Tag Archives: CA-AG

AG’s Homeowner’s Bill of Rights Moves Towards Passage

Measures would protect Californians from some of the most egregious tactics of lending servicers.

by Brian Leubitz

Since Kamala Harris pushed for additional concessions in the mortgage fraud settlement, she’s been pushing in the Legislature as well. The “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights” would enshrine many of the substantive provisions of that settlement into California law.

The legislation would require large lenders to provide a single point of contact for homeowners who want to discuss loan modifications. It would prohibit lenders from foreclosing while the lenders consider homeowners’ request for alternatives to foreclosure. And it would let California homeowners sue lenders to stop foreclosures or seek monetary damages if the lender violates state law.

The protections would benefit all California homeowners, not just those whose mortgages are with the five banks that signed the national settlement in February. And many of the restrictions would become permanent, while those in the nationwide agreement will end after five years.

Attorney General Kamala Harris said the compromise legislation negotiated with lawmakers “is going to bring transparency and fairness to California homeowners in a way they’ve never had before.”(HuffPo)

This legislation most assuredly doesn’t go far enough. There have been compromises all along the way, but this is legislation that will benefit many, many Californians. It would be a big step forward.

The Courage Campaign is following the latest action on their twitter account. KQED’s Forum aired a show on the legislation this morning, that is embedded above or available here.

AG Kamala Harris Subpoenas BofA

In another setback for troubled bank, Attorneys look into possibly false claims

by Brian Leubitz

It’s not easy being Bank of America these days.  Oh sure, you get to have the pride of advertising on Hulu and well, everywhere, but are there people out there that don’t hate you?  You have those Occupy Wall Street folks, the people who hate you over the ridiculously greedy $5 debit card charge, and, oh right, their sketchy dealings in the foreclosure crisis.

Add a different (but related) worry onto the pile:

Investigators with the state attorney general’s office have subpoenaed Bank of America Corp. in connection with the sale and marketing of troubled mortgage-backed securities to California investors, according to a person familiar with the probe.

The state is trying to determine whether the bank and its Countrywide Financial subsidiary sold investments backed by risky mortgages to institutional and private investors in California under false pretenses…

Harris has created a mortgage fraud strike force with a mandate of looking into all aspects of mortgage fraud, including securitization. Many of these investments plunged in value as the housing market collapsed. Under California’s False Claims Act, which makes it a crime to defraud the state, damages of up to three times the amount of the claim can be awarded if the victim was an institutional investor, such as one of the state’s pension funds.(LA Times)

It is possible this is part of the 3-dimensional chess being played with the foreclosure mess, but if the AG’s office can prove that BofA made the false claims, we are talking about a lot of money for a bank that already has capitilization issues.

But don’t worry Brian Moynihan is still doing a-ok!

Karl Rove Goes Statewide

RoveYesterday, Ami Bera wrote about Karl Rove protecting Dan Lungren.  Today he went statewide. A shadowy Virginia-based group funded by the oil industry, tobacco companies, and health insurance industry — and run by Karl Rove — is trying to sway the outcome of the race for California Attorney General.  This is an unprecedented move in a down-ballot race, and the money is being used to create cynical commercials for political gain.

Rove’s group, the “The Republican State Leadership Committee,” has purchased $1.1 million of TV airtime to run vicious ads attacking our campaign. And who exactly is funding this group’s attacks? The very polluters, cigarette manufacturers, and insurance industry giants who I will stand up to as Attorney General.  

Of course we are going to stand up to this outside money.  You can contribute online to help us fight back.

To be clear, these are many of the usual Republican suspects. Organizations that fight against environmental and consumer protections are lining up to come to the aid of Steve Cooley, because they know that Cooley will fall into line with their agenda. (There is more in the extended diary.)

The oil industry, tobacco companies, insurance giants and pharmaceutical companies think that the Attorney General race can be bought. They know, as you know, that I will fight for all Californians, combating mortgage fraud, promoting a green economy, and working for a fair health care system.   This is only a partial list of some of the donors to this shadowy effort funding the attack ads.

Major Special Interest Contributions to the Republican State Leadership Committee

U.S. Chamber of Commerce — $1.15M

American Justice Partnership — $925,000

Blue Cross/Blue Shield — $918,068

Reynolds American – $690,161

Altria Group — $483,545

Devon Energy — $350,000

Citigroup Inc — $200,399

Wal-Mart Stores — $195,276

PhRMA — $150,861

We are committed to fighting these attacks, but we need your help to do it.

There are just eleven days remaining until Election Day, and the special interests are trying to sway the outcome of this race. We can’t let them win.

IOKIYAR: Steve Cooley Edition

Now in Orange.

Oh, the old phrase IOKIYAR. So useful, especially back in the old Jack Abramoff days. In case you are just joining the show already in progress, it stands for It’s OK if you’re a Republican.  Get it? Good.

And here we have the latest contestant, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.  You may know Cooley from such one-hit wonders as initimidating and attempting to crush the union in his office and living the good life through gifts, but this one has to be the pièce de résistance:

In 2003, District Attorney Steve Cooley had a billionaire in his sights. Alan Casden was a real estate developer with a history of generosity toward political campaigns, especially those of local Democrats.

After a grand jury investigation, Cooley brought felony charges against a Casden executive, John Archibald, and 13 other defendants for reimbursing friends and associates for donations to city politicians, thereby violating contribution limits. …

At the time of the investigation, however, Cooley was accepting the same kinds of contributions for his own campaign. While he pursued Casden and others who engaged in similar finance schemes, he did not go after his own contributor, Gladwin Gill. (LA Weekly, emphasis added)

To be clear what was going on here, Gill was giving money to other people to contribute to Republican candidates. He plead guilty to these charges on contributing money for George W. Bush through this scheme.  But, importantly, the same people that he used for the Bush scheme? Yeah, they show up on Cooley’s donor lists.

Gill was prosecuted by the federal prosecutors for his federal crimes.  Archibald and Casden were thoroughly investigated by Cooley’s office.  Pierce O’Donnell, another Democratic contributor was dealt with by Cooley’s office.  As for Gill’s local involvement, well, there has been no word from Cooley’s office on that. IOKIYAR, I guess.

Note: As you may know, I do some work for Cooley’s Democratic opponent, Kamala Harris.

UPDATE: Cooley’s campaign consultant, Kevin Spillane, has responded by noting that the statute of limitations has expired, and that the money has been spent anyway. Now folks, that’s how you play IOKIYAR.  

Kevin Spillane, FTW!

Chris Kelly Fought MoveOn to Defend Facebook’s Infamous Beacon Program

I believe I used a Prodigy email address to sign an online petition calling on congress to “censure President Clinton and move on” back in 1998. As I’m sure you know, out of those efforts rose the organization MoveOn, which sent emails to my Yahoo account for years and to my gmail for the last six years or so. It has been one of my favorite organizations, through their ups and downs, for a decade.

Which is why I simply can’t fathom the blunder they made yesterday, thrusting themselves into the California Attorney General’s race to fluff former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer (best oxymoron ever) Chris Kelly. In the final days of the campaign, no less.

MoveOn’s fluffing of Kelly began yesterday morning when staffer Marika Shaub posted a link on MoveOn’s FB Group, “Facebook, respect my privacy!” Shaub urged the 180,000 members to share a note from Chris Kelly with all of their Facebook friends and later MoveOn sent an email to an unknown number of members of MoveOn’s giant list with Chris Kelly’s message (I received it twice).

As I long-time Moveon member and devoted supporter, I was shocked that MoveOn’s current leadership seems to have so little understanding of the dynamics and history of the battle for privacy. It was only back in 2007 that MoveOn went to war with Facebook, scoring a major victory for privacy by leading the organizing to shut down the infamous “Beacon” program. MoveOn was attacked repeatedly in the press by…Chris Kelly — who was not defending privacy, but defending Beacon. In fact, Kelly made so much money eroding privacy at Facebook that he’s dumped over $12,000,000 into his attempt to buy the California Democratic Party nomination for Attorney General.

If, like MoveOn apparently, you have forgotten how Chris Kelly fought MoveOn to defend Beacon, follow me after the jump. If you remember the history better than MoveOn, feel free to check out how Chris Kelly’s campaign is already using MoveOn as a validator — against attacks on Beacon, in the LA Times.

Here’s a reminder from The New York Times Chris Kelly fighting MoveOn to defend Beacon:

MoveOn’s demands could be satisfied by making the Beacon feature “opt in.” Right now, users who don’t want the information displayed need to opt out after purchases at each participating external site.

However, Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said MoveOn is “misstating the way this process works.”

He said the purchase appears only in the news feeds of confirmed friends and on the individual’s profile (users have control over who can see their profiles), not to the “world.” Mr. Kelly also pointed out that two ways to opt out, at the point of purchase on the external Web site, via a box that pops up, but fades away in under a minute and the next time they sign into their accounts. If users ignore the notification, the purchase information will be displayed, but nothing happens until the user signs in.

Chris Kelly was mocked for this over on ABC News’ site:

The argument made by Facebook in support of this is disingenuous, and uses that old trick I learned in my PR days of isolating one error in the opponent’s claim and using that to dismiss their entire argument. In this case, Chris Kelly, Facebook’s “chief privacy officer” (one of those new corporate titles that’s going to come back and bite companies) told the New York Times that MoveOn is “misstating the way this process works.” In particular, he said, the purchase is only shared with confirmed friends and on the user’s own profile, not to the “world.” At the same time, he does confirm, that if the user ignores the notification and fails to opt out, the purchase information will be automatically displayed.

And this coming from the Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook.

Chris Kelly’s attacks on MoveOn to defend Beacon made the hop across the pond, getting picked up by The Times:

A Facebook spokesperson said that MoveOn.org was “misrepresenting how Facebook Beacon works”.

He said: “Information is shared with a small selection of a user’s trusted network of friends, not publicly on the web or with all Facebook users. Users also are given multiple ways to choose not to share information from a participating site, both on that site and on Facebook.”

Earlier this year, Facebook shrugged off privacy fears when Chris Kelly, the group’s chief privacy officer, told The Times: “We have always said that information [submitted by users] may be used to target adverts.”

“Shrugged off privacy fears”?

Of course, Chris Kelly was mocked, MoveOn was right:

So far, about 13,200 out of over 55 million members have joined MoveOn’s protest group and Facebook is standing by the statements of chief privacy officer Chris Kelly, who told The Wall Street Journal that the company has been transparent with users and that it welcomes feedback from those who have concerns. According to the Journal, Kelly acknowledged that the company could change its policies based on customer reactions but that so far he says reaction has been “fairly muted.”

While the Beacon scandal was the most extreme example, the fact of the matter is user privacy was continually eroded at Facebook during the time Chris Kelly was in charge of privacy. Play with this interactive chart, click on the different years to watch what happened to privacy at Facebook.

Chris Kelly got amazing rich eroding privacy at Facebook, which MoveOn honorably fought. Until yesterday, when out of incompetence over the history of their own campaign and cluelessness over progressive politics in the largest state, they came to the aid of Chris Kelly during the final days of his $12 million vanity campaign.

Californians don’t want an Attorney General doing for Justice what Chris Kelly did for privacy. It would be nice if MoveOn were leading the charge against Chris Kelly, instead of giving him cover to defend himself against ads criticizing Chris Kelly for his role in the Beacon scandal…when he fought MoveOn.

Chris Kelly, Karl Rove, and The AG’s Race

Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly has launched a Karl Rove-style attack against Kamala Harris, the San Francisco District Attorney who has raised conviction rates in SF to the highest level in 15 years.

The San Francisco Examiner takes a closer look at Chris Kelly’s latest false claims in his new video, which Chris Kelly has surely expertly placed on your Facebook homepage, Google searches, email inbox, or all three in recent days.

According to the Examiner, Kelly’s attacks are just plain wrong.

then Kelly’s ad claims, “Under Harris SF Homicide is Up 32%” and “SF has the highest homicide rate in the state.”

Whoa! That’s news to this city crime reporter.

While homicides were the highest they’d been in more than a decade in 2008 – there were 98 – that’s nowhere near the tally in Oakland, where there were 124 homicides in a smaller population.

And Kelly uses statistics from the state Department of Justice, which are only complete through 2008. If he considers 2009, then that 32 percent number goes way down. There were only 45 homicides last year, the lowest tally in five decades. (SF Examiner)

As of today, Kelly has contributed $4 million-and-counting of his own Facebook bucks in an attempt to become the first-ever candidate for Attorney General to successfully buy the office. While Kelly has thus far demonstrated an impressive ability to churn out platform papers that coincidentally read like a checklist of Kamala Harris’s actual accomplishments, he has so far stuck to attacking Kamala rather than explaining why Democratic voters should make him our nominee.

Disclosure: I work for Kamala Harris, but all opinions are entirely my own.

Texas Oil Companies Invade California

( – promoted by Robert Cruickshank)

It is not a headline we would expect to see, but that is exactly what is happening in our state as we speak.

In 2006, the California Legislature passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. The Governor then signed this law to make our state the leader in fighting greenhouse gas pollution.  I hope you will consider joining me in working to ensure that Big Oil does not get its way in California by eviscerating our landmark climate change legislation.  

California’s Attorney General is uniquely positioned to stand up for strong, effective enforcement of our state’s environmental laws. That is why I am calling on each and every candidate for California Attorney General — Democratic and Republican — to denounce this effort by Big Oil to slash through our state’s environmental protections for their own corporate gain.

There’s more, and also cross-posted on Daily Kos.

Texas oil companies want to stop California before we can really implement AB 32, our landmark climate change legislation. Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., both based in Texas, are almost single-handedly financing a measure that would eviscerate AB 32.   The two companies have pledged $2 million to help get the initiative on the ballot, and even tried to sneak their contributions past any observers.

We cannot afford to turn around now. Today, I want to make my support for this vital piece of environmental legislation crystal clear. I applaud Governor Schwarzenegger for his commitment to AB 32, and call on others to join the fight to protect AB 32.

I urge you to join me in supporting California’s landmark greenhouse gas pollution law by signing my petition for climate change solutions.

I am committed to protecting the environment, and that is why I am proud to be the endorsed candidate of the California League of Conservation Voters.  If you’d like to help my campaign to defend our precious natural resources, please consider donating to our campaign.

Economic studies show that we can fight climate change and can create jobs at the same time. We cannot let Texas oil companies muddy the waters so that they can continue to practice business as usual while the environment pays the price. California has always been a leader in protecting our environment, and together we can ensure that we never abdicate this role.

Kamala Harris is the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, and is a candidate for Attorney General of the State of California.

Team Brown does Violence to Online Organizing

(For identification purposes only, I’m the Executive Director at Netroots Nation)

Last week yet another poorly crafted Jerry Brown email went out to his email universe. That’s not news, I’ve been cringing at their emails since they first started sending them. Most cringe worthy so far? Jerry Brown’s ring tone.

The subject line was decent, “You wouldn’t believe…” works for me. But the rest of the email violated about every best practice that’s been written for emails. Here’s some simple ones from Blue State Digital for starters.

There’s this weird screen capture of a YouTube video that actually goes to YouTube instead of their donate page (you just lost anyone that intended to donate with that link). Instead of highlighting specific text 2-3 times in the email they opted to use these weird huge contribute images. The email is rambling and without focus. The type is small, nothing is bolded to catch your attention. There’s all sorts of other links to distract you like facebook, etc.

And at the time it was originally sent the lowest contribution you could make without entering something in the “other” box was $100 even though they asked for $10, $25, whatever you can give in the email. And the highest donation was $51,800–now where’s my credit card that’s got that much spare room on it?

You can see a partial shot of it here.

Epic FAIL, the conversion rates have to be terrible.

More on the flip about how Jerry Brown’s email “best practices” are infecting the California Democratic Party and Alberto Torrico’s campaign for Attorney General…

But now this is spreading like a virus in some bad end of the world thriller movie. And it’s doing serious violence to online organizing knowledge.

The California Democratic Party decided to forward Brown’s email this past Thursday night to everyone on their list. They didn’t change a thing, they just forwarded this crappy email verbatim with a little header on top from Burton. You can see a partial screen shot of that here.

And then on the same day Torrico sends something very similar, but actually worse due to lack of focus, to his email list. See that partial screen shot here. I mean hey I’m a Kamala supporter so maybe that’s ok 🙂

Brown has obviously been in politics a long time, and the combination of his team running with these techniques and the CDP supporting them is providing some kind of weird signal to others to adopt them. If Brown’s doing it this must be what it feels like at the top of the game.

So in the hope Brown’s people, CDP people, and folks with other campaigns that read Calitics see this, please stop looking to these emails as examples.

* If you want to follow some good models look at what groups like Courage Campaign, MoveOn and OFA are sending out just to name a few. You’ll notice that fundraising emails are short, carefully constructed and focused, make specific asks, and if there is a video it’s on the donation page. Messaging, unfortunately, is a much longer conversation. But technique is important.

* There’s all kinds of help out there ranging from national consultancies like Blue State Digital (you know, the folks that worked for Obama) to folks like Trilogy Interactive to close to free help like New Organizing Institute provides to scores of articles and blog posts written on the subject. I love Wired for Change tools as much as the next guy but just having their toolset doesn’t cut it, you need to know how to use it.

* If you’re running against an insanely well funded candidate like Meg Whitman, as Brown is, then you need to take online organizing seriously and do it right. It’s an incredibly low cost multiplier to every other aspect of your campaign: fundraising, field, messaging, media, volunteers. All you need to do is look at the story of how a 1 term Senator named Barack Hussein Obama beat one of the most well established and financed candidates in recent political history. It wasn’t by sending emails like this.


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Finding the Path Back on Track

(Consistent with our policy of bumping elected officials, here is a post from SF DA Kamala Harris. Disclosure: I am doing some work for her campaign for Attorney General. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Cross-posted from HuffPo and dKos.

Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. By that measure, our current approach to criminal justice may need a shrink–and a new way of doing business.

The old approach to fighting crime is well-known. Police and prosecutors are deluged with low-level drug cases, and the public spends billions on prisons to house these offenders. And, every year, prisons release hundreds of thousands of these offenders back into our communities. They’re sent back with a bus ticket and a little cash in hand–and that’s about it. They have no plan, no skills, nowhere to go, and no other changed circumstances. They pick up right where they left off; within three years of release, seven out of ten California prisoners will re-offend and return to prison.

After decades of this sad cycle, our prisons are swollen beyond capacity and our budgets maxed. Across the country, leaders are acknowledging that we’ve been missing a crucial opportunity all along. Perhaps the most crucial step in the criminal justice process is the most often ignored–what happens after the conviction and prison sentence, when the prisoner comes home.

Follow the story in the extended…

We’ve learned that low-level drug offenders are far less likely to re-offend if they transition into the community with basic skills and a plan for staying crime-free. That crucial transition from crime to the community–called “reentry” in criminal justice-speak–is what we’ve taken advantage of in San Francisco, where I serve as the elected District Attorney.

In 2005, I created an initiative called Back On Track. It’s a reentry program designed for nonviolent, first-time drug offenders. These are young people who we’d call college kids under different circumstances–mostly in their early 20’s, they have no prior criminal records and were caught for low-level drug offenses. None of their cases involves gangs, guns, or weapons. But they’ve all arrived at the program via squad car and are facing a first felony conviction.

We give them a choice: they can go through a tough, year-long program that will require them to get educated, stay employed, be responsible parents, drug test, and transition to a crime-free life, or they can go to jail. My prosecutors tell me that many defendants have heard the stories about the program and choose jail instead; jail’s easier, they say. Here’s why: Those who choose Back On Track plead guilty to their crime, and their sentence is deferred while they appear before a judge every two weeks for about a year. They must obtain a high-school-equivalency diploma and hold down a steady job. Fathers need to remain in good standing on their child-support payments, and everyone has to take parenting classes. For people who hit all of these milestones, the felony charge is going to be cleared from their records.

The results speak for the wisdom of investing in reentry programs. For this population, the recidivism (or re-offense rate) is typically 50 percent or higher. Four years since the creation of this initiative, recidivism has been less than 10 percent among Back On Track graduates. And the program costs only $5,000 per person, compared to over $35,000 a year for county jail. That saves our city roughly $1 million per year in jail costs alone. When you add in the total expense of criminal prosecutions to taxpayers, including court costs, public defenders, state prison, and probation, the savings are closer to $2 million. And we cannot even begin to quantify the value of these individuals’ future productivity, taxes and child support payments, or the brightened prospects for their families.

These are the kinds of results every community should demand from our system of justice. That’s why California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass sponsored AB 750, the Back On Track Reentry Act of 2009, which established Back On Track as a model reentry program for California counties. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law earlier this month. The National District Attorney’s Association and U.S. Department of Justice have selected Back on Track as a model re-entry program for prosecutors’ offices across the country.

Similar programs across the nation–from Atlanta to Brooklyn to Oakland–are also having tremendous success. Newly elected Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, voted into office last week, included Back On Track in his campaign platform. This all goes to show that many leaders are casting aside the outdated thinking that has choked off innovation in criminal justice for too long. They’re trying something new. Just as important as the result is the dialogue we’re starting, which represents momentum and hope for a more rational, progressive and effective approach to making our communities safer across the nation.