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Barbara Lee met with President Obama today

Congressional Black Caucus members including Rep. Barbara Lee met with President Obama today to discuss legislative priorities.

“I’m pleased that today I had the opportunity to discuss the goals of the CBC’s Poverty and the Economy Task Force, which I co-chair, during our meeting at the White House,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release issued after the meeting. “President Obama was receptive and positive about our work, and was very clear that addressing poverty and opportunity is a high priority for his administration.

“I’m looking forward to working with the President on a wide range of critical issues that touch all of us, regardless of region, race, or economic status; issues like immigration, voting rights, the protection of our environment, as well as poverty and creating good jobs,” Lee added.

Lee was an early and ardent supporter of Obama’s campaigns and sees eye-to-eye with him on most issues, but not all; she has criticized his stances on issues including drone warfare, the timeline for withdrawing from Afghanistan, and his inclusion of the chained CPI – a cost index used to help calculate cost-of-living adjustments for benefit levels – in his 2014 budget proposal.

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Lee & Hoyer offer ‘Half in 10’ bill to cut poverty

Halving the number of Americans who live in poverty is the goal of a bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Barbara Lee with support from one of the House’s most powerful Democrats.

With 46.2 million Americans living in poverty in 2011, including 16.1 million children in households below the poverty line, “we’re at a critical time in our nation,” Lee, D-Oakland, told reporters on a conference call. “The economy still is not working for anyone.”

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“At every turn, our nation’s most vulnerable cannot find pathways out of poverty that they need to achieve the American dream,” she said. “It’s time that we make a commitment to confront poverty head-on.”

Her Half in Ten Act of 2013 would establish the Federal Interagency Working Group on Reducing Poverty, which would develop and implement a national strategy to reduce poverty by half in ten years, as well as provide regular reports on their progress.

“It’s morally the right thing to do … but it’s also the economically sound and fiscally prudent thing to do,” Lee said. ”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is an original co-sponsor of Lee’s bill, and recently formed a Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.

“Too often we don’t see the poverty that exists around us,” he said on Thursday’s call, adding that focusing on developing and coordinating a real campaign against poverty is especially “important as the devastating Republican policy of sequester takes a blunt ax” to the nation’s social safety net. “Congress should be taking steps to make it easier, not harder, for lower-income Americans to enter the middle class.”

steny hoyerBudget sequestration – across-the-board cuts in federal programs including those that help support the poor – was the result of a 2011 deal between President Obama and House Republicans that created a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. That “super committee” was tasked with producing legislation that would decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade, but it turned out to be just as deadlocked as the rest of Congress, and so these deep, automatic cuts kicked in earlier this year.

And House Republicans have contended that budget cuts are necessary to reduce the nation’s deficit, stimulate the economy and create jobs that will left workers out of poverty.

Lee said the House Budget Committee had a debate around her amendment that’s similar to this new bill, and she saw some bipartisan agreement on the goals. But the House GOP’s budget ultimately “eviscerated all of the building blocks that lead to pathways out of poverty,” she said. “The rhetoric on the Republican side is not matching what they’re actually doing.”

Hoyer noted the faith community strongly supports poverty-reduction efforts such as this, and so he hopes Republicans – many of whom “are people of strong faith and convictions” – can be won over.

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry targets Calif. businesses

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking aim at California’s economic base.

Perry’s office released a 30-second radio ad today that will air on six stations in the San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Inland Empire and San Diego media markets, seeking to poach California businesses.

Rick Perry“Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible. This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and I have a message for California businesses: come check out Texas,” the ad says. “There are plenty of reasons Texas has been named the best state for doing business for eight years running. Visit texaswideopenforbusiness.com, and see why our low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system are just the thing to get your business moving to Texas.”

The one-week ad buy is paid for by TexasOne, a public-private partnership that markets Texas nationally and internationally, and coincides with a new “California regulates, Texas innovates” section on the website of the Texas Economic Development Division within Perry’s office.

A few facts in California’s favor:

It could be that businesses want to move to the Lone Star State so that they can pay their workers less. In a radio interview last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown noted Texas’ percentage of people working at or below the minimum wage is far larger than California’s.

Also, keep in mind that although California’s unemployment rate remains higher than Texas, California is outpacing Texas in job creation.

Finally, you might want to re-think Perry’s invitation if you, your child or anyone else you know is gay.

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Campaign touts Obama’s record on manufacturing

The Obama campaign held a conference call Friday to tout how great the president’s policies have been for manufacturing growth and job creation in California, but the call’s headliner never showed up and few California-specific examples were offered.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was supposed to be on the call, which was meant to mark the third anniversary of the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. Organizers later said a scheduling problem prevented Newsom from joining in.

Ro Khanna of Fremont, a former Assistant Deputy Secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce – and the guy we recently noted is raising money like gangbusters for an eventual run in the 15th Congressional District – told reporters on the call that “this president will be known as the manufacturing president.”

While President George W. Bush’s administration presided over the loss of almost five million U.S. manufacturing jobs, almost 400,000 have been added since Obama took office, Khanna said. The president’s initiative to double American exports by 2015 is on track after its first two years, he added, and the president is following through on infrastructure investments, immigration policy for skilled workers, research and development, simplifying permitting processes and streamlining regulations.

Khanna cited Union City’s SimpleWave’s “inshoring” of its kitchen bowl production from China back to the United States – a story my competitors at the Chronicle already had today.

California Democratic Party Vice Chairman Eric Bauman introduced Rob Carpenter as a prime example of a California business owner who’d benefited from the president’s policies. Carpenter said the Small Business Job Act of 2010 allowed a flood of new investment into his e-commerce company, Hollywood-based FriendGiftR, which led to 1500% year-over-year growth. “It’s not time to return to the policies of the past, its time to continue to support the policies of the future,” Carpenter said.

When I asked Carpenter if he was the same guy who had worked in the White House Office of Political Affairs, he acknowledged he was. But Bauman quickly noted that Carpenter’s White House service had been during the Bush Administration, and yet he’s now speaking out on behalf of Obama. After the call, I checked and found that Carpenter is, in fact, registered to vote as a Republican.

Bauman cited a string of non-California-specific stats to bolster his pro-Obama case: 23 straight months of private-sector job creation, the explosive resurgence of the auto industry, and a national supply chain for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that the president was touting today in Everett, Wash..

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Jerry Brown slips state Senate some snark

Gov. Jerry Brown a while back had said he planned to veto a slew of bills he considered unnecesary, but he’s clearly willing to sign a few just to send a message. We’ll let today’s signing message speak for itself:

To the members of the California State Senate:

I am signing SB 769 which allows for a dead mountain lion to be stuffed and displayed.

This presumably important bill earned overwhelming support by both Republicans and Democrats.

If only that same energetic bipartisan spirit could be applied to creating clean energy jobs and ending tax laws that send jobs out of state.

Sincerely,

Edmund G. Brown Jr.

UPDATE @ 3:57 P.M.: SB 769’s author, state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, is playing it straight, not mentioning the signing message but noting she authored the bill after a museum in her district was told by the Department of Fish and Game that no authority existed under Proposition 117 of 1990 to authorize the display of a lion that had been accidentally taken.

“It’s really unfortunate that the initiative was written so poorly that the legislature had to intervene 21 years later and correct this problem,” she said in a news release today. “This legislation was important to my district and many museums throughout California that want to display a mountain lion. I’m pleased to be able to work on behalf of my constituents to finally get this bureaucratic mess straightened out.”

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No press at President’s Bay Area fundraisers

Apparently there will be no press access to President Obama’s fundraisers Sunday in Woodside and Atherton.

This is different from his last Bay Area fundraising trip: In April, the White House travelling press corps and a designated local pool reporter – responsible for filing a report to the White House which is then disseminated to any interested media outlets – were allowed in. I was the pool reporter for the exclusive dinner at salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff’s San Francisco home, as well as for the big Masonic Auditorium rally that followed; the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci was the pool reporter for a breakfast at San Francisco’s St. Regis Hotel the next day.

At the Benioff dinner, the press was ushered in essentially through a back door and kept in a holding area. We were walked into the courtyard where the dinner was being held just in time to hear the President begin his remarks; we were walked out just as he started taking questions from the guests. At no time did we have an opportunity to ask questions of the guests, and certainly not of the President.

But at least we heard what he said. The President will hold one open-press event during this trip: a town-hall style meeting on job creation Monday at the Mountain View headquarters of networking site LinkedIn.

I can think of a few possible reasons why Sunday’s fundraisers won’t be open to the press like April’s were.

For one, when the President was here in April, he hadn’t just announced plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help solve the nation’s fiscal woes. Perhaps he doesn’t feel this is the right time to be seen accepting massive donations – the dinner costs $35,800 per plate, with $5,000 to his campaign and the rest to the Democratic National Committee – from those very same wealthy Americans.

For another, Sunday’s fundraisers are happening right across the Bay from ground zero of a situation that’s still rippling through his Administration: the bankruptcy of Fremont-based solar manufacturer Solyndra after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee under the Recovery Act. It’s not an issue White House officials – or Solyndra executives, for that matter – have been eager to discuss, but it’ll certainly be on the minds of the Bay Area hoi polloi at these fundraisers.

I asked Marjan Philhour, a San Francisco-based fundraising consultant who is executive director of the Bay Area Democrats PAC, about my ideas. “I don’t believe the decision you’ve described on press carries any particular significance,” she replied.

Naturally, I always come at situations like this from the standpoint that the press should have access to everything the President does on a trip like this. Not everyone sees it that way.

“I have never understood the practice of letting press into fundraising events,” said Michael Fraioli, a Washington, D.C.-based fundraiser with experience in California campaigns. “There is never a ‘good’ story about political fundraising. Some are less objectionable than others but that’s as good as it gets.”

“Donors attend events to mix with each other and with the guest(s) of honor – not with reporters. President Obama has held firm to his position on PAC money and lobbyist money. I can’t say I agree but he has held firm and it does eliminate a fairly large pool of potential donors,” he continued. “Unlike the ‘good’ government groups which are in the habit of accusing politicians of granting special access to contributors, you will be able to see every contribution to these events on line and with details about the donors (employer and occupation). The watchdog groups give us only the information they choose to give when they choose to give it.”