George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”


Silicon Valley bigwigs raising money for Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official who’s challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday night in San Francisco with some of Silicon Valley’s big names.

Ro KhannaThe top hosts are Ron Conway, a famed investor who is now special adviser to the San Francisco-based SV Angel investment firm, and Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame.

Also involved are Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who has hosted fundraisers for President Barack Obama; Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and her husband, Zach Bogue; Matt Cohler and Peter Fenton from Benchmark Capital General Partners; Napster developer Shawn Fanning; Dan Rose, Facebook’s vice president of business development and monetization; Dropbox general counsel Ramsey Homsany, formerly a VP at Google; and SV Angel founder and managing partner David Lee.

The cost is $2,600 for supporters, $5,200 for sponsors; the 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. reception is being held in a private room at a North Beach restaurant.

Honda, 71, started the year with about $78,000 cash on hand and raised about $214,000 in the first quarter so even the money he raised in the first quarter doesn’t put him anywhere close to the $1 million bankroll that Khanna built in one blockbuster quarter back in 2011, when most folks thought he would run to succeed (but not challenge) Pete Stark.

Khanna, 36, of Fremont, raised only $18,000 in the first quarter of this year, but he was trying to remain somewhat under the radar; he didn’t formally announce his candidacy until April 2. This fundraiser might help him deliver on his promise of a much more aggressive and lucrative second quarter.

Khanna – a deputy assistant secretary in the Commerce Department from 2009 to 2011, now of counsel to Silicon Valley law powerhouse Wilson Sonsini – may be hobnobbing with the tech elite but he’s not neglecting his grassroots, either. He’s scheduled to hold the latest of his community meet-and-greets over Memorial Day weekend: a potluck lunch from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25 in Almaden Quicksilver County Park along San Jose’s southern edge.


Californians among Obama campaign’s co-chairs

Several Californians – including a tech mogul, a statewide elected officer and a big-city mayor – are among President Obama’s national campaign co-chairs, the ambassadors who’ll advise the campaign and help mobilize voters.

On the list are Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff of San Francisco; Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo; California Attorney General Kamala Harris; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; actress Eva Longoria of Los Angeles; and actor Kalpen Modi, a former White House Office of Public Engagement aide who’s now pursuing a graduate certificate in international security at Stanford University.

“The President’s National Co-Chairs will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history,” said Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager. “They each share the President’s vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”

Benioff had opened his opulent home for a $35,800-a-head fundraiser for the president’s campaign last April. “His focus on American jobs and support for companies that create jobs here in America are just what we need to keep this recovery moving,” he said in today’s news release.

Harris was active in Obama’s 2008 campaign, building ties that stood her in good stead when she ran for her current office in 2010.

“Since taking office, the President has worked tirelessly to provide relief for struggling middle-class families and to lay a foundation for a strong economy that’s built to last,” she said in today’s release. “The President’s leadership and vision for the future will continue to move the country forward, rather than taking us back to the failed policies of the past.”


Newsom, Brown raked in campaign $$$ last month

Looks as if they were happy holidays indeed for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who collected $134,000 in campaign contributions last month, according to reports filed yesterday in the Secretary of State’s newly repaired campaign finance database.

Almost half of that amount, $62,000, came in after Christmas, including $26,000 from salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, of San Francisco, as well as $13,000 from Anaheim attorney Wylie Aitken and his wife, Elizabeth.

Not that Newsom had nothing to be thankful for around Thanksgiving, either – he raked in about $90,000 in November. His 2014 re-election campaign committee had more than $263,000 in the bank at mid-year, but clearly we can expect a much more robust number when the 2011 end-of-year report is filed at the end of this month.

Yet Newsom still is like a Padawan learner at the knee of fundraising Jedi master Jerry Brown, whose re-election campaign raked in $158,000 last month from a handful of PACs and card rooms (not to mention the more than $5 million his 2010 campaign still had in the bank as of June 30).


The lowdown on the President’s visit tomorrow

I’ll be following President Barack Obama through the fundraisers he has scheduled for tomorrow evening in San Francisco.

The President’s Bay Area visit is both in support of the budget and deficit plan he released last week as well as part of his 2012 re-election campaign kickoff. He arrives in the Bay Area early tomorrow afternoon to hold a “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” online town hall at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook; my colleague Mike Swift at the Mercury News will be all over that.

Then, tomorrow evening, I’ll cover his appearance first at an exclusive fundraising dinner at the Presidio Heights home of billionaire salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne. At $35,800 per person for each of 60 attendees, this probably will be the most expensive dinner most of this very well-heeled crowd has ever consumed.

From each contributor, $30,800 will go to the Democratic National Committee while $5,000 will go to Obama’s re-election campaign: $2,500 for the primary, $2,500 for the general election.

Marc Benioff, 46, founded salesforce.com, a cloud computing company, in 1999; earlier, he worked at Oracle Corp. Former President George W. Bush appointed him co-chairman of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, on which he served from 2003 to 2005, overseeing publication of critical reports on health care information technology, cybersecurity, and computational sciences.

Of about $183,000 in federal political contributions Marc Benioff has made since 1996, roughly 70 percent has been to Democratic candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ database. His voter registration shows he has declined to state a party affiliation.

Forbes last month estimated his net worth at $2.1 billion. Barron’s in December named him and Lynne, 36, among the top 25 most effective philanthropists.

After the Benioff dinner, I’ll follow the President to his fundraiser at the Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill. Tickets went for $25 for Gen44 activists; $250 for general admission; $1,000 for premium seating; $2,500 for VIP seating in the first three rows; and $10,000 for a photo reception.

On Thursday morning, he’s scheduled to attend a fundraising breakfast with about 100 guests – tickets reportedly cost $5,000 to $35,000 – at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco; I believe the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci will be the local media’s eyes and ears for that one. After that he’s headed to Los Angeles; he’ll return to Washington, D.C., on Friday.