Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 20, 2011
Judge denies bid to make Proposition 8 donor identities secret

A federal judge this afternoon denied a challenge to California's campaign disclosure law by proponents of Proposition 8, who sought to make donors' identities secret, claiming they were harassed.

The preliminary ruling, by U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr., comes almost three years after voters approved California's same-sex marriage ban. In a case that is widely expected to be appealed, the state successfully argued that publicizing the identities of campaign donors is necessary to an informed electorate.

In January 2009, England denied an initial bid by to keep secret the identities of donors who made contributions in the final days of the campaign.

Joe La Rue, a lawyer for the group, said in oral arguments today that those donors would remain exposed to harassment "so long as these names are perpetually kept on the state's website."

Mollie Lee, a San Francisco deputy city attorney, said La Rue presented no evidence of death threats or physical violence. More minor incidents, she said, are "not out of the ordinary in California politics."

California law requires the disclosure of the identity of anyone who contributes $100 or more to a campaign. said the $100 limit was too low, and it claimed it qualified for an exception to disclosure laws once granted by the U.S. Supreme Court to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Socialist Workers Party.

England was skeptical throughout the hearing. The Socialist Workers Party involved relatively few people, he said, and belonging to the NAACP in the early 1950s "could cause you to be killed." In contrast, he said, Proposition 8 proponents not only enjoyed the support of millions of people, but prevailed in the election.

The judge read from a batch of declarations in which people claimed yard signs were stolen, that they received harassing phone calls, or, in one case, that people protested outside someone's business. "That's the extent of what happened," he said.

But La Rue was undeterred in the comparison to minority groups, saying, "The fact that this is typical for controversial campaigns doesn't mean it comports with the First Amendment. ... Once upon a time, segregation, Jim Crow, these things were typical, and that didn't make them right."

England's ruling follows a similar decision this week by a U.S. District Court judge in Washington state, who denied a bid to keep secret the names of people who signed a petition for a referendum seeking to repeal a domestic partnership law there.

October 20, 2011
Nearly 6 million Californians living in poverty

The number of Californians living in poverty increased to nearly six million - more than the populations of most states - between 2009 and 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Californians living in poverty increased from 5.1 million in 2009 to 5.8 million in 2010, and the state's poverty rate jumped from 14.2 percent to 15.8 percent during the one-year period, virtually mirroring national trends. That means that California was almost exactly in the middle of the states, whose poverty rates last year ranged from a high of 22.4 percent in Mississippi (not counting Puerto Rico) to a low of 8.3 percent in New Hampshire.

The rates were derived from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey and were based on how many families were below a "poverty threshold" that varies by age, number of children and family size and is updated to account for inflation.

Four of California's larger urban areas were included in the Census Bureau's 10-region list of those with the highest poverty rates, with Fresno the nation's second most poverty-stricken area at 26.8 percent, Bakersfield-Delano fourth highest at 21.2 percent, Modesto sixth at 19.9 percent, and Stockton seventh at 19.2 percent.

No large metropolitan area in California is found on the list of those with the lowest poverty rates, which is topped by Washington-Arlington-Alexandria at 8.4 percent.

A separate Census Bureau report, meanwhile, found that California is one of the relatively few states in which the percentage of families receiving some form of welfare assistance increased between 2009 and 2010.

The welfare report, also derived from the American Community Survey, says that the proportion of California families receiving welfare at some point during the year increased from 3.7 percent in 2009 to 4 percent in 2010. Both numbers were well above of the national rates of 2.6 and 2.9 percent.

The survey analysis found that while 449,059 California families received welfare support in 2009 and the number increased to 500,432 in 2010, by far the largest numerical increase of any state.

October 20, 2011
Former lawmaker Hector De La Torre named to state air board

Former Assemblyman Hector De La Torre was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown today to the state air resources board, a part-time job paying $40,699.

De La Torre, a 44-year-old South Gate Democrat, was termed out of the Assembly in 2010 and currently is serving as vice president of the Free Conferencing Corporation, Brown said in a press release.

The Senate must confirm De La Torre's appointment.

A former South Gate councilman, De La Torre was elected to the Assembly in 2004. He served as chairman of the powerful Assembly Rules Committee, but was ousted by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez in 2008 after challenging a "golden handshake" early retirement plan that boosted pensions for 55 employees.

De La Torre ran unsuccessfully for state insurance commissioner last year against an Assembly Democratic colleague, Dave Jones.

His resume also includes stints as a manager for the Los Angeles Superior Court, a manager at Southern California Edison, and chief of staff to the deputy secretary of the United States Department of Labor.

De La Torre is filling the seat previously held by Lydia Kennard, Brown's office said. Kennard was appointed to the board by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004.

Editor's note: This post updated at 11:19 a.m. to include that De La Torre is filling the seat previously held by Kennard.

October 20, 2011
Announcing the winner of our first-ever punch line contest

chiangsmiling.JPGOur top takeaway from Capitol Alert's first-ever punchline contest?

Controller John Chiang's staffers have no problem publicly poking fun at their boss.

Several of the department's employees were among the readers who submitted their best joke about the California Democratic Party's recent offer to reward the winner of a fund-raising contest with two hours with the state's top accountant.

The winning entry came not from inside the Democratic controller's office, but from a reader across the aisle.

GOP social media and political consultant Meredith Turney got the most laughs from our judging panel with this quip:

"California Democrats finally found someone who can help their fundraising even more than Kinde Durkee"

For readers not following the Kinde Durkee saga, the joke references allegations that the prominent Democratic campaign treasurer, who was arrested last month, stole millions from the accounts of her high-profile clients.

It's been a good week for Turney in terms of getting laughs. A recent tweet taking a swipe at the Occupy protest movement got some love in a daily email newsletter sent out by state GOP spokesman Mark Standriff.

"I can be sarcastic when I need to be," she said of her snark skills.

Turney, who is currently based in Southern California, can toast to her successes with the $25 gift certificate to Starbucks she won as our top entrant.

Seeing as the contributor is an active member of the GOP, it's unlikely she'll win face time with Chiang through the state Democratic Party's fundraising drive. so she asked us to pass along one message to the person at the center of her punchline:

"Please don't audit me!"

Thanks for all who participated for the laughs (and the groans). Click here to check out the post announcing the contest.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Controller John Chiang enjoys a laugh during a meeting with The Bee Capitol Bureau on July 14, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 20, 2011
Dennis Cardoza announces retirement from Congress

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, announced his retirement Thursday, culminating a San Joaquin Valley political career that dates back to a college internship three decades ago.

The 52-year-old Cardoza said he will step down at the end of 2012 rather than battle it out in a newly redrawn congressional district with his long-time friend and colleague, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

"I love the people of the Central Valley, and thank them for the confidence they have placed in me," Cardoza said in a statement. "While I plan to retire from public service after this term in Congress, I will energetically continue my efforts to improve California as a private citizen."

But in voluntarily leaving a job he first won by unseating a former boss in 2002, Cardoza is also departing a Congress where he decries the loss of fellow moderates and the media focus on partisanship.

"The constant focus on 'screamers' and the 'horse race' of elections is smothering useful discourse and meaningful debate of public policy," Cardoza said.

Cardoza did not specify his career plans once he leaves the House of Representatives and its $174,000 annual salary. He and his wife Kathleen, a physician, currently live in a new, 4,130-square foot house on two acres in rural Maryland. They have three children.

Cardoza's decision leaves Costa as the favorite to represent the newly redrawn 16th Congressional District, which spans Merced and Madera counties and part of Fresno County. Democrats enjoy a 48-to-33 percent voter registration advantage in the new district.

Cardoza's decision did not surprise his colleagues or other political professionals, who had been reading the tea leaves for months. Tellingly, Cardoza's fundraising slowed considerably since July, and newly filed statements show his campaign treasury currently has only $62,471 available.

October 20, 2011
AM Alert: Michele Bachmann ventures into true blue territory

MICHELE BACHMANN 2 LA.JPGFresh off the Republican debate earlier this week in Nevada, presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann makes a foray into blue-state country for a talk at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco.

The Minnesota congresswoman's subject? "The Revival of American Competitiveness."

"Bachmann will present her views on pro-business economic policies that will allow private-sector businesses to compete in the global market while addressing the need for job-skill retraining, innovation, comprehensive tax reform and reduction of regulations that threaten jobs," the Commonwealth Club's website says.

The winner of the Ames, Iowa, straw poll has seen her standing in the polls slip since the rise and fall of Texas Gov. Rick Perry as well as the subsequent rise of pizza magnate Herman Cain, whose numbers currently rival those of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"She was the flavor of the month in July. I have the utmost respect for Michele Bachmann, but I think her opportunity to catch fire has clearly passed," conservative FlashReport blog publisher Jon Fleischman told the Bay Area News Group this week.

The event starts at noon. Tickets were still available last we checked. "Attendees subject to search," reminds the website.

Back in Sacramento, the California Air Resources Board is expected to OK a controversial cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. The public meeting starts at 9 a.m. at 1001 I St. in the second-floor Byron Sher Auditorium. Click here to read the agenda and find links to more information.

Meanwhile, second lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom -- who's married to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom -- has a big day today. Her documentary film, "Miss Representation," which challenges media portrayal of women and girls, has its broadcast premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network tonight. Click here for more information and watch a clip from the film.

PUNCH LINE CONTEST: Remember that joke-writing contest about Controller John Chiang we launched last week? A winner has been named. Check back with Capitol Alert later this morning for all the details.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: An Assembly select committee headed by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, considers issues facing victims of abuse, looks at gaps in services, and identifies strategies that have worked in Santa Clara County. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. at Ujirani Family Resource Center, 591 North King Road, San Jose.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The impacts of climate change on Southern California get a look at a joint hearing of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and a select committee on the environment. Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, chairs the meeting, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon at Santa Monica City Hall's council chambers, 1685 Main St.

PHOTO CREDIT: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann addresses a crowd of supporters at a campaign stop at the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, California, Friday, September 16, 2011. (Don Bartletti/ Los Angeles Times/ MCT)


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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