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SD7: Enter the Koch Brothers

The latest salvo in 7th State Senate District special election’s independent-spending war – which now totals at least about $6.23 million – comes from an out-of-state group with ties to the Koch brothers, America’s favorite/most-despised conservative money men.

The only good thing left to say about this East Bay Democrat-on-Democrat showdown between Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer might be that it’ll be over on May 19, two weeks from today.

Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative nonprofit, started airing a television ad Monday night on cable channels in the district, (see update below) attacking Bonilla for accepting gifts and travel from special interests:

As noted by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch, Independent Women’s Voice has received funding from the Koch-bankrolled Center to Protect Patient Rights, and has several staffers who’ve worked for other Koch-affiliated groups.

“So why are the Koch Brothers trying to come to Steve Glazer’s rescue?” asked Steve Maviglio, who runs a union-funded independent expenditure group that’s backing Bonilla. “That’s a good question. Maybe Steve Glazer can answer it – or denounce the special interests that are working overtime to get him elected for airing it.”

Glazer “dislikes the independent expenditure activity by all sides,” spokesman Jason Bezis replied Tuesday. “He said at the recent League of Women Voters debate that voters should immediately throw away and recycle all of the flyers in the mail. Similarly, he feels that voters should ignore all of the misleading media advertising.”

Bezis said Glazer would rather that voters consult “trusted sources of analysis such as newspaper editorials and local leaders who have knowledge of these candidates.” Judge their respective endorsements for yourself: Bonilla here, and Glazer here.

By my count, about $3.2 million has been independently spend on Glazer’s behalf, mostly by Bill Bloomfield – a Republican-turned-independent businessman from southern California – and by JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

And about $3.03 million has been spent independently on Bonilla’s behalf, mostly by Maviglio’s labor-funded group, Working Families Opposing Glazer; Putting the East Bay First, another union-funded group; and the California Dental Association.

Please note that these figures are changing by the hour, as more TV ads are aired and district voters’ mailboxes are increasingly choked with several mailers per day. Everyone on both sides is convinced they’re doing the right thing; I’m coming to believe that practically none of them are.

Glazer later Tuesday agreed the “campaign spending and special interest involvement in this race is over the top.” He said this underscores the importance of requiring more integrity and transparency of campaigns and elected officials, per a “clean government code of conduct” he rolled out several weeks ago.

Glazer’s plan would require lawmakers to refuse all gifts, food and drink from those trying to influence the legislative process, and would ban campaign contributions during the “crunch times” when most laws are being passed. It also would require candidates to make public any questionnaires they complete while seeking endorsements, ban any per-diem payments to lawmakers for weekends and holidays when the Legislature isn’t in session, and ban use of campaign funds to pay family members for services.

Not a blessed one of which would change anything about how this ugly this contest has become.

UPDATE SATURDAY 5/9 8:50 A.M.: It now appears this Koch-related ad has NOT aired on television as pro-Bonilla people said, only online – yet it has inspired a $150,000 contribution from Tom Steyer to the labor group supporting Bonilla. More details here.

5

AD15: Big IE money spent to support Thurmond

15th Assembly District candidate Elizabeth Echols is complaining that political committees “funded by oil and tobacco interests” are spending generously on independent-expenditure mailers in support of her opponent, Tony Thurmond.

And that’s true, although many other interests are behind the spending as well.

Tony ThurmondElizabeth Echols, 54, of Oakland, is former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Thurmond, 46, is a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member. The two Democrats are vying to succeed Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is term-limited out of office at this year’s end.

The “Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California business coalition” has reported spending $68,722 in the past week on mailers, research and polling to support Thurmond.

Records show the Alliance raised $713,980.69 in the first half of this year, and has reported no large contributions since. Among the money it collected this year was $125,000 in May from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $90,000 in May from Philip Morris USA, and $25,000 in January from the Occidental Oil & Gas Corp. So, oil and gas accounted for about a third of the committee’s income; the rest came from a wide array of companies, unions and Indian tribes.

Another committee, Keep CA Strong, has reported spending $29,848 on Thurmond’s behalf in the past week.

It reported no cash on hand at mid-year, but reports having received $75,000 on Sept. 19 from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Independent Expenditure Committee; $200,000 on Sept. 22 from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $25,000 on Sept. 26 from the California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee; and $2,450 on Sept. 27 from the aforementioned Alliance for California’s Tomorrow. Here, then, the oil industry’s share is bigger.

Echols“It’s very unusual for this district for this kind of money to come in – these are big corporate interests that don’t spend money idly” especially in so solidly progressive a district, Echols said Tuesday. “I believe they know I will be an effective champion for the environment, for funding our schools and for economic opportunity.”

She acknowledged the Alliance has a “broad mix” of backers, but she said she finds “more telling” the Keep CA Strong committee’s limited donor base and money-in, money-out model.

The independent spending notwithstanding, Echols said her campaign has “good, strong resources and a message that is resonating well with voters.” She might not be able to match the outside spending dollar for dollar, she said, “but I believe we will be the stronger campaign in the end.”

Thurmond said Tuesday he “was really caught off-guard” by the spending: “I don’t even know who these groups are.”

“The irony is, I’m the candidate who’s taken a pledge not to take money from cigarette companies – I’m a social worker, I work with youth,” he said, noting he also voted against oil interests while on Richmond City Council. “Whatever they’re doing, they’ve done independently. My record is clear, my entire campaign is based on progressive values.”

Thurmond said the spending “really speaks to the need for reforming how politics works and overturning Citizens United so we have less special interest money in politics.”

1

CA17: Khanna’s mailers tout record, attack Honda

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna, seeking to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has sent out his first mailers of the general-election season – one positive, one negative.

The first mailer outlines Khanna’s record at the U.S. Department of Commerce, his experience teaching economics at Stanford, and his expertise on manufacturing, as well as his media endorsements:

(Click to enlarge:)
Khanna positive mailer

The second mailer highlights what Khanna says is Honda’s poor productivity and attendance:

Khanna negative mailer

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said in a news release that the ads “will outline a clear contrast between Congressman Honda’s history of not showing up and not getting the job done, with Ro Khanna’s record of growing American manufacturing jobs and championing bold policies to move the 17th District forward.”

“Contrary to the Honda campaign, which falsely attacked Ro’s tenure at Commerce and has relied on its Super PAC to send racially coded mailers, our campaign will continue to highlight only the facts behind Rep. Honda’s record,” Tyler added. “We expect that the more voters learn about his failure to show up and deliver, the more eager they will be to vote for change.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied later Wednesday that Khanna’s “desperate campaign will do anything to win, from misrepresenting Congressman Honda’s record of delivering for the district – like $900 million for the BART extension that is creating over 10,000 jobs – to embracing right-wing positions, like cutting pensions for middle-income workers, and right-wing supporters who are organizing The Tea Party Express on his behalf.”

4

CA17: Khanna files ethics complaint against Honda

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics claiming Rep. Mike Honda improperly used taxpayer funds to mail out what essentially was campaign literature.

“With Congressman Honda’s massive amount of donations from PAC’s and lobbyists, it shouldn’t be necessary for hardworking families to foot the bill for such blatantly political mailers,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said Wednesday. “This misuse of taxpayer dollars to subsidize his campaign is an abuse of the public trust and he should reimburse the taxpayers immediately.”

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that “all franked mail is approved by the bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, including this piece by the office of Congressman Honda.”

“This complaint by the Ro Khanna campaign about standard mailings is a desperate and unoriginal political ploy to distract from their inability to gain traction with voters two weeks before the primary, despite spending millions of dollars,” Kembaiyan said.

But Cowan countered that “the Honda campaign’s quick and defensive response causes more concern about the existence of coordination between his campaign and Congressional office, which would be illegal. We await a explanation from Congressman Honda’s official office because they should be the only one’s who know why the mailers were sent out in the first place.”

Ken Scudder, Honda’s official spokesman, replied that “responses to anything about the campaign have to come from our campaign folks.”

Khanna’s complaint cites three mail pieces – one from his campaign and two from his office, but all similar in content, Khanna claims. Here’s the campaign piece:

Click to enlarge:
Honda campaign mailer

Here’s one of the official mailings, sent out in March:

Honda official mailer - front

Honda official mailer - back

The third item at issue was an April 7 letter in which Honda wrote he’s “reaching out to you today about my work on behalf of our nation’s seniors. My support for critical programs like Medicare and Social Security has been unwavering and I have always taken the lead to protect, improve and expand our nation’s safety net.”

The letter goes on to talk about his efforts to increase current Social Security benefits, pass and enact the Affordable Care Act, improve Medicare Part D, and bring money to the district for projects that support seniors. “You can county on me to protect the interests of seniors in Washington,” the letter concludes. “As always, feel free to reach out to me on any issues that you care about, by signing up for my eNewsletter, through email, or social media.”

It’s not uncommon for challengers to claim that incumbents are abusing their official mail privileges for campaign purposes. State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, leveled such a claim earlier this month against Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, although didn’t file an official complaint as Khanna has against Honda.

Republicans Vanila Singh and Joel Vanlandingham also are running to unseat Honda in the 17th Congressional District.

7

SD10: Pro-Hayashi mailers blast Wieckowski

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and her supporters sent more mailers this week to chip away at Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s reputation in the 10th State Senate District race.

Two of the mailers reiterate the claim first advanced via Hayashi’s BobProtectedRapists.com website that, well, Bob protected rapists. Both these mailers were paid for by the Californians Allied for Patient Protection Independent Expenditure Account, funded by medical, dental and insurance interest groups.

Click to enlarge:
No on Wieckowski mailer - front

No on Wieckowski mailer - inside1

No on Wieckowski mailer - inside2

No on Wieckowski mailer2 - front

No on Wieckowski mailer2 - inside

The mailers note Wieckowski was the lone vote against a bill – AB 1522 of 2012 – to protect people sexually assaulted by their spouses. The bill required that if a spouse is convicted of a violent sexual felony against the other spouse and the couple divorces within five years, the injured spouse can’t be made to pay any spousal support or attorney’s fees, and is entitled to keep all of his/her own retirement and pension benefits.

Legislative records show Wieckowski voted against the bill in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but several months later voted for it in the final Assembly floor vote, after it had been amended. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in September 2012.

Wieckowski voted against the bill in committee because he had concerns about mixing criminal and civil court cases, but those concerns were addressed by the time of the final floor vote, campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said last week.

Hayashi’s campaign put out its own mailer this week claiming Wieckowski “will say or do anything for his political agenda,” citing various media sources. More about that, after the jump…
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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.