Former aide helps Carole Migden retire legal debt

The Oakland-based Californians for a Democratic Majority PAC on Tuesday gave $100,000 to former state Sen. Carole Migden’s Legal Defense and Compliance Fund.

That’s a big chunk of change from a PAC that had only $149,156.47 in the bank at 2008’s end. But it’s an even greater boon for Migden’s legal fund, which finished 2008 with only $1,725.95 in the bank and $127,419.40 in outstanding debts. The only other big contribution the legal fund has received in 2009 was $5,000 back in January from Feysan J. Lodde of San Francisco, the founder and owner of Fairfield-based MV Transportation Inc.

So, who are Californians for a Democratic Majority? The group’s treasurer is Michael Colbruno of Oakland, who is Clear Channel Outdoor’s vice president of public policy; an Oakland Planning Commissioner; a Democratic activist (a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and an unsuccessful candidate for the Alameda County Democratic Central Commtittee last year); and Migden’s former legislative director. Lists of the PAC’s donors for the 2008 and 2006 election cycles show it has been funded by a variety of labor unions, Democratic officials and business interests.

Colbruno tonight said he’s one of three people who decide how the PAC spends its money; he declined to name the other two without consulting them first, but said they’d agreed it was “worthy to help her (Migden) out with her legal stuff.”

“She’s had a significant and heralded career doing some great work on environmental and civil rights and foster care work,” he said, adding many elected officials run up legal bills “as your opponents make charges against you, and sometimes you need help with those.”

“I suspect she’s still going to be in the game for a while, she was a great legislator,” he said.

It’s not the first time Colbruno has helped Migden out; in 2007, he helped get Clear Channel to donate a bunch of pro-Migden billboards in San Francisco as her re-election campaign was heating up.

Migden’s legal fund certainly has seen a lot of action. California’s Fair Political Practices Commission in 2002 fined her $16,000 for eight violations of campaign-finance law; in 2006 fined her $47,500 for 21 violations; later in 2006 fined her another $47,500 for another 22 violations; and last year fined her $350,000 for 89 violations – the largest single fine in the FPPC’s history. (Thanks to Calitics for the litany.)

Despite admitting all those violations, Migden sued the FPPC last year in federal court, claiming she should be allowed to use $647,000 from her 2000 Assembly re-election campaign for her 2008 state Senate re-election campaign; the FPPC claimed that money became surplus when she left the Assembly and couldn’t legally be used for the 2008 bid. The FPPC countersued, “seeking more than $9 million in damages for her consistent and deliberate failure to follow California’s campaign laws.” A judge issued an injunction letting Migden use the old funds, and the cases finally were settled in October with Migden agreeing to pay $40,000 to resolve allegations of campaign finance regulations.

Migden – who despite accessing her old campaign funds still lost her 3rd State Senate District seat last year to then-Assemblyman and former protégé Mark Leno – now serves on the California Integrated Waste Management Board that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is so hot to eliminate as wasteful (even though its current annual budget of $235.3 million comes all from fees, not the state’s crippled General Fund). Schwarzenegger appointed Migden to the $132,000-a-year board post in December.


Time for an end run around the Electoral College?

This year’s presidential election didn’t bring us the sort of one-state Electoral College cliffhanger that we had in 2000 and 2004, but there are those who still believe the EC as it stands is an outdated relic.

A leader of that movement — John Koza, a computer scientist who’s a consulting professor in Stanford University’s Electrical Engineering and Medicine departments — is delivering a lecture this afternoon at the University of California, Berkeley. His argument is that in the existing system, a candidate has no reason to poll, visit, advertise in or even pay much attention to states where he/she or his/her opponent enjoys a seemingly insurmountable lead; witness how California usually serves as little more than a campaign-cash ATM for candidates. But if the president is picked by a direct national popular vote, he says, every state becomes a battleground.

It wouldn’t even take a constitutional amendment. National Popular Vote — a nonprofit of which Koza is vice president, and Lafayette political attorney Barry Fadem is president — notes the Constitution’s Article II, Section I lets each state appoint electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” That means there’s nothing stopping state Legislatures from agreeing — via an interstate compact — to throw their electors to the candidate who won the most votes nationwide.

So far, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey have enacted laws approving such a compact. Legislatures in some other states, including Rhode Island, Vermont and California, have passed such bills but seen them vetoed; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed them twice, in 2006 and 2008.

This year’s bill was SB 37 by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco; in his Sept. 30 veto message, Schwarzenegger said the bill “represents a significant departure away from letting each individual state choose how to award its presidential electoral votes and towards a national vote for president. Because California’s endorsement of a national popular vote would significantly change the debate on the matter, enactment of this bill would represent a major shift in the way not only Californians but all Americans choose their president. Such a significant change should be voted on by the people. As such, I cannot support this measure but encourage the proponents to seek approval of the people for the changes it proposes.”

Foes of the plan say relying only on national numbers would send candidates careening to the coasts and big cities, leaving the nation’s interior as nothing but “flyover states.”

But supporters note the smallest states aren’t getting presidential attention anyway — for the past 20 years, six of the 13 least populous states have regularly gone Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota) and six others have regularly gone Democratic (Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, and the District of Columbia); only New Hampshire has been a battleground state.

Those 12 small, non-competitive states have a combined population of about 11.4 million and have a total of 40 electoral votes, National Popular Vote advocates note. Meanwhile, the battleground state of Ohio has about 11.5 million people and candidates trip over themselves to court its 20 electoral votes. A national popular vote would make a vote cast in a small state as important as a vote cast in Ohio or anywhere else, advocates say.

Now, I don’t think this takes into account the fact that candidates might still gravitate to the big coastal population centers not only for raw numbers but because major television markets provide more advertising bang for the campaign buck. It also doesn’t take into account the cutting-edge, grassroots ground game that Barack Obama brought this year, putting boots on the street and money on the airwaves in several previously ignored states.

Still, it’s an interesting proposal and shows no sign of going away; Migden’s gone, but NPV reportedly is keeping all options on the table for the coming Legislative session.


Mark Leno swamps Joe Nation, Carole Migden

leno.jpgAssemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, seems to have easily snuffed former Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, and incumbent state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, to seize the Democratic nomination for Migden’s 3rd State Senate District seat.

Some had thought it would be a close race between the two challengers, with the troubled incumbent a distant third. But my count — with all San Francisco and Marin County precincts reporting, and all but six in Sonoma County — shows Leno at 43,732 votes, Nation at 29,713 and Migden at 28,184. That’s 43 percent, 29 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

The district is more than 3-to-1 Democrats to Republicans, so barring the unforeseen, Leno is movin’ on up to the state Senate come November.


What’s left for the Democrats

With the Florida and Michigan delegates seated with half-votes, the new threshhold to clinch the Democratic nomination is 2,118. The Washington Post says Obama has 2,052 (66 short) while Clinton has 1,877 (241 short).

Puerto Rico votes today, with 55 delegates; Clinton is expected to do well there. Montana and South Dakota vote Tuesday, with 16 and 15 delegates respectively; Obama is expected to do well there.

And so it’ll go to the superdelegates. Politico says the superdelegate count now stands at 324.5 for Obama, 279.5 for Clinton and 163 undecided. The undecideds include 86 Democratic National Committee members; 48 House members and 15 U.S. Senators. And of the undecideds, 14 are from California:

  • Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego
  • Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel
  • Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego
  • Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton
  • DNC member state Sen. Carole Midgen, D-San Francisco
  • DNC member and state Democratic Party campaign advisor Bob Mulholland
  • DNC member, attorney and author Christine Pelosi of San Francisco
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco
  • DNC member and labor union political director John A. Perez of Los Angeles
  • DNC member and retired chemical worker Robert Rankin of Carson
  • DNC member and state party chairman Art Torres
  • DNC member and state official Keith Umemoto of Sacramento
  • DNC member and attorney Steve Ybarra of Sacramento
  • U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday in San Francisco that he, Pelosi and DNC chairman Howard Dean have agreed to try to end the race by the end of this week by urging the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to weigh in.


    Campaigns around the Bay this weekend

  • Bay Area supporters of Barack Obama will decsend upon Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza at noon tomorrow, Saturday, April 19, as part of a Nation for Change Nationwide Rally in advance of next Tuesday’s crucial Pennsylvania primary election. Among those scheduled to speak in Oakland are Change Congress founder Lawrence Lessig; Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel; Richmond City Councilman Tony Thurmond; prominent Obama fundraiser and volunteer Tony West; and the Rev. Elouise Oliver of the East Bay Church of Religious Science in Oakland.
  • Local supporters of Hillary Clinton will gather from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at an Oakland home for a “last big weekend push into Pennsylvania” via phone-banking (BYO cell phone). E-mail hillary4prez@att.net for location and other details.
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is kicking off his re-election campaign in earnest Saturday with door-to-door canvassing in Dublin, Stockton, Tracy and Morgan Hill; volunteers are asked to RSVP though his campaign Web site. He’s unopposed in June’s primary, and faces Stockton Republican Dean Andal in November.
  • State Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, kicks off her re-election campaign (she’s being challenged by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, in the June 3 primary) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, joined by state Senate President Pro Tem Elect Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and former state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, at her campaign headquarters, 121 9th St. (between Mission and Howard) in San Francisco. After bagels and coffee, they’ll hit the streets and the phones all morning…
  • 9th State Senate District candidate and former Assembly Majority Leader Wilma Chan is holding a fundraiser at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 20, at a Los Gatos home; see her campaign Web site for more details. Her rival in June’s Democratic primary is Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.