Bay Area lawmakers offer tix for Pope’s visit

A few Bay Area House members are holding lotteries in which their constituents can win tickets to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit later this month.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is offering tickets for the pontiff’s address to a joint session of Congress on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, to residents of her 18th Congressional District; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is doing the same for her 14th District constituents; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is doing it in his 9th District. Ticket holders will be able to view the address from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via televised broadcast.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an opportunity to my constituents to take part in this historic event,” Eshoo said in a news release. “While not all who wish to attend will be awarded a ticket, my office is working to ensure the lottery is conducted fairly and make the process a good one.”

Speier said Pope Francis “has become a focal point across the world for prioritizing peace over war, care of the planet over consumption, forgiveness over accusation, and neighbor over self. I’m excited that 50 of my constituents have the opportunity to be on the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch the broadcast of the Pope’s address to members of Congress. My only regret is that I can’t make these tickets available to everyone.”

McNerney said it’s “sure to be a momentous occasion. This is the first time that the Pope will deliver an address to Congress, and I look forward to hearing his message for the American people.”

The deadline to enter McNerney’s lottery is tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4; the deadline to enter Eshoo’s lottery is noon Pacific Time next Tuesday, Sept. 8; and the deadline to enter Speier’s lottery is midnight next Thursday, Sept. 10. Only constituents of those districts may enter, only one entry is allowed per person, and each winner will receive two tickets.


Speier raises alarm on spoofed ‘constituent’ emails

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.


CA15: Corbett blasts Swalwell on mail costs

Rep. Eric Swalwell “is working to buy his re-election with taxpayer funds,” his Democratic challenger, state Senator Ellen Corbett, claimed Friday.

Corbett provided an analysis of congressional office spending by Swalwell, D-Dublin, that shows he spent nearly $190,945.09 on taxpayer- funded informational mailers in 2013 – about four times more than the other nine Bay Area House members combined. The figures don’t include the first quarter of this year, in which Swalwell spent more on official mailers.

“This is an outrageous abuse and far, far in excess of anything Swalwell needed to do to provide useful services to the people he serves,” Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in a statement issued Friday. “Voters deserve a representative with a less cavalier attitude about how their tax dollars should be spent.”

Swalwell replied in an e-mailed statement Friday that since taking office, he has “received approximately 73,000 pieces of written mail, e-mail, and phone calls. Our office responds to every person who contacts us, often times with a written, mailed response.

“We have also sent our constituents letters asking for feedback on federal issues, alerting them to services that our office can provide, and informing them of upcoming town halls (we have hosted 14, the most of any Bay Area representative),” he said. “The investment in this correspondence has paid off: through our outreach, we have helped over 1,100 constituents with federal agencies, including returning nearly $1 million to in-district veterans, and saving or returning $100,000 to individuals owed money by Social Security, Medicare, or other agencies. I’m also proud that we did this within our allotted office budget.”

The third candidate in the 15th Congressional District race is Republican Hugh Bussell of Livermore.


Barbara Lee, Jeff Denham do immigration forums

House members near and far, and from both sides of the aisle, are holding forums to hear their constituents’ thoughts on immigration reform.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will join with community leaders and activists for a forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, March 26, at St. Elizabeth’s High School, 1530 34th Ave. in Oakland, with testimony from East Bay residents.

Lee’s office says she “been a staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform to address our broken immigration system” and “is committed to developing a comprehensive immigration policy that is fair, preserves family unity, promotes long-term economic growth, and includes a clear roadmap to citizenship.”

Next week and far away, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, will hold two similar forums – one on April 2 in Modesto, and another on April 3 in Manteca. He’ll be joined by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, at both listening sessions.

“As your Congressman, I’d like to hear from you about the critical issues facing our country and our community,” Denham said in a news release. “From creating fair and respectful immigration policies, to helping to create good paying jobs, and improving our children’s schools, we have a lot of work to do, and the answers are going to come from people like you – not the bureaucrats in Washington.”


Eric Swalwell to hold first town-hall meetings

The East Bay’s freshman congressman is coming back to town for his first report card.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, will hold his first town hall meetings with his 15th Congressional District constituents this Saturday, March 2. The first meeting is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Harvest Park Middle School, 4900 Valley Ave. in Pleasanton; the second is scheduled for 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Hayward Firefighters’ Union Hall, 22734 Main St.

It’s not the first time Swalwell has met with constituents; he held a “Ride With Your Rep” event last month, inviting people to ride their bicycles with him from Dublin to Pleasanton. Saturday’s meetings should be less likely to leave people out of breath – perhaps.

Swalwell’s predecessor, Pete Stark, had a hot temper and so had become the target of tea-party activists at his town halls, leading to some now-notorious verbal showdowns. In a mailer sent to constituents this week, Swalwell invites people to “make your voice and opinions heard in a respectful public forum” as well as to meet his staff, learn about the services his office provides and hear his views and agenda for 2013.

And with his meetings scheduled a day after the federal budget sequester is set to begin, constituents might have many questions.


Eric Swalwell offers a ‘Ride With Your Rep’

Rep. Eric Swalwell has a new twist on the “Congress on Your Corner” meetings that many lawmakers hold with constituents.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, will hold his first “Ride With Your Rep” event tomorrow morning, Saturday, Jan. 26, in which constituents can chat up the freshman lawmaker while taking a bike ride through part of the district.

“I look forward to hosting my first Ridewith Your Rep event tomorrow and talking with East Bay residents as we bike through the community,” said Swalwell.

“This will give everyone a chance to discuss important issues while getting exercise, having fun, and experiencing the wonderful environment we are lucky to have in the Tri-Valley,” Swalwell said in a news release.

Constituents are invited to meet Swalwell at 9:30 a.m. at the Dublin Cyclery, 7001 Dublin Blvd. in Dublin; the ride will start at 10:00 a.m., bound for downtown Pleasanton, where the group can lunch at the Main Street Café, 401 Main St. For more information, call Swalwell’s district office at 925-460-5100.

Swalwell, 32, defeated 20-term incumbent Pete Stark in November to represent the 15th Congressional District.