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CA17: Five statewide officials endorse Honda

Five of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers endorsed Rep. Mike Honda on Monday for re-election over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the 17th Congressional District.

Honda, D-San Jose, issued a news release saying he’s humbled to have the support of Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Treasurer John Chiang, Controller Betty Yee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“I share their deep passion and commitment to solving problems facing many of California’s working families,” Honda said. “They represent the very best of what our state has to offer and I look forward to continuing my work with them.”

Harris, currently the frontrunner for the U.S. Senate seat from which Barbara Boxer will retire at year’s end, said that “from improving public safety, fighting to end human trafficking, and ensuring the civil rights of all people are protected – Mike has always been there.”

Yee said “Honda has been a tireless advocate for the people of Silicon Valley: securing funding for BART expansion, boosting critical research in nanotechnology, and fighting to ensure that every child has access to quality education.”

And Torlakson called Honda “an unwavering ally to California’s students and teachers. As a former science teacher and principal, education has always been one of his top priorities. Mike is working across the aisle to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in our classroom’s, which will provide our children and country with the skills to stay competitive in this global economy.”

Among the other statewide constitutional officers, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has endorsed Khanna; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed Khanna in 2014 but has not yet made an endorsement for 2016; and Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Honda in 2014 but has not yet made an endorsement for 2016.

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Dave Jones to run for Attorney General

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Thursday that he’ll run for state attorney general in 2018.

Dave Jones (Oct.2015)That could set up an interesting situation, as Gov. Jerry Brown might well have to appoint someone in 2017 to fill the rest of current Attorney General Kamala Harris’ term if she’s successful in her campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year.

Having a statewide constitutional officer’s hat already in the ring for the office could nudge Brown to appoint a “caretaker” – someone not inclined to seek election in 2018 – to the potential vacancy should Harris go to the Senate.

But plenty of others covet the post, too. Those who’ve filed statements of intention to run for attorney general in 2018 – not a commitment, just a sort of placeholder that lets them keep money in campaign committees – include former state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, who has $183,405 banked for the race; former state Sen. Lou Correa; D-Santa Ana, who has $384,982 banked; former Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-La Canada Flintridge, who has $657,535 banked; Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, who has $2,980 banked but other money spread across other committees (including one for a 2016 state Senate run); and San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, a Republican who has $74,975 banked.

Jones starts the race with $2.6 million cash on hand in his prior campaign account, which can be used for the Attorney General race, and a base of support throughout the state, according to a news release from campaign consultant Parke Skelton.

Jones, 53, was a Sacramento councilman from 1999 to 2004 and a state assemblyman from 2004 to 2011, when he began the first of his two terms as insurance commissioner.

“I am very excited at the prospect of working to make California’s communities safer,” he wrote in an email to prospective supporters Thursday. “I will hold accountable all who commit crimes, including corporations, corporate leaders, and public officials who violate the public trust. I will continue my work protecting consumers. And I will work hard to help all Californians succeed in an economy that is increasingly characterized by haves and have nots.”

Jones wrote that his Insurance Department already investigates major insurance crimes and protects consumers, his more than 300 law enforcement officers making more than 3,800 arrests since he began his tenure there and working closely with district attorneys across the state. He wrote that he’s starting his campaign so early due to “the reality of the cost of campaigning in California and the amount of Super PAC money likely to be spent against me by special interests.”

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Blue Shield criticized for Levi’s Stadium skybox

The campaign for a ballot measure to let the state insurance commissioner veto health insurance rate hikes is pointing to Blue Shield of California’s pricey luxury skybox at the new Levis’s Stadium as a sign that insurers’ spending is out of control.

Levi's Stadium luxury suiteConsumer Watchdog and the Yes on 45 campaign sent a letter Tuesday to California Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to investigate “Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status” and crack down on its spending.

The letter cites a San Francisco Chronicle article which said suites of the type that Blue Shield got at the San Francisco 49ers’ new home are “priced at between $250,000 and $400,000 a year and require a 10- or 20-year commitment. That puts the price at anywhere from $2.5 million to $8 million.”

“We urge you to investigate Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status and use your authority to impose a ‘charitable trust’ on Blue Shield’s assets and block any additional wasteful spending that robs taxpayers and average California patients of their financial health,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court wrote to Harris.

Proposition 45 “will ensure that companies like Blue Shield are not increasing premium charges to patients to fund excessive executive compensation, lavish entertainment and excessive reserves,” Court wrote. “Under current law, the California Department of Insurance does not yet have the authority to block excessive rate increases that funded Blue Shield’s skybox. Before November, only you have the power to protect California taxpayers.”

Neither the No on Prop 45 campaign, known as Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, nor Blue Shield of California answered e-mails seeking comment Tuesday. Blue Shield spokesman Sean Barry told the Chronicle over the weekend that the luxury box’s primary purpose “is to interact social with some of our larger membership groups,” and it won’t be available to executives for “their personal use.”

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Dems gather in Oakland to mull ballot measures

The California Democratic Party’s Executive Board convenes this weekend in Oakland, where it will decide whether to endorse the propositions – including two costly, controversial ones – on November’s ballot.

Proposition 45 would give the state insurance commissioner the authority to reject health-insurance premium hikes, and Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on punitive medical-malpractice damages. Opponents already have anted up tens of millions to fight the measures, and so pressure will be high as party delegates gather at Oakland’s Marriott convention center.

The votes are scheduled for Sunday. But the agenda includes various caucus and committee meetings Friday and Saturday, with speakers and visitors such as Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a candidate for state controller now embroiled in rival John Perez’ recount; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, a candidate for secretary of state; and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, now seeking a second term.

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‘Dancing hamster arrested on insurance fraud charges’

Best headline ever, no? It arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago atop a press release from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, announcing the arrest of Leroy Barnes, 27, of Los Angeles, known as one of the dancing hamsters in Kia commercials.

Barnes faces insurance fraud charges related to his alleged collection of state disability insurance benefits under false pretenses.

“Fraudulently collecting disability benefits is not only illegal, it disrespects legitimately injured Californians who are unable to work,” Jones said as solemnly as one can in a news release involving dancing hamsters.

Jones’ release says Barnes in June 2010, while employed as a dancer for John Cossette Productions, was struck by a piece of ceiling that fell on him during a sound check; Barnes then received state disability insurance benefits from September 2010 to September 2011, totaling more than $51,000.

But while he stated he was unemployed during the year he received that money, detectives discovered evidence that he actually starred in a Kia car commercial playing the role of a dancing hamster, according to the news release. He also performed in a rap group called The Rej3ctz under the alias MoWii, assisting in recording the song “Cat Daddy,” and also worked as a backup dancer for Madonna, Kelly Rowland, and Chris Brown under the name Hypnosis.

I’m not sure which dancing-hamster Kia ad Barnes appeared in, so I have no choice but to offer a few for your review; watch carefully to see if any of the hamsters seem to be limping.

http://youtu.be/f2xDiXhrLPc

http://youtu.be/LsJiGF_Groo

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No love for GOP in statewide race finance reports

Republicans are taking a drubbing in trying to raise money for California’s statewide elections, according to campaign finance reports that were due Monday.

Monday was the deadline to file reports for Jan. 1 through March 17, and there wasn’t much good news for the GOP. That might not be surprising, after state GOP Chairman Jim Brulte said recently that statewide races won’t be a priority for his party this year, given that only a few are even competitive (and he wouldn’t say which ones).

Even gubernatorial contender Neel Kashkari seems to have ended his honeymoon with contributors early. Though he said in February that he had raised $976,000 in his campaign’s first two weeks, the report he filed Monday indicated he has raised only about $1.34 million total so far – a signficant slowdown after that first burst, and a pittance next to incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown’s $19.7 million war chest.

So, here’s a sampling of how it’s shaking out as of now; all figures below are as of March 17, and I’ll be updating as reports come in.

Governor
Jerry Brown (D)(i) – $19,747,924 cash on hand; $0 debt
Neel Kashkari (R) – $903,478 cash on hand; $93,807 debt
Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount (R) – $8,184 cash on hand; $19,832 debt
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R) – $10,766 cash on hand; $149,068 debt

Lt. Governor
Gavin Newsom (D)(i) – $1,915,093 cash on hand; $30,315 debt
Ron Nehring (R) –
George Yang (R) –

Attorney General
Kamala Harris (D)(i) – $3,164,966 cash on hand; $5,044 debt
Ronald Gold (R) –
John Haggerty (R) –
David King (R) –
Phil Wyman (R) –

Secretary of State
state Sen. Alex Padilla (D) – $614,426 cash on hand; $73,900 debt
state Sen. Leland Yee (D) – $134,556 cash on hand; $48,088 debt
Derek Cressman (D) – $77,317 cash on hand; $192,781 debt
Pete Peterson (R) – $1,638 cash on hand; $84,913 debt
Dan Schnur (NPP) – $260,441 cash on hand; $64,390 debt

Controller
Assembly Speaker John Perez (D) – $1,792,681 cash on hand; $6,089 debt
Brd of Equalization member Betty Yee (D) – $100,530 cash on hand; $35,672 debt
David Evans (R) –
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (R) –

Treasurer
Controller John Chiang (D) – $2,037,770 cash on hand; $376 debt
Greg Conlon (R) –

Insurance Commissioner
Dave Jones (D)(i) – $1,578,714 cash on hand; $1,777 debt
State Sen. Ted Gaines (R) – $32,000 cash on hand; $12,451 debt

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Torlakson (i) – $581,588 cash on hand; $4,624 debt
Marshall Tuck – $454,600 cash on hand; $65,668 debt
Lydia Gutierrez – $6,163 cash on hand; $21,865 debt