Part of the Bay Area News Group

Assemblyman decries city council replacement

One of new Assemblyman Kansen Chu’s first acts will be to decry the process by which his San Jose City Council replacement is being chosen.

Kansen ChuAs my colleague Mike Rosenberg reports, the council is slated to vote Friday afternoon, in its last meeting of the session, on an interim appointment before a special election next year to replace Chu, who left his District 4 council seat for the state Assembly earlier this month.

Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo and outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed have named former District 4 councilwoman Margie Matthews – who endorsed Liccardo for mayor – as their pick. The proposed appointment is seen by the mayor-elect’s critics as a political maneuver that could tip the balance of power at City Hall in his favor. But Liccardo and his supporters say it’s merely a chance to ensure the District 4 residents of north San Jose are represented on key issues, as the winner of the upcoming election will not take office until as late as August.

Chu issued a news release late Thursday saying he’ll hold a news conference Friday morning at San Jose City Hall along with Councilman Ash Kalra and representatives from various community groups to “express their outrage at the anti-democratic, unethical tactics” Liccardo is using to fill the seat.

“The effort to hastily appoint a caretaker to represent the constituents of Council District 4 has been an example of government secrecy and deception,” the news release said. “With moving application deadlines, no community outreach, and an application and interview process with a pre-identified and selected candidate, the community has had little opportunity to voice its concerns about the potential candidates or the process being used.”

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Kansen Chu | 2 Comments »

Honda touts manufacturing bill within CRomnibus

Some last-minute poison pills kept Rep. Mike Honda from voting for the $1.1 “CRomnibus” spending bill approved by Congress, but he sees a few bright spots in it for Silicon Valley nonetheless.

And there’s little that Honda – who just eked out a narrow electoral win last month over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna – would rather do these days than deliver a bit of good news for his district.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, said Tuesday that the CRomnibus included the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act. This Republican-led, bipartisan bill that the House had approved back in September authorizes $400 million to create up to 15 Centers for Manufacturing Innovation – regional hubs where universities and colleges, small and large manufacturers, and government can address manufacturing challenges and bring ideas from lab to market. They’ll also work toward producing a skilled workforce to meet the nation’s manufacturing needs.

Honda believes the initiative will lead to more domestic manufacturing and job creation across the nation. He anticipates that Silicon Valley will be among the first applicants seeking to create such a center, probably in order to develop the next generation of semiconductor manufacturing tools.

IPC – a global trade association serving the printed board and electronics assembly industries, their customers and suppliers – issued a statement Monday thanking Honda for his role in RAMI’s passage.

“Among the bill’s earliest and most steadfast champions, Congressman Honda keenly appreciates the connection between the strength of America’s manufacturing base and the incredible innovation that takes place in his district in Silicon Valley.” IPC President and CEO John Mitchell said. “Representing all facets of the electronics industry, IPC’s members — including the many located in Congressman Honda’s district — look forward to the collaboration among private and public sector stakeholders at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation centers that this legislation will establish.”

Honda was proud of the bipartisan effort behind this bill and the greater CRomnibus, but said he had no choice but to vote against it after two riders were added that he staunchly opposed – one to roll back part of the Dodd-Frank banking reforms that prevent taxpayers being left on the hook to insure risky derivatives trading, and another to vastly increase the amount of money individuals can contribute to political parties.

“I had to make that decision (to vote nay) … That’s the way the sausage is made in Congress,” he said. “But I’m glad we got the RAMI in and also the next round of funding on BART, about $150 million” for the Berryessa extension.

Honda spoke Tuesday as he prepared to leave for South Korea, where he’ll spend the next few days meeting with business and government leaders including Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert, as well as visiting U.S. troops and surviving victims of World War II sexual enslavement.

He said his priority is to discuss what South Korea is doing to encourage American businesses to thrive there, and the investment and innovation opportunities South Korean businesses have in the Bay Area. He’ll be delivering a policy speech at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul about how the two nations can strengthen their economic and political relations; he also has a dinner scheduled with the Korea International Trade Association and its chairman, as well as a meeting with the vice minister of trade, industry and energy.

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
Under: economy, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Bay Area’s big cities have gun buybacks Saturday

The Bay Area’s three biggest cities are holding gun buyback events Saturday, a day short of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre’s second anniversary.

2013 San Jose buybackSan Jose’s event runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (or sooner, if the money runs out) at P.A.L. Stadium, 680 S. 34th St., hosted by the San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, Councilman Xavier Campos, County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

“I am proud to have started this event last year, that saw 463 weapons get turned in, and even more proud that it will be continuing this year and tentatively for any years to come,” Xavier Campos said. “The community has spoken loud and clear that public safety is number one. This event will look to help take dangerous, unused, and illegal weapons off the street in an effort to help our Police Department make our neighborhoods and our city safe for all.”

Oakland’s and San Francisco’s events are partially funded by Gun by Gun, a tech nonprofit that crowdfunds gun buybacks. As of Thursday, the group had raised more than $70,000 from more than 600 individual donors for buybacks in four cities.

“The crowdfunding campaign is designed to put power back in the hands of the community” said Gun by Gun cofounder Ian Johnston, who was 10 when he lost his father to gun violence. “People are frustrated by the rate of gun violence we experience and they want to see results.”

Oakland’s buyback will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd., co-hosted by the Oakland Police Department. Open only to Oakland residents, organizers will offer up to $100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 for firearms that meet the state’s definition of assault weapons.

San Francisco’s buyback will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at United Playaz, 1038 Howard Street. Tech investor Ron Conway is matching the first $10,000 in donations to the crowdfunding campaign. The San Francisco Unified School District this week sent home letters to every student’s parent encouraging them to take part in the buyback.

“Gun homicides are the leading cause of death for our young people in San Francisco,” said school board member Matt Haney. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

But critics say this isn’t the way to curb violence.

“Gun buybacks are not only largely meaningless, they are actually dangerous, because they do absolutely nothing to address the underlying issues of violence in our society. They do however offer a great photo opportunity,” Eric Wooten, president of the Liberal Gun Owners Association, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday by the San Francisco Chronicle. “But after the last photo is snapped and the last tweet tweeted, the entrenched inequities and other societal problems that actually cause violence will still be left unaddressed.”

Unemployment, a biased War on Drugs, and educational disparities are the roots of violence, he wrote.

“What you won’t hear from those supporting this gun buyback is that the number of guns netted is probably less than the number of guns legally bought in the greater Bay Area in just the few hours it took to hold the buyback,” Wooten wrote. “If we want to actually reduce violence, the effort spent on today’s gun buyback would be far better focused on education or other social programs aimed at improving equality of opportunity.”

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014
Under: gun control | 38 Comments »

No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

“It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

“To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos, Toni Atkins | 4 Comments »

Lofgren defends Obama at immigration hearing

Rep. Zoe Lofgren rose to President Obama’s defense Tuesday during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on his “executive overreach on immigration.”

In his opening statement, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the president “has just announced one of the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president.”

“The Obama Administration has crossed the line from any justifiable use of its authority to a clear violation of his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws,” Goodlatte said, adding there’s a difference between setting prosecutorial priorities and “setting enforcement-free zones for millions of unlawful aliens.”

“By boldly proclaiming that there will be no possibility of removal for millions of unlawful aliens, President Obama eliminates entirely any deterrent effect our immigration laws have,” he said. “He states plainly that those laws can be ignored with impunity. Such actions will entice others around the world to come here illegally, just like his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program encouraged tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien minors and families from Central America to make the dangerous trek to the United States.”

“By acting lawlessly and assuming legislative power, the Obama Administration is driving full speed ahead to a constitutional crisis, tilting the scales of our three-branch government in his favor and threatening to unravel our system of checks and balances,” Goodlatte concluded. “Rather than working constructively with the new men and women Americans elected to represent them in Congress, the President is making his relationship with Congress increasingly toxic by unconstitutionally acting on his own. Tragically, President Obama’s shortsighted actions have further set back congressional efforts to enact legislation to reform our broken immigration system.”

But Lofgren, D-San Jose, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, said while the president can’t change the law, he can take action within it – as has every president since Eisenhower.

“The President’s actions are lawful. They are also smart, because they will allow DHS to focus limited resources on serious criminals, recent arrivals, and gang members. Finally, they are consistent with basic American values, like accountability, family unity, and compassion, Lofgren said.

“The legal question isn’t even a close one,” she later added. “The President has clear legal authority to defer removals when it’s in the national interest. Chief Justice Roberts reaffirmed that principle just two years ago – our immigration laws recognize this authority – past Presidents have used this authority regularly. Our President is doing so now and I, for one, am grateful that he is.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

CA17: A little more Khanna-Honda post-mortem

My story in today’s editions explores why Ro Khanna’s campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda didn’t succeed, but there was more to my interview with Khanna than we had room for in this article.

I sat down with Khanna minutes after he delivered his concession speech Friday night. At that time, Honda led in unofficial returns by 3,658 votes, or 3.66 percentage points. Another 27,853 votes have been tallied in Santa Clara and Alameda counties since then, and as of Monday morning, Honda leads by 4,637 votes, or 3.62 percentage points.

CONGRESSMAN CANDIDATE RO KHANNAFirst, some more math. Khanna had said Friday that he and his consultants had hoped 150,000 to 160,000 votes would be cast in this race; in a district of about 296,000 voters, that would’ve meant turnout of about 51 to 54 percent. As of Monday morning, only about 128,000 ballots have been tallied – a turnout of only about 43 percent – and as Khanna notes in the story, his key constituencies of young voters, independents and Republicans were among the least likely to vote.

In Election Day’s earliest returns – absentee ballots that came in early enough that they’d already been processed by 8 p.m. Tuesday – Honda led by about 7 percentage points, a lead that narrowed later that night and in the following days. Khanna said that indicates Honda did better among earlier voters, while he was far more competitive among those who did their vote-by-mail ballots at the last minute or who voted at the polls on Election Day.

“We’d always said this was a race against time,” he said Friday. “If we’d had a couple more weeks, maybe we would’ve pulled ahead.”

Also, Khanna was more effusive in his praise of his deepest-pocketed supporter than I could fully explain in the story.

I had pressed Khanna about the $857,000 spent by Californians for Innovation, the super PAC formed by his supporters to do independent spending on his behalf; much of that spending came in the campaign’s final month, and about half that money was contributed late enough that the donors’ identities won’t be revealed until December.

I asked whether this had been a double-edged sword for him – the radio ads and mailers kept his name out there after his own campaign had run out of money, but the independent and somewhat shadowy spending might’ve discomfited some supporters who had been proud to back a candidate who shunned PAC and lobbyist donations to his own campaign. Khanna said he was OK with it.

“I was very open to say that if there were supporters who wanted to come to our defense, they should” – and he’s thankful that they did, he said. “I’m glad that there was someone there to set the record straight, I didn’t discourage it… but I think it’s unfortunate that we had to go there.”

The biggest super PAC donors – at $250,000 – were Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife. Honda’s late ads noted Arnold had worked at Enron, a company which before its collapse in 2002 had gamed California’s electricity grid to cost the state’s residents billions of dollars in surcharges.

“I do know John Arnold, we had a long conversation about pension reform and his desire for new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Khanna said, noting Arnold has also supported Democrats like outgoing San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. “The idea that he’s a right-wing kind of person is just false… He and his wife are an incredibly decent couple and I’m very proud of their support. I regret that they were attacked in the campaign, I think they’re good people.”

Posted on Monday, November 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Super PAC backing Khanna has spent $812k

The super PAC that’s spending independently in support of Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign has reported another $250,000 in spending, this time on radio ads – which means someone has put another big load of money into it.

Unfortunately, while Federal Election Commission rules require disclosure of spending within a day or two, the Californians for Innovation super PAC won’t have to disclose its donors again until after this 17th Congressional District election is in the history books.

Californians for Innovation, formed this summer by Khanna supporters, already had spent about $305,000 by mid-October on direct mail to help Khanna in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Several late expenditure reports showed $256,441 in additional spending in the month’s second half – and then, with another report filed late Wednesday night, $250,000 more.

So the running total is now almost $812,000, all but $72,000 of which has been spent in October. As of the middle of the month, the committee had reported raising only $480,000.

Super PACs can take unlimited contributions, and this one’s biggest disclosed donors by far – $250,000 – are Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron trader, and his wife, Laura. Another $25,000 came from OO Investment LLC; corporate registrations filed in California and Delaware don’t disclose OO’s executives or members, and the lawyer who filed the papers – Myron Sugarman of San Francisco – hasn’t returned calls or emails seeking comment.

Super PACs are forbidden by law from communicating or coordinating activities with the candidates or campaigns they support or oppose. Law said Monday that he, Khanna and the rest of Khanna’s campaign have “no idea” who’s behind OO Investment LLC.

The Working For Us PAC, a union-funded super PAC, spent about $140,000 to send out several mailers on Honda’s behalf before June’s primary election.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

CA17: Khanna launches ‘PAC-Mike’ video game

The increasingly ugly 17th Congressional District race now has its own video game.

Democratic challenger Ro Khanna launched www.pacmike.com Monday, taking a page from the classic Pac-Man video came to highlight the $778,000 that Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, has accepted in campaign donations this cycle from political action committees and other committees.

Meanwhile, Honda launched his own website Monday – RightWingRo.com – and a new mailer to highlight Khanna’s support by conservatives that Honda’s campaign says are of questionable character.

PAC-Mike basically functions like the old arcade game, though when PAC-Mike eats one of the “power pills” at a corner of the maze, up pops a message such as “A full quarter of Rep. Honda’s money has come from the Washington, DC beltway this cycle (and 30% this month).”

(Click to enlarge:)
PAC-Mike

“No matter how much the Honda campaign tries to change the conversation away from his record of not showing up and not getting the job done, the fact remains that Ro is the only candidate to say no to all PACs and special interests,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said in a news release. “That’s a critical difference between the candidates and one of the reasons there’s so much momentum behind our grassroots campaign.”

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that “no amount of gimmicks can change the fact that Ro Khanna is relying on a Super PAC funded by his biggest donors, including $250,000 from a Texas hedge fund billionaire who made a fortune as an energy trader at Enron and $25,000 from a company with little publicly-available information.

“Voters know that while Mike stands up for those who need it most, Khanna is just a puppet of the millionaires and billionaires who want a return on their investment that will not benefit the hardworking people in this district,” Kembaiyan said.

The fact is, both candidates have benefited tremendously from the largess of organizations and people that have little in common with the district’s working families.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: Khanna won’t refund wage-theft CEO’s $$$

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna won’t refund a contribution from the CEO of a company fined this week for labor abuses, as the Alameda Labor Council – which solidly supports seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda – has demanded.

Electronics For Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company’s Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. Honda, D-San Jose, on Thursday promised to introduce legislation to stiffen penalties for wage theft like this.

EFI CEO Guy Gecht contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in September 2013; campaign staffers removed his name Thursday from a list of Khanna’s tech-executive endorsements.

Khanna issued a strong denunciation of EFI’s practices, but the labor council on Friday urged him to refund Gecht’s money.

“When Khanna approached us for support, he promised that he was a progressive, but we’ve long been concerned that Khanna has been acting as a tool for right-wing millionaires and conservative CEOs to push their policies,” Josie Camacho, the council’s executive secretary-treasurer, said in a news release. “Hopefully even he can agree that there is no room for this kind of practice in Silicon Valley. Ro should immediately refund the $2,600 donation from Gecht.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied Honda “seems to have just discovered that wage theft exists two weeks before an election.

“Further, he has had no problem taking huge amounts of money from defense contractors, big pharma, and many other special interests including PG&E – even after their criminal negligence resulted in the death of eight people,” Law said. “It’s unfortunate that Congressman Honda is playing politics on the backs of workers.”

But Gecht’s money is “not returned,” Law added when pressed on the issue.

Law noted Honda’s campaign also has paid more than $15,000 to “one of the most anti-labor communications firms in the Bay Area,” San Francisco-based Singer Associates. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan, a former SEIU staffer, emailed local and state labor leaders on Monday with a litany of cases in which Singer Associates has worked against unions, including during last year’s BART strike; during a battle between AT&T Park management and concessionaires in 2013; and during hotel workers’ 2010 fight for better wages.

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: PCCC aids Honda, Newsom aids Khanna

It was a battle of the proxies Friday in the 17th Congressional District as a national liberal grassroots group came to Rep. Mike Honda’s aid while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made a plea on Democratic challenger Ro Khanna’s behalf.

Both say the race is basically tied, and that their chosen candidate needs a little added oomph to seal the deal.

PCCCThe Progressive Change Campaign Committee and liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., sent an email to PCCC members – about a million nationwide, including about 125,000 in California – urging them to donate money to or make phone calls for Honda’s campaign. PCCC also is adding Honda to its “Call Out The Vote” program, mobilizing calls to voters from its national election headquarters and volunteers across the country on his behalf.

“Mike Honda is one of my closest allies in the House — a solid progressive champion,” Grayson writes in the email. “But today he’s in a tight race against a challenger lavishly funded by corporate big shots. The latest poll in his California district shows Honda up two points – and in this progressive district, that’s only due to corporate money.”

The email lauds Honda’s record before claiming “a bunch of corporate CEOs have decided they’d rather have a tool of their own in that seat, so they’re backing Mike’s opponent – a guy who has refused to commit to protecting Social Security benefits, let alone expanding them.”

As I’ve previously reported, Khanna has balked at expanding Social Security benefits but has repeatedly vowed to protect existing benefits for “current and future seniors.”

PCCC spokeswoman Laura Friedenbach said Friday that helping Honda win is a no-brainer for her group, especially since Khanna sent out a mailer blasting Honda as being too liberal.

“Khanna can’t seem to decide what party he sides with, but he’s made one thing clear: He’s not on the side of progressives,” she said. “This race is center stage in a national battle taking place between corporate Democrats and Elizabeth Warren wing Democrats for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

The plea for help on Honda’s behalf comes as Honda appears to have the upper hand in cash to spend from now until Election Day. But Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said it’s a sign of desperation.

“Yesterday the Honda campaign sent out a desperate email saying they might have to close down a field office,” Law said. “Today they’re begging for out-of-state-support because they don’t have enough local volunteers. Actions speak louder than words, and their actions are making it pretty clear they are worried.”

Newsom, in an email blast sent out by Khanna’s campaign, urged voters to sign up to volunteer in the campaign’s final weeks.

Gavin Newsom“Silicon Valley leads the world in innovation, and it deserves a representative who works as hard and is as entrepreneurial as the people in this district,” Newsom wrote. “That’s what Ro brings to the table.

“We need someone who will fight to make sure local businesses can grow, help create good paying jobs, and make sure the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top,” he added. “Ro has concrete plans to get it done. And throughout this campaign, he’s shown that he will listen to the people in this district and fight for what matters to you.”

Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that Honda “is proud to fight for progressive values like raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security, and grateful to have the backing of grassroots allies like the PCCC and it’s thousands of members. This is a stark contrast to Ro Khanna, who is relying on the millionaires, billionaires, and companies that fund his Super PAC to call the shots.”

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »