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John Chiang raising money for gubenatorial bid

John Chiang

Treasurer John Chiang has been upfront about his interest in running for governor in 2018, and Monday, he filed paperwork to start raising money to take on a potentially star-studded field.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is already a candidate. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire activist Tom Steyer are also rumored candidates.

See below for Chiang’s announcement:

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Tom Steyer at center of union fight

A major union get-out-the-vote drive is in jeopardy as trade unions scoff at the inclusion of Tom Steyer, a Bay Area billionaire hedge fund manager and environmentalist.

Steyer had pledged $5 million toward the For Our Future SuperPAC in collaboration with the A.F.L-C.I.O. and individual unions aimed at creating a unified effort to help Democrats in key battleground states.

But Steyer’s involvement didn’t sit well with the trade unions who say that his environmental advocacy has cost them jobs. Steyer most recently opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a letter obtained by the New York Times, the trade unions made clear to A.F.L-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka that they wouldn’t join forces with Steyer:

“It saddens us that the very labor movement we have fought for and supported for over a century seems to have lost sight of its core mission and has moved away from us and our membership in the interest of headline-grabbing political expediency,” wrote the union presidents. The letter was signed by leaders of the operating engineers, plumbers, elevator constructors, roofers, laborers, plasterers and heat and frost insulators. Many of them have members who would stand to gain if the sort of energy projects Mr. Steyer has opposed went forward.

In a separate and even more harshly worded letter to Mr. Trumka, the president of the 500,000-member laborers union, Terry O’Sullivan, called the partnership a “politically bankrupt betrayal” of union members. “We object to the political agenda of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. being sold to a job-killing hedge fund manager with a bag of cash,” he wrote.

Steyer’s political advocacy group NextGen Climate didn’t shoot back at his union critics:

“NextGen Climate is committed to preventing climate disaster and promoting prosperity for every American and that is precisely what our partnership with For Our Future aims to do. Our new unified effort will help elect progressive leaders who are committed to a just transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit working families across the nation.”

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Cigarette tax hike initiative starts circulating

One of the state’s most powerful labor unions, a billionaire, and a flock of health organizations can start circulating petitions for their proposed ballot measure to boost California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Wednesday.

Here’s the Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure:

CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Allocates revenues primarily to increase funding for existing healthcare programs; also for tobacco use prevention/control programs, tobacco-related disease research and law enforcement, University of California physician training, dental disease prevention programs, and administration. Excludes these revenues from Proposition 98 funding requirements. If tax causes decreased tobacco consumption, transfers tax revenues to offset decreases to existing tobacco-funded programs and sales tax revenues. Requires biennial audit. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net increase in excise tax revenues in the range of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion annually by 2017-18, with revenues decreasing slightly in subsequent years. The majority of funds would be used for payments to health care providers. The remaining funds would be used for a variety of specified purposes, including tobacco-related prevention and cessation programs, law enforcement programs, medical research on tobacco-related diseases, and early childhood development programs. (15-0081.)

Proponents including California Medical Association CEO Dustin Corcoran, SEIU California President Laphonza Butler, American Lung Association of California president and CEO Olivia Diaz-Lapham, and hedge-fund billionaire turned environmental activist Tom Steyer have until June 13 to collect valid signatures from at least 585,407 registered voters in order to place the measure on next November’s ballot.

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Pool report from Obama’s DCCC fundraiser

Here’s the White House pool report I just filed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser that President Obama headlined, hosted by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood.

But first, the view from outside:

The view from Sea Cliff (photo by Josh Richman)

Between 50 and 100 of the Bay Area’s well-heeled mixed and mingled with drinks and snacks in a bright, skylit room while awaiting POTUS’ remarks. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. (wearing a blue pantsuit and gold blouse with a Golden State Warriors button on her jacket lapel); Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; and DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened the program, citing the Golden State Warriors’ championship win so soon after the championship San Francisco Giants were honored at the White House. She repeated the sentiments she had spoken to the U.S. Conference of Mayors a few hours earlier, noting that during Obama’s presidency, job growth has boomed, the deficit has shrunk, the stock market has soared, and 17 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage.

“You’ve come to a state that is in the lead on climate change,” she said, noting Steyer and Taylor have invested much to protect California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

Steyer thanked Pelosi for her service and leadership. Climate and energy is “part of the progressive agenda,” and many in the room care deeply about higher education, immigration reform, LGBT rights and more. But with climate change, Obama “hasn’t gotten nearly the support he deserves” given what the president has accomplished with regulations and international agreements. “It’s been under the most difficult political circumstances I’ve ever witnessed,” Steyer said, and perhaps the most difficult since 1860. Yet with all due respect to Warriors star Steph Curry, Obama is “still our go-to guy in a clutch,” Steyer said.

POTUS began speaking at 5:40 p.m.

“I think the Bay Area has been a little bit greedy with championships,” he said, noting at least the Blackhawks just had their victory parade, too.

But “it is actually really impressive to see what both organizations have done, and they do it the right way,” he said, offering his congratulations to Giants and Warriors alike. Obama noted Curry donates anti-malaria mosquito nets for each 3-point shot he makes.

POTUS thanked Steyer and Taylor on their civic engagement, as well as on good parenting; he’d just met their kids backstage. “I can’t thank them enough not just for supporting me but for supporting the issues that matter to everyone in this room.”

POTUS also thanked Pelosi for being “an extraordinary partner in Congress” who has made most of his administration’s accomplishments possible. And he thanked the members of Congress present at Friday’s event individually.

POTUS’ tone turned sober in addressing the Charleston massacre. “In addition to heartbreak and wanting to extend love and prayer and support to the families that have been affected” and amazement at their forgiving statements Friday to the shooter, “in addition to all those things I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that this stuff happens way too often. These mass shootings do not happen in other advanced countries around the world – they are unique in their frequency to America.”

And that’s due to this nation’s easily availability of guns, too often without background checks, he said. “It’s not enough for us to express sympathy. We have to take action.”

His partners in Congress have helped him reduce unemployment, buoy the economy, stabilize the housing market, reduce the deficit, insure the uninsured, increase high school graduation and college attendance rates, doubled production of clean energy (and increased solar tenfold), improved fuel efficiency standards, and more.

“We’ve ended two wars,” he said, while protecting the American homeland and conduct operations against enemies while staying true to the Constitution and the law. LGBT rights have leapt forward. “I’m really proud of this record.”

“But the amount of work left undone is remarkable,” POTUS said, citing both challenges and opportunities to better the nation for future generation.

“First is the changing nature of the economy,” he said.

We’ve overperformed the world economically, yet haven’t addressed growing income inequality. “Until we tackle that, people aren’t going to feel better.”

That means investing in early-childhood education, investing in science and research, and adopting new trade policies that don’t shy away from the new world economy but “lean into it,” he said.

“The second thing I spend time thinking about is climate change,” he said, and if we don’t get that right, it barely matters what else we do.

Reading the latest climate science reports scare him, he said; by 2050, “well within our current children’s lifetime,” sea levels rise by two to four feet. Within the lifetimes of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, “it could be 10 feet, 16 feet. The magnitude of the changes that could be taking place if we don’t get a handle on this are irreversible.”

“This is a matter of us taking some basic steps to increase efficiency and expand clean energy production and change our grid and develop new technologies, and it’s well within our reach,” he said. “There is something we can do.”

“If Japan is 20 percent more efficient in terms of its energy use… that’s existing technology and we can adapt it here,” he said.

“If we know how we produce power is unsustainable, we have the tools or we will develop the tools” to replace that, he said.

“Imagine what we could do if Congress actually starting moving with us instead of moving against us,” he said, drawing murmurs of assent from the audience.

China was compelled to negotiate on climate change because we’re setting the example, he said.

POTUS says he tells his White House interns that we live in the most technologically advanced time in history, with lifestyles our predecessors couldn’t have imagined, he said. “What you can’t do is give into this notion that things can’t change, because they change all the time and they change remarkably.”

“We never make as much progress as we should… we’re always a little bit battered and bruised, we’re always a little frustrated, but we make it a little better,” he said. “And by making it better, we add our little bit to this journey towards progress and more justice and more equality and more empathy and more compassion. And then we leave some work for our amazing kids to do, because we wouldn’t want to solve all their problems.”

But we must tackle income inequality and climate change now, before they become insurmountable in the future, he said.

“If we’re going to make things better, you have to have a Congress that cares and is willing to do tough stuff,” he said, adding he and his allies in Congress don’t agree on everything – a jibe that drew laughter from the audience.

“Ultimately, the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen,” he said. “I need you to feel the same sense of urgency.”

POTUS finished at 6:05 p.m.; press was ushered out as crowd applauded.

Motorcade departed site at 6:11 p.m. en route to Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco’s South of Market area.

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SD7: First the Kochs, now Tom Steyer

Where the Koch brothers go, Tom Steyer can’t be far behind – and the independent-spending maelstrom surrounding the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election is no exception.

Days after a Koch-related group launched an ad attacking Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord – and so benefiting her rival, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – the San Francisco hedge fund billionaire turned environmentalist gave $150,000 Friday to Working Families Opposing Glazer, a committee created by labor unions to help Bonilla win.

Tom Steyer“We need to elect leaders willing to stand up and do what’s right to protect the health and financial security of hardworking East Bay residents, no matter the political consequences,” Steyer said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “Susan Bonilla has stood up to Big Oil and opposed the $2 billion tax loophole that benefits oil companies at the expense of California families. That’s the kind of thoughtful leadership we need in Sacramento.”

No mention of the campaign contributions Bonilla has taken for this race from oil and gas companies including Chevron, Phillips 66 and Tesoro.

Glazer said Friday he thinks voters “are fed up with all the negative campaigning. Steyer’s money goes to the group that is the biggest contributor to the garbage pile of slick mailers filling voter’s mailboxes.”

“Voters should read our ballot statements, access newspaper editorials and other neutral sources for factual information, and ignore the power plays and smear tactics by all the special interests,” said Glazer, who has had plenty of such power plays and smear tactics deployed on his behalf as well. “When I declared for this office, I promised that I would be a thoughtful and independent representative who would work across party lines as a problem solver not a partisan. It doesn’t surprise me that the interests who want to maintain a dysfunctional status quo are campaigning so hard against me.”

Steyer, who hosted a fundraiser for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at his home on Wednesday, spent around $76 million last year to influence elections across the nation. His group, NextGen Climate, already is working hard to hold Republican presidential candidates’ feet to the fire on climate-change issues. He flirted with but later ruled out a run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, but many believe he has his eye on the governor’s office in 2018.

The independent spending in this race now totals somewhere between $6 million and $7 million, roughly evenly split between support for Bonilla and support for Glazer.

But it seems the Koch brothers aren’t nearly as involved in the race as it first seemed.

In a memo to reporters Tuesday, Working Families spokesman Steve Maviglio had written that “a new TV ad went up on cable television last night” from Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based group with ties to the Koch brothers. But in papers filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s office, IWV reported spending only $5,700 to produce the ad and buy online advertising – no mention of any TV airtime.

In an email to Democrats sent Wednesday, Contra Costa County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Koertzen urged support and contributions for Bonilla because “the KOCH BROTHERS have contributed several hundred thousand dollars to support her opponent.”

Koertzen said Friday that “he was told by someone else that they saw it on TV,” and “we know from experience” that producing and airing a television ad “is at least $100,000, so we’re basing it on that.” Asked about IWV’s $5,700 filing, he said, “They’re hiding something.”

But Maviglio said just a few minutes later that it appears the ad has not aired on television at all; he said they checked with Comcast, who reported there’d been an inquiry but no ad buy.

So $5,700 indirectly from the Koch brothers seems to have leveraged $150,000 from Steyer and God knows how much more from other anti-Koch donors. Nice leverage if you can get it…

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Hillary Clinton’s fundraisers and critics

As expected, donors at today’s Hillary Clinton fundraisers in San Francisco paid only $2,700 to get in but are being asked to raise the same amount from 10 friends.

Clinton’s first event is from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. at the home of hedge fund billionaire turned environmentalist Tom Steyer, with about 105 attendees. The second, with about 220 attendees, is from 4:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at the Century Club, hosted by longtime friend and supporter Susie Tompkins Buell, cofounder of Esprit and The North Face, and her husband, Mark Buell; an earlier invitation and previous reports had erroneously indicated this would be at the Buell’s home.

She has three similar events scheduled Thursday in Los Angeles, and one Friday at the Portola Valley home of eBay President and CEO John Donahoe and Eileen Donahoe, global affairs director for Human Rights Watch and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

These events – into which no reporters are allowed – continue to build the “Hillstarters” program, a Clinton campaign aide said: a “bundling” program designed to involve more people and build the donor base. Attendees give $2,700, while hosts or co-hosts raise that same amount from each of 10 or more other people.

The aide said Clinton will speak to today’s attendees “about her commitment to being a champion for everyday Americans,” outlining her goals of “building the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday; strengthening families and communities; fixing our dysfunctional political system; and protecting our country from threats.”

Critics abound from several quarters.

“While Clinton doesn’t have time to answer serious questions about the numerous scandals plaguing her candidacy, she found time for three days worth of fundraising in California with the same wealthy liberal donors who gave to her family’s controversial foundation,” Republican National Committee spokesman Ninio Fetalvo said. “Everyday Americans are waiting for answers, and it’s very clear that answering their questions isn’t a priority to Clinton.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is sending its “Frostpaw the Polar Bear” mascot to a rally outside the event at Steyer’s home, in an effort to urge Clinton “to outline a bold plan for addressing the climate crisis, including opposing Keystone XL.”

“If we’re going to have a planet that’s livable for people and wildlife, we need Hillary Clinton standing with millions of Americans calling for an end to fossil fuel addiction,” Valerie Love, a campaigner with the Center, said in a news release. “Tackling the climate crisis ought to start with rejecting projects like Keystone XL followed by a visionary plan to dramatically reduce carbon pollution and steer us toward cleaner, safer energy sources.”

America Rising, a political action committee that gathers and spreads opposition research on Democrats, notes Clinton not only has yet to take a public position on the pipeline, but has dodged the question more than a dozen times. That includes a discussion in Canada at which she said she has “traveled around your country avoiding answering questions” on Keystone XL because she was involved in the decision-making process as Secretary of State.

And Californians for Energy Indpendence, a group funded by the oil industry, notes Clinton told Iowans last month that “there’s something wrong” when “hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80 when I was driving here” – yet Steyer is a former hedge fund manager who used tax loopholes including offshore havens.