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Clinton taps Kamala Harris’ sister as policy advisor

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has named California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ younger sister, civil rights attorney Maya Harris, to help lead her campaign’s policy team.

Maya HarrisMaya Harris – who also is the wife of former Associate Attorney General Tony West, who stepped down last year from his third-in-command post at the U.S. Justice Department – most recently was a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. Before that, she was vice president for democracy, rights and justice at the Ford Foundation; before that, she was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, based in San Francisco.

Harris, 48, is one of three senior policy advisers Clinton named Tuesday to lead the development of her campaign’s agenda, Politico reported. The others are Ann O’Leary, a former legislative director to Clinton when she was in the Senate; and Jake Sullivan, a top aide to Clinton while she was Secretary of State and a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

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House Dems step up their gun-violence dialogue

House Democrats will stepping up the dialogue next week on how best to prevent gun violence.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, a combat veteran and avid hunter whom House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tapped last month to head up a gun-violence task force, held three town hall meetings on the topic this past week in Napa, Vallejo and Santa Rosa. On Monday, Thompson will join U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and Center for American Progress President and CEO Neera Tanden for a CAP-sponsored forum in Washington, D.C., on legislation and policies to reduce gun violence.

Pelosi and Thompson, along with Democratic Steering and Policy Committee co-chairs Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will hold a hearing next Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill entitled “Gun Violence Prevention: A Call to Action.” Among those scheduled to take part are Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Chaska, Minn., police chief Scott Knight, the former chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Firearms Committee; Emily Nottingham, whose son, Gabe Zimmerman, was slain in the 2011 assassination attempt upon Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz.; and Newtown, Conn., schools superintendent Janet Robinson.

Vice President Joe Biden convened a series of meetings this past week on curbing gun violence, and DeLauro was joined today by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and two other lawmakers in urging Biden to push for more firearms research by the Health and Human Services Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 1997 have been under a restriction that effectively keeps it from conducting any research or analysis related to gun violence, they wrote.

“We conduct evidence-based research into car crashes, drowning, poisoning, child abuse, and all other causes of accidents and injuries,” the lawmakers wrote to Biden. “We should be doing the same kind of research in order to determine how best to prevent firearm injuries and save lives. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to include a proposal recommending the end of this appropriations restriction and enhanced research on gun-related violence as part of your Task Force’s upcoming recommendations.”

Read the full text of the lawmakers’ letter, after the jump…
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New justice’s wife to run kids & families program

The wife of new California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu has been hired to run a national media campaign on the state of America’s kids and families.

The Center for the Next Generation announced today that Ann O’Leary, 40, of Berkeley, will run its Children and Families Program. The campaign, now in development, will launch later this year with a national advertising campaign, town-hall meetings, social media campaigns, research and other public events aimed at building support for proven private and public investments in programs and policies that benefit kids and families, the group said.

The group cited O’Leary’s more than a decade of experience working in the White House and on Capitol Hill; she most recently has been executive director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

“Ann provides TCNG with the perfect mix of legislative and policy experience to help us achieve our goal of increasing support for America’s children and families,” TCNG President Matt James said in a news release. “Ann is widely respected as one of the nation’s top experts on kids and families, and her deep understanding of these issues will help TCNG enormously as it works to focus the nation on the needs of children and families.”

The Center for the Next Generation describes itself as “a nonpartisan strategic communications nonprofit organization that supports programs and policies that benefit the next generation of young Americans. Driven by high-quality research and data, TCNG uses targeted communications to drive the development of an advanced energy economy and to build support for ensuring that America’s young people grow up healthy, are properly educated and well-prepared for the workforce. TCNG believes that these are the keys to a stronger, more prosperous America.”

“At a time when our economy is wreaking havoc on America’s families and children, Jim and Tom Steyer, through the creation of TCNG, have committed to waking up the public and our political leaders to the devastating consequences that will result if we do not all come together — businesses, community and faith leaders, families themselves and our government — to ensure that our children have the tools they need to thrive now and into the future,” O’Leary said in the news release.

Jim Steyer is the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.” Tom Steyer is the founder and senior managing member of San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management, and a prominent philanthropist.

At Cal, O’Leary conducted research, public education and technical support for policy makers in the areas of health, income and job security. She’s also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that’s usually tightly intertwined with the Obama Administration’s policies; there, she has authored policy reports and advised policymakers on the need to update our country’s workplace policies and social insurance system to reflect changing family and workplace demographics.

Before being at Cal and CAP, O’Leary was a San Francisco deputy city attorney; a law clerk for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; legislative director for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; a special assistant to the president in the White House Domestic Policy Council as head of the Children and Family Policy Team; and a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in critical social thought from Mount Holyoke College; a master’s in administration, policy analysis and evaluation from Stanford University’s School of Education; and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

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Jerry Brown, Harry Reid tout energy summit

A conference at the end of this month in Las Vegas will be a crucial opportunity for the nation to kick-start its clean-energy revolution, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on a conference call this morning.

Brown and Reid, D-Nev., as well as U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, were touting the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0, to be held Aug. 30 at the Aria Resort and Casino.

Business executives, energy policy innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and senior public officials from both parties, along with citizens and students, will discuss the nation’s energy future. Besides Brown and Mabus, speakers will include Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

“California has in many ways led in many fields, and with respect to renewable energy, we are very much out in the forefront,” Brown said, a policy path that has been “building up over many decades” back to his first tenure as governor. He gave former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger props for having championed renewable energy standards, and said he’s advanced that goal by signing legislation with more teeth.

The state now has a goal of generating 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020 – 12,000 megawatts in distributed generation, meaning individual rooftop-style sites, and 8,000 in centrally-based power generation like the 1,000-megawatt Blythe project for which ground was recently broken.

“We’re really committed here,” Brown said. “All signals are go and even though we’ve got some economic headwinds, this part of the economy is expanding.”

“You’ve put your money where your mouth is … and you’re a role model for every governor,” Reid told Brown.

“Almost three million are employed as we speak in the clean technology sector across the country,” Reid said, but although this sector has grown at twice the rate of the overall economy since 2003, “I’m disappointed we haven’t done better.”

Reid blasted House Republicans for trying to roll back some of the clean-energy progress made in recent years, citing as an example their unsuccessful effort last month to repeal recent light-bulb energy efficiency standards.

The torpid economy is making investors reluctant to keep supporting the clean-energy sector and Washington must do more to make it inviting, but “it’s very difficult with the backward-leaning Republican House of Representatives we have,” he said.

Mabus called it “a matter of national security.”

“We simply use too much oil and gas. As you look at a military and you look at potential adversaries, you look at their vulnerabilities but you also look at your own vulnerabilities,” he said, and ours is reliance on importing fossil fuels from volatile nations, and the supply and price shocks that entails.

The Navy has committed to deriving at least half of all its energy ashore and afloat from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2020, Mabus said, and at President Obama’s direction is working with the Agriculture and Energy departments on a sustainable biofuels program for the nation’s military and commercial aircraft.

“I think that relatively soon we should have some very concrete things to push forward on that,” he said. “We can lead the country into a different economy and into a different way of using and producing energy.”

The summit is being sponsored by Reid and Podesta’s CAP, as well as by the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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Oil spill shapes California’s drilling debate

Democrats are doing their happy dance now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in reaction to the epically disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has withdrawn his support of the proposed Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project off California’s coast.

From state Controller John Chiang:

“I am pleased the Governor has withdrawn his support for what would have been the first new oil lease off the coast of California in 40 years.

“As a member of the State Lands Commission who voted against the project last year, I am saddened that it took a tragic and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to remind us how important it is that we continue to protect California’s shores and our multi-billion dollar coastal and port economies.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who chaired the State Lands Commission while serving as lieutenant governor:

“It’s unfortunate it took one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history for Governor Schwarzenegger to come to his senses, but today, friends of California’s coastline can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no more new leases for oil drilling from platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara.

“When I chaired the California State Lands Commission, the independent commission responsible for approving oil leases in California, I made it clear that the risk of permitting new drilling from platforms in California is ecological and economic disaster. The Gulf Coast oil spill – which threatens 40 percent of U.S. wetlands and will cost fishing and tourism industries billions of dollars – proves my point. We don’t want to imagine what a similar spill would do to California’s coast.

“President Obama has proposed a temporary presidential moratorium on new offshore oil drilling, and that’s a good start, but Congress plays an important role as well. Our coast is best protected when both the President and Congress make it clear that new offshore drilling is not an option.

“An oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara jumpstarted the modern environmentalist movement 41 years ago, helping to create the Environmental Protection Agency, Earth Day, and ultimately, offshore oil drilling moratoriums that served us well for 26 years. What will they say about our response to the Gulf Coast tragedy?”

Since I wrote Friday about the differing views on this, new information about the spill’s severity has elicited more powerful criticisms of off-shore drilling.

Greenpeace – never a friend to oil interests, of course – put out this map today superimposing a projection of the Deepwater Horizon spill’s extent upon California’s coast, to illustrate the effect a similar spill might have here:

Greenpeace's CA oil spill forecast

And the Center for American Progress – a progressive think-tank with a lot of connections to the Obama Administration – made its case today, too.

“We need to learn from this tragedy,” wrote CAP Senior Fellow and Climate Strategy Director Daniel J. Weiss. “Offshore drilling is a risky way to meet our energy needs. We have only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet we use one-quarter of the oil produced annually. It is a dangerous practice that puts American lives and livelihoods at risk while distracting from real solutions that can provide clean energy while creating jobs.”

But House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says domestic drilling still has to be part of the nation’s overall energy plan.

John Boehner“The Obama Administration is right to insist on a full investigation of the events leading up to this tragic, deadly, unacceptable accident and the oil spill that resulted. We must stop the leaking oil, and help the Gulf recover, but we also need to know how it happened, who is responsible, and how we can prevent future incidents. The White House must ensure that BP bears the entire financial burden to clean up this disaster. Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up their mess. Also, House Oversight Ranking Member Darrell Issa is asking important questions related to the Administration’s response to this incident and he should get prompt and complete answers.

“At the same time, this tragedy should remind us that America needs a real, comprehensive energy plan, like Republicans’ ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy, which includes more of everything: more clean and renewable sources of energy such as nuclear power, wind, and solar energy, more alternative fuels, more conservation, and more environmentally-responsible development of America’s energy resources. Our American Energy Act would use the funds generated by expanded American energy production to speed up the development of the next generation of clean-energy alternatives. It would also lower fuel costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and – at a time when Americans are asking, where are the jobs? – it would create more than a million new American jobs.

“Now is not the time for new government-mandated limits on the production of American-made energy, as such limits will only make us more dependent on foreign oil, slow the development of clean-energy alternatives, increase fuel costs, and destroy American jobs. It’s time to get to the bottom of this tragedy, work to ensure it never happens again, and move forward in a responsible manner on an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to lower energy costs, expand the use of clean-energy alternatives, and create American jobs.”

UPDATE @ 4:41 P.M.: More Democratic praise for Schwarzenegger’s move, after the jump…
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Van Jones receives new gig, accolades

Van Jones – the Oakland social- and environmental-justice activist and author who went to Washington last year as President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar,” only to be let go in the face of conservative criticism – has joined a White House-friendly think tank in a similar capacity.

Jones, 41, rejoins the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow to lead its new Green Opportunity Initiative.

“We are thrilled that Van Jones is joining us to spearhead a ‘green opportunity’ agenda to develop the policies and strategies that will ensure the clean-energy future brings not just climate stability and energy security, but also broadly shared economic prosperity,” Kate Gordon, CAP’s Vice President for Energy Policy, said in a news release today.

Jones will work with CAP’s existing Energy Opportunity team to develop an agenda for expanding investment, innovation, and opportunity through clean energy and environmental restoration – especially for low-income and minority communities. That’s exactly what he was doing as founder of Oakland-based Green For All, as author of the 2008 New York Times bestseller “The Green Collar Economy;” and then from March through September 2009 as special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

CAP President and CEO John Podesta called Jones “a pioneer in the effort to promote a clean, sustainable economy that works for all Americans. I’m proud that he’s coming back to CAP to focus on creating economic opportunity in distressed communities through the Green Opportunity Initiative and that he will be giving voice to those issues once again.”

Jones resigned his White House post after conservatives targeted him for past political activities including his 1990s association with a Marxist group and a public comment disparaging congressional Republicans.

In his first interview since his resignation, Jones told the Washington Post he has no “bitterness or anger” about what transpired last year. “The good thing about being an American is you’re free to think whatever you want, and you’re also free to change your mind. That’s my story. . . . God willing, I’ve got 10 or 20 years, 30 years, three decades more work to do. And it’s my hope and belief that people will judge me based on that work.”

And in a column today on the Huffington Post, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Jealous – a former Alameda resident – wrote he’s proud to be presenting Jones with the NAACP President’s Award at the organization’s 41st Image Awards this Friday.

“Far from the divisive caricature painted by some cable news outlets, Van has been one of America’s most effective and inspiring bridge-builders,” Jealous wrote. “He has successfully brought together labor leaders, business executives, civil rights champions, students and environmentalists to find creative solutions to the ecological and economic crises.”

The Center for American Progress was launched in 2003 and has been supported since with funding from a pair of East Bay billionaire banking moguls. Herb and Marion Sandler made their fortune by building Oakland-based Golden West Financial Corp. — parent company of World Savings Bank — into one of the nation’s largest savings and loans, before selling it to Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $24.2 billion.

The think tank has had close ties to the Obama Administration from the get-go. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, went on leave from CAP for a while to serve as one of three co-chairs of Obama’s transition team. Several CAP fellows and trustees were appointed to Obama Administration posts, and CAP consistently has helped shape the message on Obama Administration initiatives including health care reform, economic stimulus and national security.

UPDATE @ 11:07 A.M.: Looks as if Jones also has been appointed distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.