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Honda comms director Lauren Smith has died

Lauren Suzanne Smith, communications director to Rep. Mike Honda and a veteran of two other Northern California House offices, died Saturday, Dec. 26, in Washington, D.C. She was 37.

Lauren Smith“Lauren served on my staff with passion, dedication, talent and integrity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a statement issued Monday. “In addition to working in my office, Lauren was employed by many fine Democrats and institutions over the years, dedicating her communication talents to make the world a better place. She was a gracious person, loved by our team and will be deeply missed. May you rest in peace Lauren.”

Honda also penned an homage to Smith that was published Dec. 22 in The Hill, hinting at but not describing the dire nature of her illness.

“Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart,” Honda wrote in that piece.

“A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite ‘Honda Moment’ is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’” Honda added. “She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile. Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.”

Smith worked with the All America PAC in Indiana during the 2006 midterm elections and then worked her way up to serve as the Democratic National Committee’s Indiana communications director during the 2008 presidential election. She served stints as a press secretary for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And after serving as a communications consultant for John Walsh’s Montana Senate campaign, she was Sen. Walsh’s deputy communications director before going to work for Honda early this year.

“She brought a real spark to my office… She was always enthusiastic,” McNerney said Monday, praising her as a confident, quick study. “There was something about Lauren that made you accept her right away.”

I spoke often with Lauren during her time in McNerney’s office, from 2011 through 2013, and again this year in Honda’s office; she was never anything less than a consummate professional as well as a good and pleasant person – a rare combination. I’ll miss her very much.

According to the tribute page her family has created, Lauren’s wish was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

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Thompson co-authors ‘Crude-by-Rail Safety Act’

A Bay Area congressman is helping to lead the charge for new safety and security standards for transporting crude oil by rail.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, co-authored and helped introduce Wednesday the Crude-by-Rail Safety Act, along with Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Ron Kind, D-Wisc.; and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

“Public safety is priority number one when it comes to transporting highly volatile crude oil,” Thompson said in a news release. “Railcars transporting crude run through the heart of our communities, and as recent accidents have demonstrated, robust, comprehensive action is needed. The bill introduced today puts safety measures in place that will help make sure communities are secure, railcars are as strong as possible, and first responders are prepared in the event of an emergency.”

The recent, large growth in crude-by-rail transport has led to a rise in rail accidents. Four derailments in the United States and Canada in less than a month earlier this year underscored the need to review and improve safety rules, the lawmakers say.

Their bill sets a maximum volatility standard for crude oil and certain other potentially flammable and explosive substances moved by rail; prohibits use of DOT-111 tank cars, which would involve removing 37,700 from the rail network; sets strong new tank-car standards; requires comprehensive oil-spill response planning and studies; increases fines for violating standards; requires disclosure of train movement through communities; and requires railroads to create confidential close-call reporting systems.

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House Dems applaud DiFi water plan’s failure

A bunch of Northern California House members are relieved that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pulled the plug on closed-door negotiations over a California water bill.

“You’ve got to work with people to get something done,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Associated Press on Thursday, adding that “I’m going to put together a first-day bill for the next Congress, and it can go through the regular order.”

But the question of which people she’s working with remains. Feinstein and California’s House Republicans have been pushing water bills without the usual mark-up hearings, with House Democrats largely excluded and little or no public scrutiny.

Representatives Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re glad Feinstein’s effort failed.

“We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters,” they said. “We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.”

The lawmakers, whose mostly Delta-adjacent districts would be direct affected by such a bill, said they’ve been “raising serious objections to both the secretive process and the harmful content of this legislation” and will “continue to demand next year that any water legislation responding to California’s severe drought be balanced and take into consideration the array of stakeholders in California.”

Restore the Delta, a grassroots environmental protection group, had issued a statement blasting the possible bill a few hours before news broke that it won’t happen this year.

“Senator Feinstein is carrying water for industrial growers who have planted tens of thousands of acres of almonds and other permanent crops in the midst of the past several very dry years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director, said in a news release. “Sen. Feinstein is rushing through legislation to aid these growers at the expense of the rest of California.”

UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M.: This just in from Feinstein:

“Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California’s drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions.

“Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.

“I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation. Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time.

“It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking.

“California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn’t about corporate agriculture, this is about California.

“It’s my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It’s clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it’s equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals.”

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Which House member has most campaign cash?

Which of Northern California’s House members has the most money in their campaign war chests? You might be surprised.

While some incumbents are likely to face significant challenges from across the aisle (like Garamendi, Bera, McNerney and Denham) and others from within their own party (like Honda and maybe Swalwell), neither of the two House members with the most cash on hand as of June 30 are expected to have much to worry about next year.

Here’s the list, showing how much they raised in the second quarter (April 1 through June 30) and their cash on hand at mid-year:

    CA5 – Mike Thompson, D-Napa: $257,579.45 raised, $1,470,170.24 COH
    CA14 – Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough: $221,762 raised, $1,086,141.98 COH
    CA10 – Jeff Denham, R-Modesto: $506,491.26 raised, $834,836.30 COH
    CA19 – Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: $149,546.50 raised, $658,386 COH
    CA7 – Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova: $264,318.49 raised, $505,044 COH
    CA12 – Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco: $315,769.05 raised, $422,059.25 COH
    CA15 – Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton: $237,314.38 raised, $405,182.23 COH
    CA4 – Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay: $132,668.99 raised, $384,717.76 COH
    CA17 – Mike Honda, D-San Jose: $344,894.86 raised, $374,646.94 COH
    CA6: Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento: $240,826.01 raised, $371,894.30 COH
    CA18 – Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: $193,225 raised, $363,855.25 COH
    CA11 – George Miller, D-Martinez: $233,328.87 raised, $354,655.16 COH
    CA2 – Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: $141,648.93 raised, $266,847.38 COH
    CA16 – Jim Costa, D-Merced: $131,765 raised, $243,693.64 COH
    CA9 – Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton: $169,311.47 raised, $187,041.28 COH
    CA20 – Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz: $187,242.31 raised, $136,571.50 COH
    CA1 – Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville: $87,200 raised, $130,603.76 COH
    CA3 – John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: $179,832.73 raised, $124,197.06 COH
    CA13 – Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: $178,425.82 raised, $97,975.47 COH
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House members blast Brown’s Delta water plan

Five members of Congress held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to renew their staunch opposition to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, all believe the plan would devastate the Delta and ignores concerns repeatedly raised by local stakeholders. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, concurs but wasn’t at today’s news conference.

The state has released a 20,000-page Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the BDCP. Chapters 1-7 were released in the last few months and Chapters 8-12, including the financing mechanism, were released yesterday.

The lawmakers released statements after their news conference. From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“The Governor recently released additional information on his deeply-flawed plan for the Delta region, which further proves he is intent on forcing this plan forward without any regard for the farmers, families and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods, or for the incredible environmental damage that will result. As it stands, the plan will cost billions of dollars, devastate the most valuable water resource we have in California, and ultimately create no new water. There is a better way forward, and it must include the input of the people who stand to lose the most if the Delta is destroyed.”

From Thompson:

Mike Thompson“The proposed BDCP is not a workable solution. It puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of the Delta’s and North-of-Delta’s farmers, fishers and small business owners. Livelihoods are at stake. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs. Let’s take the time to get this right.”

From Miller:

George Miller“Governor Brown and his administration officials have failed to demonstrate that they are taking into account the real physical and financial harm that can come to Bay-Delta communities if a BDCP plan is pushed through without the proper cost benefit analysis of alternatives, an adequate finance plan, or without acknowledging the best available science — science that has pointed to the real possibility that this plan could overtax our water resources and devastate the Bay-Delta region. Without doing so the BDCP is further than ever from a sustainable policy. It is time to seriously reevaluate this plan to ensure it fulfills the co-equal goals that it is mandated to adhere to, and takes into consideration the concerns of the businesses, families and communities that rely on a viable, healthy Bay-Delta region for their livelihoods.”

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Bay Area congressmembers call Safeway lawyer’s joke ‘sexist’

What’s good for Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is apparently not good for corporate lawyers.

A group of Bay Area congressmembers sent a stern letter to Pleasanton-based Safeway CEO Steve Burd admonishing the grocery giant for a joke its top lawyer reportedly made at the expense of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi during a May 15 stockholder meeting.

General Counsel Robert Gordon reportedly told a joke involving the Secretary of State and the House Minority Speaker from San Francisco, pigs and the Secret Service. Gosh, it already sounds funny. (Read the full narrative below.)

Lighten up, people.

If members of Congress start writing to every business organization where a national politician was the butt of a joke, they’ll be busier than a genuine Arkansas razorback hog farmer at feeding time.

Here’s the letter:

Mr. Steve Burd

President and CEO

Safeway Inc.

5918 Stoneridge Mall Road

Pleasanton, CA 94588

 By Fax (925) 467-3230

 Dear Mr. President,

 We are writing to express our strong disapproval of inappropriate comments reportedly made by Safeway General Counsel Robert Gordon at Safeway’s May 15 shareholder meeting. We are deeply disappointed by these comments and believe Safeway must take corrective steps immediately.

According to an audio recording reportedly taken from the shareholder meeting, General Counsel Gordon inappropriately used House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the butt of his joke, as follows:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women.

Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.

Sincerely,

Reps. George Miller, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Doris Matsui, Barbara Lee, and Mike Honda