Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 20, 2013
Feinstein measure to double Forest Service firefighting aircraft

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After a lengthy and destructive wildfire season in California, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., inserted language into a defense bill that will double the size of the U.S. Forest Service fleet of large air tankers.

Feinstein said that the amendment, which she cosponsored with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would transfer seven surplus HC-130H Hercules aircraft from the Coast Guard to the Forest Service. The planes can carry a combined 21,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, she said.

"This transfer is a critical step to help address our ability to defend forests and communities from the threat of wildfires," Feinstein said in a statement.

Feinstein and McCain included the language into the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate approved the bill late Thursday on a vote of 84-15.

The transfer will also include 15 smaller C23-B Sherpa aircraft to transport cargo and smokejumpers.

The announcement comes the same week as firefighters were working to contain a 500-acre wildfire in California's Big Sur south of San Francisco. The blaze destroyed more than a dozen homes, including the local fire chief's.

The Big Sur fire caps off a destructive year in California. The 250,000-acre Rim Fire scorched parts of Yosemite National Park between August and October, leaving more than $50 million in damage. Last week, President Barack Obama approved federal disaster assistance for the third-largest fire in California history, after Gov. Jerry Brown appealed a Federal Emergency Management Agency decision to deny the aid.

Arizona's wildfire losses weren't just economic: In June, 19 members of an elite firefighting crew died in the Yarnell Hill blaze south of Prescott.

"Wildfire suppression aircraft are vital to protecting human life and property," McCain said.

McCain said while his effort with Feinstein would help boost the Forest Service's firefighting capabilities, Congress needed to do more.

The senators noted that a Government Accountability Office report in August found that the agency's large air tanker fleet had dropped to eight planes in 2013, from 44 a decade earlier.

PHOTO:Inmate firefighters walked along Highway 120 during the Rim Fire in August. AP/Jae C. Hong

July 17, 2013
Boxer, Feinstein: Immigration bill 'the right thing for California'

Capitol_Building_Washington_Congress.jpgCalifornia Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein wrote to their House of Representatives colleagues Wednesday, pleading for a vote on an immigration bill as a matter of economic and moral imperative for a state that's home to nearly a quarter of the country's undocumented immigrants.

House Republicans have been reluctant to consider a bipartisan bill the Senate approved last month, which would increase spending on border security, create a guest-worker visa program and establish a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living illegally in the U.S.

The letter from Boxer and Feinstein to the 53 House members from California echoed a video last week from the California Chamber of Commerce in making a case that the immigration bill would give the state, and the country, a crucial economic boost.

September 5, 2012
Dianne Feinstein lays out plans for another U.S. Senate term

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the middle of a speech focused largely on the presidential race, Republican policies and propositions back home, U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein took a few minutes to talk about her own bid on the ballot this year.

"As an aside," she said at breakfast for members of California's Democratic National Convention delegation. "I'm also running for re-election."

"I didn't know if I would do that or not, but I did," the 79-year-old Democrat added over the applause. "I believe my work as a United States senator is not yet complete."

Feinstein, who is seeking a fourth full term in the Senate, pledged to continue to protect abortion rights, fight for new legislation to renew the federal assault weapons ban and pursue an overhaul of immigration laws. She also spoke of continuing her work as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In an interview with reporters after the talk, the senator dismissed the notion that she considered not running again this year. She said she always intended to be a candidate and will "absolutely" fill out her six-year term if elected again.

August 24, 2012
Opponents say CA tribal casino would hurt public worker pension funds

With just a week left for Gov. Jerry Brown to decide the fate of two off-reservation casino proposals, opponents are arguing that approval of one of them could hurt public employee investment funds.

Brown has until Aug. 31 to decide the fate of casinos proposed by the Enterprise Rancheria near Marysville and the North Fork Rancheria near Fresno. Members of both tribes have property in the mountains but want to build casinos miles away, along freeways on the valley floor. Opponents call it reservation shopping, while the tribes say they have historic connections to the valley locations. The federal government has OK'ed the projects and sent them to the governor for final approval.

Last week, 17 state senators sent Brown a letter urging him to reject the North Fork proposal. The senators -- including Democrats Kevin de Leon, Lou Correa and Juan Vargas, as well as Republican Tony Strickland -- said a North Fork casino on Highway 99 near Madera would threaten the viability of the nearby Chukchansi Gold casino in the foothills east of Madera. That, they argued, puts the retirement funds that have invested in the project at risk. Their letter says:

"We recently learned of another major concern about this proposed off-reservation approval, which is that publicly-issued California bonds, which represent major investment in the Chukchansi Gold casino, would be at risk if the Chukchansi Gold casino were to default. The investment firms which invest these bonds include those who manage assets for the benefit of university endowments, pension plans and retirement funds, including those organized for the benefit of public employees in California and other states... Our retired employees and educators cannot afford to have their hard-earned funds put at risk, and no actions should be taken by our State which could create such risks."

Casino opponents would not say which public employee funds are at risk or how much money is at stake.

"I can't quantify it but it's substantial," said lobbyist David Quintana, who represents the tribe that runs the Chukchansi casino as well as others opposing the projects.

The lobbyist for the North Fork tribe called the investment fund argument a red herring and said opponents are grasping at straws. Rick Lehman, a former congressman who is now North Fork's lobbyist, said the federal government spent eight years studying the North Fork proposal.

"They vetted all the impacts on Chukchansi and concluded they were not significant enough to deny the project," Lehman said.


July 7, 2012
AM Alert: Field Poll highlights Feinstein-Emken race in Senate

California's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, is well-known to voters.

Her Republican rival, businesswoman Elizabeth Emken, doesn't have the same name recognition statewide - only one in three likely voters offered an opinion of her, according to the latest Field Poll.

Torey Van Oot reports in today's Bee that Feinstein leads Emken among likely voters surveyed.

Click here for the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. You can find the publicly released poll at this link.

May 16, 2012
FEC gives Feinstein less than half a loaf in fundraising bid

The Federal Election Commission has formally advised Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein that she can ask for replacement contributions from past donors so long as their prior checks were never deposited in a campaign account.

The ruling does not give Feinstein what she really wanted, which was to seek replacement donations totaling some $4.5 million -- the amount campaign officials estimate was embezzled by former treasurer Kinde Durkee. Durkee is now awaiting sentencing, after pleading guilty to charges of mail fraud.

In an advisory opinion issued Tuesday, the FEC reasoned that if "the initial funds were never received by the committee, they would not count towards the attempted contributors' contribution limit."

The five voting FEC members, though they could not reach an official consensus on the broader question, did note that "the Commission has never applied the same reasoning to contributions that were actually deposited in the intended recipient committee's account as it has to circumstances where a committee lost a contribution check."

April 10, 2012
VIDEO: Feinstein on losing millions to treasurer Kinde Durkee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke up about being a victim of what's thought to be the nation's largest campaign treasurer fraud ever prosecuted, calling the situation a "very hard thing."

Kinde Durkee, the prominent campaign treasurer used by Feinstein and many other California Democrats, pleaded guilty earlier this month to defrauding clients of at least $7 million. Feinstein's multi-million dollar war chest was one of the accounts that was hit hardest.

While her request to seek more money from donors whose contributions were misappropriated is expected to be rejected by federal elections officials this week, Feinstein said she is not "terribly worried" about the losses hurting her re-election prospects. She has already put up $5 million of her own money to make up for lost cash and is suing the bank where the committee funds were held.

Feinstein said while she had no personal relationship with Durkee, the news was particularly difficult because she had used Durkee for campaigns in the past. She echoed a reporter's characterization of the embezzlement, calling it a "big betrayal."

"She had a big business," she said. "She was the go-to Democratic fiduciary."

Watch a video of Feinstein's full remarks on the subject.

April 10, 2012
Dianne Feinstein praises Jerry Brown's high-speed rail plan

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein praised Gov. Jerry Brown's revised approach on California's high-speed rail project today, but cautioned that the federal funding for the project could depend on final cost projections.

"Do I think it's doable? Yes. Do I think it's doable with all the bells and whistles? No," Feinstein told reporters after addressing local business and government leaders at the Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento. "That's a decision that has to be made."

The revised high-speed rail plan unveiled by the Brown administration late last month relies heavily on federal dollars, counting on $41.9 billion of the projected $68 billion needed for the project coming from the federal government. Feinstein noted that cost has been greatly reduced -- a cut of roughly $30 billion from an earlier business plan -- and that voters already approved nearly $10 billion in bonds to build a bullet train.

Feinstein said Brown has "done the right thing" by focusing on a building a high-speed rail line down the center of the state that would then connect to high-population centers such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. That so-called "blended approach" would rely on some existing infrastructure in urban areas.

"You're really not going to bring, in my view, those high-speed trains into either population area," she said.


April 3, 2012
California Senate hopeful touts support for Herman Cain's '9-9-9'

US NEWS CAIN 13 ABA.jpgRepublican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Hughes is playing up his support for Herman Cain, touting his endorsement of the former presidential hopeful's "9-9-9" tax plan in a fundraising appeal.

An email to supporters highlights the Southern California businessman's endorsement of Cain's tax plan, which would replace the current tax structure with a federal tax rate of 9 percent on incomes, businesses and sales.The message, which listed Cain as the sender, includes a quote from a previous release announcing that Hughes had promised to "read the legislation once it is drafted and push to enact '9-9-9.'"

Hughes is one of 23 candidates -- 14 Republicans, five Democrats and four from third parties -- challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein this year.

"Politicians like Sen. Feinstein are part and parcel of the 'Goliath' that has become our government. That is why we are building an 'Army of Davids' to get our power back from the government," Cain, who has not endorsed Hughes, said in the statement cited in the email. "By signing his name to '9-9-9' , Mr. Hughes has demonstrated his willingness to be a lieutenant in this 'Army of Davids'."

The email, sent Monday, asks recipients to sign up as volunteers or contribute between $5 and $2,500 to Hughes' campaign.

February 24, 2012
Feinstein asks to go back to donors to recoup allegedly stolen cash

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's attorney has asked the Federal Elections Commission to allow the California Democrat to collect more cash from donors who gave her campaign money that was allegedly stolen by her former treasurer.

The Feinstein campaign is seeking to recoup about $4.5 million that was found to be missing from her campaign account in the wake of the arrest of prominent Democratic Treasurer Kinde Durkee. Durkee, who was arrested last fall, faces federal fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating more than $600,000 from a campaign account she managed for Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Other political and nonprofit clients, including Feinstein, have accused her of stealing millions more in statements and court filings.

Feinstein's attorney argued in a document filed with the commission that the longtime senator should be able to ask donors for more cash despite contribution limits. Given Durkee's alleged actions, Feinstein argued, the contributions given for her 2012 re-election bid cannot be considered accepted by the campaign for its use.

"The Committee -- and its donors -- suffered a severe injustice at the hands of Durkee," attorney Marc. E. Elias wrote in the 98-page opinion request. "In the past, the FEC has shown a commendable willingness to rectify wrongful acts, where the law allows it to do so. The law clearly allows it to do so here."

The filing,which was first reported by Politico, cites several examples of cases where replacement checks were permitted by the commission.

Feinstein consultant Bill Carrick told The Bee he believes the campaign can "make a good case that (the money) has been stolen, embezzled and been used to cover (Durkee's) ponzi scheme."

"As a result, we've ended up not having access to this money because it was embezzled and was not available for the campaign to spend in the ways the donors intended it to be spent," he said.

February 11, 2012
Feinstein: Obama contraception compromise 'can be lived with'

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SAN DIEGO -- U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed disappointment
Saturday in the compromise the Obama administration announced this week on its birth control coverage mandate, but said the decision "can be lived with."

"I regret the fact that the president felt he had to do it, but he had to do it," she told reporters after speaking at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

The Obama administration announced Friday that it would not force certain religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals to comply with a health regulation requiring employers to provide employees with access to free contraceptives. While the faith-based employers will be able to opt out of the rule, insurance companies will be required to provide such coverage at no cost to the employer.

The Feinstein's comment put her in contrast with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who defended the administration's move yesterday. Pelosi told reporters that the move demonstrated Obama's unifying leadership abilities and an ongoing commitment to women's health.

The remark came after the 78-year-old Democrat, who is up for re-election this year, told Democrats attending the convention's Saturday luncheon that re-electing Obama must be their "first order of business" in 2012.

"We must re-elect a man who restored America's image abroad, who saved the American auto industry and who has worked tirelessly to bring this county back from an economic catastrophe he actually inherited," she said. "We have to come together like we have never come together before to re-elect Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States."

Feinstein, who is not expected to face a top-tier challenger this year, urged attendees to get involved in issues she has been championing in Washington, D.C., and California, including legislation to ban the military from detaining American citizens on U.S. soil indefinitely and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

She called 1996 federal law restricting rights for same-sex couples, which the Obama administration says it will no longer defend, "diabolical."

"It was wrong when it was introduced, it is wrong today and we must change it," she said. 

Feinstein also made a pitch for a proposed health insurance rate regulation initiative backed by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Consumer Watchdog. She urged attendees to sign the petition to help qualfify the initiative, which would give the insurance commissioner the power to block proposed increases in the cost of coverage.

"Please become part in this movement," she said, directing attendees to signature-gatherers waiting outside. "It is important and you could actually be directly affected by it." 

RELATED POSTS:

Obama compromises on contraception mandate, but reservations remain

January 25, 2012
Will GOP recruit 'prominent name' to challenge Feinstein?

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has yet to attract a top-tier opponent in her 2012 re-election bid.

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro signaled today that a high-profile GOP challenger to the 78-year-old Democrat could still emerge. He said a "number of people" have expressed interest in the race, with final decisions expected in the coming weeks.

"Right now, point blank, there isn't someone, a major name that has agreed to it," he said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

"But I think her polls show that she is vulnerable, and we are hoping to find someone who will break out of the pack," he added. "But as of yet, point blank, I'm not going to snow you, we don't have someone who has made it clear, who is head and shoulders above the rest or a very prominent name."

Santa Monica businessman Al Ramirez became the latest Republican to express interest in the race this week. Ramirez, who ran in the GOP Senate primary last year, announced yesterday that he is opening an exploratory committee and starting to raise money for a run.

Ramirez said that while he is "fairly called a long shot-challenger," he believes the new top-two primary system will help him in his effort to become the state's first Hispanic U.S. senator.

"Hispanic voters, Republicans and Independents understand faith, family and hard work," he said in a statement. "We should come together to uphold the values of freedom that make America great, but there hasn't been a voice to speak to and for each of these sides. It is a void I believe I can fill to put California back on the right track."

Other Republicans currently expected to run are Elizabeth Emken , an advocate for children with autism and 2010 congressional candidate, and Orly Taitz, an activist perhaps best known for her disproved assertions that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

January 10, 2012
Dianne Feinstein urges moving high-speed rail to CalTrans

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein this week added her voice to the chorus of those who want the California Department of Transportation to take over the state's increasingly controversial high-speed rail project.

In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown made public Tuesday, Feinstein declared that "deploying the expertise and resources of Caltrans towards this effort over the next six months" could help turn the project around.

Tellingly, Feinstein added that she has spoken about the idea with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; LaHood, the senator reported, agrees with "the importance of utilizing Caltrans' expertise."

October 18, 2011
Pipeline safety bill passes and gets another push

A pipeline safety bill inspired in part by last year's explosion of an underground line in San Bruno gets another push today, hot on the heels of Senate approval. Politically, this apparent horse-after-cart timing deserves a look.

The hearing today by a panel of the Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to help build momentum for the pipeline safety bill, backed strongly by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is the lead-off witness, in a hearing that also features the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and others.

Monday night, on the eve of the hearing, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., dropped his one-man opposition to the bill. He secured an amendment in exchange; perhaps not coincidentally, he also avoided getting a black eye today.
The bill is supposed to improve safety on the nation's 2.5 million miles of oil-and-gas pipelines. It increases penalties for violations, requires automatic shut-off valves on new pipelines and makes other changes; over five years, pipeline operators will be paying $365 million in fees.

September 23, 2011
Dianne Feinstein suing bank over Kinde Durkee scandal

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is going to court to try to recoup money she believes was lost in the hands of Kinde Durkee, the veteran Democratic campaign treasurer accused of siphoning large sums of money from the accounts of her California clients.

A lawsuit filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that First California Bank, which held the campaign bank accounts of Feinstein and other Durkee clients, "had knowledge of Durkee's scheme and knowingly provided substantial assistance."

"First California Bank intentionally ignored dozens of red flags, ignored its duties and obligations under state and federal law, and allowed Durkee to perpetrate the scheme," the complaint reads.

The suit, which also names Durkee's firm and business associates, seeks full access to bank records related to Feinstein's accounts, including transfers to other accounts held at the bank, and repayment of "all funds wrongfully transferred" within the bank.

"What we want is a full accounting from the bank of any of the accounts relative to the Feinstein committee. And we want a reimbursement for everything that was wrongfully taken," Feinstein consultant Bill Carrick said.

Feinstein's campaign fund was one of hundreds of bank accounts thought to be controlled by Durkee, who was arrested earlier this month on mail fraud charges. A criminal complaint filed against the Burbank-based treasurer alleges that she regularly transferred money between clients' accounts without their knowledge or permission and used campaign funds for personal expenses. The charges were based on allegations that she stole more than $600,000 from Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio's re-election account, though claims of wrongdoing from other clients in the wake of her arrest suggest the total involved could be much higher.

While Feinstein has said she worries her $5 million warchest has been "wiped out" ahead of next year's re-election bid, Carrick said it is not yet clear how much money has been lost.

"It is extremely hard to see all the pieces of this puzzle without having access to these bank records," he said.

A spokesman for First California Bank was not immediately available for comment.

Read the full complaint here.

RELATED POSTS:

Affidavit: FPPC alerted FBI after its own Kinde Durkee inquiry

September 21, 2011
Californians worried, but Jerry Brown does well in PPIC poll

Californians are worried about the stagnant economy and are generally sour on the direction the state is headed, but Gov. Jerry Brown gets relatively high marks for his performance to date, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

PPIC found that 41 percent of Californians and 45 percent of likely voters approve of Brown's efforts to balance the state budget and otherwise govern -- not an overwhelming endorsement but, compared to most other politicians, relatively strong.

Just a few days earlier, the Field Poll came up with similar results, a 49 percent approval rating for Brown.

"Most Californians -- regardless of political party -- say things are going in the wrong direction in the state and the nation," Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president, says in a statement accompanying release of the poll results.

"Most don't see evidence that the president's attempts to stimulate the economy have had a positive impact -- although when asked to choose, they side with him over the Republicans in Congress," Baldassare added. "And for most Californians, the impact of the state's budget problems have hit home. In every region of the state, majorities say that state budget cuts have affected their local government services a lot."

Here are other findings in the PPIC poll:

September 21, 2011
Poll: Who should run against Dianne Feinstein in 2012?

Michael Reagan has ruled out a candidacy, and Republicans are still looking for a challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year.

Feinstein has had a relatively easy time of re-election over the years (save for the 1994 barn-burner with then-Rep. Michael Huffington). But this year her poll numbers are down with those of the rest of the politicians in Washington. She says her campaign funds have taken a hit thanks to the Kinde Durkee scandal.

Could the GOP have a chance, even in this bluest of blue states? First, the party needs a candidate. Weigh in below. If your choice is not listed, post a comment.

September 21, 2011
Michael Reagan: I'm 'not crazy enough' to run for U.S. Senate

FIVE QS MICHAEL REAGAN.JPGRepublican Michael Reagan has shot down speculation that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012, saying he has no plans to jump in the race.

"I am not crazy enough to run. No I am not considering a run for Senate," Reagan wrote today in an email to The Bee.

Buzz that Reagan, the son of former California Governor and President Ronald Reagan, was weighing a bid for U.S. Senate picked up last week as California Republicans gathered for their fall convention in Los Angeles. But the GOP consultant and former radio host dismissed a report that he was mulling a bid in an interview with Fox News and subsequent message to The Bee today.

He told Fox News that he isn't interested in the toll that running for office would take on his family, adding that he is content with his current career path of public speaking and consulting.

While support for re-electing Feinstein has fallen in recent polls, a serious GOP challenger has yet to emerge.

RELATED STORIES:
Poll: Voters not inclined to re-elect Feinstein
California 'birther' leader Orly Taitz considering U.S. Senate bid

PHOTO CREDIT: Radio talk show host Mike Reagan, son of former United States President Ronald Reagan, talks on the air at his radio station studio Tuesday, Dec. 1, 1998, in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

June 21, 2011
AM Alert: Feinstein falling

Chalk it up to the economy, anti-incumbent sentiment or simply wearing out her welcome, but U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is drawing record-low support in a new Field Poll.

Her backing for re-election is the lowest it's been since she was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

Whether that means she'll face much of a reelection fight is another question. Find David Siders' story here.

You can see Capitol Alert's exclusive tabulations for the poll here.

Presidential fundraising is beginning in earnest, with GOP candidate Mitt Romney on a California money-collection tour. He'll stop in Sacramento for an event at the Sheraton today.

REDISTRICTING - How should prison inmates be accounted for in drawing legislative and congressional district lines? Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, wants to make sure they are apportioned based on each inmate's last-known California residence.

The hearing on AB 420 is set for 1 p.m. in Senate room 3191, with a 3 p.m. press conference following in room 125.

BREAST CANCER - Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, holds a 10 a.m. press conference to discuss SB 173, a measure that requires providing more information following a mammogram to those with dense breast tissue. He'll be joined in room 112 by Nancy Cappello, a breast cancer survivor who founded "ARE YOU DENSE?"

PARKS - The rally of the day is sponsored by the California State Parks Foundation at 10 a.m. on the north steps side of the Capitol. The group also plans exhibits beginning at 8:30 a.m., including information on each of the 70 state parks under the budget gun.

April 30, 2011
Feinstein rails against GOP, Tea Party at Democratic convention

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein took the stage at the at the state Democratic Party convention today to rally the base with a stinging rebuke of Republicans in the U.S. House.

"In the five months since Republicans have taken control of the House they have tried to systematically disassemble the American dream," she said.

Feinstein praised fellow Democrats and President Barack Obama for standing up to GOP demands to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, but called the budget proposal for next year introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the "next act in the assault on women, seniors and working people"

She cast the fundamental challenge of the country the conservative Tea Party movement's "singular mission to cut government so it cannot serve our people."

"In reality, the Tea Party has no plans for job creation and economic recovery. What they have is a radical, ideological agenda to dismantle the social and economic safety net of our country," she said.

Feinstein called for a stronger, more comprehensive national policy on nuclear power, saying being vigilant about safety and establishing a protocol for storing nuclear waste over the long term are top priorities.

"There are great lessons to be learned from Japan and we have some problems and some issues that need to be sorted out," she said.

She also applauded the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy and pledged to fight to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But she warned that a victory for the gay-rights community is "not going to happen tomorrow or next month."

"We must right this wrong and it is going to be another long march," she said.

The 77-year-old Democrat called on delegates to come together to re-elect Obama and win the House and Senate in 2012, but was notably mum on her own re-election bid.

A serious GOP challenger has yet to emerge but the four-term senator, who won her last re-election bid by with nearly 60 percent of the vote, reported having more than $4.3 million cash on hand as of her late March federal campaign filing.

She declined questions on her impending campaign after the speech except to say it is her plan is to run again in 2012.

March 16, 2011
Feinstein, Boxer want safety review of California nuke plants

As Japan struggles with nuclear reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, California's two U.S. senators called on federal regulators today to make sure the state's two commercial nuclear power plants are safe.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer pointed out that about 7.4 million people live within 50 miles of the San Onofre plant in San Diego County and about 424,000 live within 50 miles of the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo.

As the Bee's editorial board also pointed out today, the two plants sit near faults and a 2008 study cited newly discovered and larger seismic threats.

In their joint letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the two senators said they want to know if the agency "will address all of the threats, including seismic threats, described in the 2008 report at these facilities." They asked the commission to "perform a thorough inspection at these two plants to evaluate their safety and emergency preparedness plans."

They list a series of questions on plant design and operations; type of reactor; and preparedness to withstand an earthquake or tsunami and other potential threats.

The two senators are likely to get rather prompt responses. Boxer is chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the NRC. And Feinstein is chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NRC's budget.

But Boxer was not satisfied by the testimony before her committee today by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko.

She said on MSNBC that she wants greater reassurances about the two California plants, as well as older reactors across the United States.

"We need to look at plants like ours," she told Lawrence O'Donnell.

March 12, 2011
Meg Whitman rules out 2012 Senate bid

Don't expect to see Republican Meg Whitman on the 2012 ballot.

The former eBay chief executive, who poured $144 million of her own cash into her failed gubernatorial bid, told the Wall Street Journal that she is "definitely not" planning to run against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in next year's election.

The Wall Street Journal Reports:

"I want to stay involved in public policy," Ms. Whitman said in an interview Friday evening. "Now I see things in a way that I had not prior to running for public office, she said.

Ms. Whitman, who was CEO of the online-auction company for a decade until 2008, said that she likely will campaign for Republican Mitt Romney in the next presidential race. She also said she will continue to serve on the boards of several organizations, including the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, which hosted a conference Friday where she moderated a panel discussion on the nation's long-term fiscal outlook.

Read the full post here.

January 4, 2011
Feinstein to undergo knee surgery

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday she will be undergoing knee surgery. The 77-year-old senator said in a prepared statement that she would have the operation Wednesday.

"For some time now, I have needed knee-replacement surgery, which is scheduled for tomorrow in San Francisco," the statement said. "While I recover, I will not be able to travel for about three weeks. During that time, I will work from home and keep close tabs on issues of importance to California and the nation."

Feinstein chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

August 13, 2010
Feinstein's battle against Bisphenol A headed for Senate floor

Senate negotiators are ready to move ahead with a food-safety bill that doesn't include one of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's top priorities.

As a result, the California Democrat says she'll offer an amendment to the bill when the Senate takes up the issue after its summer recess next month.

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Feinstein wants the food-safety bill to ban the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles, sippy cups, baby food and infant formula.

Feinstein says the chemical is toxic but is used in many consumer products, including water bottles and baby bottles, and it is also used to line the inside of metal food and beverage containers.

"I believe that we need legislation to protect consumers, especially babies and toddlers, from harmful chemicals," Feinstein said in a statement. "Because of their smaller size and stage of development, babies and children are particularly at risk from the harmful health effects of BPA."

Feinstein said the food-safety bill was "the logical place for this legislation." She said she had worked hard to reach a compromise, to no avail. As a result, she said, she's ready to push for her amendment.

PHOTO CREDIT: U.S Senator Diane Feinstein,talks to the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce at the Sacramento Convention Center. Brian Baer, Tuesday Aug. 12, 2008.

April 17, 2010
Barbara Boxer: We have to match Tea Party enthusiasm

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer acknowledged this morning that she will face a tough re-election battle and called on her fellow Democrats to match the enthusiasm she saw in Tea Party activists.

Boxer was speaking before hitting the stage at the California Democratic Party convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

She said she's long been a target of conservatives but said she has been surprised by some of the rhetoric that she's seen from her GOP counterparts in Congress.

"Some people take those words, and it might move them to do things that are dangerous to society," Boxer said. "I'm just going to do what I've always done. ... I'm not afraid of this fearmongering."

Boxer then fired an opening salvo in the brewing battle to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

"Some of my (Republican) colleagues said they're going to filibuster a Supreme Court justice even before they know who it is," Boxer said. "I would say that's just wrong on its face."

Important to winning this year, Democrats have to match the energy of Tea Party activists, who rallied across the nation Thursday, the three-term senator said.

"At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party," Boxer said, "and I think it is absolutely a fact that we have to match that enthusiasm."

April 16, 2010
Feinstein to chair Boxer's re-election campaign

DianneFeinstein1.jpgDemocratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is stepping up her role in supporting Senate colleague Barbara Boxer's re-election bid.

Feinstein, who is up for re-election in 2012, will chair Boxer's campaign.

A release announcing the leadership role plays up the collaboration between the two Democrats.

"Senator Boxer and I make a great team for California," Feinstein said in a statement. "That's why I'm so proud to chair Senator Boxer's campaign. Barbara is a proven and effective leader for California, and our strong partnership is essential in creating jobs and turning our economy around."

"We've built a strong working partnership, and I want to make sure we continue working side by side as an effective team for California," Boxer added.

Boxer is gearing up for a tough re-election fight, with polls showing all three GOP Senate hopefuls in a close race with the three-term senator.

April 8, 2010
Group lists Feinstein, Boxer as immigration-reform supporters

California's two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, are rated as "supports immigration reform" in a new scorecard of the Senate's 100 members by a pro-reform group called "Immigrants' List."

The scorecard, based on senators' votes and public statements, lists 34 as supporting reform, 25 opposed and 41 -- fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans -- somewhere in the middle.

The same organization did a scorecard on House members recently, showing a sharp partisan split in California's delegation.

The full list can be found here.

October 8, 2009
AM Alert: Gov2010 matchups

A new Field Poll released today looks ahead at the field of gubernatorial hopefuls.

The poll put Attorney General Jerry Brown 20 points ahead of Democratic rival Gavin Newsom among Democratic primary voters.

Brown, of course, hasn't officially declared his candidacy but recently opened an exploratory committee to raise money for the race.

The poll indicates that Brown's support is stronger in the south state, with a much tighter five-point lead in Northern California.

The 42-year-old San Francisco mayor holds an edge over 71-year-old Brown with a nine-point lead among voters ages 18 to 39.

The poll also picks up on a potential race changer. If U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein threw her hat in the ring, she would lead both Brown and Newsom, with 40 percent of the Democratic primary voters polled throwing their support behind her.

On the GOP side, Meg Whitman leads the pack of Republican hopefuls, with 22 percent of GOP primary voters backing her bid. Former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell came in a close second with 20 percent. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner trailed with 9 percent.

And almost half of GOP primary voters -- 49 percent -- say they're still undecided.

Looking ahead to next November: Brown leads all the Republican contenders by margins of 21 to 25 points, while Newsom holds a single-digit lead over his GOP foes.

Pollsters interviewed 1,005 registered voters in California by telephone between Sept. 18 and Oct. 5.

Want more on the poll and what it means? Colleague Jack Chang has the scoop in today's Bee. Click here to see the poll and tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

On tap today: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are set to meet at 11:30 to try to hammer out the details of a water deal. The clock is ticking with just four full days for Schwarzenegger to act on more than 700 bills that have been sent to his desk. Lawmakers say he is holding out on signing or vetoing the measures until a water accord is reached.

Today's negotiations will be "Big Five" plus one, at least.

The office of Assemblywoman Anna Caballero said last night that Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has asked the Salinas Democrat to join the talks.

The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee kicks off a two-day series of hearings on Commission on the 21st Century Economy's proposals for overhauling the state's tax system.

The committee, which meets at 10 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol, will hear from Commission Chair Gerald Parsky, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, Department of Finance Research Chief Phil Spilberg and a slew of other commission members and tax experts.

Representatives from the California Chamber of Commerce, California Budget Project and the California Tax Reform Association will also give their takes on the plan. You can see the agenda and a list of people scheduled to testify here. Click here to see the agenda for Friday's hearing.

October 1, 2009
Feinstein: California prisons could hold Guantanamo detainees

From Rob Hotakainen in Washington

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, says she still wants the Guantanamo prison closed and that she won't be worried if some of the detainees end up in California.

Many members of Congress are balking at the idea of having prisoners transferred to their states. But last weekend, appearing on Fox News Sunday, Feinstein said that "there are maximum security prisons from which no one escapes in the United States, which are isolated from neighborhoods."

Chris Wallace, the show's host, asked Feinstein: "So you'll be OK with having some of these detainees in California?"

"Yes, in a maximum security prison," replied the senator. "I don't worry about it, provided the prison is set up to accommodate it, and I believe we have facilities that are."

Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond, appearing on the same show, said he disagreed with Feinstein and that Guantanamo "is the best place to hold these hardened criminals."

"I wouldn't mind seeing them at Alcatraz," said Bond. "But my California friends have a minimum amount of high enthusiasm for that."

September 3, 2009
Schwarzenegger responds to Feinstein on furloughs

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this week that he will continue furloughing 1,415 Department of Social Services employees who review Social Security disability applications.

Feinstein asked the governor last week to stop furloughing those workers because she said their absences could cause processing slowdowns and delay $15 million in payments to 53,000 Californians. She said furloughing those workers would provide no budgetary savings because the federal government pays for their salaries.

But Schwarzenegger said in a letter that the furloughs should have minimal impact on disability payments because workers are able to bank their furlough days and use them in lieu of vacation through June 2012. He appeared to acknowledge some slowdown, saying that "processing time remains within one day of its pre-furlough length." However, he asserted that California's processing time is below the national average.

June 25, 2009
AM Alert: Darrell draws the line

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg convenes a 9 a.m. floor session today, vowing to "work every day" to pass a budget by July 1. Steinberg insists he won't bend on protecting in-home care for the elderly, college assistance for young adults and health care for children. And he is hoping he won't look like a pretzel once the deal is done.

Check out the video of his presser after Wednesday's wranglings to find out more on what's next to come in the "serious business" of sorting out California's fiscal mess.

Speaking of health care, the Health Care for America coalition will be holding rallies today outside offices of U.S. Dianne Feinstein in San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego and Los Angeles to demand more strident support from the California senator for President Barack Obama's universal health care efforts.

The coalition includes Health Access California, the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Associations of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the California Partnership and the Children's Defense Fund.

While the budget and health care may dominate the day's attention, the Little Hoover Commission will hold a 9 a.m. hearing in Capitol Room 437 on management and governance of California's water supply.

Maybe it's just a reminder that all those clouds - ominous or otherwise - around the state house these days couldn't exist without water. Hot air alone is not enough.



April 25, 2009
Boxer, Feinstein developing joint positions on ballot measures

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said today that she and fellow Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein are developing joint positions on the May 19 ballot measures.

The six measures -- placed on the ballot to implement a state budget deal cut by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders in the Legislature -- have divided both political parties. Proposition 1A in particular, extends tax increases decried by Republicans and creates long-term spending restrictions upsetting to Democrats and their core constituency, organized labor.

Sen. Feinstein and I decided we were going to work together on this, and we will have a statement coming on this.," Boxer said at a news conference after he speech at the California Democratic party's annual convention. "You may have noticed we've been a little hectic and very involved in our work in Washington. so we don't know the ramifications yet of all these different propositions -- what it does to education, what it does to mental health, what it does for the future of our state."

Boxer said the choices are "very tough."

"We know this was a grand compromise," Boxer said. "I'm glad that the Legislature got a to point where they at least put something together. But before I tell you how I'm recommending people vote I want to know what I'm talking about."

April 21, 2009
Feinstein and her husband's firm scrutinized

A second California Democrat (the first was Rep. Jane Harman) is the subject of a Washington report questioning recent activities this week.

Today's Washington Times reports on Sen. Dianne Feinstein:

On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband's real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.


Mrs. Feinstein's intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn't a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments -- not direct federal dollars.

Documents reviewed by The Washington Times show Mrs. Feinstein first offered Oct. 30 to help the FDIC secure money for its effort to stem the rise of home foreclosures. Her letter was sent just days before the agency determined that CB Richard Ellis Group (CBRE) -- the commercial real estate firm that her husband Richard Blum heads as board chairman -- had won the competitive bidding for a contract to sell foreclosed properties that FDIC had inherited from failed banks.

Feinstein's office has since released a statement responding to the story. It reads, "There is no evidence of any conflict of interest -- or any connection -- between the Senator's foreclosure relief bill and CB Richard Ellis winning a competitively bid contract, which was awarded -- unbeknownst to her -- by non-political career staff."

Political impact: Calbuzz calls the story an example of one more reason why Feinstein won't be running for governor.

Should Feinstein choose to abandon the comforts of Georgetown for the rigors of the California campaign trail and run for governor next year, this and every other of the myriad deals Blum has consummated while she's held high office ... will immediately become fodder for every mad dog opposition researcher, investigative gunslinger, skeptical political writer and tin-foil-hat blogger in the state.
March 5, 2009
AM Alert: Feinstein, Whitman atop early 2010 poll

MegWhitmanClose.jpgSen. Dianne Feinstein, should she run for governor in 2010, would be sitting pretty, with a 22-point lead in the latest Field Poll.

On the Republican side, Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, has the early lead with 21 percent support, with 54 percent undecided.

Those numbers are for the hypothetical match-ups 460 days from now. Capitol Alert has the exclusive statistical tabulations.

The GOP primary:

Whitman: 21 percent
Campbell: 18 percent
Poizner: 7 percent
Undecided: 54 percent

The Dem primary:

Feinstein: 38 percent
Brown: 16 percent
Villaraigosa: 16 percent
Newsom: 10 percent
Garamendi: 4 percent

Former Controller Steve Westly, schools chief Jack O'Connell and Treasurer Bill Lockyer weigh in at 2 percent or less.

Without DiFi:

Brown: 26 percent
Villaraigosa: 22 percent
Newsom: 16 percent
Garamendi: 8 percent

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who just won reelection on Tuesday, outpolls Attorney General Jerry Brown in Southern California, 29 percent to 22 percent.

IN COURT: Today the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the effort to overturn Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban. A decision will come within 90 days.

Brown, who opposes the measure, promises to provide "periodic comments" on the court hearing on Twitter. Seriously.

The hearing will be streamed live on www.calchannel.com.

EVENT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and other Senate Democrats will hold a press conference to discuss "ways to link education to emerging economies and a high wage workforce."

PHOTO: Meg Whitman speaks to reporters during the California Republican Party's spring convention in Sacramento on Feb. 21. Credit: Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee/ hamezcua@sacbee.com

February 17, 2009
Caption Contest: We have a winner!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for FeinsteinPanetta.jpgYes, it's been a while, but we finally have a caption contest winner.

Michael Genest, yes that Michael Genest, is the winner of our latest caption contest, and not just because we think he deserves some free coffee after more than a year navigating California's worst-ever budget mess.

Congratulations to Mike, who will receive a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Here's his take on the grip-and-grin between Sen. Dianne Feinstein and new CIA Director Leon Panetta at the latter's Senate confirmation hearing.

"As long as you'll be working on Intelligence, can you do something for Senator Boxer's?"

You'll recall that Feinstein was the first to throw cold water on Panetta's nomination after President Barack Obama tapped the former California congressman for the post.

"I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I've read," said Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time."

She later backed away from her position and supported Panetta.

More than 200 Capitol Alert readers submitted entries. Here's the rest of the highlights:

February 6, 2009
Caption contest: Feinstein and Panetta's grip-and-grin

FeinsteinPanetta.jpgWhat exactly was going through the minds of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and CIA director nominee Leon Panetta and as they shook hands this week at his confirmation hearing?

We want you to write a funny caption for the photo.

Feinstein, you might remember, was the first to throw cold water on Panetta's nomination after President Barack Obama tapped the former California congressman for the post.

"I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I've read," said Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in a statement. "My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time."

She has since backed away from that and is supporting Panetta.

Are they talking about that? Or perhaps Feinstein's would-be bid for governor?

After all, Panetta, before getting the Obama nomination, had been running the California Forward nonprofit, dedicated to improving the state's governance.

And what's with the seeming death grip of a handshake?

For those of you new to Capitol Alert's caption contest, the process is pretty simple:

1. Look at the picture.
2. Pick a caption.
3. E-mail it to us.

When sending in submissions feel free to request anonymity. However, only those willing to have their real names published can win the grand prize: a $25 gift card to Starbucks.

Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 9. Send submissions to captions@capitolalert.com.

What else are you going to do on Furlough Friday, as you wait for budget news to break?

Photo: Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., left, greets Central Intelligence Agency Director nominee Leon Panetta, right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009, as the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., center, looks on at center, prior to the start of Panetta's nomination hearing before the committee. Credit: AP Photo/ Susan Walsh

February 6, 2009
Poll: Feinstein tops Dem field; GOP race tight in 2010

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein now holds a 22-point lead over her closest competitor in the Democratic primary, should she run for governor next year, according to the first Capitol Weekly/Probolksy Research poll.

Of course, Feinstein has been pretty skittish about what exactly her plans are.

The poll's breadown:

Sen, Dianne Feinstein: 36 percent
Attorney General Jerry Brown: 14
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom: 9
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: 9
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi: 4
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell: 3
Ex-Controller Steve Westly: 1
Unsure: 22 percent

The poll reports a margin of error of 3.7 percent.

On the GOP side, former Rep. Tom Campbell narrowly tops a field of largely unknown candidates with 15 percent support. Next up is former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, with 14 percent. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who counts the majority of a supermajority of GOP legislators, polls only 4 percent. Another undeclared would-be candidate, Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, clocked in at 1 percent.

Take those results with a grain of salt, the pollster told Capitol Weekly:

Pollster Adam Probolsky cautioned against reading too much into the results, particularly on the Republican side. Probolsky noted that the survey used identifiers for the candidates that could not be used on an actual ballot. In the survey, Whitman was identified as a former eBay CEO, but she would not be allowed to use the name of the company on the ballot, according to state election rules.

"What we really see in this survey is that the eBay brand trumps the insurance brand," said Probolsky.

The big winner in the GOP primary race was "unsure" -- at a whopping 62 percent.

February 3, 2009
Video: Feinstein flirts -- again -- with governor run

Sen. Dianne Feinstein appeared on MSNBC's Hardball program last night with Chris Matthews.

At the end of the interview, Matthews broached the subject of the 2010 governor's race.

"I have to ask you the question," Matthews said. "Are you thinking about running for governor of California?"

Her answer:

Feinstein: Well, as you know and I've said this, I take my new duty as chairman of the (Intelligence) Committee seriously. I want to see how it goes. You know, I'm one of those people that never says never. That's just about the situation. It would be hard for me to do, no question, because I've got a 16-year commitment here.


On the other hand, I am really concerned about the state. You know, we're now furloughing employees. We stopped all capital improvement projects. The state has a $42 billion deficit. There's a structural deficit now built in. And I think whoever runs for the post of governor had better do so with a plan so that, if elected, that plan becomes their mandate to carry out.

Matthews followed up: "When will you decide, you think?"

"Oh, later this year," Feinstein said, before adding, "most likely."

The question about the governor's race comes at about the 8-minute mark in the following clip:

January 30, 2009
Brown sits atop Democratic money primary

JerryBrownSchwarz.jpgThe 2010 primary election for governor is nearly 500 days from now. But the race for campaign dollars is well under way.

Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Friday that he raised $3.4 million in 2008 in advance of an expected bid for governor in 2010. That sum leaves Brown, a Democrat, perched above his two declared Democratic rivals, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who each reported raising on the order of $1.1 million last year.

Brown's haul, combined with leftover cash from his 2006 election, leaves him with $4.1 million cash-on-hand, a total that dwarfs the roughly $750,000 available to Garamendi and the $540,000 available to Newsom at year's end.

Why does the campaign cash matter? Because in a state the size of California, money pays for the political mailers and TV ads that are crucial to swaying large blocs of voters.

A healthy campaign treasury hardly guarantees victory (see Al Checchi, Steve Westly, and Bill Simon), but a lack of funds can often spell defeat.

The spin from all sides on the initial round of numbers has been fast and furious.

Newsom's campaign, which released its report earlier this month, touts that the mayor raised $1.179 million in only six months -- half the time Garamendi and Brown spent coaxing contributors.

Brown hasn't publicly said he is running for governor, but his behind-the-scenes jockeying has left little doubt among political observers.

Brown's campaign touts its low "burn rate" - the ratio of spending the money it raised.
The Brown operation has been largely a two-person show, the attorney general and his wife, Anne Gust. As such, Brown spent only a $172,000 in 2008, less than one-third of what Newsom or Garamendi spent.

January 30, 2009
O'Connell, short on funds, still eyeing governorship

JackOConnell.jpgState Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell wants to be governor. But the Democratic officeholder says he's struggling to put together the money to make a credible run to be California's next chief executive.

"We're trying to put it together for governor, but it's just regrettable that it's so costly and so expensive and I'm not a multimillionaire," said O'Connell in a brief interview this week. "That makes it very challenging."

O'Connell, 57, has continuously held state elective office in California since 1982, when he joined the state Assembly. He later served as a state senator and will finish his second term as state schools chief in 2010.

Asked if financing the campaign is what's standing in his way of a run for governor next year, O'Connell replied, "You got it."

Though he has won twice statewide, O'Connell does not boast a statewide profile like that of potential Democratic candidates Jerry Brown, the attorney general and former governor, or Dianne Feinstein, California's senior U.S. senator.

Nor does he have the political sizzle of the younger San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom or Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

In a mid-2008 poll, he pulled in 9 percent support along with Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, another declared Democratic candidate for governor.

Running for governor in California is an expensive proposition. Ex-state Controller Steve Westly, for instance, spent more than $40 million running for governor in 2006 -- and he lost the Democratic primary.

As of last June, O'Connell had some $830,000 left over from his 2006 reelection campaign that he could transfer to run for governor in 2010.

November 3, 2008
Members of the class of 2010 stake out their positions (or not)

GavinNewsomNoon8.jpgCorrection: The original version of this story said that state Treasurer Bill Lockyer had declined to take a position on the three law-and-order ballot measures on the Nov. 4 ballot. That is not true. He was opposed to Proposition 5, as we reported here.

In Capitol Alert's survey of potential 2010 candidates for governor, several interesting facts emerged.

Among them:

The state's former top cop has declined to take a position on two of the three law-and-order measures on the ballot. The closer a candidate is to being a frontrunner the less likely he or she was to take a stand on anything. And not much separates the Democrats who participated - they largely agreed on the issues.

November 3, 2008
Where the 2010 candidates stand

Thumbnail image for StevePoizner2.jpgCapitol Alert set out to get all the potential candidates for governor of California in 2010 to declare their positions on the 2008 statewide ballot measures..

Not surprisingly, some politicians were more accommodating than others.

All told, we surveyed eleven political figures whose names are floating as potential 2010 candidates (three Republicans and eight Democrats).

They range from Lt. John Garamendi, who has already announced his candidacy, to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who still faces reelection and has said he does not want to run.

Thumbnail image for JohnGaramendi.jpgFour of our list of candidates chose not to participate: Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, Attorney General Jerry Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The positions we report below are the stands they had previously taken publicly.

Read our analysis of some of the most interesting findings among the would-be governors' positions.

October 31, 2008
AM Alert: Polling on the props

BUSH_OHIO.jpgCORRECTED The Field Poll handed out good news for some ballot measure enthusiasts with today's assessment before Tuesday's election.

Support for Proposition 2, which would give egg-laying chickens a little more room to spread their wings, is favored by three-fifths of likely voters, including 55 percent of those who have already cast ballots. About a quarter are opposed, with 13 percent undecided.

Support is flagging for Arizona billionaire Peter Sperling's Proposition 7 to double the requirement for electricity generators to use renewable energy, with 43 percent opposed and 39 percent in support.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's effort to revamp the way legislative districts are drawn, Proposition 11, is ahead 45 percent to 30 percent. But a quarter of likely voters remain undecided.

The battle over the ballot's centerpiece issue -- Proposition 8 -- remains tight.

Yes: 44 percent
No: 49 percent

That has moved from supporters of a gay marriage ban in the state Constitution with 38 percent support in September, with opposition dropping from 55 percent. Seven percent remain undecided.

Check out all the details of the poll and Capitol Alert's exclusive statistical tabulations here.

It's the home stretch of election season as campaigns have one last weekend to get out the vote.

Schwarzenegger, who has kept up a busy California campaign scheduled, heads to Ohio today.

Four years ago, Schwarzenegger made a big appearance there days before the last presidential election with President Bush. He repeats himself today with a rally in Columbus with Sen. John McCain.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is out there stumping for his fellow Democrats -- and building up chits for his own run for governor.

He begins the day at an event with long-shot Assembly candidate Linda Jones in AD 36. Then, he's off to see former Democratic Assemblywoman Julie Bornstein, who is trying to unseat GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack.

He'll head south to AD 80, where he'll give a speech backing Democrat Manuel Perez to a group, followed up with some precinct walking.

And that's just Friday alone.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass is in Los Angeles today for a fundraiser with incoming Sen. Carole Liu.

In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be talking about high-speed rail.

On Saturday, tens of thousands are expected to attend Qualcomm Stadium for The Call, a religious event featuring "12 hours of prayer and worship." Much of that energy is expected to oppose support Proposition 8.

*The original version of this post said The Call's energy would oppose, not support Proposition 8. Apparently, we fell victim to the same mistake as Willie Brown.

Speaking of Qualcomm, the man who plays there on Sunday, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, has donated $10,000 to the Yes on Proposition 4 campaign.

Photo: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bush greet a crowd of supporters during a campaign rally at Nationwide Arena Friday Oct. 29, 2004 in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: AP Photo/ Jay LaPrete

October 29, 2008
Yes on 5 ad blasts guards as 'overjoyed' about crowded prisons

SanQuentinprisoner.jpgA new ad for Proposition 5, the nonviolent offender rehabilitation measure, attacks California's prison guards' union for opposing the measure, saying the correctional officers are "overjoyed" with filled prisons "because overcrowding means they're overpaid."

"Our prisons are overcrowded and prison guards are overjoyed," the ad says. "Why? Because overcrowding means they're overpaid -- taking overtime pay right out of your pocket."

Watch the hard-hitting ad Yes on 5 ad here.

So far the California Correctional Peace Officers Association has donated $1 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 5 and independently spent another $825,000 to oppose the measure, according to campaign filings.

Proposition 5 would loosen penalties and expand rehabilitation programs for nonviolent drug offenders in California. That would have increased upfront costs, with the potential for long-time cost savings.

The No on 5 campaign went on the air earlier this week with an ad featuring Sen. Dianne Feinstein calling the measure "the drug dealers' bill of rights."

"Say no to drug dealers. Vote no on Propostiion 5," Feinstein says in the ad.

Photo: Inside the walls of San Quentin Prison, Wednesday May 14, 2008. Credit: Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer.

October 29, 2008
Lockyer, Feinstein oppose lottery bond plans

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said he would join Sen Dianne Feinstein in opposing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's lottery proposal, which still must be approved by voters.

So says Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, at Fox and Hounds Daily.

Borrowing against future lottery earnings is expected to plug a $5 billion hole in next year's budget, but passage of the plan is far from a sure thing.

October 28, 2008
Feinstein calls Prop. 8 'terrible mistake' in new TV spot

One of California's most popular politicians, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, speaks directly into the camera in a new TV ad urging voters to oppose the ban on gay marriage.

"In my lifetime, I've seen discrimination and I see it again in Proposition 8," Feinstein says at the start of the ad.

Feinstein goes on to say the measure is "about discrimination and "treats people differently under the law."

This is the second statewide TV ad featuring Feinstein this week.

October 7, 2008
Schwarzenegger's crystal ball

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks Sen. Dianne Feinstein will run for governor if John McCain wins the presidency. But if Feinstein stays in Washington, Schwarzenegger said Attorney General Jerry Brown "has the best shot of becoming governor of the great state."

The Republican governor played prognosticator for the 2010 gubernatorial elections during a question-and-answer session at the American Magazine Conference in San Francisco. He was asked whom he thought would win the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010, and he didn't once mention San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom even though he was in Newsom's city.

Though Schwarzenegger was asked whom he thought would win the Democratic nomination for governor, it seemed for a moment that he answered whom he thought would win the entire race. And the fact that he said Brown, a Democrat, was a shock considering that he's a Republican governor, albeit not as great a shock as it would have been if he weren't a self-declared "post-partisan" governor.

The governor's office disputes whether he actually said he thought Brown was best positioned to become governor and insists he was only answering the question about the Democratic nominee.

But Schwarzenegger did flat out say "Jerry Brown I think has the best shot of becoming governor of the great state." He then mentioned Republican Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the next breath, which suggests that he was handicapping the overall race, not just the Democratic contest.

Here's the full transcript of what Schwarzenegger said:

Q: Who will be the Democratic nominee for governor when your term is up?

A: You know I think the best potential ... it depends on if Dianne Feinstein comes into the race or not. I think that depends also on who will win the presidency. Because if McCain wins the presidency, I think she most likely will leave Washington and come and run for governor. I think that if Obama wins the presidency, she will want to be part of that move and want to stay because of that change, want to stay in Washington. And then Jerry Brown I think has the best shot of becoming governor of the great state. And Steve Poizner has also a good shot, who is a Republican and making his way up right now. So you know, to me, I think Jerry Brown because he has been governor twice before in California and has worked his way back up again from being mayor of Oakland to becoming the attorney general right now. And he can kind of reach the Republicans and Democrats and bring people together, so I think he has the best shot.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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