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Bernie Sanders’ website most effective, firm says

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is running the most digitally effective campaign, followed closely by Republican Ben Carson and Democrat Hillary Clinton, a Silicon Valley web optimization company argues.

Sanders, who at 74 is the oldest of the major parties’ prominent candidates, nevertheless is the tech-savviest when you factor in the number of analytics tools in use on the campaign’s website; the number of social media tools embedded on the campaign’s website; Twitter effectiveness (measured as number of followers divided by number of tweets as of Sept. 4); website load speed; website security, determined by SSL certification; and use of content delivery networks, according to Palo Alto-based Instart Logic.

Rated least savvy by these standards were Republican Jim Gilmore, Republican Mark Everson, Democrat Lincoln Chafee and Republican Lindsey Graham. Republican Carly Fiorina, the only candidate with a Silicon Valley background, ranked 11th.

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Spotlighting suspended senators’ money & votes

You might have a harder time finding their legislative histories now, but three state senators who are in trouble with the law are being spotlighted by a Berkeley-based nonprofit that tracks money in politics.

MapLight.org reminded the public Monday that their site makes it easy to find the industries and individuals who have given the most (at least, those who’ve given the most through legal channels) to embattled state senators Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and Rod Wright, D-Inglewood.

Yee was indicted Friday on six counts of bribery, one county of conspiring to take bribes and one count of conspiring to traffic guns. Calderon was indicted in February on bribery charges. Wright was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury related to not living in the district he represents.

Here’s a taste of MapLight’s data – lists of the top 10 interests that have given the most to those three senators from 2009 through 2012:

Leland Yee
Public Sector Unions — $81,800
Health Professionals — $54,720
General Trade Unions — $45,103
Insurance — $42,000
Pharmaceuticals & Health Products — $23,528
Gambling & Casinos — $20,100
Telecom Services & Equipment — $18,300
Accountants — $18,100
Real Estate — $16,820
Poultry & Eggs — $15,600

Ron Calderon
Insurance — $92,200
General Trade Unions — $57,600
Pharmaceuticals & Health Products — $38,900
Public Sector Unions — $38,250
Telecom Services & Equipment — $28,747
Health Professionals — $26,600
Real Estate — $24,200
Oil & Gas — $21,950
Electric Utilities — $20,500
Tribal Governments — $17,100

Rod Wright
Insurance — $99,707
General Trade Unions — $81,050
Public Sector Unions — $76,400
Telecom Services & Equipment — $62,989
Tribal Governments — $61,500
Beer, Wine & Liquor — $56,440
Gambling & Casinos — $56,191
Oil & Gas — $54,050
Pharmaceuticals & Health Products — $46,650
Real Estate — $42,900

The state Senate voted 28-1 on March 28 to suspend the three senators, and their official websites were “wiped” over the weekend of their legislative histories, biographies, news releases and so on.

But you can still find a list of bills each has introduced by visiting the state’s legislative information page and typing in their names. And their campaign finance histories are still available through the Secretary of State’s database: Follow these links to Yee, Calderon and Wright.

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California cracks down on health insurance scams

Even as the state’s health benefit exchange struggles to sign up enough Californians to ensure its viability, law enforcement is cracking down on online scams that aim to mislead people seeking insurance.

Covered California logoCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Thursday the removal of 10 private health-insurance websites that fraudulently imitated Covered California, the state’s official marketplace under the nation’s new health insurance law.

Harris’s office launched an investigation into such sites in September, and eventually sent cease-and-desist letters to site operators telling them that their websites violated state law and demanding their immediate removal or transfer of the domain name to the state’s official exchange. All 10 have complied.

These websites were operated by private health insurance brokers or companies, had domain names similar to the state’s exchange, and contained unauthorized references to the exchange’s trademarked logo and name – in some cases, using the phrases “Get Covered,” “Covered California” and “California Health Benefit Advisers.”

But individual-market insurance sold outside the exchange before January 1 won’t qualify for federal subsidies and don’t have the new law’s consumer protection provisions, such as no denials based on pre-existing conditions; no rating differences based on factors other than age, geography and family size; no annual dollar limits for covered services; and guaranteed coverage of certain essential health benefits.

State law forbids people or entities from claiming to provide services on behalf of Covered California without securing a valid agreement with the exchange. It also bars solicitations that falsely imply a governmental connection; use of a domain name that’s confusingly similar to another entity’s; making or disseminating untrue or misleading representations with the intent of selling goods or services; and unfair competition through untrue or misleading advertising.

The now-deactivated sites were:
www.californiabenefitexchange.com
www.californiahealthbenefitexchange.com
www.coveredcalifornia.com
www.shopinsuranceexchange.us
www.shopinsuranceservices.com
www.healthexchangeinsurance.com
www.shopforhealthcare.org
www.taxcreditinsurance.com
www.smallbusinesshealthoptionsprogram.com
www.stateexchanges.org

The real Covered California website is at www.coveredca.com. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact Covered California at (800) 300-1506 or consumerprotection@covered.ca.gov, or file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office online.

Harris’ office offered some tips for avoiding scams:

  • Be wary if you receive a call from a representative claiming to be a government official asking for your personal information like Social Security number or Medicare card number. You should not provide personal or financial information over the phone and should instead contact Covered California directly.
  • If you are approached by someone offering assistance from Covered California, verify that they are a Certified Enrollment Counselor by asking to see their required ID badge or by contacting Covered California directly.
  • Never pay someone for assistance with healthcare enrollment. Free enrollment assistance is available by contacting Covered California directly.
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    Yee aims to widen online registration’s reach

    Hot from the resounding success of the online voter registration system his legislation enabled, a Bay Area lawmaker now wants to expand that system’s reach.

    State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, today introduced a bill that would put a link to the online registration system run by the Secretary of State on every state government website.

    “The use of online voter registration was overwhelming, but we need to continue to find new ways to get as many citizens as possible involved in our democracy,” Yee said in a news release. “When Californians access their state government via the internet, we should encourage them to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.”

    “There are more than 5 ½ million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. Senate Bill 44 will help us reach these individuals and significantly increase the voter rolls.”

    The new system, which went live in September, let nearly 800,000 Californians register online to vote in November’s election, helping to boost the state’s registered voters to a record 18.25 million and – some believe – contributing to Democrats’ success in reaching legislative supermajorities.

    Yee cited early numbers showing that those who registered to vote using the new online system were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in the November election.

    According to Political Data Inc. (PDI), turnout was 84.7 percent in Sacramento County from those who registered online – 10 percentage points higher than the county average. In Orange County, those who registered online turned out at 82 percent versus the county average of 72 percent. Fresno County saw an even larger uptick in turnout among those who registered online: 78.2 percent, versus the county average of only 63.8 percent. Figures for other counties are still being collected.

    “Not only were we able to increase turnout among those who registered online, but we significantly increased participation among young people and first time voters,” said Yee.

    UPDATE @ 4:19 P.M. THURSDAY: A quick clarification and amplification – these comparisons in Sacramento, Orange and Fresno counties are between those who registered online between Sept. 19 (when the new system went live) and Oct. 22 and all other voters in those counties regardless of when they registered. The turnout rates are much closer if you compare those who registered online during those few final weeks and those who registered on paper during the same time period. Also, it’s worth noting that while Yee sponsored the legislation authorizing the new system, it was Secretary of State Debra Bowen who secured federal funding and built a successful system in only about nine months, a very short time by state IT project standards.

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    Jews more open to (politically) mixed dating?

    More than twice as many Christians as Jews say they wouldn’t date someone of a different political party, according to a not-so-scientific survey by a pair of religious-based dating websites.

    JDate.com and ChristianMingle.com – both owned by Beverly Hills-based Spark Networks USA – polled more than 2,000 of their members with a series of questions about dating and politics. The results indicate Jews are more open than Christians to dating someone of a different political party, though a solid majority of each faith is open to the idea. Respondents of both faiths overwhelmingly said that if dating someone with different political beliefs, they would choose to “agree to disagree” on the subject.

    Keep in mind this survey only reached people who’d enrolled in these religious-oriented dating websites in the first place, so it’s a somewhat limited sample.

    Here’s some of the breakdown:

  • Jewish men are the most open to dating someone of a different political party, with 92 percent saying they would do so.
  • Though a majority of Christian men (75 percent) are open to dating someone of a different political party, they were the least likely of all groups polled to do so.
  • Twice as many Christian men than Jewish men said they’d try to change their partner’s beliefs if different from their own (10 percent of Christian men vs 5 percent of Jewish men).
  • Twice as many Christian women than Jewish women said they’d break up with someone who has opposing beliefs (7 percent of Christian women vs 3 percent of Jewish women).
  • Here’s how the questions were asked:

    Q: Would you ever date someone who belongs to a different political party?
    1,454 ChristianMingle responses, 1,204 JDate responses)

      JDate – Yes: 90%, No: 10%
      ChristianMingle – Yes: 79%, No: 21%

    Q: If you found out the person you were dating had opposing political beliefs to you, what would you do?
    (1,304 ChristianMingle responses, 1,347 JDate responses)
    JDate –

      Agree to disagree: 86%
      Break up with them: 4%
      Never discuss politics again: 6%
      Try to change their beliefs: 4%

    ChristianMingle –

      Agree to disagree: 80%
      Break up with them: 8%
      Never discuss politics again: 7%
      Try to change their beliefs: 5%
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    2010 primary campaign website directory

    I’ve added a page, permanently linked under the “Pages” tab at the top of this blog’s right-side rail, listing websites of candidates for the East Bay’s primary elections. A few of them aren’t active yet, but are expected to be so soon. We’ll be adding and updating as needed, so if you find something new, let us know!