions that would make it clear to Putin that there is a price to pay for this kind of behavior and we should encourage Europeans to start immediately to make sure they are less dependent on Russian energy so they are not intimidated. Finally, I would like to see more support given to the Ukrainians to guard their borders and to protect themselves.

Amit Choudhary, Jamshedpur (Tata Nagar), India: Please describe your book in one sentence.
HRC: Just as individuals face hard choices in their lives as I reference in my book, so do nations, and we need to face up to them and be willing to make them for the good of our citizens and the rest of the world.

Lauren Hill, Negaunee, Mich.: What is your favorite book?
HRC: The Brothers Karamazov.

Danny Foglia, Jamesburg, N.J.: Would you support a Constitutional Amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” ruling, limiting the amount of money corporations and outside influences can contribute to political campaigns?
HRC: I would consider supporting an amendment among these lines that would prevent the abuse of our political system by excessive amounts of money if there is no other way to deal with the Citizen’s United decision.

Sophie Evekink, New York, N.Y.: If you became president of the United States, what would be your first action item on the agenda?
HRC: Answering hypothetically… the next President should work to grow the economy, increase upward mobility, and decrease inequality.

Esteban Wood, Miami: What is your opinion on Guantanamo Bay. Are you in favor of closing it? Why do you think the current administration has not closed it yet?
HRC: I supported closing it and know how hard the President has tried to do that.

More, after the jump…
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Hillary Clinton to do live Facebook Q&A today

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 21st, 2014 at 9:50 am in Hillary Clinton

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host a live Facebook Q&A at 2:30 p.m. today, Monday, July 21, during her visit to the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.

Those interested in taking part in the conversation can pose questions and follow along via the Facebook page for her memoir, “Hard Choices.”

As previously reported here, Clinton is scheduled to attend a community meeting Wednesday at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center in North Oakland to mark the Bay Area launch of “Talking is Teaching/ Talk, Read, Sing,” a campaign to help parents understand the importance of talking, reading and singing to children every day from birth.

UPDATE @ 2:07 P.M.: Clinton will visit Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters today as well, and will speak to company employees at about 5:20 p.m. “about the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned during her time as America’s 67th Secretary of State,” according to the company’s blog. “We’ll explore how those experiences have shaped her views on human rights, domestic policy and other topics.”

The event will be streamed live from a Tweet pinned to the top of Clinton’s Twitter page.

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Complaint filed about ‘Six Californias’ petitions

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 17th, 2014 at 4:09 pm in ballot measures, Debra Bowen, Secretary of State

The “OneCalifornia” committee formed to oppose venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” ballot measure filed a complaint with Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Thursday requesting a voter-fraud investigation.

The letter included a copy of the blog item I posted Tuesday, which detailed voters hundreds of miles apart recounting how paid petition circulators told strikingly similar falsehoods about the Six Californias petition’s purpose. Lying to voters in order to get them to sign a ballot-measure petition is a misdemeanor.

“To ensure the integrity of the state initiative process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the Six Californias initiative,” wrote Richard Miadich, attorney for the One California committee.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Draper, 56, of Atherton, who in the past has given generously to Republican causes, filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in order to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. County registrars and Bowen’s office must verify that at least 807,615 of those signatures are valid and from registered California voters.

OneCalifornia spokesman Steve Maviglio, a veteran Democratic strategist, said Thursday that “it’s not surprising that high jinx were involved in trying to get voters to sign the petition for this unthoughtful measure, even when signature gatherers were getting paid $3 for each signature they received.

“We’ve been flooded with emails and Tweets who are echoing what was reported,” Maviglio said. “These allegations are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the Secretary of State.”

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Obama, Hillary & Rand Paul visiting Bay Area

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 17th, 2014 at 1:14 pm in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul

It’s a presidential (and would-be presidential) bonanza here in the Bay Area, with President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul all visiting in the next week.

Paul, the junior Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, arrives Thursday for a three-day jaunt. Among the highlights will be his keynote speech at Reboot 2014, a conference organized by LincolnLabs, a libertarian-leaning political tech group.

Politico says Paul is on the hunt for “two things Democrats usually expect to have locked up in the Golden State: rich technology donors and computer geeks game to leave their jobs to work on a White House campaign.”

President Obama arrives in San Francisco on Tuesday night from Seattle; he’ll stay overnight and then attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon – tickets start at $10,000 each – at the Los Altos home of real estate developer George Marcus. Obama will head for Los Angeles later Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, Clinton is scheduled to attend a community meeting at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center in North Oakland to mark the Bay Area launch of “Talking is Teaching/ Talk, Read, Sing,” a campaign to help parents understand the importance of talking, reading and singing to children every day from birth.

This campaign is in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative between Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Locally, the effort is being championed by business and community organizations including the Bay Area Council, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland, and Kaiser Permanente.

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Kevin Mullin mulls election recount reform bill

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 at 10:27 am in Assembly, Kevin Mullin

The politically ugly recount now under way in the race for state controller has inspired a Bay Area Assemblyman to start working on a bill to reform the election recount process.

Kevin MullinAssemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, announced Wednesday he’s researching ways to ensure the recount process in future statewide elections is fair to all candidates, and he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature returns from its summer recess.

Mullin said options might include setting a threshold that automatically triggers the recount process for very close races, the development of a recount standard across counties, and a state-funded recount process.

“California is in uncharted territory with the Controller’s race recount,” Mullin said in a news release. “It’s imperative to our system of governance that the election process is fair and transparent for all voters and candidates. We are actively researching a variety of options and engaging in discussions with the Secretary of State’s office so we can craft comprehensive legislation on this issue.”

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, clearly finished first in the primary election for controller, but Board of Equalization member Betty Yee edged out fellow Democrat and Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez by 481 votes in their race to finish second. Perez has demanded a recount, specifying 15 counties in which he did better than Yee.

Current law lets a candidate demanding a recount specify not only which counties but even specific precincts and the order in which they’re recounted; the candidate must pay for the recount on a daily basis but can stop the process whenever a desired result is achieved. (Clarification: All of the ballots in each county included in a recount request must be recounted in order to change the result, though Perez could halt the recount between any of the 15 counties he specified if he gets a number he wants.) The other candidate can then choose whether or not to demand a recount too. Critics note this gives an advantage to whoever can better afford a recount – in this case, Perez.

“When the recount process is necessary, it should be easily implemented and every vote valued and counted equally,” Mullin said.

Mullin said he also plans to pursue legislation to standardize county-by-county vote counting and reporting procedures for vote-by-mail ballots that are dropped off at polling places on Election Day. His goal is to avoid the kinds of delays experienced in this year’s controller’s race as county vote tallies were aggregated and reported on the Secretary of State’s website.

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Santa Clara County ready to help immigrant kids

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 at 9:46 am in Anna Eshoo, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren

Santa Clara County stands ready to help efforts to care for unaccompanied Central American children flooding to the U.S. border, some local officials and members of Congress said Wednesday.

U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, joined with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, and San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo in issuing a statement.

“Small children and refugees fleeing violence in their home countries require our support, not our acrimony. And where other communities may turn these needy children away, our community is ready and willing to be compassionate,” the officials said. “We urge communities in the Bay Area, throughout the State of California, and across the nation to join us to make good on America’s promise of fairness and due process.”

Cortese and Liccardo, incidentally, are rivals in November’s San Jose mayoral election.

Law requires that every unaccompanied child, as a part of a deportation proceeding, is entitled to an evaluation to ascertain whether they are victims of human trafficking, have been abandoned or are eligible for asylum because of persecution. If not eligible, they will be returned home. But until this examination is complete, these children will remain in the United States.

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Three voters claim ‘Six Californias’ petition fraud

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at 4:08 pm in ballot measures

A few voters from different parts of California complain that paid signature gatherers for a ballot measure to split the Golden State into six pieces lied to them, claiming the measure did the exact opposite of what it really does.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper submitted signatures Tuesday to qualify his “Six Californias” measure for the November 16 ballot. Stories about this inspired several voters to reach out with strikingly similar tales of alleged fraud.

signing a petitionThe company Draper paid to circulate his petitions has been accused of skullduggery in signature-gathering campaigns from coast to coast. That company’s owner said Tuesday these are the first complaints he has heard about this campaign, they’re insignificant in the context of about 1.3 million signatures gathered, and past allegations were trumped up by political foes.

Illijana Asara, 65, of Humboldt County, sent an email Tuesday detailing what she believed to be election fraud.

“Within the last two weeks, I was approached in front of the Dollar Store in Valley West shopping center in Arcata, CA, by a young man with a petition who suggested that if I signed the petition, I would be opposing the Attorney General of California’s intention to split the state into six states,” Asara wrote.

“I told him that I knew that there were people pushing this idea, but that it wasn’t the Attorney General and I didn’t sign the petition. As soon as I said that, he walked away,” she said. “There were lots of people signing, so it could be that a lot of people bought his line. I don’t know if this has happened elsewhere, but since there is so little support for this notion, it may have.”

Another Californian, who uses the Yahoo! name Xrich, recounted a similar story in a comment posted to a news story about the measure.

“I was approached by a campaigner at Walmart who tried to get me to sign the petition,” Xrich wrote. “The canvasser said the petition was to oppose the division of California but I read it and said the proposal was in support of dividing California. … I told him to stuff it, but I bet a lot of people signed it thinking they were opposing, not supporting the division of California.”

Deborah Hernandez, 40, of Orange County, said Tuesday that this is “exactly describing what happened to me.” She said she was outside a Target store in Aliso Viejo about a month ago when a signature-gatherer approached her with the same story about the Six Californias measure, and also misrepresented the content of another measure dealing with criminal penalties.

“I read them both … and I said to him, you’re completely misrepresenting what these things are about,” she said. “Then he proceeded to tell me I must not know how to read and understand these petitions correctly.”

She promptly informed him of her degree in literature from UC-Irvine: “I have excellent reading comprehension.”

“I got really mad, I got into it with him,” Hernandez said. “I told him, you can just stand out here lying to people.”

Indeed, California Elections Code 18600 says anyone who circulates a ballot-measure petition and “intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition” when asking someone to sign is committing a misdemeanor.

Lots more, after the jump…
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