Category Archives: San Diego

A Battle Over Increasing the Minimum Wage in San Diego

A City Council veto override on Monday has set the scene for a showdown between local and national business interests vs. a labor-community coalition over San Diego’s Earned Sick Day / Minimum Wage ordinance.

Following months of public hearings and invitations (mostly declined) for local businesses to hammer out a compromise, the city council passed an ordinance providing access to five earned sick days and setting a local minimum wage increasing to $11.50 over three years.

This action makes San Diego the largest city in the nation to raise the minimum wage.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer–said to be one of the bright new faces in the GOP– then turned thumbs down on the bill on Friday, August 8th. Although the council was slated for vacation for the rest of the month, a special session was called by president Todd Gloria. The 6-2 vote upholding the ordinance surprised nobody.

It didn’t take but a few hours before a well-financed Chamber of Commerce-led group announced it would be collecting signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance, hoping to suspend (until the June, 2016 elections) an increase in pay for an estimated 172,000 local workers, along with denying access to earned sick days to 279,000 individuals.

They have 30 days to gather at least 33,866 valid signatures; National Petition Management has been reportedly hired to do the dirty work. If they fail to make that threshold, the first stage of the wage hikes will go into effect in January with an increase for local minimum-wage workers from $9 an hour to $9.75.

Decline to Sign Campaign

Funded by national restaurant chains and some of California’s biggest donors to Mitt Romney, the Chamber’s “Small Business Coalition” (managed by the right-wing Revolvis political consultancy) is facing off against Raise Up San Diego, which has called for a citywide decline to sign campaign, simply called “Don’t Sign It,” to defeat the referendum against the ordinance.

This attempt at forcing a referendum will be the fourth big dollar effort at overturning council-enacted legislation in the last two years orchestrated by conservative business interests who’ve long been used to getting their way in local government.

As San Diego has faded from being a solidly Republican town to having a Democratic majority among registered voters, the business as usual crowd has turned to well-financed misinformation campaigns run by right wing spin-doctors.

And until now they’ve been on a winning streak, enabled by local media either owned by financiers of these campaigns or incapable of reporting on issues outside the framing provided by the Chamber of Commerce and their allies.

Told, Sold and Lied To

Over the past two years San Diegans have been told, sold and lied to about:

**requiring impact statements on big box store construction,

**reinstating a linkage fee (tied to affordable housing funding) suspended for nearly two decades on big construction projects,

**and creating a barrier between residential and industrial projects in the neighborhood with the highest asthma rate in the state

Each campaign has used numbers pulled out of a bodily orifice to create the impression that people’s job’s would be in danger. The last campaign even went so far as spread stories about the US Navy (a major local employer) pulling out of town.

The local daily newspaper is owned by “Papa” Doug Manchester, known for his financial support of right-wing causes. He was a backer for Dinesh D’Souza’s smear-o-mentary, 2016: Obama’s America.  

The Sunday edition of UT-San Diego  featured a “news” story giving opponents of the increase major play.  

This time around, the Chamber types, hiding behind the ‘money is free speech’ notion, are out to claim they are the defenders of democracy. They are saying the referendum is needed since the City Council passed this ordinance without putting it up for a public vote.

It’s Orwellian beyond Orwellian; Big Money is trying to play the pity card because the City Council did the job voters elected them to do. And they’re claiming the “decline to sign’ campaign is a plot by labor bullies to harass business.

The Raise Up San Diego coalition is taking a stand on this issue. Two-thirds of voters – 63%, according to a recent Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research poll – support the Earned Sick Days and Minimum Wage Ordinance.

When you have a local oligarchy capable of throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more on the table everytime they see something they don’t like, it becomes harder and harder to persuade people to vote in local elections.

And that, my friends, would be the point.

The Rise Up San Diego Coalition

In addition to faith, labor and community groups the Coalition fighting for this minimum wage increase has some high profile supporters in the business sector. Not every business in San Diego’s economy is dependent of a low wage model.

Irwin Jacobs, founder of Qualcomm (a major employer in the area) and Mel Katz (former Regional Chamber of Commerce Chairman) wrote a supportive op-ed, only to have it buried in the Saturday edition (lowest day for readership) of UT-San Diego.

The minimum wage and earned sick leave ordinance passed by a supermajority of the City Council establishes a basic standard of fairness for working people and their families. Our business experience here in San Diego tells us it makes good economic and business sense, too.

The high cost of living in San Diego is well-documented. Full-time work at the California minimum wage of $9 an hour pays $1,560 a month before taxes. In a city where the average one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,032, it’s unrealistic to support one’s self or a family on that wage. Our city minimum wage and earned sick leave ordinance gives an estimated 172,000 San Diegans a modest and gradual raise to $11.50 an hour by the year 2017 plus the ability to earn up to five sick days off per year.

Also well-documented is that increases in salaries of low-wage workers are spent close to home by these workers on basic necessities like food, housing and transportation. In San Diego, that means millions of dollars more circulating and recirculating through the San Diego economy each year and the associated multiplier effect of that spending. Earned sick days means millions more in improved productivity courtesy of a healthier and happier workforce.

Basketball great Bill Walton joined supporters at a press conference last week:

“We stand for a San Diego in which hard-working people aren’t locked in poverty and in which they can earn a few days off a year for when they get sick or need to care for an ill child or other loved one,” Walton said.  “We know the vast majority of San Diegans feel the same way, and we urge them to say no to the signature gatherers.”

It’s Time to Fight Back

Those seeking the referendum don’t care that they are literally taking away sustenance from those who need it most.

For Andrea Tookes, a minimum-wage security officer and mother in San Diego, this means another 20 months or more not having to choose between job security and a pay day, and taking care of one her four children when one of them becomes ill and can’t go to school.

“That’s a terrible choice,” said Tookes.  “You don’t want to send your kids to school sick.  You can’t leave them home alone.  And you can’t afford to forfeit pay or give your employer the impression you’re not a dependable employee.”

If you live in San Diego:

1.Take the pledge not to sign the anti-sick days anti-minimum wage petitions.

2. Inform as many people as possible that the earned sick days and minimum wage policy HAS PASSED, and that any signature gathering effort is an attempt to TAKE IT AWAY!! Tell your friends: DON’T SIGN IT!

3. If you see a signature gatherer, call or text the following hotline: (619) 930 – 3300

4. Volunteer.

Progressives in San Diego have used these recent challenges by reactionary elements in big business to increase organizing efforts throughout the community. Although we are outgunned, our numbers and commitment keep increasing; new alliances are being built on the shoulders of previous coalitions.

San Diego used to be a bright red city. Now it’s light blue and getting bluer. The minimum wage drive is just part of the shift. We will keep fighting until we’re BRIGHT BLUE..

Spread the word, my friends. This is going to be an epic battle.

This story was cross-posted at Daily Kos

Several Severe Fires Rage in San Diego

At least 9 separate fires rage as firefighters struggle to keep up

by Brian Leubitz

We were warned that due to the drought this was going to be a very bad fire year. However, just how bad is becoming painfully clear. Traditionally, we would be looking down the road a while from now before the most severe fire danger. However, there was no considerable rain this winter, and this early fire season shows it.

San Diego County authorities Wednesday declared a local emergency due to wildfires that destroyed more than 20 structures, including homes, in the northern part of the region. … Firefighters are battling wind-driven blazes in Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, Bonsall and Camp Pendleton. (San Diego 6)

The local declaration requests a similar state declaration, but the Governor has not yet issued that. When he does, that will allow the use of some state and federal resources.

Some footage of the firefighting from SD 6 is below. Stay safe out there.

Brian Bilbray and Carl DeMaio: San Diego’s Republican Shapeshifters

If there’s one thing that’s been particularly consistent to campaigns of the far right in San Diego this fall, it’s the unusually desperate attempts to hide the real agenda from voters. It’s one that should be cause for optimism as long as voters pay attention, and betrays an almost impressive self-awareness from the top of the GOP that the party’s agenda has drifted well outside the mainstream.

From the special exemptions of Prop 32 to Brian Bilbray’s teetering re-election bid to Carl DeMaio’s bizarre mayoral campaign, extreme conservatives are doing everything they can to hide their record and who they are.

For the backers of Proposition 32, the deception was part of the design from the very beginning. They surveyed the political landscape and found that, unsurprisingly, nobody wants millionaires and corporations to be able to buy off our political process. Rather than abandon a wildly unpopular idea, they came up with a different plan: fake it.  

Cross-posted from San Diego Free Press

That’s Prop 32, from the same white knights of campaign finance reform who broke the system to begin with by using the Citizens United case to overthrow existing regulations on special interest money. This year, they simply took it a step further, called the plan reform and packed in enough special exemptions to create a system that only works for corporations and millionaires.

It makes sense because everyone wants campaign finance reform. But the reason they want campaign finance reform is specifically because of what Prop 32’s backers have done and continue to do.

The hundreds of millions of unregulated, unlimited political cash flowing into SuperPACs exists specifically because of Prop 32’s backers, and now its being funded by the Koch Brothers and other super-rich conservatives that saw Citizens United as the starting pistol to buy off democracy. Prop 32’s hoping to trick voters. Will they see through it?

At the same time, there’s Brian Bilbray. He has cobbled together a decades-long career of faking moderation when election time comes around, but the reality just doesn’t match the myth he’s built for himself when push comes to shove. Bilbray wants to cast himself as an environmentalist, but mustered just a 17% score on the League of Conservation Voters 2011 scorecard. And it was Bilbray’s early work trying to gut the Clean Water Act that once inspired Donna Frye to become a clean water activist.

He’s done his best to avoid the ramifications of the national GOP’s war on women, right on through to Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ comments. But the reality of his record remains, including a pitiful 8% score from Planned Parenthood’s scorecard. Brian Bilbray may not want to be lumped in with the war on women, but if that’s what he’s hoping for, maybe he shouldn’t have signed up for it in the first place.

All of that could maybe be overlooked if Bilbray had taken up the mantle of the millions of Americans devastated when the economy fell apart near the end of the Bush administration. But while Bilbray will certainly have populist talking points on the stump, it’s worth remembering that he voted for the Paul Ryan plan to dismantle Medicare and destroy Social Security in response to increased economic security.

And Bilbray’s plan for economic recovery? One part rewarding tax-evading corporate interests, one part Let them eat a Yacht Race! Not exactly your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.

For Carl DeMaio, the attempt to whitewash nearly twenty years as a professional politician has been even more depraved than elsewhere. After coming up with the likes of Newt Gingrich, Virginia Thomas, the Jack Abramoff crew, and the Koch Brothers, it seems to have dawned on Carl that the city of San Diego, well… really doesn’t like that at all.

During his tenure on the council, DeMaio has received the lowest cumulative score on the annual Environmental Quality Report Card. And despite being appointed since joining the council, DeMaio hasn’t appeared in the minutes of a single meeting of the San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space Joint Powers Authority since January 2011.

Reality didn’t matter to DeMaio though when he took a week out to declare himself an environmentalist. He didn’t get very far with that, so he moved on to a plan to encourage biking by investing in more roads. Doesn’t make sense? It isn’t supposed to. It’s just supposed to distract from his career-long record on the wrong side of these issues.

Word on the street is, DeMaio spent some time recently trying for an endorsement from the Victory Fund, which led to an unexpected declaration from Carl that he was pro-choice. It has to be considered unexpected since it was certainly news to Planned Parenthood. Why? Because despite the clear reasons that choice matters at the local level, DeMaio has always refused to fill out Planned Parenthood’s questionnaire. And today, if you’re looking for pro-choice candidates in November, you sure aren’t going to find Carl DeMaio on the list.

There are still more examples. He runs as a fiscal conservative while voting against hundreds of millions in taxpayer savings and getting the BS treatment from Mayor Jerry Sanders. He tried out medical marijuana but that fell flat once anyone read past Carl’s own statement.

He took a quick stab at being for the middle class and affordable housing over the summer, trying to pass off support from a landlord group as support for tenants. The claims were called “preposterous,” and the former CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission said in no uncertain terms that “Carl DeMaio is not an advocate for more affordable housing.”

Heck, DeMaio has even tried reaching out to the Latino community while trumpeting an endorsement from Pete Wilson, the father of Proposition 187. And after casting the only vote on the council in support of Arizona’s SB1070, his Latino outreach has featured a plan to have local police enforce federal immigration law.

The most amazing part is the special brand of doublethink that DeMaio has going on in all this. He isn’t just making up an entirely new self for the general election, he’s doing it while criticizing others for the same thing. Like last week at the KPBS mayoral debate:

“The U-T CEO mentioned that he got support from labor, and yet labor has not supported it, that he got support from business groups, but very few groups that are out there have supported the plan,” DeMaio said. “And so I just think that the email probably was making some claims that are not grounded in reality.”

Now, it wouldn’t be shocking to discover the UT making claims that are not grounded in reality. But compare that to DeMaio’s recent record. He’s an affordable housing advocate unless you ask affordable housing advocates. He’s an environmentalist unless you ask environmentalists. He’s a medical marijuana advocate unless you ask medical marijuana advocates. He’s pro-choice unless you ask Planned Parenthood. He’s a friend to the Latino community except for wanting them to be harassed by the police. He’s a fiscal conservative except for imposing a billion dollar tax increase without a vote of the public.

But when Doug Manchester and John Lynch — the very same duo who helped DeMaio defeat essentially the same tax increase in 2005 — don’t poll well, then maybe reality has come loose.

Does it work? Maybe not with anyone who has the time and interest to dig into the substance. But those who never catch more than headlines because they have lives full of working to make ends meet, struggling with health care bills, working into retirement thanks to Wall Street, trying to figure out what to do after a foreclosure… they understandably won’t ever have that time.

And that’s the whole idea. Keep up the game of whack-a-mole long enough that voters never get a chance to examine the truth.

It’s said that great writers steal outright, so here’s a heartfelt tip of the cap to the inimitable Ann Richards before saying: Poor Carl.

He’s never once had a job that asked him to appeal to a majority, or even anyone resembling moderates. So now that he’s stuck in a general election, he’s like Columbus discovering America. He’s found the environment. He’s found the middle class and working people. He’s found women. He’s found the sick and suffering. He’s found Latinos.

Poor Carl. He can’t help it. San Diego just doesn’t want what he’s been selling his whole life.

I’m proud to work for San Diegans for Bob Filner for Mayor 2012

Carl DeMaio, the next Scott Walker

Statewide, we’re all gearing up to beat back Proposition 32, that tries to give full financial control of our elections to corporations and millionaires that have already been running amok since Citizens United came down.

But down in San Diego, we’re already fighting what comes next. Carl DeMaio is running for mayor with big designs on becoming a national sensation for the far right, and if he gets momentum now he just might pull it off.

Prominent state and national GOP figures are already putting on Orange County fundraisers billing DeMaio as “The Next Scott Walker,” and his calling card has become the string of roadmaps and pathways that mirror Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future. DeMaio knows how to become a champion for the far right, and he’s executing the playbook from DC step by step.

It’s a record that should have a familiar ring to anyone who’s been following the presidential race. Plucked out of college by Newt Gingrich, he worked on the Contract for America before moving on to the Reason Institute to have his work funded by the likes of the Koch Brothers and Scaife Family and fell in with the Abramoff crowd.

In a sadly familiar story, he made a personal fortune after starting companies to help the government cut jobs and outsource work, and help contractors to profit off the deals. Playing both sides of the street paid off handsomely for him.

The boldness of his hypocrisy and the things he outright makes up could almost be admirable if they weren’t so damaging. Running as a fiscal conservative, he’s orchestrated a new billion dollar tax payable directly to corporations. Even though voters rejected the same tax twice, he simply imposed it anyways.

He’s roiled many in San Diego’s LGBT community by accepting big campaign checks from some of Prop 8’s biggest supporters despite being a gay candidate himself. Reportedly, the price of those donations was a promise that “he would not push the gay agenda issues” as mayor.

Now in the general election, his claims have gotten even wilder.

After posting the worst cumulative score on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard since joining the city council, he’s declared himself an environmentalist based on nothing in particular.

He’s attempting to reach out to San Diego’s Latino community after announcing that local police should enforce federal immigration law and casting the only vote on city council defending Arizona’s SB1070 racial profiling law.

And now he’s announced he’s pro-choice, which would be great… but big news to Planned Parenthood. Of the four leading candidates for mayor in the primary, DeMaio was the only one not rated pro-choice by Planned Parenthood.

DeMaio’s gamble is that not enough people have been paying attention and the media won’t push back enough for all these bizarre claims to backfire on him. He’ll have millions in TV ads to make his case, and it remains to be seen whether the plan will work.

He’s already spearheaded dramatic attacks on public workers, championed outsourcing, and promised that he owes favors to the developers and contractors who are bankrolling his campaign. Along the way, he hasn’t hidden his plan to bring this agenda to the state level next.

If the state and national GOP is lining up to spend millions electing the next Scott Walker in San Diego, it’s time to push back. You can learn much more about what’s on the horizon at DirtyDeMaio, and stay up to date on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m proud to work for San Diegans for Bob Filner for Mayor 2012

CA-52: The Scott Peters I Know

by Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer and CEO, San Diego Labor Council

I have grown extremely frustrated by the lies and distortions being peddled by out of area groups about Scott Peters in his run for Congress. The San Diego Labor Council has endorsed Scott because of his outstanding record for workers, and his commitment to getting things done. But, on a personal level, as an extremely progressive, pro-worker advocate, I am proud to unconditionally support Scott Peters in his bid for Congress and this is why:

When I first came to the Labor Council as political director in 2006, I was tasked with trying to get our Wal-Mart Supercenter Ban docketed at the City Council. Scott Peters was the Council President, and there just hadn’t been a whole lot of interaction between organized labor and Scott previously. We supported another candidate against him, and the “belief” was that he wouldn’t be there on the tough stuff. We just didn’t have a relationship with him. I knew Scott from environmental issues previously and had met his wife when I sat on the board of Planned Parenthood. So, I decided to just go straight to him with our request for an ordinance to ban Supercenters.

Over breakfast, I made my case without taking a breath – talking about Wal-Mart’s impact on the environment, their treatment of women, the suppression of wages and healthcare. After a few minutes, he interrupted me and simply stated, “I am with you.” In shock, I spilled my coffee on him and then we began working on how to get it done. That was the first of many asks I brought to then-Council President Scott Peters on behalf of workers, and the answer was always the same, “I am with you. Let’s get this done.”

When I told him we wanted to expand the Living Wage Ordinance and give it some teeth by strengthening its enforcement mechanism, he called the Mayor’s office and said they better meet with me to work out the language because it was going to be docketed and would pass. He was right. When the Mayor tried to jam through a super majority veto override before expanding the Council to 9 members, Scott empowered workers to have a seat at the table and demand that it be tied together. Despite being in a tough race for City Attorney, Scott refused to impose retirement insecurity on City Workers and forced the Mayor to go back to the table and collectively bargain in good faith. And, when we had a list of requirements we wanted enacted to protect private sector workers if City work was outsourced, Scott once again carried the ball.

His effectiveness and values haven’t changed while at the Port, either. One of his first actions at the Port was to pass a policy that gave additional bid points to contractors who provide health care for their service workers. He has taken a no-nonsense approach with developers, hoteliers and Port Cities, explaining to them that they need to address worker issues if they want to successfully build and operate on the waterfront. And, he is committed to not only creating more jobs, but ensuring that they are good jobs with a living age and health care.

That is the Scott Peters I know.

And, right now, I think that is exactly the kind of leader we need in Washington. Someone who not only has a track record of standing up for workers against corporate lobbyists and special interests, but has helped us to actually win some of those fights!

– Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer and CEO, San Diego Labor Council

(Cross-posted at San Diego Labor Council)

Shortsighted San Diego – Rejecting Transit for Sprawl?

The global population will pass 7 billion within days. The worldwide oil supply is dwindling. We’re already living in an atmosphere which has exceeded ideal carbon concentrations. The CO2 parts per billion are projected to rise exponentially in the decades to come, together with related environmental and human health impacts. And on Friday, San Diego is poised to commit the next 40 years to building more highways at the expense of desperately needed transit – unless they hear from us.

California is famously the nation’s incubator for smart policy, and it’s taken the lead at the state level to reduce greenhouse gases. SB 375 (California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act) has been effective since January 2009, and requires that metropolitan planning organizations throughout the state create “Sustainable Community Strategies” (SCS) to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

San Diego County is the first in the entire country to draft a comprehensive plan intended to serve the transportation needs of a growing population while attempting to reduce cumulative carbon emissions, meaning this plan will set the national standard. In charge is the San Diego Association of Governments, SANDAG, comprised of local elected officials throughout the county’s 18 cities.

For decades, SANDAG has favored funding more roads and freeway widening to serve sprawl development as the City has grown. Despite a transit emphasis promoted by stakeholders throughout the drafting of the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (2050 RTP/SCS), SANDAG leaders are poised to approve this sprawl-first model of ‘sustainability’ that will set a precedent for the nation and commit the region to 40 more years of the same misguided planning principles. For most of us, that’s a lifetime. We have a chance to seize this opportunity to achieve sustainability goals, but the current Plan will only serve to promote further sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions, perpetuating poor land use and traffic congestion.

Although the very goal of SB 375 is to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and by extension emissions, San Diego’s 2050 RTP/SCS would actually increase VMT in the region by 50 percent over the next 40 years. By 2050 it will only achieve a 9 percent GHG reduction per capita – if it even reaches the levels mandated by SB 375 at all.

The many fundamental flaws in the proposed plan even drew rebuke from Attorney General Kamala Harris. In a recent letter, Harris cautions that “the RTP/SCS seems to be setting the region on a course that is inconsistent with the State’s climate objectives” and the agency has “set too low a bar” in determining how the Plan would affect communities that are already overburdened with pollution. You can read the letter and coverage of the Attorney General’s objections here.

Advocates of SANDAG’s plan argue that the plan includes transportation alternatives and will achieve “balance.” However, these alternatives largely serve to justify further highways expansion. “Balance” in this case means defining transit as intensified bus service and adding buses to new, pay-HOV lanes. Comprehensive and specific transit options are not detailed in the Plan, and implementation is postponed until the latest phases, if they’re eventually funded at all. As a result, the Plan fundamentally fails to serve as a catalyst for compact, urban development.

The failure of SANDAG to contemplate a plan that will achieve a meaningful shift in realistic sustainability planning runs contrary to the results of multiple public polls and community outcry for an effective integrated light rail/multimodal solution. In response, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF), through its Transit San Diego campaign, has submitted an alternate planning model for SANDAG’s consideration. This “50-10 Transit Plan” commits funding 50 years’ worth of transit infrastructure into the first 10 years of implementation. CNFF has also submitted multiple comment letters promoting transit first and opposing SANDAG’s sprawl-development-friendly plan throughout the planning process.

Prioritizing transit as in the CNFF proposal would finally address the fundamental transportation challenges instead of just doubling down on more cars for another generation. We know that SANDAG’s choices will be felt throughout the region and across the country. Indeed, we’ve already seen the chair of SANDAG lobbying for the rollback of EPA standards in order to accelerate highways throughout Southern California. Before this accelerates further, we have a chance to demand responsible transportation development this Friday – but we need all the help we can get.

Make sure they hear from us. Email SANDAG at: [email protected]

Darrell Issa bails on FCIC hearing after reality “didn’t fit the narrative”

With no warning or fanfare, today's scheduled Oversight subcommittee hearing on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee was cancelled earlier this week. But a picture is beginning to emerge as to what went wrong for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa and why the plug was pulled.

Peter Kadzick, an attorney for FCIC Chairman Phil Angelides, told TPM that Angelides arrived in D.C. on Sunday night for the Wednesday morning hearing but was told by an Issa staffer on Monday evening that "they had found some documents at the last minute that didn't fit the narrative."

And a devastating new report (pdf) from committee Democrats found that those documents didn't just not "fit the narrative," but outright refuted them. Ranking committee Democrat Elijah "Cummings's report, which is based on 400,000 internal Commission emails, memos and other documents, finds that Chairman Issa's allegations are largely unsubstantiated.  

In contrast, the documents suggest that Republican Commissioners geared their efforts on the Commission toward helping House Republicans in their campaign to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, rather than determining the facts that led to the economic crisis. The report also raises a host of new ethical questions about Republican Commissioners and staff, including evidence that they leaked confidential information to outside parties on multiple occasions."

If the hearing had been cancelled on Monday, it didn't slow Issa down Tuesday. Issa was on Twitter yesterday enthusiastically pushing attacks on the FCIC's findings, specifically from Republican FCIC member Peter Wallison. But the report from committee Democrats highlights a number of credibility problems for Wallison and other FCIC Republicans who dissented from its findings and have fueled Issa's pursuit. As Media Matters breaks down:

  • Wallison repeatedly sent emails to his GOP colleagues on the committee urging that their dissents not "undermine the ability of the new House GOP to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank."
  • Despite claims to the contrary that Wallison made in congressional testimony, the FCIC extensively reviewed his position that the economic crisis was caused by government housing policies, with all eight other commissioners rejecting that view.
  • Wallison was criticized by the FCIC's general counsel after leaking confidential commission documents to a colleague at the American Enterprise Institute in violation of the commission's ethics policy.
  • Republican vice chairman Bill Thomas and his staff provided an economic and political consultant who works at Thomas' law firm — which represents major banks — with a wide array of internal documents, in violation of the commission's ethics policy.

This isn't the first time that we've seen this sort of thing from the FCIC Republicans. Last year, they all voted to ban the terms "Wall Street," "shadow banking," "interconnection," and "deregulation" from the final FCIC report, and several of the committee Republicans had well-established conflicts of interest. But Issa has consistently criticized the FCIC findings, demanding a wide range of emails and other records because, as an Issa spokesperson explained, "Mr Issa says he wants to check that taxpayers got value for money in the investigation and to examine any potential conflicts of interest." Today's new report suggests a wide range of potential conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and congressional testimony that may have been purposely false, but the hearing is cancelled.

In the previous six months, Issa and other committee Republicans have repeatedly accused officials in the Obama administration of perjury or intent to commit perjury for as much or less than is included in this report. Issa's own staff released a sealed document in an ongoing federal criminal investigation, violating a court order. Now equipped with well-documented analysis of sweeping concerns over the behavior of Republican FCIC members, what will Issa do?

Immediately following the election last November that swept Republicans into a House Majority, Issa pledged to investigate financial issues regardless of party or partisanship. And he gave an interview in which he declared tougher standards for Wall Street:

Wall Street will have to accept a new level of scrutiny and demands for transparency for how they make decisions and the impact those decisions have on the economy. Main Street will hopefully benefit from this new degree of openness and accountability and I will continue to fight for their right to know.

Main Street's right to know relies on the accountability that the Oversight Committee exists to provide. If there were multiple ethics violations, inaccurate statements in Congressional testimony, and direct efforts of FCIC members to aid congressional Republicans, it strains credulity to imagine that the final report and its impact haven't been undermined to an important degree. It's the responsibility of Issa and the Oversight Committee to find out.

Issa recently said that he wanted to do more and better after his first six months running the Oversight Committee. In light of the revelations in this new report, the FCIC hearing could have been among of the most substantive and important of Issa's tenure. Instead, because reality "didn't fit the narrative," the hearing has been called off and thus far not rescheduled. Hopefully Issa will not dodge the issue entirely because it doesn't fit the narrative.

I’m proud to manage the IssaWatch project from which this is cross-posted with light edits. You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Darrell Issa stocked up on Goldman Sachs bonds while blocking investigation

Darrell Issa is back in hot water for using his powerful Congressional perch to help his personal investments. A new report out today from Think Progress finds that Issa was busy last year buying up Goldman Sachs High Yield Bonds worth up to $50,000 a pop while pressing strongly to thwart an SEC investigation into potential wrongdoing at Goldman Sachs:

Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) raised hell last year to stop the federal government from investigating Goldman Sachs regarding allegations that the company defrauded investors. In April 2010, shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a civil suit against Goldman Sachs, Issa sent a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro demanding to know if there was “any sort of prearrangement, coordination, direction from, or advance notice” between the SEC and the Obama administration or congressional Democrats over the timing of the lawsuit.

Issa’s investigation of the SEC’s investigation into Goldman Sachs stole the headlines and reinforced Goldman Sachs’ claim that they had done nothing wrong. Explaining his defense of Goldman Sachs, Issa said he was representing the views of ordinary Americans who are worried about the “growth of government and the growth of government wanting to become more complex, with more agencies and more control over our lives.”

This sheds additional light on Iss’s engagement in financial issues since taking over the Oversight Committee earlier this year, specifically reinforcing his strong resistance to any investigation or hearing that might reflect poorly on private financial institutions.

Issa has continued to bring heat on the SEC since taking over the Oversight Committee, targeting the Commission with one of the first subpoenas issued. The focus of his concern? Potential conflict of interest at the SEC arising from personal investments related to ongoing investigations. Of course.

But there’s much more…

Last month, subcommittee chair Patrick McHenry — bankrolled predominantly by the private financial industry — grilled Professor Elizabeth Warren for hours over the soon-to-launch Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ending with McHenry accusing Professor Warren of perjury. Issa has strongly backed McHenry’s behavior, and Warren will be back to testify again on July 14th.

Issa has also targeted the bi-partisan Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission despite a miniscule budget after it assigned some blame for the financial meltdown to Wall Street.

Despite representing one of the districts hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, Issa has consistently refused to pursue private financial institutions in his investigations into ongoing economic turmoil, and Issa had made increasingly outlandish excuses as he has refused four separate requests from ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings to issue subpoenas to major mortgage banks implicated in fraudulent foreclosure practices.

Since Issa has previously shown no compunction about personally profiting from what he does as a member of Congress, and we know that Issa prefers to stack his hearings with personal friends and campaign contributors, today’s revelations go straight to the heart of Issa’s credibility in all of these investigations and non-investigations. How can Issa conduct any investigations or hearings without an assumption that he’s seeking personal benefit before the country’s benefit?

I’m proud to manage the IssaWatch project from which this is cross-posted with light edits. You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Bob Filner declares for San Diego Mayor… sort of

Cross-posted and tweaked from Two Cathedrals

Breaking yesterday through Twitter and evolving since, Congressman Bob Filner has apparently made an official public announcement that he’ll be running for mayor of San Diego.

As campaign roll-outs go, it wasn’t the most elegant beginning, and the legitimate process story continues to bubble up. A full launch can still be done in the future without losing significant impact, but in the meantime, the story and its continued unfolding underscores that the horserace has begun no matter what, and the vacuum will be filled.

While some will continue to hash through the reliability of information and the ‘is he REALLY?’ sideshow, what is clear is that Filner is now considered a part of the mayoral race; which means there’s a Democrat in the race, which means that two sides are presumed in discussion of mayoral issues.

It’s a big deal in San Diego, because we haven’t had two full-strength sides engaged in a city-wide debate in a number of years. It didn’t happen during last year’s Prop D campaign. It didn’t happen in the 2008 mayoral race when Democrats failed to field a viable candidate. The 2004 mayoral race turned into the fluke three-way race between Republicans Dick Murphy and Ron Roberts and last-minute write-in Democrat Donna Frye. You would have to go back more than a decade for the last time we’ve had a legitimate campaign addressing the comprehensive future of the city in which both major parties were seriously engaged.

Filner’s entry into the discussion addresses that, because he has the experience and personal campaign infrastructure to overcome existing deficiencies that have hamstrung previous efforts at a full-scale, two-sided debate about the issues that face this city.

And that means that this isn’t just a referendum anymore on Republican candidates. Not on Councilmember Carl DeMaio’s extreme views, or whether Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has the clout to stand up to downtown developers. Nor is it just musing over whether District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis can indulge enough of her moderate tendencies to pick up establishment Democrats. It’s a real debate.

Now we can have a stronger conversation about how pension reform doesn’t have to be debilitating to be effective. About how we don’t have to stop investing in the basic quality of life for our neighborhoods to put our fiscal house in order. That we can remain committed to smart development and addressing blight without handing over the keys of city hall to developers.

Looking forward a bit to the musical chairs, newly-elected State Senator Juan Vargas (40th) is expected to run for Filner’s vacated seat (Vargas previously challenged Filner in the primary), and newly-elected Assemblymember Ben Hueso (79th) is expected to be among those aiming to succeed Vargas. So the fun will hardly be contained moving forward.

The Koch Brothers and Darrell Issa

This weekend, Rancho Mirage will play host to what's often called the “Billionaire's Caucus,” a regular top secret meeting hosted by the Koch Brothers, at which the wealthiest of the wealthy — together with right wing media personalities, lawmakers, and even judges — gather to plot their national political agenda. The meeting has taken on even greater importance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United decision, which effectively opened the door to unlimited corporate influence on U.S. elections.

Trying to list all the beneficiaries of the Kochs and their rich friends would be a daunting task. Suffice it to say, they are the wallet for just about every right wing cause you can think of — from tea party candidates and ballot measures like California’s pro-pollution Prop 23, to right wing think tanks like the Cato Institute and astro-turf front groups like Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity.
One of the country’s worst polluters — with business interests in everything from healthcare to the derivatives trading that helped push our economy off a cliff, the Koch brothers have spread hundreds of millions of dollars to protect their narrow ideological and financial interests over the years — ensuring that the agenda of billionaires is inserted at every level of our government and political discourse, and often at the expense of the middle class. No one has worked harder to kill Wall Street Reform, Healthcare Reform, or Energy Reform than the Kochs.
This is the meeting where the Kochs and their allies come together to refine their strategy; The billionaires prepare the agenda, which is packaged by the right-wing media echo chamber to sow fear and anxiety amongst unwitting foot soldiers who provide “grassroots cover” for right wing lawmakers as they push policies that undermine the middle class in DC.
It’s a sophisticated shell game that the Kochs and their allies are playing — steeped in secrecy, profit motive and ideological extremism — as described in a profile written by Jane Mayer of New Yorker MagazinePast attendees at Koch sponsored events include Glenn Beck, and Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia. This weekend’s junket will also be attended by newly minted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Ultimately, the tentacles of the 'Kochtopus' stretch out in all directions from this meeting.
And its hardly a stretch to think that Darrell Issa will be an important part of their future plans.
In just the past five years, the Koch network has spent nearly $44 million lobbying Congress on oil & gas issues. High-polluting industry is their primary business, and it's obviously proven to be exceptionally profitable. Unsurprisingly, they're in no hurry to give up that profitability or the influence it's afforded them. This week we've also learned that concern over stronger EPA regulations on pollution have dominated feedback from industry representatives to Darrell Issa's letter requesting suggestions of regulations to repeal.
And according to the Center on Responsive Politics, the Koch network has sunk at least $200,000 into the Oversight Committee. More than 87% has gone to committee Republicans, including more than $100,000 in support of Republicans currently on the committee. The list includes Chairman Issa and five subcommittee chairs (starred):
Rep. Darrell E. Issa (CA-49) – $12,500
Rep. John L. Mica (FL-07) – $7,500
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry* (NC-10) – $2,500
Rep. Jason Chaffetz* (UT-03) – $2,500
Rep. Connie Mack (FL-14) – $15,000
Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7) – $20,000
Rep. James Lankford* (OK-5) – $10,000
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) – $250
Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-7) – $7,500
Rep. Trey Gowdy* (SC-4) – $7,500
Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1) – $5,000
Rep. Dennis Ross* (FL-12) – $10,000
Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-3) – $2,500
Issa's personally amassed a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, so he fits right in with the Kochs and the other big-money heavy hitters in the same orbit. His connections to these industries are nothing new, just like he's no stranger to the vast influence of the Koch brothers. Nor is his antipathy towards the EPA and climate science a recent development.
The web of financial support from the Right's heaviest hitters weaves all through Issa's personal career and the key members of his committee. All those heavy hitters are gathering this weekend to plan their strategy, and we can reasonably expect that Issa will be an important piece. Where an independent watchdog might be focused on investigating the deep influence of this unlimited money on our government and the policies that have created an ever shrinking middle class, Issa has taken the opposite tack. He's already thrown open the doors of the committee to allow many of the folks heading to Rancho Mirage the chance to rewrite their own rules. This weekend, they'll be working out what to do with the access.
Unlike past years however, this weekend a counter-protest is planned for the Kochs' event, as is a national campaign to expose their broad reach, nefarious tactics, and destructive impact on the middle class. You can read more about that here.
(I work on the IssaWatch project at the Courage Campaign)