Ron Calderon Gets Sentenced

Former Senator Ron Calderon will be heading to prison soon.
Former Senator Ron Calderon will be heading to prison soon.
Way back in 2008, I called out a Senator for a bill that I thought invaded medical privacy. The original post was fairly policy focused. His chief of staff didn’t much care for what I wrote, and let me know. I told him that I would republish his email, and he said go for it. So, I did just that right here in a response and further analysis of the bill. Just for giggles, here is that fun email:

You should go back to public policy school and learn how to read a bill. You apparently don’t know how to or are too lazy. If you had bothered to do that, rather than taking the word of others who haven’t read the bill either, you’d have known how inaccurate your misinformed little column is. And accuracy should be important, even for bloggers. If you would like to discuss you can reach me at (916) xxx-xxxx.

Chief of Staff
Senator Ronald S. Calderon
30th Senate District

Ah, good times. Even more fun was the conversation I recalled in that post with the CoS, wherein he told me that elites (like me?) would never get Calderon like his district got him.

All that is to say, Ron Calderon is about to go to jail. But it was probably all because of the elites who, according to his lawyers when this all first came out, entrapped him into taking bribes.

Charged in a corruption scandal that could have sent him to prison for three lifetimes, former Sen. Ron Calderon dropped his entrapment defense, pleaded guilty and admitted taking bribes in exchange for his influence in Sacramento.

As he faces sentencing Friday, though, prosecutors say Calderon is not taking responsibility for his actions and has presented a “whimsical and revisionist view of his conduct” in an effort to serve no time behind bars for graft that lined his own pockets and helped put his children through college.(AP 10/21/16)

Ron Calderon’s removal and term limits now means that only Ian Calderon, a 31-year old Assembly member from Whittier, is the last of the Calderon family political machine left in office.

The Election That Was

Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris lead the way for a strong night for Democrats

by Brian Leubitz

While the presidential race wasn’t as close as some had expected, the election results were good for the Democratic Party. In the Senate race, AG Kamala Harris got over 40% of the vote, and will face Rep. Loretta Sanchez in a D-on-D statewide race. Think about that fact: there will be no Republican competitor in the Senate race of the largest state of the union. The Republicans can point at Schwarzenegger or Abel Maldonado for that, but a dysfunctional Republican party that has the same xenophobic tendencies as the larger national GOP looks to be the real culprit. The Nation has a good look at the CRP in tatters:

 Under California’s nonpartisan “blanket primary” law, which was enacted by the voters in 2010, Tuesday’s Senate primary ballot featured all the candidates on one list. Democrats, Republicans, and several dozen third-party and independent candidates competed against one another in a race where only the top two finishers could earn a place on the November ballot. That would not have been much of a challenge for a functional Republican Party. But it was an insurmountable challenge for the California Republican Party. Several GOP contenders hit the campaign trail, but none of them got anywhere close to being competitive. They simply split a minority of the vote and languished in single digits.

California is a minority-majority state already. This is the way the rest of the nation will look soon enough, and if the Republicans continue on this Trumpian path, they will find this fate on a larger scale.

On another note, Andy Pugno, the Prop 8 lawyer who fought to the bitter end to protect inequality and who supports a complete abortion ban, appears to have lost in his attempt to get to the Top-2 portion of the AD-6 Race.

More locally, the San Francisco Bay Area passed a $12 regional parcel tax, even with the 2/3 requirement, that will go to help fund projects to save the Bay. And DCCC races across the state may take a little while to fully sort out.

There are still a few “close contests“, but in the one statewide race, you would have to say the big loser is the California Republican party.

Munger spending on Sundheim’s Senate Campaign?

Wealthy Bay Area businessman tries to get a Republican in the Senate general election

by Brian Leubitz

It is June 1, and the polling on the open Senate seat here in California isn’t looking very good for the Republicans. Now, they were never very likely to put a bunch of resources into California, but you would have thought that they would have at least liked to have a candidate in the race. That now seems unlikely given the latest polling which shows Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez far ahead of the array of Republicans in the race.

But it seems Charles Munger hasn’t completely forgotten about the race:

Now, an outside group funded by the California GOP’s most devoted benefactor is trying to push one of the three major Republicans into a top-two position.

Charles Munger Jr., the Palo Alto physicist whose father is the business partner of Warren Buffett, initially kicked in more than $50,000 to assist Senate candidate Duf Sundheim, a former state GOP chairman polling in single digits alongside fellow Republicans Tom Del Beccaro and Ron Unz.

A new Super PAC funded by Munger, Californians for Fiscal Responsibility, reports spending nearly $540,000 to date to boost Sundheim and sink Del Beccaro. The mailings focus on Del Beccaro’s record as state GOP chairman, blaming him for electoral, voter registration and funding woes it suffered.(SacBee)

If this is their attempt to unify Republican votes, it doesn’t seem to be working. The latest ABC7/Survey USA poll has Sundheim and Del Beccarro in the low single digits. There are still a lot of undecideds on that poll, but it seems either Republican will be able to catch up to Sanchez or Harris.

Hey, Charles, if you have so much money to burn, maybe you can help build some affordable housing in the Palo Alto area? That would probably do a lot more good.

Today is the Last Day to Register to Vote

by Brian Leubitz

I’m sure you are already registered to vote, but have you moved lately? Do you have a friend that moved or needs to register for the first time in California? Well, fortunately enough, we have a great online registration system, and you (or your friend) should mosey on down to said website and just do it.

Click here for the California Voter Registration Site.

Voter numbers will come out shortly, but we can probably expect pretty decent voter turnout come June 7. So, go ahead, get that registration in now, and get ready to vote in a couple weeks!

Moving on Up? John Chiang and Fiona Ma Announce Campaigns

California_State_Treasurer_John_ChiangGovernor’s Race Begins Very Early

by Brian Leubitz

Lt.Gov. Gavin Newsom has been running governor for the better part of this century, or so it seems. And for a while it looked like his fundraising may have deterred anybody else from officially announcing their candidacy for the 2018 contest.  That changed this week:

California Treasurer John Chiang has made it official: He’s running for governor in 2018.

The Democrat made the announcement in a statement Tuesday morning.

“As your next Governor, I have a blueprint for expanding and renewing the California dream through fixing our crumbling infrastructure, making retirement security our generation’s call to arms, and rebuilding California’s middle class through better jobs and improved educational opportunities,” Chiang said. (LAT 5/18/16)

First, let me say that I’ve always been impressed with John Chiang, as both Controller and Treasurer. He fought Governor Schwarzenegger during the worst of the Budget fights, and has been a competent manager of the office. As to whether he can compete with the fundraising of Gavin Newsom is an open question. Chiang has some money in his treasurer account that he can transfer over to this race, but he is already over $2million behind the former SF Mayor.

And right after that announcement, BoE Member Fiona Ma (and CPA!) announced that she would be seeking Chiang’s Treasurer gig. In an email sent to supporters, she outlined her qualifications:

As a Certified Public Accountant, Chair of the Board of Equalization, and state and local official, I’ve put my skills to work for Californians. I’ll be ready on Day One to serve as California’s treasurer and invest in the people and small businesses that are the foundation for California’s economic success.

An open statewide office is likely to attract competition, but Ma will be a formidable candidate. She has a history of fighting it out in San Francisco politics, and can be a formidable fundraiser herself.

Welcome to 2018? Oh, right, 2 more years of this?

The Sonoma Coast Belongs to ALL Californians

I love our state parks. That can not be over emphasized. In Sonoma County, the state parks system is looking to set up iron rangers along the coast.

The pay-to-park fight has waged for several years between the California Department of Parks and Recreation (which wants the parking fees) and Sonoma County (whose supervisors unanimously rejected the plan in 2013). The iron rangers would be installed at destinations like Goat Rock, Salmon Creek, Shell Beach and other spots along a 35-mile stretch of Sonoma County coast.

The state appealed the county’s decision to the commission, which will meet on April 13–15 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Santa Rosa. The meeting was moved from a smaller facility in anticipation of big crowds. (North Bay Bohemian)

Quite frankly, it won’t work. People will park along the residential streets, it will markedly decrease access to our parks, and the local economy will be negatively impacted. The Coastal Commission’s staff said as much in an epic report (very large PDF available here). You can get more

Here’s the quick and dirty summary of their logic:

Staff believes that the best path forward for fee parking programs at the State beaches on the Sonoma Coast is to provide the necessary information and analysis to address the potential impacts associated with a fee parking program which will inform how to avoid or mitigate any identified adverse impacts. In addition, DPR should propose specific measures or programs to provide lower cost access to these beach parks for low income persons. Furthermore, DPR should explore a collaborative partnership with Sonoma County and non-profit entities for joint operation of some of the beach parks as Bodega Head or Willow Creek to share the costs for operation and maintenance which could result in reduced or no fees. Parking fees to access State beaches is an issue of statewide importance, and it is better understood within a statewide context, wherein fees may make sense at certain locations and units, but maybe not others, and local interests and partners are better factored into the equation, including in terms of potential shared management and parks development. A statewide perspective also helps to ensure thatsuch a statewide program is equitable, includes transit alternatives in locations where fees are newly imposed, and allows DPR to further explore partnerships with interested local governments and nonprofits who wish to relieve DPR of its burden of maintaining facilities. This process would be consistent with the letter agreements exchanged in 2013 by the then executive directors of the Commission and State Parks, and with the direction given in Parks Forward, the internal reorganizing effort underway within DPR. For these reasons, staff recommends that the Commission deny the revised proposal submitted by DPR.

For years now, one of the targeted parks within the Sonoma Coast State Park, Willow Creek, has been run by an amazing nonprofit, Landpaths. While they didn’t have the resources to allow completely free access, they were able to manage the land and the trails in a responsible manner. You did have to go to the park to get a permit, but they were free and allowed free access to the park. It wasn’t an ideal system, but it worked.

The Iron Rangers will not work. While the State Parks system has been crying out for money from these parks, and closing many of the lots during the budget crisis, the community was hit hard. The Russian River area parks currently make about $1.3m in revenue, but cost about $4.5m to operate. Yes, it is a money losing operation. But the value of those parks to the communities, including Jenner, Bodega Bay, and the Russian River towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio is immense. Our park systems should not be revenue neutral. Teddy Roosevelt recognized the importance of parks to our nation, and California state parks should follow in these footsteps.

The public is now fighting this mistake, as we fought a series of past mistakes made in the name of development. It is all outlined in this important video. Watch it above, and join the fight against this plan at the website from some folks who are working to block it:

Sonoma Coast State Park

Pulaski: Congress Must Reject Job-Killing TPP

by Steve Smith

ARTPulaskiTPPOn Monday, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, representing a fake astroturf group  called the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs,” penned a misleading op-ed in the Sacramento Bee in support of the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Cabaldon used a study from the Peterson Institute to help make his case that the TPP is good for jobs. Unfortunately for Cabaldon, he must not have actually read the study he cited because it actually says the flawed deal wouldn’t create any jobs AND it would lead to fewer good-paying manufacturing jobs.

Today, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski set the record straight with his own op-ed in the Bee, pointing out the many harmful effects of the deal.

Like every other recent trade pact, the TPP is chock-full of goodies for corporate special interests while woefully inadequate on labor and environmental safeguards. The chief problem that plagued deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement is that labor standards were weak or unenforceable, encouraging corporate CEOs to move their operations to countries that pay meager wages in comparison to U.S. wages. NAFTA led to 700,000 jobs shipped overseas.

The TPP is no different. In fact, the Peterson Institute report that Cabaldon cites finds that the trade deal wouldn’t be a job creator for America, but would lead to 121,000 fewer manufacturing jobs by 2030…That’s a major red flag for anyone concerned about the future of our middle class.

Another recent study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University paints a much bleaker picture. It projects that the TPP will lead to GDP contraction in the U.S. and job losses and increased inequality in all participating countries. Experts say the deal could also undermine California’s efforts to combat climate change, result in higher prescription drug prices and allow rampant currency manipulation by other countries.

Anyone who thinks this rotten deal will help address inequality in America clearly isn’t paying attention (or even worse, they’re drinking the corporate Kool-Aid).  Bottom line, progressives like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are rejecting the deal. Conservatives are also blasting it, including Republican congressional candidate Scott Jones, who’s running against Rep. Ami Bera, who sold-out workers on last year’s fast track vote. The notion that Cabaldon and his bogus “progressive” coalition are supporting workers is laughable. Real progressives (as well as many other folks across the political spectrum) oppose the TPP and know from experience this deal will further gut out the middle class.


The legacy of America’s broken trade policy is shuttered factories, outsourced jobs and a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for Congress to take a stand in support of working people instead of kowtowing to corporate lobbyists. For the sake of our future, Congress must reject the TPP.

Cross post from Labor’s Edge

New Law Will Protect Low-Wage Earners from Debt Collectors

by Jessica Bartholow

The fight for fifteen is no longer just a slogan, or a hashtag. It is now the law in an increasing number of California cities and will soon be a checkbox on our ballots. And, in January, California will have the highest minimum wage in the nation. As the most prosperous state in the country, with one of the highest rates of income inequality, it is only right that we should.

But, for some minimum wage workers who have been consumed by debt, either because they have lived lifetimes in poverty or because they became newly poor during the recession, the increasing wage offers little relief. This is because existing state law allows a low-income worker to be garnished at the maximum rate of 25% when they earn more than the state minimum wage.  As a result, workers earning $12 an hour because of a local minimum wage (for example) can be subject to a $3 an hour garnishment – making their take-home pay no more than it was before the local initiative raised the wage.

This 100% taking from workers earning higher minimum wages undermines not only workers, but also local decision making.  Low-income workers want to honor and pay back their debts like everyone else, but a 100% taking on these earnings discourages work and contributes to poverty among working families, putting life essentials – food, rent, utilities – out of reach. When low-income workers’ wages are garnished, they often face more severe setbacks, losing their assets and falling into further debt to credit card companies or predatory lenders. A new report by ProPublica shows how this kind of aggressive debt collection not only hurts low-income workers, but also low-income communities, especially black communities.

On July 1, 2016, these workers and their communities will see some relief. That’s the day that SB 501, a new law authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski, goes into effect.

SB 501 makes important changes to California’s wage garnishment law.

  • SB 501 Honors Local Minimum Wage Ordinances: Current law ties the garnishment calculation to the state minimum wage. SB 501 ties the garnishment calculation to the state minimum wage unless there is a local minimum wage ordinance that is higher. As of July 1, 2016, workers cannot be garnished until their paycheck is higher than the amount someone would earn working full-time at the local minimum wage.
  • SB 501 Graduates the Garnishment Rate: As of July 1, 2016, the garnishment rate will be tapered so people who earn less than twice the supplemental poverty rate for a family of three pay less in garnishment, and workers who are the poorest pay the lowest rates of garnishment.
  • Government Debt Not Included in SB 501: SB 501 does not reduce garnishment rates paid on child support or tax debt.

As we continue to build toward more equitable wages and workplace policies, I look forward to also continuing to lightening the burden of debt carried by workers who have been undermined by low-wages for far too long. We will need to do both, improve wages and reduce debt, if we are going to win an economy built on shared prosperity. For more information about this new law and how it will impact your clients or constituents, contact Jessica Bartholow at or click here.

These California Democrats voted for the Republican Syrian Refugee Bill

At sunset, a group of mostly Syrian refugees arrive on Greek island of Lesvos after crossing from Turkey. Image from UNHCR.

The House passed the so-called “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act”, which doesn’t actually protect Americans. Rather, it just makes the process of resettling refugees even more cumbersome than the already lengthy process. Some would say that we [should have learned our lesson 60 years ago], but apparently we have not.

However, just to add insult to injury, these Democrats joined a total of 47 Democrats and their Republican colleagues to create the possibility of a veto override. (H/t to this dKos diary)

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Janice Hahn (CA-44)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)

By way of explanation, Rep. Garamendi released this statement:

“This bill strengthens the already stringent requirements for international refugees entering America,” said Congressman Garamendi. “But strengthening the refugee program is a minor part of the reassessment we must make in the wake of the Paris attacks. For those wishing to come to America to do harm, the refugee program is the least likely way to get in and the most likely way to get caught. Of the millions of displaced Syrians, only around 2,200 have been admitted to the United States as refugees, and for a good reason: applicants are vetted through biometric and biographic checks for at least 18 months by every major American national security and law enforcement agency before they even set foot on American soil. Anyone whose identity and story cannot be precisely confirmed is not admitted to our country. Once they gain admission to the United States, their status is periodically reviewed by state and federal law enforcement.

So, this doesn’t actually help keep us safe, but we should do it anyway in a time of great humanitarian need. The United States, given the destabilizing effect our involvement in Iraq has been to the entire Middle East, has a special humanitarian obligation. And now we are doing our best to walk away from our obligations.

UPDATE: Rep. Garamendi has since posted this statement. Here’s an excerpt, but you should read it in full:

The bill I voted for, H.R. 4038, by my reading (and I encourage everyone reading this to read the bill too), does the following:

  1. It requires the heads of the agencies responsible for vetting refugees – the Homeland Security Secretary, the FBI Director, and the Director of National Intelligence specifically – after the existing thorough (and unchanged) background checks are conducted, to certify that refugee applicants don’t pose a threat to the United States before being granted refugee status.
  2. It requires a review and periodic reports on our refugee program to the appropriate Congressional committees.

That’s literally the entire bill. There’s no talk of pausing or rejecting refugees, no matter how many headlines say otherwise.