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Past Bay Area ethics probes pale beside Honda’s

The allegations leveled against Rep. Mike Honda in an Office of Congressional Ethics report and made public by the House Ethics Committee on Thursday are arguably the most significant allegations any Bay Area House member has faced in decades.

The OCE in 2009 began investigating then-Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and four other lawmakers to see whether they had violated Maryland criminal tax law and House ethics rules by intentionally filing false applications for a Maryland homeowner’s tax credit. But the Ethics Committee in 2010 cleared Stark of any wrongdoing, and blasted the OCE for conducting “an inadequate review, the result of which was to subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations.”

In 2011, the OCE investigated whether support for the wine industry by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, had benefited his campaign donors or a vineyard he owns, as described in a New York Times article. But the OCE eventually decided unanimously against further review, Thompson’s spokesman later said; because the matter was never referred to the Ethics Committee, the OCE made no announcement.

Way back in 1983, the Ethics Committee probed whether then-Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, and one of his aides had used cocaine and marijuana. A special counsel investigated and found no basis for charges, so the committee took no further action.

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Mike Honda blasts Jeb Bush on ‘anchor babies’

Rep. Mike Honda has added his voice to the chorus of Democrats and Asian Americans criticizing Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush for his comments about “anchor babies.”

The former Florida governor was in McAllen, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday when he defended his use of the term to describe children born in the United States to parents who immigrated illegally. He argued that he’s been “immersed in the immigrant experience” personally and said it’s “ludicrous” to say he used the phrase as a slur.

“What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there’s organized efforts, and frankly, it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organized efforts taking advantage of a noble concept which is birthright citizenship,” he said. “I support the 14th Amendment.”

“This language is a slur against all immigrants and has no place in our culture. We need to be focused on elevating the conversation and working towards real, comprehensive immigration reform,” said Honda, D-San Jose, who is chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“Our country is one founded on a multitude of cultures and backgrounds, and such close-minded language goes against the foundation of our democracy. The 14th Amendment of our Constitution guarantees citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, and we cannot stand by and let anyone diminish that right,” he said. “In Silicon Valley – one of the most diverse areas of our country – we celebrate people from all backgrounds and their contributions to our nation. As the representative of the only Asian American majority district in the continental United States, and as a proud American of Japanese descent, I strongly condemn these statements.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

Zoe Lofgren announces support of Iran nuclear deal

Rep. Zoe Lofgren announced Friday that she’ll support the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran.

Lofgren, D-San Jose, said she has read the agreement and related classified materials, taken part in classified briefings, listened to scholars and experts, talked with President Obama and Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and members of the negotiating team, and consulted her constituents.

“I have concluded that this agreement is in the best interests of the United States and the world,” she said. “This agreement walks Iran back from its current status as a threshold nuclear power. It requires the removal of the nuclear material required for a bomb, and prohibits anything but peaceful nuclear power in the future.”

She said if Iran tries to cheat, the world will find out quickly and we would then have the same tools available to deal with Iran that we have today – sanctions, or military force.

“Iran has been a hostile, negative and disruptive force. It has supported terrorists that threaten our allies and fomented war and violence. The agreement is not based on the hope or expectation that Iran will become peaceful and friendly, although all would welcome that development should it occur,” Lofgren said. “It is important to remember that this agreement will not relieve, nor preclude, the United States or our allies from our obligation to counter future Iranian aggression or terrorism with appropriate economic or military responses.”

But arms control agreements are always negotiated with enemies, not with friends, she noted. “When nuclear arms control agreements were forged with the Soviet Union, they were our enemy and posed a grave threat to the world. It was still better to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons by negotiated agreement.”

Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015
Under: Iran, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Mike Honda supports nuclear deal with Iran

Rep. Mike Honda, previously one of several Bay Area House Democrats who were still on the fence regarding the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, announced Thursday that he will support it.

honda.jpg“It is time to change the narrative with Iran and give peace a chance,” Honda said in an e-mailed statement, adding that reviewing the deal “has been one of the most substantial foreign policy decisions I have faced in Congress.”

Honda, D-San Jose, said that after meeting with Obama administration officials, experts, organizations, and constituents across the Bay Area to discuss the proposed deal’s specifics, he has come to believe it’s “the best way to verifiably prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

“The inspections, while not perfect, will open up Iran’s nuclear program and allow the international community to ensure firsthand that Iran does not have the materials nor the technologies to develop a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Should Iran not comply with the inspections and conditions of the agreement then the crippling international sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table will snap back into effect and once again isolate the Iranian regime.”

“Failure to accept this deal will likely not stop the easing of international sanctions and will squander the current international unity resulting in the United States having a far weaker negotiating position for possible alternative deals,” he added. “This agreement marks a first step, not a last step, in a long process of reengaging with Iran and ensuring that Iran permanently moves down a path away from nuclear weapons.”

He congratulated President Obama and the international negotiators who hashed out the deal.

“It is time to change the rhetoric, embrace diplomacy, and move away from unproductive saber rattling,” he said. “I will vote in favor of this deal, in favor of a nuclear weapons-free Iran, in favor of opening up the Iranian people to the world, and in favor of changing the broken paradigm that for decades has failed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and bring a lasting peaceful solution.”

UPDATE @ 2:50 P.M.: Now Rep. Jerry McNerney has announced his support as well.

Jerry McNerney“I previously supported heavy sanctions against Iran as a means to block them from building a nuclear weapon. These sanctions alone, however, were not enough to stop Iran’s ongoing nuclear pursuit. Further diplomatic efforts with Iran became necessary, and those multilateral talks resulted in the JCPOA currently before Congress,” McNerney, D-Stockton, said in an emailed statement.

“I support this agreement because I believe the security of the United States will be better served if it is accepted by Congress,” he continued. “Standing together with our international partners, this agreement takes significant steps to deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon. It also still allows us to protect the interests of Israel and our other allies in the region.”

The deal would take Iran from its current two-month breakout time to produce a nuclear weapon to about a one-year period, McNerney said. “At the same time, the inspection requirements built into the agreement will have provided the United States with better capabilities to detect any questionable activity and take whatever action is necessary to stop Iran. Those provisions will put our country in a better, more secure position in 10 years than that of having no deal with Iran today.”

If Congress rejects the deal, “the chances of Iran continuing to restrain its nuclear ambitions and returning to the table are slim,” he concluded. “The better course of action is for Congress to accept the agreement and to closely monitor its implementation to ensure that Iran abides by the terms and obligations and works diplomatically to improve the stability and security of the Middle East.”

Posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Under: Iran, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Rep. Mike Honda blasts Japanese prime minister

Rep. Mike Honda harshly criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, for not explicitly addressing the “comfort women” who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese Army during World War II.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, had invited Yong-Soo Lee, 87 – one of only a few dozen victims of Japanese sexual abuse still surviving in Korea – to be his guest in the House Gallery during Abe’s speech. “My heart breaks for Ms. Lee and her sisters, as she must now return to Korea without having received an apology from Prime Minister Abe,” he said on a conference call with reporters later Wednesday.

“It is utterly shocking and shameful that Prime Minister Abe continues to evade his government’s responsibility for the systematic atrocity that was perpetrated the Japanese Imperial Army against the so-called ‘comfort women’ during World War II,” Honda said. “I heard no apology today.”

Honda called that lack of an apology “an insult to the spirit of the 200,000 girls and women” who suffered at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Abe said in his speech that “we must realize the kind of world where finally women are free from human rights abuses,” but Honda said that “without acknowledging the sins of the past, history will repeat itself.”

Asked why Americans should care about something that happened 70 years ago between Japan and other Asian nations, Honda replied that terrible abuses continue unabated around the world today; he cited the radical Islamic group Boko Haram’s abductions of women and girls in Africa. “We call that today human trafficking, we call it sexual slavery, we call it violence against women,” he said.

“Prime Minister Abe wants to be seen as a leader of a democratic country, he also stated he wants to be a leader on women’s issues,” Honda said, but given the opportunity to make a clear statement against such practices Wednesday, Abe “blew it. He could have established a moral platform for himself.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Mike Honda introduces the ACRONYM Act

Rep. Mike Honda, annoyed by what he calls “an avalanche of verbiage in the name of every bill,” announced his introduction Wednesday, April 1 of the Accountability and Congressional Responsibility On Naming Your Motions (ACRONYM) Act of 2015.

The bill will prohibit the addition of words to the title of any bill just to create an acronym.

Sing it, Mike!“It’s gotten ridiculous,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “We’re getting bills that have over 10 words in the title just so they can spell something that’s supposed to be clever. The last straw was The Pension And Social Security Measuring Equivalence Permanent Linking of Everyone’s Actual Savings Environment (PASS ME PLEASE) Act, which only corrected a typo on Page 346 of the tax code.” The bill failed along party lines.

The ACRONYM Act was immediately endorsed by the Association of House Reading Clerks, the House Transcription Guild, the Association of Print Journalists, and the Teachers and Educators Resource Society of Editing (TERSE). The bill was condemned, however, by the Venerable Enclave of Repetitive But Official Stylistic Engineers (VERBOSE).

“My goal is to rid this Congress, and all those after it, of bills with names like the Utility and Nuclear Defensive Energy Rehabilitated Facility Upkeep and Notification Determination for Every Democracy (UNDERFUNDED) Act; the National Environmental Versus Economy, Reflection, and OUTcome OF Congressional Outlays, Minus Military Information Technology Terminology, Electricity Enhancement (NEVER OUT OF COMMITTEE) Act, and the People Are Ready To Inhabit Saturn And Neptune (PARTISAN) Act,” Honda added.

Honda said that as an educator for more than 30 years, it offends him to see the language so brutally abused. “And I was a science teacher! We wrote the book on adding unnecessary words and phrases to make things sound more important. But this has gotten out of hand.”

Honda has high hopes for the bill passing out of the Nation’s Operational and Clerical Habits Application and Notification for Congressional Excellence (NO CHANCE) House subcommittee.

(Yes, we get it. And a very happy April Fool’s Day to you too, congressman.)

Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Bay Area students at White House Science Fair

Three Bay Area students’ projects will be among those featured in the White House Science Fair on Monday in Washington, D.C.

Holly JacksonHolly Jackson, 14, of San Jose, investigated the art of sewing from a unique, architectural point of view. After learning to sew in the 4th grade from her grandmother, Holly’s scientific curiosity led her to explore the relative strength and compatibility of threads and fabrics, important information to better understand innovative sewn materials for the 21st century. She engineered a device to measure the capacity and strength of stitched fabric, and designed experiments and procedures to yield precise measurements. Her research has potential applications in the design of high-performance protective gear, hazmat and space suits, parachutes, and more. Her work won the top award of $25,000 at the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS competition.

Natalie NgNatalie Ng, 19, of Cupertino, developed two micro-RNA-based prognostic models that can predict metastasis in breast cancer, and identified two micro-RNAs that independently impact the ability of breast cancer cells to metastasize. Ng’s project has important implications for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer diagnosed in women worldwide, according to the latest WHO report. A frustrating reality about cancer is that even when initial hormonal treatment seems to work, metastatic cancer cells can survive and spread to distant sites in the body. So, accurate prediction of metastatic outcome, such as with the aid of genetic signatures, can significantly improve the ability to predict the recurrence risk and to devise appropriate treatment strategies for individual cancer patients. Ng won First Place at the 2013 International BioGENEius Challenge.

Ruchi PandyaRuchi Pandya, 18, of San Jose, combining nanotechnology, biology and electrochemistry to use small biological samples – only a single drop of blood – to test for specific cardiac biomarkers. She developed a one-square centimeter carbon nanofiber electrode-based biosensor that has the potential to improve cardiac health diagnostics for patients around the world. Ruchi takes her passion for STEM education beyond the lab by mentoring 9th and 10th grade students on research and engineering as a teaching assistant for her school’s STEM-research class. She has competed at the California State Science Fair every year, and has won 18 category and special awards for scientific research. After graduation, Ruchi intends to major in materials science and engineering, and hopes to pursue a career as a technology entrepreneur.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: education, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Bay Area House members out and about Friday

Bay Area House members have a bunch of events planned for Friday.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will take part in a discussion with employers of the benefits of hiring trained ex-convicts at 9 a.m. Friday in the student lounge in Building R of Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr. in Oakland. Others expected to take part include California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard; California Prison Industry Authority General Manager Charles Pattillo; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alameda County Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles; and PWC Development President Prophet Walker, himself a former offender.

Mark DeSaulnierReps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Sarbanes, D-Md., will take part in a roundtable discussion on the problem of big money in politics, at 11 a.m. Friday in Blum Hall B100 at UC-Berkeley. The event, hosted by the California Public Interest Research Group, will address local and federal efforts to curb big money’s influence by amplifying small donors’ voices, as well as the recent push for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending. State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter, the Berkeley Forum and others also will take part.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will hold a forum to update the community about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration at 4 p.m. Friday at the School of Arts and Culture in Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose. The event also offers eligibility workshops to prepare families to apply for relief from deportation pending availability of applications this year. Lofgren, Lofgren, the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will be joined by Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Santa Clara County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez; and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, campaign finance, Immigration, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Nora Campos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ office has continued to see tremendous staff turnover in recent years, and several former staffers say it’s due to a hostile work environment created by her chief of staff.

Nora CamposRecords obtained from the Assembly Rules Committee show that since Campos, D-San Jose, took office at the end of 2010, 46 staffers have started work for her.

About two dozen have left since Chief of Staff Sailaja Rajappan joined the office in November 2012. Former staffers say Rajappan was unduly antagonistic, dressing down aides in front of their peers for failing to meet her often-shifting demands and standards.

“It was stifling and humorless, people always looking over their shoulder, a culture fostered by the chief of staff who actively sowed dissention and division between her own staffers,” said Steven Harmon, a former reporter for this newspaper who served as Campos’ press aide from June 2013 through his firing by Rajappan last month. Harmon said he was given no specific reason for his firing.

“People leave generally to escape the punishing atmosphere, a culture of fear and oppressive management,” he said.

Rajappan said she and Campos would not answer questions by phone or email this week, and unless this story was delayed to accommodate a face-to-face interview with Campos next week, “we don’t have a comment on this situation.”

It’s not the first time Campos’ office has seemed to be in disarray; allegations about her being tough on staff date back to her days on San Jose City Council.

But these new claims come as Campos finds herself somewhat marginalized in the Assembly. Formerly the speaker pro tem – appointed by the speaker to preside over floor sessions – Campos found herself without any leadership post or committee chair as Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reorganized in November. Atkins late last month named Campos as “assistant Democratic leader – external relations,” a title that didn’t exist previously.

And the turnover has consequences for the 27th Assembly District’s constituents, particular when it comes to the skeleton-crewed district office. Each assembly district has approximately 466,000 constituents; Campos’ district office as of last month had two employees, while other Bay Area assembly members have from four to seven district staffers each.

Campos’ Capitol and district staff combined now numbers six or seven.

Three other staffers who left Campos’ office of their own accord in the past two years spoke on condition of anonymity, lest their comments hurt their Capitol or other public-policy careers. One described the office’s atmosphere as “pretty toxic.”

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

Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | 33 Comments »

Lee & Honda demand non-military plan vs. ISIL

Two Bay Area House members introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the president to give Congress within 90 days a “comprehensive diplomatic, political, economic and regionally-led strategy to degrade and dismantle” the so-called Islamic State.

Not the omission of the word “military,” as authors Barbara Lee and Mike Honda are noted anti-war lawmakers, and among the House’s most liberal members.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“We can all agree that ISIL and their actions are horrific and barbaric,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “As we work to degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must be comprehensive in our strategy. National security experts have clearly stated that there is no military solution to ISIL. In order to ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must craft a robust regionally-led, political, economic and diplomatic strategy.”

That means considering the sectarian and ethnic tensions that gives rise to militant groups like this, as well as the group’s oil-based financial structure and revenue stream, she said.

“While this legislation prevents the deployment of U.S. ground troops, it does not close the door for military action,” she added. “Congress will have to debate and vote on any authorization for the use of force. Any comprehensive strategy must address the underlying political, economic and diplomatic elements that have contributed to ISIL.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Hose, said that despite the enemy’s undeniable brutality and formidable threat, “military strength alone will not defeat extremism. The only lasting solution is a comprehensive solution that addresses the political and economic concerns of the region – one in which the rights of all religious and cultural groups are respected.

“The U.S. must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to emphasize diplomatic, political, and economic solutions to work towards a lasting, inclusive future away from violent extremism,” he said.

Organizations supporting the bill include Win Without War, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Just Foreign Policy.

Diane Randall, the Friends Committee’s executive secretary, noted Lee was the lone vote opposing the authorization for use of military force immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Lee now is “proposing a repeal of that blank check for war,” Randall said, by urging “political and diplomatic solutions to the crises our failed policies helped create.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »