Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 6, 2014
'Amtrak Joe' Biden tours Sacramento-built locomotive

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Vice President Joe Biden, who famously commuted from Delaware to the U.S. Senate by train for many years, got behind the controls of Amtrak's newest electric locomotive Thursday.

Biden and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx were given a tour of Amtrak's ACS-64 "Cities Sprinter" locomotive at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. The red, blue and silver locomotive is one of 70 built for Amtrak by Siemens in South Sacramento.

"I'm ready to roll," Biden said when he sat in the engineer's seat, according to a White House pool report, although he didn't actually take the locomotive for a spin.

The locomotives were financed by a nearly $600 million loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. The Siemens plant in California employs about 800 workers and builds passenger locomotives and equipment for transit systems.

Biden and Foxx went to Philadelphia to mark the locomotive's debut on the Northeast Corridor and talk about the need for infrastructure investment.

PHOTO: Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an unveiling of Amtrak Siemens ACS-64 Cities Sprinter electric locomotive in Philadelphia on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Associated Press/Michael Perez

January 29, 2014
Poll finds Californians not thrilled with Obama, health care law

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As the federal health care overhaul continues to divide Californians, President Barack Obama's approval here plunged to a record low, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The president's job approval dropped to 46 percent among likely voters while state residents gave a collective shrug to the Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement. Some 46 percent view the law unfavorably, 44 percent favorably.

Still, a large majority of residents say they plan to comply with the law, which requires nearly everyone to obtain insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Among the uninsured, 72 percent say they plan to acquire health insurance this year, 18 percent indicate they will not, and 9 percent remain unsure. Among those covered, 6 percent obtained it on their own, with the remainder receiving it from another source, such as their employer.

Despite California's comparatively smooth roll-out, fewer than half of the state's adult residents believe their online marketplace is working well, with the uninsured more likely to say it's not working (50 percent) than those with health care coverage (36 percent).

Covered California has struggled to attract certain demographics, namely young people and Latinos. Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans (62 percent) were more likely than Latinos (52 percent), Asians (45 percent) and whites (39 percent) to say the program is working well.

The health care act is expected to play prominently in the midterm elections, where Republicans are harnessing disapproval for the law to retain their House majority and possibly regain control of the U.S. Senate.

While slightly more than half of the state's adults approve of their own congressional representative, likely voters are more divided: 48 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer draw the approval of 49 percent and 48 percent of likely voters, respectively.

Californians' faith in a year of action described by Obama in his State of the Union Address Tuesday appears low. Roughly 60 percent believe Obama and Congress will not be unable to work together to accomplish a lot. At the time of Obama's inauguration, more than 80 percent believed there would be successful collaboration between the executive and legislative branches.

The survey, conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation, is based on interviews with 1,706 adult residents from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21. The margin of error is 3.8 percent to 4.6 percent in either direction.

November 25, 2013
Barack Obama presses for immigration changes

obamaapseattle.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - President Barack Obama pressed House Republicans to make changes to the nation's immigration laws Monday, seeking to refocus attention away from a federal healthcare overhaul whose bungled rollout has damaged him politically.

"It's long past time to fix our broken immigration system," Obama said to applause at the Betty Ong Recreation Center in San Francisco.

Obama's speech was interrupted by the shouting of a man on the riser behind him who called for Obama, by administrative action, to "stop deportation now." Obama engaged in an exchange with the man, saying America is a "nation of laws."

Obama arrived in California with his public approval rating at a record low, standing to benefit from any shift in attention away from thel healthcare overhaul. In addition to his remarks on immigration, Obama is expected to address the economy at an event Tuesday in Southern California.

The two policy speeches were folded into a West Coast fundraising swing ahead of next year's midterm elections, with fundraisers in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles for the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The prospect of significant federal action on immigration is in doubt. The U.S. Senate approved legislation earlier this year that would pay for increased border security and create a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But the measure is stalled in the House, with many Republicans resistant.

Obama briefly mentioned healthcare, saying "states like California are proving the law works." Nearly 80,000 customers enrolled in the state exchange from its launch Oct. 1 through Nov. 19..

PHOTO: President Barack Obama departs Seattle under foggy skies on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, heading for San Francisco. Associated Press/Elaine Thompson

November 21, 2013
Obama to push for immigration changes in San Francisco speech

Thumbnail image for Obama.jpgPresident Barack Obama will continue to press his case for immigration law changes in a speech Monday in San Francisco, a White House official said.

Obama, who is visiting the Bay Area for a fundraiser, will visit the Betty Ong Recreation Center to "deliver remarks on the importance of taking action to pass commonsense immigration reform," the White House said.

It provided no other details about the visit.

Obama is pushing ahead on immigration despite resistance in the House and the distraction of his bungled rollout of the federal healthcare overhaul.

The U.S. Senate in June approved legislation that would pay for increased border security and create a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The measure is stalled in the House, with many Republicans resistant.

Obama, speaking in Washington on Tuesday, said he is "actually optimistic that we're going to get this done."

Obama will be in San Francisco for a previously announced fundraiser at the SFJazz Center. The Bay Area has been a lucrative fundraising location for the president, and he is likely to find the state receptive to his immigration views.

In recent years Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature have enacted laws allowing undocumented immigrant college students to receive public financial aid and granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, among other measures.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama waves to the media as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after returning on Marine One from Camp David, Md., where he spent his birthday Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin.

August 5, 2013
President Obama headed to California for Leno appearance

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For a president sometimes faulted for his frosty relation with the media, Barack Obama has a decent - and growing - track record with talk show hosts.

The president will make his latest foray into late-night TV land when he arrives in Burbank on Tuesday to tape a spot on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The interview will air on Tuesday night's show.

In his advanced-hours television time thus far, the president has shown a certain affinity for Leno. He has appeared on the show five times already, three while serving as president.

David Letterman, by contrast, has hosted the president seven times, including two while Obama was the nation's chief executive. Jimmy Fallon has traded quips with the president once, during which Obama hoisted a microphone to "slow-jam the news." Jimmy Kimmel got then-candidate Obama via satellite back in 2008.

Flame-headed fan favorite Conan O'Brien has not had the pleasure since taking over at TBS, although he and Obama shared a spotlight when O'Brien cracked jokes at the most recent White House Correspondent's Dinner.

Obama has been broadcast on The Daily Show, the liberal Comedy Central touchstone, six times, two of those as president. He has also put in multiple appearances on The View, prompting criticisms that he prefers the softball questions inherent to the gentler conversing-on-a-couch format to tougher forms of media scrutiny.

The president has also faced flak -- including from The Bee's editorial board - for flying over the sprawling majority of California during his sojourns here.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama waves to the media as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after returning on Marine One from Camp David, Md., where he spent his birthday Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin.

June 20, 2013
Chevron Corp. taking political fire from both right and left

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgIt's been a rough week, politically speaking, for Chevron, one of the state's oldest and largest corporations, as it takes fire from the left and the right.

Chevron, which has been dodging political and legal bullets over a 2012 fire at its refinery in Richmond, is under fire from farmers, especially Republican farmers, over hefty political contributions to a group that backs Democrat Leticia Perez in her state Senate battle with Republican farmer Andy Vidak.

What makes the situation especially dicey is that the San Joaquin Valley Senate seat that one of them will fill after a special election next month was vacated by Democrat Michael Rubio after Chevron hired him as a political affairs executive.

April 5, 2013
Obama apologizes for Kamala Harris remark

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President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris to apologize for complimenting Harris on her looks during a fundraiser, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"He apologized for it and regrets the distraction it caused," Carney said in a White House press briefing on Friday.

Obama was speaking at a Democratic National Committee event in Atherton on Thursday when he praised Harris for her intelligence, her dedication to public service and the fact that she is the "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country."

The outpouring of reactions was swift, with some critics accusing the president of sexism, and spurred an online conversation about whether mentioning a woman's appearance has any place in a professional setting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kamala Harris, seen here before a cancelled hearing on April 16, 2012, is California's top law enforcement official. By Hector Amezcua for The Sacramento Bee.

April 4, 2013
Obama calls Kamala Harris 'best-looking attorney general'

AP110523048988.jpgPresident Barack Obama was praising the bona fides of California Attorney General Kamala Harris today when he complimented Harris for something unlikely to show up in her campaign platform.

"She's brilliant and she's dedicated, she's tough... She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general," Obama said during a Thursday lunch, according to a pool report written by Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News.

The president also called Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, "not a real tall guy," according to a tweet posted by Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News.

Here's an excerpt from Rosenberg's pool report:

He introduced California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a rising star in the Democratic party, and called her the "best-looking attorney general" he's seen (after laughs, he said "It's true; come on."). He also called her brilliant, dedicated and tough, and "exactly what you want" in an AG. Also introduced and praised was U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents a big chunk of Silicon Valley in the House. Honda was standing in the back, prompting Obama to ask where he was, and Honda shouted out "I'm short!" After laughs, Obama said: "you're not a real tall guy." Laughs all around.

Obama is in town for a fundraising swing that brought him to Atherton this morning for two Democratic National Committee events. Last night he appeared at an event costing $5,000 a head at the home of Tom Steyer, who spearheaded the push for Proposition 39 but has broken with the Obama administration over the Keystone XL pipeline, and a $32,500 gathering hosted by billionaire Gordon Getty.

PHOTO CREDIT: The photogenic California Attorney General Kamala Harris, seen here on Monday, May 23, 2011. By Nick Ut for the Associated Press.

July 24, 2012
Mitt Romney blasts Barack Obama on foreign policy, leaks

JV_072212_ROMNEY 0608A.jpgRENO - In a withering indictment of President Barack Obama's foreign policy record, Republican Mitt Romney accused the administration Tuesday of leaking national security secrets for political gain, weakening the U.S. military and the nation's stature abroad.

"Sadly, this president has diminished American leadership, and we are reaping the consequences," Romney said in a high-profile speech to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "The world is dangerous, destructive, chaotic."

Romney said at the gathering in Reno that Obama has failed to prevent or explain leaks of national security secrets involving the killing of Osama bin Laden and other military operations, including in Iran.

"This isn't a partisan issue; it's a national security crisis," Romney said. "This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field."

July 23, 2012
Barack Obama defends foreign policy record, says US elevated on world stage

RENO - In a sweeping defense of his foreign policy record, President Barack Obama said this afternoon that the United States is "safer and stronger and more respected in the world" than when he took office.

"Four years ago, I made you a promise," Obama told the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "I pledged to take the fight to our enemies, and renew our leadership in the world. As president, that's what I've done."

The Democratic president defended the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq and the draw-down in Afghanistan, and his mention of the killing of Osama bin Laden drew applause from several thousand veterans gathered in Reno. Obama said the sanctions his administration has applied to Iran and North Korea are the strictest ever.

"Because we're leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There's more confidence in our leadership," he said. "So this is the progress that we've made. Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we're winding down a decade of war; we're destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we're strengthening the alliances that extend our values. And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world."

Obama's remarks came on one of the bloodiest days in Iraq in recent years, with a series of coordinated bombings and shootings killing more than 100 people in the country Monday.

Obama did not address the violence, but he defended his withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, fulfilling a campaign promise he made in 2008.

July 17, 2012
Republicans attack Barack Obama for his ties to Steve Westly

The Republican National Committee has released a new Web-only ad hammering President Barack Obama for his ties to former California State Controller Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

"Meet Steve Westly," the ad says. "He raised over $500,000 for Obama's campaign. With Obama in office, Westly Group investments have received $500 million taxpayer dollars. Westly was even appointed to a top advisory role, influencing how taxpayer money was spent."

The ad comes as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to defend against criticism of his time at Bain Capital.

"Obama's friends are doing fine," the ad says, "but the middle class isn't."

Westly is a bundler, or major fundraiser, for the Democratic president. His company, The Westly Group, had investments in companies helped by the Obama administration, including electric car maker Tesla Motors and green building company CalStar Products.

The companies were among scores of firms granted tax credits through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Westly spokesman Joel Berman said Westly's portfolio did not benefit from his campaign activities.

"The ad implies a political payoff that never happened," Berman said. "We have taken every single step along the way to be as transparent as possible, to be above board and do this all the right way."

Editor's note, 1:12 p.m.: A previous version of this post said incorrectly that Joel Berman is a spokesman for The Westly Group. Berman is a spokesman for Steve Westly.

July 16, 2012
Barack Obama, Mitt Romney back to raise money in California

President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will return to the Bay Area on Sunday and Monday -- back to buck-rake once again in donor-rich California.

Romney will appear at two $50,000-per-plate events on Sunday, according to campaign invitations, one at the San Francisco home of Shaklee Corp.'s Roger Barnett and his wife, Sloan, and one at the Woodside home of Tom Siebel.

The former Massachusetts governor is also expected to attend a less exclusive event at a San Francisco hotel before heading south for a batch of high-dollar fundraisers on Monday in the Los Angeles area.

Obama is scheduled Monday to raise money at a dinner at the Piedmont home of developer and real estate investor Wayne Jordan and his wife, activist Quinn Delaney. Tickets were listed at $35,800 per person.

Obama is also scheduled Monday to attend a larger fundraising reception at the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland.

June 5, 2012
Barack Obama to raise money in San Francisco, Los Angeles

President Barack Obama will be back in California to raise money on Wednesday, with fundraisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles a day after the primary election in the Golden State.

The swing starts in San Francisco, with a luncheon fundraiser at the Julia Morgan Ballroom. General admission tickets cost $5,000.

From there Obama will travel to Los Angeles, where he will speak at an LGBT Leadership Council gala. Tickets for the event, at which the singer Pink is scheduled to perform, started at $1,250.

The president is expected to overnight in Los Angeles before flying to Las Vegas on Thursday for an official, non-campaign event. Nevada, unlike California, is expected to be contested in the November election.

Obama's visit to donor-rich California is his second in less than a month. Republican Mitt Romney, meanwhile, raised money here last week.

May 23, 2012
Barack Obama caps day of fundraising in Bay Area

REDWOOD CITY - President Barack Obama, back in donor-rich California to raise money for his re-election campaign tonight, told supporters in the Bay Area that the economy has improved during his first term but that he still has "a lot more to do."

"We're not satisfied," the Democratic president told about 1,100 supporters at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City.

The event, for which tickets started at $250, followed a $35,800-per-plate dinner at the Atherton home of Levi Strauss heir Doug Goldman, capping a day of fundraising in Colorado and California.

Obama told a cheering crowd in Redwood City that he expects the campaign to be "tougher than the last one."

In heavily-Democratic California, Obama leads Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, by 11 points among likely voters, 50 percent to 39 percent, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released tonight. The state is unlikely to be contested in the November election, but both Obama and Romney are doing significant fundraising here.

"It is good to be back in California," Obama said, less than two weeks after his multimillion dollar fundraiser at actor George Clooney's Los Angeles house.

Obama said the nation's economic crisis "didn't happen overnight, and it's not going to be solved overnight."

He said, "We've got more work to do. We know that."

The crowd cheered when Obama mentioned his support for gay marriage, defending his vision as one for all people, "no matter who you love."

About half of likely California voters say Obama's recent announcement that he supports gay marriage has had no effect on their view of him, according to the Public Policy Institute of California poll. One quarter of likely voters say it makes them think more favorably of the president, and one quarter say it makes them think less favorably of him.

"It is nice to have someone take a stand," said Megan Maxwell-Bey, who came with her husband and two young daughters to watch the protesters and cheer Obama from outside the fundraiser.

Maxwell-Bey and her husband, Anthony Bey, said they voted for Obama in 2008 and will vote for him again. The economy is improving they said.

A small crowd of protesters demonstrated outside the theater, including members of the Raging Grannies, a progressive group.

"Tax, tax, tax the rich, make them pay their share," they sang.

Many members of the group voted for Obama in 2008, and they will vote for him again this year, said Ellyn O'Toole, 65, of San Mateo.

But the retired nurse is concerned about the influence of money in politics and about Social Security and health care.

"We actually support Obama," she said, "but we want to move him in a more progressive direction."

May 11, 2012
Barack Obama pushes mortgage relief in Reno

APTOPIX ObamaReno.JPGRENO - President Barack Obama, appearing in a swing state still reeling from the foreclosure crisis, called on House Republicans this afternoon to enact a mortgage-relief plan that has failed for months in Congress to gain traction.

"You're going to have to pressure Congress," the Democratic president said outside the Reno home of a couple who refinanced their mortgage through a program Obama is seeking to expand. "The pool of folks who can refinance right now, when their homes are underwater, is still too small."

A measure to expand a program for government-backed mortgages to those backed by private institutions is part of an election year "to-do list" Obama is pushing on Congress.

"I need all of you and everybody who's watching to push Congress on their "to-do list," Obama said. "Nag them until they actually get it done. We need to keep moving this country forward. Send them an email. Tweet them. Write them a letter if you're old-fashioned like me."

PHOTO CREDIT: President Barack Obama meets with Val and Paul Keller in their Reno home Friday. Associated Press//Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

May 9, 2012
Barack Obama to raise money with George Clooney in L.A., push agenda in Reno

After rubbing elbows with George Clooney at a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Thursday, President Barack Obama will fly to Reno to push his economic agenda in a battleground state.

The Democratic president is scheduled to meet with a Reno-area family and speak about his "to-do list" for Congress, including a proposal to help homeowners refinance mortgages at lower interest rates.

Obama's campaign has been promoting the Clooney fundraiser for weeks, soliciting small donations online by offering a chance to win tickets to the otherwise high-dollar event.

The Washington Post reported the fundraiser at the actor's home may be one of the largest presidential fundraisers in U.S. history.

February 27, 2012
Jerry Brown advised not to 'talk too much' about Medi-Cal

WASHINGTON - As he lobbied the Obama administration for four days for authorization to enact further cuts to Medi-Cal to help balance California's budget, Gov. Jerry Brown talked frequently about his frustration, the administration having recently turned down his request to charge co-payments for doctor visits, prescription drugs and other services.

After meetings this afternoon with Obama advisers at the White House and, later, with members of California's Congressional delegation at the U.S. Capitol, Brown aide Nancy McFadden suggested he stop.

"There are possibilities that are being examined that will enable California to more tightly manage its Medi-Cal program, and some of that involves co-payments," the Democratic governor was telling reporters.

"But if you talk too much about it, you might hurt your negotiations," McFadden said.

February 27, 2012
Jerry Brown presses Obama on Medi-Cal, meets with labor

Governors Meeting.JPEG-05c6.JPGWASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown continued to press President Barack Obama today for authorization to enact further cuts to Medi-Cal to help balance California's budget, even as the administration showed no sign of relenting and complained about the severity of state budget cuts in other areas.

Obama told governors in a meeting this morning that too many states are cutting education programs too deeply, citing teacher layoffs and rising college tuition.

"We've all faced some stark choices over the past several years," Obama said. "But that is no excuse to lose sight of what matters most. And the fact is that too many states are making cuts to education that I believe are simply too big."

California is among states that have reduced spending on higher education in the weak economy. Leaving the White House, California's Democratic governor said, "He definitely emphasized the importance of education, but the fact is, you only have so much money, and that's why I'm asking for waivers in the Medicaid program, which I haven't gotten yet."

Brown, in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association, planned to return to the White House this afternoon to "press our cause" with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president.

February 24, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown lobbies Obama for Medi-Cal, schools relief

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Jerry Brown lobbied the Obama administration today for authorization to enact further Medi-Cal cuts, after the administration earlier rejected California's bid to charge copayments for prescription drugs, hospital visits and other services.

"We're optimistic that we can get some compromise on that waiver," Brown told reporters after meeting with President Barack Obama and Democratic governors in Washington.

The Medi-Cal waiver that the Democratic governor is seeking includes authorization to charge copayments and, he said, a "few other things." Brown is counting on about $296 million in savings from a waiver to help balance next year's budget.

Brown, who met Thursday with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, said he also is seeking relief from mandates of the No Child Left Behind law. Obama has offered to let states opt out of No Child Left Behind, but the conditions of a waiver include teacher evaluation and testing requirements that may be difficult for the state to meet.

Brown described his discussions with Duncan as a "work in progress."

Brown is in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, a gathering he skipped last year. He cited the Medi-Cal and No Child Left Behind waivers as primary reasons for coming.

"As governor of California, my goal was to get greater flexibility so that we can cut the Medi-Cal program where we need to, and where we can get flexibility on some of the federal restrictions on our education programs, and I think, I think we made a positive step to achieve all that."

Brown arrived for the meeting with Obama on a chartered bus carrying about 15 Democratic governors.

In a briefing at the White House, Josh Earnest, a spokesman, said Obama was "eager to continue the ongoing discussion with Democratic governors about the ways that the federal government and the states can work together to create jobs and grow the economy."

Outside a few minutes later, Brown heaped praise on Obama in return.

"He's all fired up, extremely knowledgeable," Brown said. "I was very impressed with the way he understands this government from top to bottom."

Brown ate lunch with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui and was scheduled to meet privately with officials at the State Department to discuss China. Brown, who met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping last week in Los Angeles, said he is "very serious" about promoting Chinese investment in California.

Brown also raised money at a private fundraiser on Thursday night for his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

February 22, 2012
Obama campaign names seven Californians among co-chairs

President Barack Obama rolled out a list of national co-chairs for his re-election campaign that includes some familiar faces from both the political and entertainment worlds in the Golden State.

Seven Californians made the list of 35 co-chairs,including state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and actress Eva Longoria. Also included on the list were Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo, actor and former White House aide Kalpen Modi and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.

The Obama campaign said in a statement that the co-chairs will "ambassadors for the President, advise the campaign on key issues, and help engage and mobilize voters in all 50 states."

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement that the individuals selected "share the President's vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded."

February 16, 2012
VIDEO: Obama protested outside San Francisco fundraiser

SAN FRANCISCO - If it was only the Tea Party across the street, the protest, however spirited, might have been small.

But liberals have bullhorns, too - and on this night, glows sticks - and in the bluest of cities in the bluest of states, they aired their own grievances with President Barack Obama.

With the Democratic president scheduled to speak at a fundraiser at the Nob Hill Masonic Center tonight, environmentalists complained about oil drilling and anti-war activists complained about the United States' involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Cannabis is medicine," signs said, and some protesters managed while protesting to self-medicate.

Though apparently outnumbered, the Tea Party supporters were loud.

"No-Bama," they shouted, and later, "Fox News Rocks."

A protester behind them laughed and yelled, "Hey, pass the Kool-Aid!"

A man told him, "Get out of my country."

Across from the protesters, in a line of ticketholders that wrapped around the block, was Chris Cook, a 25-year-old from Kentucky who supports Obama now but voted for a Republican, President George W. Bush, when he was 18.

"Coming out here from Kentucky," he said, "it opened me up a little bit."

November 18, 2011
David Gergen sees 'nasty' presidential race, praises Jerry Brown

You may have to pick up a Nevada television station to see it, but if you do, expect the presidential race "to get nasty" next year, with fear-mongering and personal attacks defining both the Democratic and Republican campaigns, political analyst David Gergen said.

"I think it's going to get nasty, because that's the way each side energizes its base," said Gergen, who was on the phone this morning ahead of a speaking engagement in Sacramento on Nov. 29.

President Barack Obama's supporters are less enthusiastic than they were in 2008, for instance. "How do you get them out to vote? Well, you scare the hell out of them about the other side," Gergen said.

"And if you're a Republican," he added, "and you've got a candidate like (Mitt) Romney, who is not exactly a runaway favorite among the tea partyers, how do you get the tea partyers out to vote? You scare the hell out of them."

It should make for entertaining TV in competitive states. But probably not in California, where Obama is so heavily favored that no Republican is expected to campaign seriously. "I think California is going to be spared most of the advertising," Gergen said.

So what's the Golden State to do?

"Be well governed," Gergen said.

Gergen -- a political adviser to four presidents, three of them Republican -- said people on the East Coast don't hear as much about California Gov. Jerry Brown as they did his celebrity predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the impression Brown is making is a good one, Gergen said.

"He seems to be, from afar, seems to be someone who is trying to do responsible things," Gergen said. "To the extent people are paying attention, I think they see a governor who is not a knee-jerk Democratic liberal."

September 26, 2011
Barack Obama defends plan to tax wealthiest Americans

MOUNTAIN VIEW - President Barack Obama this morning defended his effort to hike taxes on the wealthiest Americans, saying they have "room to spare" that other Americans don't.

"The income of folks at the top has gone up exponentially over the last couple of decades, whereas the incomes and wages of the middle class have flat-lined over the last 15 years," Obama said at a forum hosted by LinkedIn at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

The audience, consisting of LinkedIn employees and invited guests, was favorable to Obama, with a former Google brand manager, Doug Edwards, asking at one point, "Would you please raise my taxes?"

Edwards said he once worked for a "start-up down the street here that did quite well, so I'm unemployed by choice."

While many Americans don't "have a lot of room to spare," Obama said, "Those of us who've been fortunate, we do. And we're not talking about going to punitive rates that would somehow inhibit you from wanting to be part of a start-up or work hard to be successful."

Obama said, "We're talking about going back to the rates that existed as recently as the 90s, when, as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good, and well-to-do people were doing pretty well."

Obama has proposed $1.5 trillion in tax increases on wealthy Americans, including allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire next year for individuals earning more than $200,000.

Obama spent most of the morning touting his $447 billion jobs bill, which includes tax cuts and government spending he said will create jobs.

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:

August 4, 2011
California Dems' Progressive Caucus floats challenge to Obama

ha_pres_obama34203.JPGPresident Barack Obama isn't getting much birthday love from one group of California Democrats.

The California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus marked the commander-in-chief's 50th birthday by releasing a resolution that supports exploring a potential primary challenge in 2012 to the first-term Democratic president.

The resolution, approved at a caucus meeting last weekend, criticizes Obama for "negotiating away Democratic Party principles to extremist Republicans," and cites entitlement cuts on the table in the recent budget negotiations, the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and "disregard of his promises to the Labor movement" as some of many grievances the caucus has with Obama's performance so far.

Progressive Caucus Chair Karen Bernal called the resolution an effort to spark a "very honest discussion" about the direction of the party. She said supporting a primary challenge was one of many options that needed to be "seriously discussed," but said that it was not "the only strategy to try to engage in a paradigm shift."

June 20, 2011
Romney to raise money at Sacramento luncheon

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney will court donors in Sacramento on Tuesday, with a $1,000-a-plate lunch at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

The event, billed as a "kick-off luncheon," includes a VIP photo reception before lunch at noon.

According to an invitation, the cost is $1,000. Co-hosts are to raise $10,000.

No Republican presidential candidate is likely to beat President Obama in California, but Democrats and Republicans alike are drawn to the state's vast donor pools. The former Massachusetts governor is the GOP's early frontrunner.

Romney Invite

May 4, 2011
Obama pitches plan to shed surplus properties

The Obama administration on Wednesday reinforced efforts to set up a special commission that will help get rid of some 14,000 surplus federal properties, including more than 1,150 in California.

By using a non-partisan panel resembling those that closed military bases, administration officials hope to sidestep the impediments that until now have hindered surplus property disposal.

"Having an independent board of experts can push through political gridlock," said Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, adding that "it will change how Washington works."

Though President Barack Obama proposed a surplus property commission earlier this year, as part of his fiscal 2012 budget plan, officials on Wednesday provided specific legislative language for the first time.

The surplus properties range from empty lots and unused roads to empty warehouses and office buildings. Many of the sites have little or no market value, administration officials acknowledge.

In California, for instance, the surplus properties identified on a new federal interactive map range from irrigation facilities in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and to a small field office in Los Banos and a modest building in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite alone has had 35 distinct pieces of property -- housing units, warehouse, utility systems and roads -- declared surplus by federal officials. Overall, the surplus properties in California span some 1.5 million square feet.

The surplus property commission will need approval from Congress, where the concept already has some supporters. Freshman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, has used his chairmanship of the House subcommittee that oversees federal buildings to urge faster disposition of what's excess.

May 2, 2011
VIDEO: May Day marchers protest Democratic Party

A typically low-key event on the last day of the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento became hostile Sunday when May Day march organizers turned on Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers after they gave her the microphone.

Speaking in Spanish, Huerta told the protesters that their anger should be focused on the Republican Party, whose members voted for Arizona's SB1070, an anti-illegal immigration measure approved a year ago.

She asked Sacramento delegate Paramo Hernandez to let her speak as he shouted in Spanish: "We're fed up. The Democrats voted as well." Huerta got off the chair on which she was standing and walked away."Stop lying to people," Huerta yelled at Hernandez. Huerta also asked Al Rojas, a march organizer, to stop using Cesar Chavez' name. "She's trying to bait us," Rojas said in Spanish. He said he would debate her any time.

May 2, 2011
California officials respond to Osama bin Laden killing

California officials on both sides of the aisle are applauding news that Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in Pakistan.

See a collection of statements issued by Golden State elected officials and party leaders after the jump.

April 30, 2011
Burton: Obama must motivate Democrats for wins in 2012

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton has an offer for the protesters who paid five-figures to interrupt a recent San Francisco fundraiser for President Barack Obama .

"They pay $78-grand, they can come back and insult me... they can take a dump in my salad for $78-grand," the famously foul-mouthed former Democratic legislator and congressman quipped to a group of reporters on the opening night of the state party convention.

On a more serious note, Burton laid out the challenge Obama faces in firing up his base and winning over critics within his own party as he gears up to seek a second term.

"I think a lot of our people are very concerned about the three wars. They're concerned about the spending, too," he said. "They're concerned that that we're spending all this money on three wars and cutting funds for education and poor people and those are cases that have to be made by the president and his campaign."

Burton said he believed the president would win California 53 percent to 47 percent without any added effort -- compared to the 61 percent share he took in 2008.

Whether Obama can generate a high level of enthusiasm for his second bid could matter for California Democrats. Burton said spillover from a successful presidential campaign could help sweep down-ticket Democrats to victory in 2012, a boost that could matter more if the congressional and state legislative district maps drawn by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission produce more competitive races.

"The president's the guy on the ballot and the motivation's got to come from Washington," he said.

But Burton also said he expects Democrats to turn out to fight back against policies being pushed by Republicans controlling the U.S. House and statehouses across the country, saying proposals to cut Medicare and Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan should be "enough to scare the bejeezus out of anybody."

Just as important as hitting the GOP platform, Burton said, will be highlighting success of the health care law and other political victories in Obama's first term.

"The challenge for us in the Democratic Party is to tell people what the deal is in a positive way," he said.

April 21, 2011
Protest group drops some change to serenade Obama

For Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn, money was no object in making sure she and others got to serenade President Barack Obama today -- and they did it a capella.

Pitcairn and about half a dozen other protesters unhappy about treatment of a Wikileaks suspect disrupted the Obama fundraiser this morning at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel, reports Chronicle colleague Carla Marinucci.

Pitcairn said she personally paid $76,000 for the progressive group -- which calls itself freshjuiceparty.com -- to attend the high-priced breakfast fundraiser to protest what they called inhumane treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning, Marinucci wrote in her pool report from the event.

"Mr. President, we actually wrote you a song -- can we sing it?" one of the protesters said about five minutes into Obama's speech.

The song's lyrics included, "We paid our dues -- where's our change?" but make clear the group isn't about to back Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney.

April 21, 2011
Will Leon Panetta be Obama's next defense secretary?

Is Leon Panetta, the former California congressman now at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, destined to become President Barack Obama's pick for secretary of defense?

POLITICO thinks so. The Beltway-based publication declared that it has become "accepted wisdom" among Washington insiders that the 73-year-old Monterey Democrat, who was White House chief of staff and Office of Management and Budget director under former President Bill Clinton, is the obvious choice to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has announced plans to retire.

Noting that it's unclear whether Panetta has been offered the job or would want to take it on the job, POLITICO reports:

Gates's departure after more than four years at the Pentagon under two presidents has been widely anticipated for months. But the idea that Panetta would succeed him surfaced in a rare bit of Washington journalistic doubling down -- stories on April 7 in both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that he is the key part of an imminent move to reshuffle the Obama national security team.

And it all made sense: Panetta is a known quantity at the White House, has good relations on Capitol Hill and, with experience as chairman of the House Budget Committee and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton, is well prepared to tackle the budget slashing the Pentagon will confront in the coming years.

"Given the tasks before the next secretary of defense and the budget problems we confront and that following Bob Gates is no small challenge, in many respects, Panetta is the right person," said Fran Townsend, a White House homeland security official under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and a member of a CIA advisory panel.

If anything, the focus on the budget and Obama's announcement last week that he wants an additional $400 billion in cuts from defense and other security programs over the next 12 years have solidified the consensus that Panetta's nomination is inevitable.

"The budget was always going to be a big factor in these decisions," a senior official close to the discussions said. "It puts even more of a premium on [Panetta], but there was already a premium."

Click here to read the full piece.

April 20, 2011
Outside Facebook, former Obama volunteer protests him now

President Barack Obama could hardly find friendlier ground as he starts a fund-raising swing through California today, but there were signs of discontent outside Facebook headquarters, where he is hosting a town hall.

It wasn't that the crowd was large - it wasn't - but that many of the people hoisting signs were young, liberal voters who cast their first ballots for Obama, even volunteered for him, in 2008.

Chelsea Byers, a Code Pink intern who was studying abroad in 2008, helped organize an effort that year encouraging students to return absentee ballots for Obama. But she said she is upset with his actions in Libya.

"We just had hopes of seeing this great new Democratic base against wars," she said. "I definitely am a fan of Obama. I like Obama. But his policies, and what they're doing, it's got to stop."

Byers and her colleagues held signs that encouraged Obama, in the vernacular of the social networking site, to update his war status and budget profile.

"He made a lot of promises," she said. "It's dissatisfying."

A crowd has gathered inside Facebook for Obama's town hall event, to be streamed live on Facebook this afternoon. Supporters lined up hours early, and about 500 people, many of them Facebook employees, are expected to attend.

Obama will attend several fundraisers this week in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They include a private dinner and a rally tonight at Nob Hill Masonic Center and a breakfast Thursday morning at the St. Regis San Francisco. Tickets ranged in price from $25 to $35,800 per person.

April 18, 2011
Obama to host town hall-style event Wednesday at Facebook

President Barack Obama will swing through donor-rich California this week, raising money for his re-election bid and hosting a town hall-style event at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto.

The White House said Obama will "discuss his vision for bringing down our deficit" at Facebook on Wednesday. The event will be streamed live online starting at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time, and Obama is promoting it in a YouTube message.

"I hope you'll take a break from either friending or de-friending each other to RSVP at Facebook.com/WhiteHouse," the president said.

Obama is on the road touting his deficit-reduction plan, which would reduce spending and end certain tax breaks for wealthy people. He is hosting similar, town hall-style events in Virginia on Tuesday and in Reno on Thursday.

February 14, 2011
Barack Obama scheduled to make Bay Area stop Thursday

APTOPIX Obama.jpgPresident Barack Obama is scheduled to stop Thursday in the Bay Area where he'll meet with business leaders "in technology and innovation," according to the White House.

The event is part of Obama's outreach to the business community and follows the release today of his $3.7 trillion proposed budget. The president's talk with Bay Area business leaders will address their "shared goal of promoting American innovation, and discuss his commitment to new investments in research and development, education and clean energy," according to the White House. The event will likely not be open to the news media.

Obama then flies north to Oregon on Friday, where he'll visit semiconductor giant Intel Corp.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Associated Press

February 7, 2011
Willie Brown: Obama is more like Reagan than he is anyone else

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown drew comparisons between President Obama and former President Ronald Reagan during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," saying "Obama is more like Reagan than he is like anyone else, probably including Bill Clinton."

"Many of the qualities that he exhibits are reflective of what Ronald Reagan was really all about," Brown said during a roundtable discussion marking the 100th anniversary of the late Reagan's birth. "He has not been able, frankly, to demonstrate those in the first 18 months or so of his administration simply because he had such an awesome majority in the Senate and an awesome majority in the House, and that majority was dominated by the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, far beyond what Obama really is."

Speaking on Reagan's legacy, Brown said the 'great communicator' cultivated his political skills in the Golden State.

"He really learned about government and the operation of government and what government could or could not do in the eight years that he spent as a governor of the state of California. And they were really incredible learning years for this extraordinary, gifted person," he said.

Watch video of the roundtable, which also featured former Reagan Chief of Staff James Baker, speechwriter and columnist Peggy Noonan and journalist Andrea Mitchell, below or read the transcript here.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

February 2, 2011
What a difference a year makes for Lungren bill

Rep. Dan Lungren couldn't be blamed if his chest puffed up with pride just a little when President Barack Obama gave a shout-out to a bill of his during the State of the Union last week.

The measure -- which would repeal a provision of the health care reform law that has nothing to do with health care -- drew not a ton of attention or support when Lungren first introduced it last year.

Now, it is on the front burner of the new Republican leadership in the House (given the priority designation of House Resolution 4) and it has some 260 co-sponsors, including many Democrats. It appears likely that it will be the one part of the health care law that will be repealed.

Lungren told The Bee's editorial board this afternoon that he was "surprised, but pleased" that the president gave it a thumbs up during his speech.

January 19, 2011
California politicians heading to White House China state dinner

The guest list for tonight's White House state dinner for visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao includes a handful of current and former politicians from California.

Democratic Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Howard Berman, and Judy Chu, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, and San Francisco's new mayor Edwin Lee are expected to be in attendance, as are former state controller and gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly and former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, a major player in California's last election cycle.

Other notable California residents on the list include actor Jackie Chan, singer Barbara Streisand, jazz musician Herbie Hancock, cellist Yo Yo Ma, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, Walt Disney Company President and CEO Robert Iger and Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini.

A full list of the 200-plus attendees, released by the White House today, is posted on POLITICO. Culinary-minded readers can salivate over the planned menu at this link.

December 1, 2010
Californians agree on their disapproval of Schwarzenegger

California is a very diverse state, but members of every demographic, geographic and ideological subgroup in the state agree on one thing: They don't approve of outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's performance.

That's one of the results of an extensive post-election survey of voters by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The PPIC survey found that overall, Schwarzenegger leaves office with a 32 percent approval rating among November's voters, and results were remarkably consistent among all subgroups. For instance, 68 percent of Democrats disapproved of Schwarzenegger's performance, along with 55 percent of the governor's fellow Republicans and 55 percent of independents. His approval didn't hit 40 percent in any subgroup.

Among other results of PPIC's survey, which involved 2,003 voters:

--Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana, drew the most voter interest. The measure lost narrowly and PPIC found that Republicans, Latinos, whites, women and older voters were most opposed.

--The second most-important ballot measure to voters was Proposition 23, which would have suspended the state's anti-greenhouse gas program - a major Schwarzenegger initiative - until unemployment dropped sharply and lost by a landslide vote. PPIC found a sharp partisan divide with more than half of Republicans supporting the measure but huge majorities of Democrats and independents opposing it.

--The nine measures on the November ballot continued a decades-long trend of placing major issues before voters and while past surveys have indicated voters like having that power, the new PPIC poll found that two-thirds of them say the 2010 initiatives were too confusing. And for the first time in the history of the organization's polling, fewer than half of those polled said they had confidence in the ability of voters to make public policy decisions on the ballot.

--Schwarzenegger is not the only political figure to get low marks from voters. Just 13 percent of those polled approve of how he and the Legislature have dealt with issues and just 12 percent approve of the Legislature. Even President Barack Obama, who won by a large margin in California two years ago, is feeling the heat with just a 53 percent approval rating. Congress, like the Legislature, is less popular at 21 percent. And despite the state's Democratic bent, 43 percent of California voters say it's a good thing that Republicans have recaptured control of the House.

--Strong margins among independent voters helped Democrat Jerry Brown win the governorship and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer win re-election against well-financed Republican rivals, along with big margins among Latinos and women.

The full PPIC poll results can be found here.

October 22, 2010
Obama, Brown and Boxer urge Dems to stay enthusiastic

IMG_1585.jpgState Democrats received a major-league assist from President Barack Obama today at a massive rally held at the University of Southern California, where top party leaders and even actor Jamie Foxx urged supporters to stay enthusiastic despite polls showing Republicans prepared to make major gains in the Nov. 2 elections.

Some 37,500 people attended the marathon three-hour rally held in USC's Alumni Park and heard from more than a dozen speakers, including the president, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, state attorney general candidate Kamala Harris, Assembly Speaker John Pérez, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and others.

The message from nearly all the speakers: Prove the naysaying pundits wrong, and vote.

"I told you this was going to be hard," Obama said, appearing in his trademark shirtsleeves and gray tie. "I told you power concedes nothing without a fight. You know, inch by inch, day by day, week by week, we've been grinding it out because that's the nature of change in a big, complex democracy."

Obama hit Republicans hard, comparing them to someone who had driven a car into a ditch.

"They say, 'We want the keys back,' " Obama said. "And we got to tell them, 'You can't have the keys back. You don't know how to drive.' "

October 18, 2010
Obama hits airwaves with radio spot for Boxer

ObamaBoxer.JPGPresident Barack Obama is giving Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer a boost on the airwaves in advance of a California campaign stop scheduled for later this week.

Obama has recorded a 60-second radio spot praising the three-term senator's work to create jobs and improve the economy.

"I've stood shoulder to shoulder with Barbara Boxer through the tough fights. I believe California needs her and I know I need her," he says in the ad, which you can listen to here.

Obama is scheduled to campaign with Boxer, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and other Democrats on the ticket in Los Angeles on Friday.

This week's visit marks the third time Obama has traveled to the Golden State to aid Boxer, who is locked in a tough race with Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina's campaign countered by pointing to California's high unemployment rate as evidence that Boxer is not a job creator.

"Barbara Boxer should be ashamed of herself for putting the President of the United States up to participating in this latest installment of her desperate and deceptive advertising campaign to save her political career," Spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an e-mail.

This post was updated at 6 p.m. with a statement from the Fiorina campaign.

PHOTO CREDIT: President Barack Obama hugs Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, Monday, April 19, 2010.(AP Photo/ Alex Brandon).

October 13, 2010
Obama scheduled to campaign for Brown and Democratic ticket

APTOPIX Obama.jpgLost amid the rhetorical crossfire in last night's gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate Jerry Brown broke some news by announcing that President Barack Obama will be hitting the campaign trail in California.

"Yes, he's coming to campaign for me, and I'm very happy with that," Brown said, when asked about his views of the president. "I think in a tough time, this man has created a stimulus, he helped stabilize our banks, we got a health care plan that people since Harry Truman have been trying to get enacted."

Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said later that Obama is tentatively scheduled to join Brown and the rest of the state Democratic ticket in Los Angeles on Oct. 22 for a rally.

Obama remains relatively popular in California, with the latest Field Poll giving him a 53 percent approval rating. The Gallup poll shows the president with a 45 percent approval rating nationwide.

Photo: President Barack Obama speaks about Iraq and Afghanistan on Aug. 2, 2010, at the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Atlanta. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

August 24, 2010
Barack Obama: Jerry Brown 'a champion for the people'

APTOPIX Obama.jpgDemocratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown received big-league support today from none other than President Barack Obama, in the form of a mass e-mail sent to supporters from the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America project.

Here's the text of the e-mail:

For decades, Jerry Brown has been a champion for the people of California. He has served as governor, as mayor of Oakland, and is currently the attorney general.

While governor, he helped to create almost 2 million new jobs, cut taxes, and built a budget surplus. As mayor, Jerry revitalized Oakland's economy and reduced crime. And as attorney general, he is fighting for consumers and cracking down on violent gangs.

To each of these jobs, he's brought an unparalleled passion for helping the people of California.

Now, he wants to return to Sacramento to bring that passion to the governor's office, and he needs our help to ensure that he wins this race.

Please sign up to support his campaign.

These next few years offer a complex series of challenges -- for California and our nation -- and there is much we must accomplish together. Meeting these challenges will be possible only if we have bold leaders like Jerry Brown working alongside us.

But winning this election will not be easy. His billionaire opponent, Meg Whitman, has already spent more than $100 million on this race -- shattering every spending record in California. In the coming weeks, she will blanket the airwaves and attempt to drown out every other voice in this election.

That is why Jerry Brown needs your support -- knocking on doors, making calls to your neighbors, and working to get the word out about his campaign for California.

Can we count on you? Get started here:

http://ca.barackobama.com/Brown2010

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Photo: Associated Press

UPDATE: Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds just responded to Obama's support:

"Meg is running neck-and-neck with Jerry Brown, despite Brown's 14 point party registration edge, because she's the only credible candidate to create jobs and get California's economy back on track. Announcing an endorsement like this in the dead of summer means that Jerry Brown is worried, the White House is worried, or both."

August 17, 2010
Karen Bass, Calif. Democratic reps. attend Obama fundraiser

US-POLITICS-OBAMA.JPGThe star-studded guest list for President Barack Obama's fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last night included JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Taye Diggs and Judd Apatow, according to the pool report of the event.

A host of California pols, including former Assembly Speaker and CD 33 candidate Karen Bass got to "hang out," in the president's words, with Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood big shots at the Los Angeles estate of "The West Wing" producer John Wells.

Elected officials in attendance included: Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Brad Sherman, Barbara Lee, Joe Baca, Laura Richardson, Judy Chu and John Garamendi, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a former congresswoman, also attended the fundraiser.

The event raised $1 million to boost House Democrats in the November midterm elections.

PHOTO CREDIT: President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One upon his arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. Jewel Samad/ AFP.

August 5, 2010
Judge Walker's Prop. 8 ruling puts Obama on the spot

APTOPIX Obama.jpgFederal Judge Vaughn Walker's landmark decision to overturn California's Proposition 8, a 2008 measure to ban same-sex marriage, creates a new political headache for President Barack Obama, Josh Gerstein writes in POLITICO a widely read website for political junkies.

Gerstein says "the decision also poses a formidable threat to President Barack Obama's strategy of relegating divisive social issues to the back burner."

"During the 2008 campaign, Obama took what many on both sides of the gay marriage viewed as a straddle," Gerstein continues. "He publicly announced his opposition to same-sex marriage, but he also said that he opposed the California ballot measure seeking to ban it, Proposition 8 - the same ban Walker ruled unconstitutional Wednesday.

"Obama explained the seeming contradiction at the time by saying that he opposes any measure singling out a group for adverse treatment by amending the U.S. Constitution or a state constitution, as Prop 8. did, even though legal experts said that was the only viable way to block gay marriage in California."

July 29, 2010
Obama plans Calif. trip to raise cash for House Democrats

Obama Health Care Overhaul.jpgPresident Barack Obama is reportedly hosting yet another West Coast fundariser, this time to boost the bank account of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will headline an Aug. 16 fundraiser in Los Angeles, POLITICO reported today. Tensions have reportedly been high between the two leaders since Obama's press secretary publicly acknowledged that Democrats could suffer big losses in the upcoming midterm elections, possibly even losing their majority in the House.

Obama has already hosted a series of California fundraisers for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is facing a tough re-election challenge, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

PHOTO CREDIT: President Barack Obama left, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., right, during his visit to Capitol Hill to meet with House Democrats, in Washington, Saturday, March 20, 2010. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press.

July 28, 2010
PPIC poll finds close duels for governor, senator

Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer hold narrow leads over their Republican challengers with more than three months of campaigning to come before the November election, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll has found.

The poll, conducted during the first weeks of July, found that Attorney General Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, is virtually tied with Republican Meg Whitman, leading 37 percent to 34 percent among likely voters with 23 percent still undecided.

PPIC also found Boxer, a three-term U.S. senator, leading Republican Carly Fiorina 39 percent to 34 percent with 22 percent undecided.

The margins are similar to those in other recent polls, but PPIC's survey found substantially more undecided voters than the others.

The PPIC poll was geared to environmental concerns and found that Brown and Boxer both hold large leads among voters who consider environmental issues "very important."

June 16, 2010
Joe Biden to campaign for Barbara Boxer

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to come to California next month to campaign and raise funds for Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who's facing a tough reelection challenge from Republican nominee Carly Fiorina.

Biden is scheduled to appear at Boxer fundraisers on July 8 in the Silicon Valley and July 9 in the city of Los Angeles, according to the Boxer campaign. President Barack Obama has already spoken at two Boxer fundraisers, one in Los Angeles in April and another in San Francisco in June.

June 8, 2010
Governor's race timeline

With this primary season about to finish, take a look at the key events that defined the governor's race in this timeline. It all started in July 2008...

May 25, 2010
GOP group slams Obama for Boxer fundraiser before Gulf trip

The National Republican Senatorial Committee today blasted President Barack Obama for raising cash for Sen. Barbara Boxer in California before traveling to monitor progress to contain oil leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf trip, announced today, comes as the administration faces increased criticism for not responding quickly enough to help stop the leak and clean up the oil.

April 17, 2010
Critics party-crash Democratic convention

Jerry protesters.JPGDemocratic delegates leaving the state party convention's general session this afternoon got a good reminder that their political rivals aren't resting this weekend.

Just outside the Los Angeles Convention Center's west hall doors were three people wearing giant, grotesque puppet heads depicting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown as a hippie, a monk and a political candidate in a suit.

"Which Jerry Will You Get?" read a sign held by one of the protesters. The state Republican party had organized the display, which received plenty of attention from Democratic activists and some antagonism, all verbal.

"Where are you from?" one Democratic activist asked one of the puppets. He didn't get an answer.

"We were hoping to hear more specifics" from Brown's speech Saturday to the general session, said state Republican spokesman Mark Standriff, who accompanied the protest. "But we got the same tired platitudes that Californian voters have been getting the last 40 years."

Things got even stranger on the outdoor walkway leading back to the JR Marriott Hotel, where two dozen or so supporters of political oddball Lyndon LaRouche sang hymns with banners unfurled showing President Barack Obama sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache over the words "Impeach Obama" and "From Hero to Heroin."

Questions to the protesters about their beefs with Obama drew a wide array of answers, from him allegedly being a puppet of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to his supposed tolerance of the Afghan opium trade. One supporter advocated mining the moon for Helium-3, which he said would fuel a U.S. mission to Mars.

Their work done, the LaRouche protesters soon finished their songs, rolled up their banners and left.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hector Amezcua/hamezcua@sacbee.com

March 24, 2010
Poll: Support for same-sex marriage reaches 50 percent

Support for same-sex marriage appears to be increasing in California and has hit 50 percent for the first time in polling by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The new survey indicates that gay marriage advocates who want to repeal California's Proposition 8 might have a fighting chance of prevailing, if they can qualify their measure for the November ballot.

Proposition 8, passed in 2008, places a prohibition on same-sex marriage in the state constitution and is being litigated in federal court. While one faction of gay marriage supporters is backing the repeal initiative, another group has contended that the climate for repeal must change more before trying to undo Proposition 8.

The PPIC poll found that support for gay marriage has reached 50 percent for the first time since the San Francisco-based think tank began polling on the issue in 2000. A sharp partisan division remains, with 64 percent of Democrats supporting same-sex marriage rights, while 67 percent of Republicans are opposed. However, 55 percent of independents are in favor.

The PPIC poll covered a wide range of political and social topics, and its findings largely mirrored those of a recent series of polls by the Field Research Corp. Among them:

• Businesswoman Meg Whitman has a very wide lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, 61 percent to 11 percent, in their contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and she's slightly ahead of the sole Democratic candidate, Attorney General Jerry Brown, 44 percent to 39 percent.

• Like the Field Poll, PPIC found that the economy, by a wide margin, is the political policy issue uppermost in the minds of voters.

• Another Republican business executive, Carly Fiorina, and former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell are virtually tied for the U.S. Senate nomination, with Assemblyman Chuck DeVore far behind both. With the leaders in the mid-20 percent range, nearly half of Republicans say they are undecided. Either Campbell or Fiorina is virtually tied with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

• By a 2-1 margin, California voters are inclined to vote for Proposition 14, which would create a new kind of primary election for political offices in which all candidates, regardless of party, would appear on the same ballot and the top two primary vote-getters would face each other in the November general election.

• Nearly 70 percent of Californians support immigration reform, including creating a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

• While 77 percent believe that the state budget crisis is a big problem, they divide evenly on whether the deficit should be mostly by spending cuts (39 percent) or a combination of cuts and new taxes (38 percent), but just 6 percent say it should be taxes alone.

• Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating among voters has plummeted to 25 percent, virtually identical to the Field Poll number, while the Legislature's performance wins approval of just 9 percent, the first time that figure has dropped into the single digits. Field had it at 13 percent.

• President Barack Obama's standing in California also has slipped, with approval now at 52 percent among voters, down 13 percentage points from a year ago. Congressional approval has also declined to 14 percent, half of what it was in January. But, oddly, 44 percent of voters like the job their own congressional members are doing.

Complete poll results on these and other issues may be found here.

November 17, 2009
Obama taps Californian to join FTC

From Rob Hotakainen in Washington

President Barack Obama today nominated Edith Ramirez, who served as his Latino outreach director in California during last year's presidential primary campaign, to a seven-year term on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

She took a leave from her position as partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges in Los Angeles to work on Obama's campaign. She's a 1992 graduate of the Harvard Law School.

October 16, 2009
Obama stumps for Garamendi

President Barack Obama found time in his whirlwind San Francisco stopover this week to drop a line of support for Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who's the Democratic candidate for the 10th Congressional District. Voters in Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento and Solano counties will choose between Garamendi and Republican businessman David Harmer on Nov. 3.

According to a Garamendi news release, Obama introduced Garamendi at the Thursday night fundraiser, saying, "Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who is running for the California 10 (in the) upcoming election - everybody has got to go out there and work for John."

The San Francisco Chronicle, which provided the local pool print reporter at the event, wrote that Garamendi "had VIP seats front and center at the big reception."

Garamendi responded in a news release today, "I am deeply honored to have the support of President Barack Obama. I share the President's positive, progressive vision for our nation and look forward to the opportunity to actively represent the people of the 10th Congressional District in Congress.

"President Obama has pledged to change our country for the better, but he needs strong allies in Congress who are ready, willing and able to fight for our shared values. As I told President Obama - Mr. President, you can count on me from day one to stand with you in the battles that lie ahead to heal our nation."

October 16, 2009
Obama in S.F.: `Let me talk to you --- Nancy Pelosi is tough'

By Rob Hotakainen in Washington

In a visit to San Francisco Thursday night, President Barack Obama praised Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her "steely determination" and said her toughness is one of the main reasons why Congress will pass a health-care bill.

"Let me talk to you --- Nancy Pelosi is tough," the president said during a fundraising appearance at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. "I want everybody to know that. I mean, every day -- every day -- she is subjected to constant criticism and griping. And then there's the other party. But with style and grace, but most importantly, with steely determination, she does not back down, she is there doing battle each and every day on behalf of not only her constituency here in California, but people all across America who are looking for a fair shake, who are looking for a decent job, who are looking for quality health care, who want a good education for their kids, who want a planet that they can pass on to their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. That's what Nancy Pelosi is all about. We could not have done any of the stuff that we've done this year without one of the best Speakers imaginable."

Obama added: "I know sometimes you're not a prophet in your own land but I want everybody to understand how special Nancy Pelosi is."

Obama's visit was expected to raise $3 million for the national Democratic Party.

According to a pool report, 160 people attended a VIP dinner in the hotel's penthouse. Couples paid $30,400 to attend and got their photographs taken with Obama.

About 900 people attended a general reception in the hotel ballroom, paying from $500 to $1,000. Singer Tracy Chapman provided the entertainment.

Pelosi introduced Obama at the VIP dinner, which was attended by many of Silicon Valley's high technology leaders.

"In this room you see a great collection of intellectuals, entrepreneurial spirit, idealism, integrity ---- and they have a full appreciation for what you have done," she said.

She added: "Mr. President, you give us hope, you make us proud."

October 7, 2009
EdSource report lays out California's school conflicts with feds

While a flap over using student test scores to evaluate teachers' performance has gotten most of the ink, it's just one of several significant changes in education policy that California would have to make to qualify for a new surge of federal aid, EdSource, a Mountain View-based education think tank, says in a new study.

President Barack Obama, both personally and through his education secretary, Arne Duncan, has criticized California for not aligning itself with the administration's new education goals, focusing on its reluctance to use test data for teacher evaluation.

With billions of federal dollars at stake in a period of cutbacks in state school money, Schwarzenegger has called for education reforms and called a special legislative session to enact them, but some -- such as a broad use of test scores for evaluation -- run afoul of the powerful California Teachers Association.

The Legislature has passed a narrow change in its law banning such use, but that may not satisfy federal demands. The Obama administration's list also contains a number of other provisions that California has not yet met, such as more aggressive intervention in troubled schools, broader use of charter schools and collection of more detailed information on student achievement.

The 20-page EdSource report goes into detail on what the federal demands entail and how California stacks up, and also outlines the political impediments to compliance, as well as the amounts of money involved.

The report may be ordered from EdSource here.

August 12, 2009
Rex Babin: Clown Halls

rextownhalld.jpg


The Bee political cartoonist Rex Babin sketches his take on the health care town halls going on across the country. What do you think about the town halls and Babin's cartoon? Let us know in the comments forum.

You can see a collection of Babin's work here.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

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

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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