Democratic party

Jan 242016
 

incumbentThe California Democratic Party has just become a little bit more undemocratic.  New rules quietly enacted by the Party give Democratic incumbents for state and federal office the automatic endorsement of the Party.   While in the past an incumbent would get the Party’s endorsement if he received just 70% of the votes at a pre-convention endorsement caucus or 50%+1 of the votes at the convention, incumbents will now be automatically endorsed unless 20% of all delegates from the district to file an objection.  This is harder than it sounds.  While delegates may punish a bad incumbent by voting for someone else, voting for no endorsement or not voting at all, filing an actual objection to the endorsement of someone who is already sitting in office, and who therefore enjoys a significant amount of political power, is not for the faint of heart.  It also means that in races where the incumbent doesn’t have a challenger to organize an objection signature drive, even unpopular incumbents will receive the party’s endorsement.

This year in Alameda county, all but one of the incumbents will be receiving the party’s automatic endorsement.  The exception is Congressman Mike Honda who is facing a tough re-election fight from former Obama administration official Ro Khanna.  Honda has been hurt by an ethics investigation and has lost the support of several prominent Democratic politicians.  Regardless of who wins the Party endorsement, it seems likely that Khanna will unseat Honda in the fall.

While it’s understandable that the Democratic party would want to solidify its support behind incumbents, a policy that benefits the establishment against what may be more popular challengers runs the risk of further damaging the party’s own standing before voters – and the weight of the party’s endorsement.   Indeed, while just two or three election cycles ago, the vast majority of candidates endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic party were elected, that number fell to about 50% in the 2014 election. Part of the reason, I believe, is that too many of the party’s endorsements are based on personal relations and politicking rather than on the personal qualifications and progressive ideology of the actual candidates.

 

 

Jan 072015
 

Democrat DonkeyOnce again, it’s time for the election for delegates to represent AD 18 (San Leandro, Alameda and most of Oakland) to the California Democratic Party’s State Central Committee.   State delegates get to vote on the party’s endorsement of Democratic candidates for state and national office, on the state party’s platform and on regional and state party officers.  If we want to have a state party that is  open to regular Democrats and that puts civil rights and social justice before the interests of the party machine, we need to elect delegates that represent those values.

Voting for state delegates is hard. It can only be done in person on the day and place determined by the County Committee Chair.  This year, the AD 18 election will be on Jan 10th at 11 AM at the Teamsters Local 70, 400 Roland Way by Edgewater Dr. in Oakland.  It

There is a slate ran by Assemblymember Rob Bonta whose only purpose is to make Bonta have more influence in the party, which he can then wield to further his political career.  He is not in the least shy about this. All candidates in his slate must commit to “consult” with Bonta before voting, and Bonta is spending thousands of dollars of campaign funds to get them elected.  Bonta is hoping to use his delegates’ votes to decide who will get the Democratic endorsement in the race to replace state senator Loni Hancock in 2016.  Bonta has not yet announced whom he’ll be backing.  In 2014, Bonta similarly used his votes to back then Assembly speaker John Perez for Controller, against the far more liberal and qualified Betty Yee (who was ultimately elected). Bonta also backed senator Alex Padilla for Secretary of State, despite Padilla’s support for the use of drones and his problems with the FPPC, against the far better qualified and clean Dereck Cressman.

But voting for non-Bonta candidates matters in other ways.  Bonta has been very reluctant to take a stand against mass surveillance of California citizens and has refused to carry legislation that would put limits.  He has a very cozy relationship with the police unions, who’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get him elected.  As any fight for civil rights and social justice in California goes directly through Sacramento, it’s dangerous to give Bonta so much say over which senate candidate will get the Democratic endorsement.  For this reason, I am asking all Democratic voters to attend the January 10th meeting and vote for the Independent non-slate

VOTE FOR INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES

  • Mike Katz-Lacabe
  • Guillermo Elenes
  • Matt Hummel
  • Sean Donahoe
  • Sokhom Mao
  • Gilbert Dong
  • Sandra Johnson
  • Leslie Robertson
  • Donna Murphy
  • Sabrina Ramirez
  • Marlene Hurd

Convener:

Gray Harris

Phone:
510-552-6521

Email:
Graymooregray@gmail.com

 

Time & Location:

Teamsters Local 70

400 Roland Way
Oakland, CA 94621
Cross street: Edgewater Dr.
Location Phone: 510-552-6521

Saturday, Jan. 10
11 AM – 1 PM ONLY

Aug 122014
 

Democrat DonkeyI May Be Responsible for the FPPC Investigating the Committee

Update (January, 2017): A Democratic Party organ laundered $60K in contributions for the Fremont Mayor race. Read more about it.

The leadership of the Committee has been working to expel me, though perhaps they were thwarted on that idea by the fact that they don’t have any legal grounds to do so.

Update (October, 2016): They ACDCC never censured me. Instead, they recruited a candidate to run for City Council against my husband in Nov. 2014.   Then in 2016, the incumbents in my district ran for re-election on a slate that excluded me.  I won re-election anyway.

Update (Aug 12, 2014)

The FPPC has cleared the ACDCC of wrongdoing, saying they have found “insufficient evidence” that the Committee is involved in an “earmarking scheme”.   I’m not particularly surprised given that when an FPPC investigator contacted me about this matter, she stated that earmarking was very difficult to prove.  For that reason, I had been surprised when I later learned the FPPC was still pursuing the investigation.

What I think the FPPC’s investigation does make clear is that earmarking is not only wrong, but illegal.  I can only hope that, armed with this knowledge, the Committee will cease the practice and use funds received for member-to-member communications to promote all endorsed candidates in a given ballot, rather than those whose supporters ponied up the money for the mailer.  Alternatively, I hope the Committee will disclose in the mailers themselves who has given the Committee the funds to send a mailer in support of a given candidate.

Original Post (Marh 21, 2014):

I recognize that writing this article has the potential of hurting me – and even my husband – politically. However, I believe that I have a responsibility to keep my constituents informed about what’s going on in the ACDCC, even when the subject is discomfiting to myself.

At the last Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) meeting earlier this month, Robin Torello, the Committee’s Chair, announced that the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) was investigating the Committee for campaign finance law violations.  The ACDCC’s Executive Committee had hired lawyers, but needed a vote of the whole Committee to authorize payment for their services. At $300 an hour, the legal bill was likely to be hefty.  FPPC fines, someone chimed in, might be assessed against the Chair or even the Members.

According to Torello,  the investigation had come about because “a member of the Committee” had repeatedly called the FPPC and had written “a blog” that had drawn the FPPC’s interest.  When another member asked who that member was, I spoke out.

I hadn’t, actually, called the FPPC, but last December, I was contacted by an FPPC investigator.  She wanted me to expand on a comment I had written on a story about how Democratic Senators were seeking to strengthen campaign finance laws:

The Democratic Party needs to start by cleaning up our own house. It’s disingenuous for anyone in this party to talk about disclosure of financial contributors, while the party itself takes advantage of any loopholes in the disclosure laws.

I’m a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) and I was appalled to find out that current policy and practice is for the ACDCC to take financial contributions from PACs and others earmarked to help a specific candidate that has been endorsed by the ACDCC. The party uses that money to send out a mailer on behalf of the candidate in question. The mailer will say “paid for the ACDCC”, and there will be no mention of who is actually funding it.

The point, of course, is for a person or PAC to be able to support a candidate without having to be seen as doing so. Let’s say you are the PAC of a union representing City Hall employees. Your union is in the middle of contract negotiations with the City. Mayor John Smith is running for re-election. You want to give him a big, big check to make him look kindly at you – but if you do that, or if you send out a mailer on his behalf, his opponents will pounce at him with allegations of bribery. What do you do? Well, you give the money to the ACDCC. Mayor Smith will find out where the money came from, of course, but it can’t be traced back to you, at least quickly enough for anyone to use it.

I find this extremely unethical, but I brought this up at our last Committee meeting and apparently I’m alone on having those feelings. :-(“

(Note: comments on the Political Blotter that were left before the blog started using the Disqus commenting service are no longer visible in a browser, but they can be seen by viewing the page source).

The members of the Committee had heard my complaints about the unethical nature of these practices before.  I had first found out about then during the 2012 general election, when I received a mailer ostensibly paid by the Alameda County Democratic party asking me to vote for Jim Prola for San Leandro City Council.  Prola was the Party’s endorsed candidate, but he was the popular incumbent in an easy race running against a candidate that had very little money.  His re-election was pretty much assured, and I questioned why we would spend scant party resources on him, rather than on endorsed candidates that were in much more tenuous positions.

The explanation I got was that candidates or their supporters raise the money for the Party to send a mailer on their behalf.  The Party does it and takes a cut.    When I raised concerns about how this practice deceived voters by not letting them know who was actually behind the mailers, I was summarily banned by the Chair from posting on the Committee’s mailing list.  I also brought up the ethical issues surrounding this practice at the Committee meeting following the 2012 general election, but nobody echoed my concerns.

I didn’t contact the FPPC about these issues, however.   Partly, this was because I saw it an an ethical rather than a legal issue – even in my comment, I spoke about “loopholes” in the law.  A larger part, however, is that going to the “cops” is just not my style.   The way I saw it, the problem with this practice is that voters are misled as to who is really paying for a particular mailer. The solution is to inform voters and the press that whenever they see the “paid by the Democratic Party” phrase, they need to dig deeper as to the real financial source behind the publication.

I made the decision, however, to not write about this practice during the 2012 campaign season.  Honestly, I was concerned that anything I wrote that painted the Democratic party in a negative light could be use by Republicans against Obama and other Democratic candidates.  Perhaps the risk of Fox News noticing and running amok with the story was low, but I wasn’t willing to take it.  I still don’t know if it was the right answer ethically.  After the campaign, I made that comment in the Political Blotter blog and hoped to revisit the issue closer to next election.

***

After the Committee members voted to approve hiring lawyers, a member of the ACDCC’s Executive Committee, Angela Ramirez Holmes, moved to have me censured.  While Torello had accused me of calling the FPPC repeatedly, she couldn’t actually back up the accusation so Ramirez Holmes’ used the comment I copied above as the rationale for the censure.  She said that I should have used internal mechanisms to air my complaint and spoke about an alleged subcommittee on member-to-member communications.  I had never heard of such subcommittee before and neither had many of my colleagues.

Ramirez Holmes also complained about my other writings.  While she did not specify what writings she was referring to, I have a fairly good idea about one particular piece that she is unlikely to have taken kindly.    Last year, after I started my second term in the Committee, I wrote a blog posting about my decision to vote against Royce Kelley for Committee Vice-Chair.  At the time, Kelley was still listed as Ramirez Holmes partner in Alliance Campaign Strategies, a campaign management company.   The company represents candidates for local office, including those seeking the Democratic endorsement, and also handled the member-to-member communications for the ACDCC.   Both Ramirez Holmes and Kelley served on the Executive Committee, which proposes which candidates should receive the Democratic endorsement. I had heard from multiple former clients of theirs, as well as other people involved in the local political scene, that candidates felt they had to hire Alliance Campaign Strategies if they wanted to receive the Democratic endorsement, or at least block it from going to their opponent.  While I took pains to point out in my article that I was not accusing them of wrongdoing, the mere perception that a candidate got an unfair advantage by hiring the firm is harmful to the democratic process and the Democratic party.    While Royce Kelley is no longer associated with the firm, Ramirez Holmes is still in business and apparently representing candidates seeking the party’s endorsement for the June 2014 election.

While Ramirez Holmes wants me censured, she requested that the Committee not vote on it until the FPPC investigation is over – which the Chair assured the Committee would not take long.  This reinforces the notion that the original rationale for the censure was the investigation, rather than my writings.  While I didn’t call the FPPC myself, I don’t believe there is anything ethically wrong for a member of a Central Committee who has doubts about the legality of what its leadership is doing, to voice those concerns to the agency charged with overseeing campaign finance law.  It worries me greatly that the censure is meant to discourage members of other County Central Committees from whistle blowing.  Those are exactly the type of undemocratic practices that I feel compelled to challenge.

I will admit that I don’t particularly enjoy the idea of being censured by colleagues.  However, I cannot attach credibility to a censure unless it’s based on an ethical lapse on my part or on my failure to keep the commitments I made to voters when I ran for ACDCC.    For instance, if the consensus among Democrats was that I should not have put the Party above the voters and I that should have exposed the unethical member-to-member communication program back in October 2012, I would take that rebuke to heart.   But a censure that is based on bringing light to a problematic practice by the Party, only brings shame to the Party.  It is time the Democratic Party start living by the principles it espouses, not just expect others to do so.  We must fight Citizens United and other decisions that equate money with speech, but we must not enter into the temptation of playing similar games.  We need public funding for elections, but until we get that, at the very least voters deserve to know who is spending money to get a candidate elected.  The Democratic Party should not be helping to hide it.

Note: When I ran for re-election to the ACDCC in 2012, I joined a slate of incumbent candidates. The slate put out a mailer which was produced by Alliance Campaign Strategies.

Marga Lacabe is an elected member of the ACDCC representing AD 18. These articles are meant to update her constituents on what’s going on at the party.

May 192014
 

May 19, 2014

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform
722 12th Street, NW
Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. Norquist,

I’m very concerned that our political philosophies may be starting to merge.

I commend you on wanting to name three thousand items in the country after Ronald Reagan. As you know, I was in the state legislature when Ronald was governor and I fondly remember his signing the largest tax increase in the more than hundred year history of our state. That Reagan tax increase stood as the state’s largest until of course the early 1990s, when Governor Pete Wilson signed a $7.3 billion dollar tax increase.

I also fondly remember Governor Reagan signing the bill to liberalize abortion, the Therapeutic Abortion Act.

I think it’s wonderful that you’re willing to honor somebody who has such a liberal progressive record.

Peace and friendship,

 

John Burton
Chairman
California Democratic Party

Feb 072014
 

Democrat Donkey

Battle for AD 15 and CD 15 Democratic endorsement moves to the State Convention

Feb 8 Update

Congress: In CD 13, Barbara Leee was recommended for endorsement, with 100% of the vote.  I was wrong about CD 15, and Eric Swalwell got the majority of the vote, though not enough to get a recommendation.  The fight for the endorsement goes up to the Convention, where it will probably come to the floor, giving Ellen Corbett an advantage. Stay tuned.  As predicted, in CD 17 Mike Honda easily got the endorsement.  Indeed, Ro Khanna did not even bother to show up to the meeting, probably thinking that his time was better spent campaigning.

Senate: Mary Hayashi did show up and made some vague accusations against Bob Wieckowskibut couldn’t get even one vote.  Wieckowski easily got the recommendation for the endorsement for SD 10, with a handful of votes going to Roman Reed.

Assembly:  I was surprised to see that a clear majority of the votes in AD 15 went to Elizabeth Echols, though not enough to break the 70% and give her the recommendation.  The endorsement thus goes to the Convention.  As predicted, Andy Katz got a few votes, but none went to either Sam Kang nor Pamela Price-Crawley.  Both civil rights lawyers were pretty impressive, however, and I’m interested in hearing more from both of them.  Tony Thurmond‘s vote count may not have impressed, but he’s a dynamic and inspiring speaker and made an impression even with my very politically jaded 12-year-old.   While Echols is likely to win at the endorsement caucus at the convention, if Thurmond can pull her name out of consent – which he may very well be able to – and send this to the floor of the convention, he has a very good chance of winning. Echols may be solid, but she’s not an exciting candidate.

Also as predicted, Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk easily got the endorsements for AD 18 and AD 20 respectively.  No endorsement recommendation was made for AD 25, and nobody got enough votes for this to go up to the convention.  Craig Steckler got the most votes, but Kansen Chu wasn’t far behind, with Teresa Cox trailing both.  Armando Gomez didn’t get any votes.  While Steckler called himself a progressive Democrat, almost all his campaign loot comes from police chiefs and law enforcement, which suggests he isn’t going to Sacramento to fight for civil liberties and against the prison-industrial complex.  Mik

—–

The California Democratic Party will be conducting pre-endorsement conferences throughout the state this weekend.  Members of the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) and other eligible Democrats will meet to listen to the different candidates that are competing for the Party’s endorsement in their respective districts and will vote on whom should get it.  In races where a Democrat is endorsed by the party, other Democrats are encouraged to drop out.

Most of Alameda County, including San Leandro, falls within the Party’s region 5, and the caucus for our region will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8, starting at 2 PM at the Laborers Local 34 hall, located at 29475 Mission Blvd in Hayward. Any Democrat is welcome to attend.

While the vote count happens after the candidates have an opportunity to speak, in reality most candidates have been going around picking up vote-by-mail ballots from their supporters.  Candidates who get 70% of the vote at the pre-endorsement conference are placed in the consent calendar for Party’s endorsement at the State Party Convention which will take place in early March – though their endorsement can be challenged with signatures of either 20% of DSCC members in their district or statewide.  If no candidate gets 70% of the vote, but at least one gets 50%, there will be an endorsement caucus at the Convention, where they will need to garner 50% or 60% of the vote (depending on incumbency status), to get on consent. The same will happen if an endorsement is challenged.

In order to qualify for the Democratic endorsement, a candidate must be a registered Democrat and pay a fee ranging from $250 to $500.

Here are the candidates who are vying for the Democratic endorsement in Region 5

Congressional District 13 

The only candidate running for the endorsement is incumbent Barbara Lee, who will easily get it.

Congressional District 15

Incumbent congressman Eric Swalwell battles State Senator Ellen Corbett for the endorsement.   My bet is that if any candidate gets the endorsement tomorrow, it’ll be Corbett.  I also bet that if one of them gets it, the other will have the endorsement challenged and it will go the Convention.

Congressional District 17

Here, congressman Mike Honda holds a significant advantage over challenger Ro Khanna.  Khanna ran a successful slate at last year’s delegate elections and he may have a few other votes, but they will likely not be enough to prevent Honda from getting the endorsement.  They may be enough for a challenge, but Honda is sure to get the endorsement at the Convention.  Linguist Philip Bralich is also running for the endorsement, but I don’t believe he’ll get even one vote.

Assembly District 15

There are no incumbents in this race, but there are five candidate vying for the endorsement.  Preliminary endorsements suggest that the two actual contenders are Alameda County Democratic Central Committee member Elizabeth Echols and former Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond.  EBMUD Director  Andy Katz may get a few votes, but it seems unlikely that either civil rights attorneys Sam Kang or Pamela Price-Crawley will get any.  The latter doesn’t even have a campaign website.  My guess is that at least one of the candidates will get 50% of the vote, and the endorsement for this race will go to the Convention.

Assembly Districts 18 and 20

The only candidate running for AD 18 is incumbent Rob Bonta and for AD 20 is incumbent Bill Quirk, so both have it in the bag.

Assembly District 25

Four Democrats are vying for the open seat being left by Bob Wieckowski.  San Jose Councilmember Kansen Chu battles Ohlone Community College Board Trustee Teresa CoxMilpitas Councilmember Armando Gomez and former Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler. I know nothing about the voters in that race, but given the crowded field it seems unlikely that anyone will get the endorsement tomorrow or even send this to the Convention.

Senate District 10

This is the race that actually makes me want to go to the conference (I already sent out my ballot).   Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski is running against former Assemblymember and convicted thief Mary HayashiAlso in the race is stem-cell-research-activist Roman Reed.  Hayashi hasn’t even bothered to set up a campaign site, and she hasn’t done any fundraising lately (though she does have a lot of money from previous races she can use), but she did apply for the Democratic endorsement, so she’s presumably running.  It’s unlikely she’ll get any endorsements votes, however.  Reed may get a few, but Wieckowski should easily get the endorsement and keep it on consent.

I’ll post results tomorrow.