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Boxer urges end to Planned Parenthood panel

In the wake of the mass shooting that claimed three lives Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the new committee targeting the health organization.

Former Speaker John Boehner created the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” in October to probe Planned Parenthood. Boxer, D-Calif., calls it a “witch hunt” against an organization that provides vital healthcare services but hasn’t broken the law.

Some Democrats have faulted the hot rhetoric slung by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates against Planned Parenthood in recent months for inciting the kind of violence that occurred Friday in Colorado.

“We should not and cannot continue this politically-motivated committee targeting Planned Parenthood, which is already costing taxpayers and helping to create a dangerous climate for legal health care in America,” Boxer wrote Monday to Ryan, R-Wisc. “Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.”

“It is time to stop the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, stop the demonizing rhetoric and disband this committee immediately,” she wrote.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
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Honda helps urge Justice probe of Ahmed’s arrest

Rep. Mike Honda joined the only two Muslims in Congress to lead 26 other House members Tuesday in urging the Justice Department to investigate the detention of Ahmed Mohamed, a Texas boy who brought a homemade clock to school.

Mohamed, 14, was arrested after he brought a homemade clock to school to show his teachers and was later accused of having a “hoax bomb.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; and Andre Carson, D-Ind., wrote to express concern that “Ahmed was denied his civil rights… and refused the right to speak to his father.” The representatives went on to call attention to “reports surrounding the incident that strongly suggest that Ahmed Mohamed was systematically profiled based on his faith and ethnicity.”

“As the President said, ‘Cool clock, Ahmed.’ It’s high time we end discriminatory practices in this country. Profiling and mistreatment of an individual based on presumed or actual faith or ethnicity has no place in the world, let alone in the United States of America,” Honda said in a news release, adding an implicit smackdown to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who said Sunday he “absolutely would not agree” with having a Muslim serve as president.

“From presidential candidates to teachers and police officers, we all must take a strong unified stand against this seemingly growing trend of fear mongering and bigotry being wrongly perpetuated in our society,” Honda said. “People shouldn’t fear mistreatment or persecution simply for being who they are. As a world leader, America should be setting the bar for tolerance and equality – principles that speak to the foundation of this great nation,”

Among other House members signing the letter were Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Jenifer Wicks, national civil rights litigation director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said her organization stands with Honda and other lawmakers in calling for a Justice Department civil-rights probe. “It is disturbing that Ahmed was suspended by the school and arrested by the police after officials ‘followed protocol’ and determined that he had merely brought a clock to school and that there was no actual threat,” she said.

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CA17: Khanna’s camp knocks Honda’s new role

Rep. Mike Honda has a new role in Congress – and his challenger has something to say about it.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, has become the acting ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies – the panel holding the purse strings for federal agencies from the FBI to NASA. That’s because the previous ranking member stepped down: Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was charged last week in a 29-count racketeering conspiracy indictment.

But Honda’s ascension also comes shortly after the House Ethics Committee announced it’s taking some more time to probe misconduct allegations against him, rooted in claims that his staff coordinated with his re-election campaign on some pay-to-play activities.

That complaint was filed last September by supporters of fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official from Fremont who lost November’s election to Honda by 3.6 percentage points. The Office of Congressional Ethics reviewed the complaint and referred it to the Ethics Committee on June 5; House rules require that the committee notify the public if it needs more than 45 days to review an OCE report.

There’s a big difference between a 29-count criminal indictment after a long-running Justice Department investigation and a not-yet-completed probe of possible ethics violations, but some conservatives are having a field day with it nonetheless. “Dems struggle to find untainted rep for appropriations committee,” read a recent Breitbart News Network headline.

Honda said by email Tuesday that in his new role as the subcommittee’s acting ranking member, “I look forward to continuing to bring the voice of Silicon Valley to Congress and delivering results for the people I represent. I have lived a life of public service and look forward to continuing to do so in this new role in the coming months and years.”

Regarding the ethics probe, he said, “My staff and I continue to cooperate fully with the Ethics Committee in this matter. This ongoing process does not relate to my responsibilities in my new role.”

Ro KhannaKhanna campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan said Tuesday that Honda and his staff “should be accorded due process to address these pay-to-play allegations.”

“That said, it is becoming increasingly clear that he cannot represent the interests of the working men and women of the 17th District on this critical committee with these serious ethics investigations hanging over his head,” Sevugan added. “The families of the 17th District need their Congressman’s energy focused on fighting for them, not on fighting for his own political life.”

Honda might not have much role to play in the subcommittee before the Ethics Committee announces its course of action, which will happen no later than Sept. 3; the House already has recessed for the summer and won’t re-convene on Capitol Hill until Sept. 8. For now, members have scattered out to their districts – Honda plans to attend National Night Out events Tuesday evening in Cupertino and Sunnyvale; visit a Redwood City biometrics firm on Wednesday; and attend a highway interchange improvement project’s ribbon-cutting on Thursday.

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GOP candidates blast Planned Parenthood video

Republican presidential candidates are sounding off about a video that seems to show a top Planned Parenthood executive discussing the transfer of aborted fetal tissue.

As The Hill reports, the undercover video that surfaced Tuesday shows a woman identified as Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s senior director of medical services, describing in detail procedures to retrieve body parts.

Eric Ferrero, PPFA’s vice president of communications, issued a statement saying the video was secretly recorded and heavily edited by “a well funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services.”

“In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different,” Ferrero said. “At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does – with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.”

GOP presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina issued a statement saying she is “”proudly pro-life. I believe that every human life has potential and that every human life is precious. This latest news is tragic and outrageous. This isn’t about ‘choice.’ It’s about profiting on the death of the unborn while telling women it’s about empowerment.”

GOP presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement saying the video “showing a Planned Parenthood employee selling the body parts of aborted children is a disturbing reminder of the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life. It is because of stories like this that I signed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood in the state of Texas – to protect human life and the health and safety of Texans.”

GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued a statement saying there’s “no place for taxpayer funding of organizations that profit from taking away innocent life, much less profiting off the bodies of the lives they have stolen. Congress should immediately begin an investigation of Planned Parenthood’s activities regarding the sale and transfer of aborted body parts, including who is obtaining them and what they are being used for. And it should renew efforts to fully defund Planned Parenthood to ensure that its morally bankrupt business receives not one penny of taxpayer money.”

And GOP presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, speaking in his official capacity, issued a statement calling the video “shocking and gruesome.

“This same organization is seeking to open an abortion clinic in New Orleans,” Jindal said. “I have instructed Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals to conduct an immediate investigation into this alleged evil and illegal activity and to not issue any licenses until this investigation is complete. I am also asking the FBI to assist DHH in investigating this alleged criminal activity by this organization.”

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Pols want AG to probe CPUC’s ties with PG&E

Peninsula politicians want state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate possible crimes involving the California Public Utilities Commission’s shockingly cozy relationship with PG&E during the agency’s probe of the utility after the deadly 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco; and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane will hold a news conference Friday morning in San Francisco to deliver a letter to Harris.

The latest revelation of emails between CPUC staff and PG&E executives led to the outser of officials at both this week. The utility also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may have violated PUC rules with emails it sent the agency as recently as January.

E-mails released by PG&E showed that the utility tried to influence the selection of the administrative law judge who would decide how much customers’ rates should go up to pay for required gas pipeline improvements after the 2010 blast killed eight and injured more than 50.

“The letter from Hill, Mullin and Ruane also cites what appear to have been a series of illegal interventions on PG&E’s behalf in the penalty case against PG&E for the explosion in San Bruno perpetrated by the CPUC’s executive director and former general counsel – including pressuring its own attorneys to advocate no penalty in the case, which attorneys felt to be ‘illegal and unethical;’ reassigning the attorneys after they refused to back down; and firing one when he pressed PG&E to produce pipeline safety records,” according to a news release from Hill’s office.

Gov. Jerry Brown offered full-throated support for CPUC President Michael Peevey last month even after an initial disclosure of e-mails related to the San Bruno case.

“I know there’s been a lot of ink poured out on this topic, but I would say he’s a very effective leader, he gets things done” especially on promoting renewable energy, Brown said of Peevey at the time. He went on to describe Peevey as “a strong force,” the likes of which hasn’t held the CPUC’s reins since John Bryson did so during Brown’s second term, from 1979 to 1982.

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Complaint filed about ‘Six Californias’ petitions

The “OneCalifornia” committee formed to oppose venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” ballot measure filed a complaint with Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Thursday requesting a voter-fraud investigation.

The letter included a copy of the blog item I posted Tuesday, which detailed voters hundreds of miles apart recounting how paid petition circulators told strikingly similar falsehoods about the Six Californias petition’s purpose. Lying to voters in order to get them to sign a ballot-measure petition is a misdemeanor.

“To ensure the integrity of the state initiative process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the Six Californias initiative,” wrote Richard Miadich, attorney for the One California committee.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Draper, 56, of Atherton, who in the past has given generously to Republican causes, filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in order to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. County registrars and Bowen’s office must verify that at least 807,615 of those signatures are valid and from registered California voters.

OneCalifornia spokesman Steve Maviglio, a veteran Democratic strategist, said Thursday that “it’s not surprising that high jinx were involved in trying to get voters to sign the petition for this unthoughtful measure, even when signature gatherers were getting paid $3 for each signature they received.

“We’ve been flooded with emails and Tweets who are echoing what was reported,” Maviglio said. “These allegations are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the Secretary of State.”