Sunday, February 26, 2006

Reader Poll II

We had a pretty successful reader poll last month. It’s time we did it again.

1) Do you live in the district? If so, which county? If not, which state?

2) How excited are you about the following declared candidates? (Rate them 1-10, with 10 being very excited, and a 1 being not excited at all. Put an X by any candidate you know too little about to rate. If you participated in the last reader poll, please put your previous answers in parentheses. Go here to see the various responses to the last poll.)

Steve Filson
Jerry McNerney
Steve Thomas
Pete McCloskey

3) By the end of the primary, how much time (in hours or hours per week) and/or money do you plan on spending to elect one of these candidates? How much time and/or money have you already spent trying to get one of these candidates elected?

4) In five words or less, describe yourself politically. (If you participated in the last reader poll, please use the same description.)

5) How often do you come to Say No to Pombo?

6) How useful, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being down right useless and 10 being incredibly useful, do you find Say No to Pombo?

7) Feel free to append any additional comments.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How Did the Hayward Demos Event Go?

Does anyone know how the Hayward Demos event went? I heard, if I understood what I heard correctly, that the group voted to endorse Jerry McNerney last night. Any reports back would be appreciated. Post them in the comment section and when I get home later today I’ll re-post them in the main part of this entry.

Update: Here's the only report posted in the comment section.

You heard it right. Jerry McNerney spoke first, giving a pretty rousing speech, which was interrupted at least a half dozen times with applause. He talked about the necessity for Democratic candidates to embrace Democratic ideals instead of running away from them.

Steve Thomas was apparently taken by surprise by the 5-minute time limit and said that he was going to have to chop "what would have been a pretty eloquent speech" significantly. The result was pretty pedantic, harkening back to FDR's '44 State of the Union message. All I could think of was that this must have been what Adlai Stevenson sounded like.

Steve Filson spoke last, and started off with a string of jokes. Then he launched into stories of his military service and how, at age 26, he was responsible for the men in his squadron and how he brought them through life and death situations through his leadership ability. From there he went into why he's the only one who can win in SJ County because he's a moderate.

Finally, there was a question and answer session. There were only three questions. The first was about energy, and all three candidates spoke to the need to develop alternatives.

Second was a question about the war in Iraq. Filson responded first by saying that as a Congressman, he would demand that Bush adhere to whatever plan the Pentagon developed for withdrawal, as they were the experts. Thomas called for immediate and complete withdrawal, to pretty good audience response. McNerney likewise called for complete withdrawal on a timetable (if I recall correctly) of six months to a year.

The third question was about support for nuclear power. McNerney responded that he felt it is pretty much off the table at present because the problems it presents have not been adequately resolved and there is no public will to adopt it, but that if those limitations changed it would certainly bear looking at. Thomas said that he was opposed to it. Filson, once again, deferred to the experts, saying that, like it or not, nuclear power is already here and there's nothing we can do about it. As a Congressman, he would make it a priority to set up training programs for scientists and engineers, so that we would have the best minds at work on the subject, and then he would let them make those decisions.

Then they held the vote and endorsed McNerney.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the one thing that really stood out to me. Of course, all the candidates got in their licks against Pombo. But Filson actually referred to him as "The Prince of Darkness."

I mean, I dislike the guy as much as anyone, but SATAN??? Really???

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pombo gets donations from off roaders, stacks hearing with off roaders

From VPO:

It is amazing how blatantly corrupt Pombo is, yet we have newspapers and editors (esp. Tracy Press) protecting him and praising him in editorials, instead of doing their job and investigating all the crap that he pulls off. So here is a story for any journalists out there to pursue (and this is just one of many). How much clearer does it have to be to see how Pombo operates?:

8/09/2003 - Off Road Business Assoc (El Cajon, CA), gave Pombo $1000
8/11/2003 - Off Road Warehouse (San Diego, CA), gave Pombo $1000
8/12/2003 - Southern Motorcycle (San Diego, CA), , gave Pombo $1000
8/13/2003 - Off Road Business Assoc (Lakeside, CA), gave Pombo $2000
8/17/2003 - Cycle Parts (La Mesa, CA), gave Pombo $1000
8/18/2003 - Dune Buggy Enterprises (Whittier, CA), gave Pombo $500
8/18/2003 - McMillin Homes (Lakeside, CA), gave Pombo $500 (Corey McMillin was a major supporter of the Off Road Business Association)
8/18/2003 - Michelle Cassella (Perris, CA), gave Pombo $500 (on Board of Directors of District 37, American Motorcyclist Association)

ON 8/18/2003, POMBO HOLDS "CONGRESSIONAL HEARING" AT SEA WORLD IN SAN DIEGO ON CALIFORNIA DESERT -- and the only witnesses are off-road industry reps (see donation list above) and local anti-environmental politicians!

ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICIANS LABEL INDUSTRY RALLY A "CONGRESSIONAL HEARING" — Reps. Pombo & Radanovich Allow Only Industry Groups and Hostile Local Politicians; Greens Boycott

SAN DIEGO--Shunning environmentalists and the local Congressman, U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo and George Radanovich will host a meeting August 18 at Sea World. The so-called Congressional hearing will focus on the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA), especially the controversial Algodones (Imperial) Sand Dunes. Only off-road industry representatives and local anti-environmental politicians have been invited to participate. There will be no environmental voice included in a panel of "stakeholders," and the Congressman for Imperial County, Bob Filner, was not invited to participate. Environmentalists will boycott the event.

"They are missing a chance to get the full story--clearly this is not a legitimate hearing to gather information from all sides of the issue," said Daniel Patterson, Center for Biological Diversity ecologist who formerly worked with BLM in the California Desert. "Pombo's dishonest and divisive one-sided 'hearing' is un-American and anti-democracy. It is nothing more than an anti-environmental rally for destructive industries that want America's scenic public lands all to themselves. They want excess, not access."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Californians and the Environment

The Public Policy Institue of California has recently released a poll about Californians and their attitudes on the environment, especially the way that they view politicians. You can download the entire report, including the questions asked, from the PPIC. Even the SacBee's Daniel Weintraub commented on it today. The point that he made was that Schwarzenegger had a better record than Democrats and Independents give him credit for.

I found a much more interesting piece of data buried in that report. This deals with the attitudes concerning the environment in the Latino community. According to the report, "One example of Latino sentiment: Latinos are more likely than whites (60% to 44%) to say the environmental positions of gubernatorial candidates are very important to them."

What does that have to do with this blog. Consider the Latino population of Brentwood, a CD 11 city on the edge of the Delta. 19,200 registered voters with less than 100 separating Democratic and Republican registrations. But there are 37K residents 18 or older and of the total populationm, over 54% is classified Latino or Hispanic. If you want to win this election, you need to turn out that constituency. But, considering the typical progressive organization, I don't have much hope that this set of actions will get the focus it needs either.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sierra Club Anti-Pombo Meeting

I just got off the phone with the Pombo Accountability Organizer for the Sierra Club, Christina Armor. It looks like there’s going to be a good meeting tomorrow (Thursday) night in Pleasanton. Armor said that everyone is welcome to attend, so don’t be shy about dropping by. Also, if you want more info about events like this, be sure to sign up for the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link group.

Here’s the info about tomorrow night’s event:

Thursday February 23, 2006
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Event Location: Pleasanton Senior Center, 5353 Sunol Blvd
Pleasanton CA (map)

The Sierra Club invites you to an action-oriented meeting! If you value our coast you will not want to miss attending one of these meetings! Find out how U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) is using his office to sell off our environment and National Parks to his special interest friends (and the Eugene O'Neil House in Danville to private developers). Find out how you can protect our California Coastlines from off-shore oil drilling. For more information or to RSVP, contact: Christina Armor, Pombo Accountability Organizer, (510) 848-0800

Delta Force

Just a few more updates on the delta questions. Did anyone see the news tonight with Schwarzenegger and Feinstein and their associates flying around in a helicopter? Well, Arnold and Diane got to speak on camera. Pombo stood in the background looking concerned.

I will give credit to KGO TV (ABC Channel 7 from San Francisco) and Mark Matthews for their coverage. Mostly, they allowed Feinstein to mention the fact that a significant number of new homes have been built in the Delta. Then, they showed a segment where Dr. Mount (UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences) talked about that problem. Of course, Dr. Mount was fired from the Board of Reclamation by Arnold and his replacements said that the local governments needed the tax revenue from the new construction to pay for the levee upgrades to protect the existing people. Huh???

Finally, I want to reference Dan Bacher at the Fish Sniffer for his fine comments about the plans for delta water use. First, read this: Anglers Rise Up Against Delta Exports At Stockton SDIP Hearing. I mentioned before the effect that the fishing public might have on this situation, and the election. I think I am right though not very original. George Miller had the same thought. I understand that Dan plans to attend Pombo's hearing in Stockton next Monday. Even the California Delta Chambers and Visitor's Bureau has an announcement of this hearing on their Web Site.

Actually, having seen the witness list, the right people are there. If Pombo plays it straight, does not try to use it as a platform to push any pre-defined agenda, he might come out all right. However, that has not been the history of the manner in which the Resources Commitee runs their hearings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DFA Training in Stockton March 18-19

This is just a reminder that Democracy for America is having its only grassroots training in California for at least the next six months in Stockton on March 18-19. This is going to be a great event where people from all over Northern California (particularly CA-11) will gather to learn the skills they need to win campaigns.

Go to for more info and directions about how sign up.

Whether you think you might want to run for local office or help organize around issues that matters to you, this training will provide you with valuable skills that will help you be more effective. Grassroots campaigns are full of energy, but sometimes they lack a bit of direction. Learn how to avoid common mistakes and how to maximize your return on the time and effort you invest into a campaign. As my grandma always said, good training never goes to waste.

Also, this training is going to bring together representatives from most of the main anti-Pombo constituencies. We will have a good mix of people from red areas and blue areas, people from the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and areas to the North and South. We will have people from Democratic clubs and people who mainly organize around the blogosphere. An interconnected grassroots is a strong grassroots. If we’re going to take back red California, we need to make these types of working relationships and personal connections that all grassroots campaigns depend upon.

Remember, though it’s going to be hard work, it will also be a lot of fun. And the training is already 60% full, so sign up today.

P.S. I have been asked to run a training session on how to use blogs and websites effectively for political purposes. If you like Say No to Pombo and want to learn more about how and why I do what I do, this is a perfect chance.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

At the Lamorinda Club (Part 2)

Update 2: Welcome Kossacks. Join the fight against Pombo by making a small donation to the cause. It is more important that you give than the amount you give. Each person doing his or her own part really adds up. Also, if you live in Northern California and you want to fight Pombo, sign-up for our Say No to Pombo DFA-Link group. It's an online tool that we will use to organize offline action. There are already two events planned in the next month, and more are in the works.

Update 1: Don't overlook this take on the event, which was posted in the comment section.

In my last piece I discussed some peripheral things about the Lamorinda Democratic Club meeting last night. In this piece I’m going to discuss how the candidates did.
I’ll start by giving a brief description of what I took away from the event. Then I’ll copy two responses I’ve received from others who attended the event. Then I’ll respond to some of what was said in the two responses.

So to begin, I think it’s clear that the performances of Jerry McNerney and Steve Thomas were the most surprising for those of us who have been following the race closely. Incidentally, Steve Filson very well might have come across the best, so “surprising” is not a code-word for success.

So why were McNerney’s and Thomas’ performances surprising?

Well McNerney’s was surprising because he seriously under-performed. I’ve never seen him so stilted, so boring, or so disconnected from the audience. This ought to have been a friendly crowd and he really managed to underwhelm people. Furthermore, since McNerney has been regularly criticized for his very real lack of speaking ability, his poor performance will be taken as emblematic of what he can do. I have seen him do much better, although he has never been stupendous. But the people who saw him for the first time last night will probably assume (reasonably) that he is consistently that bad. McNerney is not. And in addition, I think he’s better with question and answer sessions and one on one. But he is still going to have problems if he cannot pick up his game. And he probably created some problems by doing so poorly in front of such a large, and important, audience.

I mean, I think some people who might forgive poor speaking ability per se are going to come out of last night convinced that McNerney is not up to snuff. They are going to take his performance as emblematic of his competence. McNerney simply cannot allow people in the grassroots to write him off.

Thomas was surprising for almost the opposite reason. I think he gave the best speech at the event, although it was also pretty clear to me that he’s running in the wrong district. Frankly, I do think he is too far on the left for CD-11. That said, I told him that I’d be very happy to work with him after this election. He’d be a welcome addition to any Democratic club and he certainly has a lot of potential. I’m sure there is a lot of potential for him to take on more overt political roles in his union, and if he wanted to I’m sure he could build a base of support within a couple of years. But right now it’s unclear how he can mount a credible candidacy.

I have to say that I was impressed with the progress Filson has made. I mean, he began his speech with a comment about how important Democratic clubs are. It was light-years beyond his “Democratic clubs are not stakeholders in the Democratic Party” line. So he’s learning, which is good. His delivery was also pretty good, and I noticed that he brought all of his responses to the questions back to what he’d do in Congress. Still, I think there were two issues about Filson that prevented his performance from being a home run.

First, Filson really did not have strong responses to questions about Iraq or universal healthcare. He faced a dilemma in which he was to the right of his audience. But he responded by repeating rhetoric that was little more than political code words. If he could articulate a reason why he was opposed to universal healthcare, I think people might disagree but understand his position. Or if he has a better response on Iraq, I think people would disagree but understand. Instead, I found his responses to these particular issues fairly devoid of substance.

Second, Filson’s Mr. Hyde persona came out in two places during his performance. At one point McNerney had accidentally referred to the “War in Iran” instead of Iraq. It was not the only gaffe made, but it was pretty clear that he misspoke. Instead of staying silent on McNerney’s mistake, Filson used his intonation to emphasize the word “Iraq” and left a pause afterwards, thereby drawing further attention to McNerney’s mistake. I think it demonstrated a lack of graciousness that was beneath him. And then in his closing statement, Filson repeated some of the bad parts of the speech he gave to the South County Democratic Club. One of the two responses below goes into that in more detail, but I noticed this at the time and thought it came off badly.

So that has been my somewhat initial take on the race. Here are two responses I received from people who attended the meeting last night. I’m going to present them here and then respond to them somewhat obliquely afterwards.

Response One was published in the comment section here.

Jerry McNerney: I supported him last time and really appreciate his willingness to put his own $ into what most see as a lost cause. But here is something really grating about his presentation. He needs to lighten up a little work on his modulation. I just really wonder how he plays in Lodi or in the Tracy suburbs. Steve Thomas: I agree with most of what he said (he follows dkos and other blogs clearly) BUT I don't think he has much a chance in getting elected in rural San Joaquin County. He comes across as the 'smartest kid in the class' which people don't like. Steve Filson: I was prepared to not like him given the DCCC heavy handedness but he won me over. I like Steve a lot, he has a good plan for winning the district (note This is not Barbara Lee's district). So I switched sides from McNerney to Filson. Just my opinion, whatever we do we really need to WIN this district in Nov. I will support whoever the Democrats of the district select.


Response Two was posted as a comment here by Rick.
There were approximately 100 people at the Lamorinda Democratic Club event on Friday, February 17. The candidate forum went for about a hour a fifteen minutes. Each candidate got a 10 minute or so opening statement. Then the moderator read questions from the audience and each candidate had about a minute to respond. The forum then concluded with a two-minute closing statement from each candidate. My general observations of the forum are as follows:

Jerry McNerny: He looked tired and came across as lethargic. Got flustered at various points and made some obvious gaffes (e.g., saying that the U.S. invaded Iran instead of Iraq). His opening statement and responses to questions came across as disjointed and lacking a coherent message. McNerny also didn't inspire a lot of confidence in his motives when he stated that he jumped into the 2004 race because no one else was running against Pombo. Somewhat related, his campaign "scented" the room with dozens of McNerny signs and flyers posted on the walls. This looked tacky and amateurish and gave the appearance that the forum was rigged in his favor.

Steve Thomas: A natural public speaker (his voice has an uncanny resemblance to Harry Reid) who came across as sincere and genuine in his beliefs, but utterly unelectable. Some of his most pointed statements came awfully close to sounding like far-left conspiracy theories (i.e., at one pointed he stated that the neo-cons have drawn plans to invade all of the countries in the Middle East). Overall, he came across as an idealist who was out his element.

Steve Filson: It's apparent he’s been to candidate school. His statements were short, punchy, and easy to understand (i.e., sound bites), he made repeated use of personal stories of both himself and people he's met, and his stage presence was superior to the other three candidates. It was also apparent that he is more centrist than McNerny and Thomas, a fact he played down in response to several questions, most notably Iraq. His closing statement was terrible—he recycled that awful bit from the Morgan Hill Democratic Club speech that has been previously posted here about how he knows the district (e.g., "Do you know who the million dollar man is? [Explains Neil Diamond's appearance in Stockton]...You have to know the local issues if you're going run for Congress") For a guy who has the resources he has access to, surely someone must have told him that a). he is pointing out the obvious, and b). it comes across as condescending.

However, closing statement aside, Filson came across as the only one of the three who was ready for "prime time." He was the only candidate who avoided the self-deceiving trap of proposing to impeach the president (As an aside, it's ironic to see how many Democrats forget how wildly unpopular the Republican impeachment of Clinton was) and it's clear that his views are more in line with the mainstream of CA-11 than McNerny or Thomas. I went into the forum with an open mind and I am now squarely in the Filson camp now.

First all, I want to thank the authors of these responses. I welcome their reports back because they provide some way of knowing how others perceived the event. That said, neither of these responses came from people I had already knew were members of the Say No to Pombo community. So, unless I am mistaken, this is the first we’ve heard from them. I hope that they will continue to provide feedback, especially on Filson since they are both supporting him. I think a continued conversation with them would be beneficial to the Say No to Pombo community, so I hope that they continue to comment.

But I do have to say that I do not agree with some of their observations, or some of what I take to be the premises behind their conclusions. For example, let’s suppose that Steve Filson is really in a position to do better in the district than Jerry McNerney. What kind of evidence would you expect to see now that would show that Filson is destined to do better? You might think that Steve Filson would be raising more money than McNerney from within the district. But Filson is not. And Filson is not even raising more money in the conservative San Joaquin County. Filson is also not raising money from more donors in the district. And Filson has only now received his first endorsement from any organization in the district (the CCC-CLC), while McNerney has the endorsement of more Labor organizations than Filson and the formal endorsement of a Democratic club in the district, something Filson lacks.

Now my point is not that Filson is necessarily in a worse position than McNerney. Filson has more money, which will allow him to do more. And Filson is becoming a better speaker and communicator while McNerney is struggling to achieve sufficiency in those areas. But I still think it’s important to ask in pragmatic terms what it means that Filson is in a better position to win in the district.

One thing I think some people might not be appreciating to the same degree I do (for good or ill) is that personality only goes so far. One of McNerney’s advantages over Filson is that McNerney has surrogates who are well-established in their respective communities. Jerry McNerney does not convince everyone to vote for him. He can have his supporters work to convince members of their communities on his behalf.

So for example, in isolation I’m sure that McNerney did come across badly to some people last night. But in the context of the club, I doubt that any of the organizers who were there changed their mind about Filson or McNerney. And there is still a lot of time for people who are loyal to McNerney to essentially ride herd and bring people back into the fold so to speak. I don’t mean that in any coercive way mind you. I just mean that the social context is such that people who liked what Filson said last night and disliked what McNerney said are not lost causes for McNerney or definite votes for Filson. And so people should not underestimate the power of these informal structures of respect and friendship.

Now you take that one step further and you realize that there is tremendous power in a good ground game that relies on person-to-person interactions. A neighborhood has the same type of informal social networks that a club has. And they can be exploited through precinct captain programs and other similar activities.

Jerry McNerney’s supporters have always said that he will win the primary by out-organizing Filson. If McNerney does not sufficiently improve his public speeches, maybe he will not be able to recruit enough people to his cause, or motivate them to do what they need to do. But between today and a week from today, there are going to be dozens of people working for Jerry McNerney in one community or another. And collectively, what they do will have more impact and reach more people than last night’s speech.

I know a lot of people may disagree with me. That’s fine. But I really want to make clear that I view this race from an organizational and functional level. It’s how I approach politics and why I am so involved with the grassroots. And so although I think McNerney performed very far below what he both could and should have done, I also think that it counts more as a missed opportunity than an absolute setback.

Obviously, enough of these missed opportunities will really stall McNerney’s campaign. The next chance to change this dynamic is the Hayward Demos meeting next Friday. McNerney, Filson, and Charlie Brown (who is running against John Doolittle in CA-04) will be speaking.

Anyhow, others should feel free to post their perceptions of the Lamorinda event in the comments section. I’m packing for LA and flying down there tonight, so I most likely won’t be able to respond until late this evening.

At the Lamorinda Club (Part 1)

I’m going to Los Angeles today but before I left I want to give a brief report back from the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s candidate forum last night.  I’m going to discuss how the candidates did in my next piece, but I want to mention two things before that.

First, I was approached by a number of people at the meeting who wanted to discuss the blog post I put up yesterday.  Almost none of them actually read my blog.  Instead one reader (or I know of one at least) had read my post and e-mailed it to some of the more active members of the Lamorinda Club.  Everyone who spoke to me about it validated my belief that the optics of the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council’s endorsement of Filson were bad.  It just did not look kosher to anyone.  And even folks who are not very involved in the anti-Pombo effort, including people who are not supporters of Jerry McNerney, told me that what had happened was deeply disturbing to them.  

Also, and I’m still considering this part of the first item, I was told that the spin from the pro-Filson camp in the CCC-CLC was that Filson was not present in the room when the vote was taken.  If anyone had thought that my objection was to his presence when the vote was taken, consider yourself disabused of that notion.  

The problem was that the vote was taken right after a meeting with Filson that excluded the other candidates.  The problem was that the normal endorsement process was not followed. And because of that, the process that was undertaken had an in-built bias for Filson.  On top of that, there was never any transparency (in fact, there was an active attempt to dissemble) about the process that the CLC was actually going to follow.  So the endorsement process was rigged in Filson’s favor and an attempt was made to hide that it was so rigged.  

The upshot of all of this was that a candidate with significant support from allies of Labor was treated unfairly and disrespectfully, which will be taken by some of those allies in the Democratic Party grassroots as a statement about Labor’s respect (or lack thereof) for the grassroots.  And consequently, the very base of support in Contra Costa County upon which any successful anti-Pombo effort will be waged, has been undermined. And to my mind, all of this was needless as inviting Jerry McNerney and Steve Thomas would have most likely led to the same end result (the CLC endorsing Filson) without raising the type of problems that have been caused by what happened on Wednesday night.

Second, and on a completely different topic, an announcement was made that Pete McCloskey will be participating in an anti-war march and rally on March 18th.  Somewhat ironically, that’s the same weekend as the DFA grassroots training in Stockton, so a lot of anti-Pombo activists aren’t going to be able to see McCloskey speak.  But I have heard McCloskey be very eloquent about the disaster that is our policy in Iraq.  So I bet we’ll see another round of media pieces on McCloskey around that event.  And I assume he’ll be able to pick up some more support from folks who attend the rally and realize that he’s running against Pombo.  


Friday, February 17, 2006

Contra Costa Labor Backs Steve Filson

I’ve been running around the last couple of days and haven’t managed to put up a decent blog post.  But now I have some time, and boy do I have some stories to tell.  

The big development is that Steve Filson was endorsed by the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council (CCC-CLC) on Wednesday night.  Their endorsement is certainly a boost for Filson.  But I suspect that the process by which the CCC-CLC went about endorsing Filson is going to generate quite a bit of controversy, especially among the Lamorinda Democratic Club folks who are hosting their candidates forum tonight.  

So to start off with, let’s first look at the endorsement itself, divorced from the process by which it was awarded.  The endorsement itself helps Filson.  I have a lot of respect for Labor, and I know that union activists play a big role in Contra Costa County’s Democratic (and non-partisan but progressive) field operations.  And there’s no doubt that this will ensure Filson has the support of (at least a significant number of) Contra Costa County union members and activists.  This means that Filson will have organized, effective, and experienced volunteers to call upon to help him with his ground game in Contra Costa County.   It also will probably open (or keep open) some funding sources for Filson.            

Also, had the CCC-CLC endorsed McNerney, it would have been a virtual certainty that the California Labor Federation would have endorsed McNerney and not Filson.  (Remember, McNerney has already been endorsed by the San Joaquin County-Calaveras and the Alameda County CLCs).  Instead, now it looks likelier (although I have no idea how likely) that the CLF will give a dual-endorsement to Steve Filson and Jerry McNerney. I’m not sure how to handicap this possibility, especially since I don’t know which unions support Filson and how many members they have in proportion to the unions that back McNerney.  But a unitary endorsement from the CLF requires a higher threshold of votes from union delegates than a dual endorsement.  From what I know it seems almost certain that the CLF will vote to endorse McNerney in one way or another.  But if enough delegates come to the CLF endorsement convention backing Filson, it could lead to a dual endorsement.  Obviously, since it looks assured that McNerney will get some type of endorsement from the CLF, it would be much better for Filson to be endorsed along with McNerney rather than not being endorsed at all.

Now for the context, and the controversy.

The meeting that the CCC-CLC had on Wednesday night was not supposed to be an endorsement meeting, at least not officially. It was billed as a meet and greet and from what I can tell neither Jerry McNerney nor Steve Thomas were invited.  In fact, I’m confident that they told Jerry McNerney that he could not come.  He had had a meet and greet with the CCC-CLC over a month ago, and now it was Filson’s turn.  Or something like that.  But it was never intended to be a meet and greet.  The important people involved knew going in that they were going to have an endorsement vote.  But they excluded the other candidates.  And that’s bound to rub people the wrong way.


To be clear, nobody who is in the Democratic grassroots will be upset, in their capacity as a Democratic grassroots activist, that the CCC-CLC endorsed Filson.  I mean, everyone recognizes that Labor has the prerogative to endorse whomever they want and for whatever reason they want.  I want to state this explicitly because I do think there will be some important Labor activists involved with the grassroots of the Democratic Party who are bound to be upset at the very fact that Filson was endorsed by the CCC-CLC full stop. But their disquiet is probably going to revolve around a perceived lack of solidarity within the House of Labor.  But aside from the people who approach the endorsement as union members, I do not think you will see much in the way of indignation or controversy in the Democratic grassroots that revolves around the brute fact that Filson was endorsed by the CCC-CLC.  I’m sure a lot of people would strongly disagree with the wisdom of the endorsement.  But it’s not the place of the Democratic Party to tell Labor whom to endorse, and everyone understands that.

But here’s the thing, a lot of people are going to think that the CCC-CLC did not operate in a transparent and even-handed manner prior to the endorsement.  From what I can tell, the CCC-CLC both planned to endorse Filson last night AND tried to make it appear as if they spontaneously decided to endorse Filson last night.  Jerry McNerney wasn’t invited to the meeting last night because it was a “meet and greet” for Filson, not an “endorsement meeting.”  Had it been billed as an endorsement meeting, then they couldn’t have excluded McNerney.  So they got everyone in a room with Steve Filson there and neither of the other candidates and then held a vote about whom to endorse.  In essence, the whole process is going to look like it was rigged for Filson.  And that is going to piss a lot of people off.

To put things in perspective, on Monday I wrote an e-mail to Nagaraja Rao, the Chair of the Contra Costa Democratic Party, about an anonymous e-mail I had received.  The e-mail said (non-pejoratively) that the CCC-CLC was going to have an endorsement meeting on Wednesday and exclude McNerney from it.  It wasn’t clear to me whether the writer was a support of McNerney or Filson, or if the writer was just giving me the inside scoop.

Here is part of what I wrote in my e-mail to Rao:

As you may know, I run an anti-Pombo website called Say No to Pombo that tracks both Pombo's antics and the state of the Democratic primary.  I got an anonymous e-mail today (apparently from a reader of my site) saying that the Contra Costa Central Labor Council was planning on holding its endorsement meeting on Wednesday but was not inviting Jerry McNerney.


I am worried, if what I heard is true, that the people in the grassroots will view such an exclusionary endorsement meeting as little more than a power play undertaken on the part of Ellen Tauscher and her surrogates.  You know as well as I do that McNerney enjoys, at a minimum, considerable support from the Democratic Party grassroots in Contra Costa County.  I fear that excluding him from the endorsement meeting will be taken as a message to the grassroots that they aren't considered valuable by Labor.  And I am concerned that even people who are fully cognizant of Labor's prerogative to endorse whomever they want will still feel like the endorsement of Filson was made needlessly antagonistic by excluding McNerney from the endorsement meeting.  That is, I am worried that the process, much more than the outcome, will be seen as inflammatory and divisive.

Again, I hope that this is a rumor and you can disabuse me of it.  But if it is true, in whole or in part, I hope that you will consider providing me with your perceptions about it. I know that you are a member of a union and the Chair of the county Democratic Party. As such, I think you can speak to this issue with considerable authority.


I then requested that, if what I heard was true, he provide me some context (whether on or off of the record).

Here is the entirety of the response I received from him on Tuesday:

I know of no congressional endorsements [sic] scheduled for today. N Rao

Now when I received this e-mail I was fairly sure that the Rao was essentially punting on the question.  For one thing, I explicitly said that I heard that the endorsement would be on Wednesday.  So by him narrowing the focus of his comments to “today” (meaning Tuesday) he was able to commit a lie of omission rather than an out and out lie.  And at the time I was pretty much sure it was a lie of omission. As a member of a union in Contra Costa County, as a prominent Democrat, and as someone who is involved with the generic Democratic effort to fight Pombo, there’s no way he couldn’t have known that there at least would be a Filson meet and greet at the CCC-CLC meeting on Wednesday.  He could have told me that there was going to be such a meet and greet, but doing so would have most naturally led him to telling me that the meeting was not an endorsement meeting.  Or he could have told me that they were going to have an endorsement vote, thereby providing evidence that the rumor I heard was true.  I figured he knew what was up and that he was trying to stay out of it, or at least I was charitably assuming that that was the case.    

But then last night a prominent Filson supporter told me that Rao “went to bat” for Filson on this endorsement with the CCC-CLC. So we know that Rao wasn’t just trying to avoid entanglement in someone else’s political machinations, he was actually hiding something that he was involved in himself. And the fact that he dissembled about this before it happened goes to show that he knew he had something to hide. And it looks like the CCC-CLC essentially behaved in the same way with people.  They hid what they were up to instead of following the normal endorsement procedure.  And in doing so they clearly and obviously stacked the deck in Filson’s favor.  

As I suggested in my e-mail to Rao, I think everyone’s going to look at this whole ugly process and see Ellen Tauscher’s fingerprints all over it.  People are not naïve.  If Ellen Tauscher (or perhaps the DCCC) drew a line in the sand and more or less demanded that the CCC-CLC endorse Filson, people would understand why they’d do so.  Not only is Tauscher powerful, she’s actually a pretty good friend to Labor.  But it’s fair enough for the CCC-CLC to endorse Filson to make Tauscher happy (or otherwise weigh what’s in their own best interest and act accordingly).  

Still, the process they undertook to endorse Filson does not send the message that, in sum, it’s better to endorse Filson.  It sends the message that the support McNerney has from other union activists, and the support he receives from the grassroots base of the Democratic Party, is so inconsequential that McNerney does not deserve a fair hearing at the endorsement meeting. And I suspect that the ultimate feeling is that people in the Democratic Party grassroots feel like they are strong enough allies with Labor that, at the very least, they deserve enough respect to warrant a full and fair endorsement meeting that included their candidate.  I mean, it’s pretty minimal to expect that their candidate would have metaphorically his day in (kangaroo) court.

Lastly, I have to say that although I view this endorsement as a net positive for Filson, I still think it demonstrates a certain weakness on his part.  If he was confident he’d get the endorsement he ought to have insisted that McNerney be allowed at the meeting and otherwise worked to assure that everything was done above-board.  Doing so would have minimized the type of resentment I’m speaking about.  It would also have been the right thing to do from an ethical perspective.  

So on one hand, it may be that Filson’s team wasn’t sure they’d get the endorsement (or maybe a unitary endorsement) in a full and fair endorsement meeting.  As such they hedged their bets and went with what they knew they could get.  A bird in the hand and all.  

On the other hand, it may be that he was confident about getting the endorsement, and was simply blind to how this would come across to the grassroots.  That too would be troubling. Everything about this reinforces things grassroots activists tend not to like about Filson: the fact that there seem to be a lot of power plays made on his behalf, the fact that he seems more concerned with winning than with playing by the rules, the fact that he seems unappreciative of the importance of the grassroots.  

Now I’ve tried to get Filson’s side of this.  I’ve spoken to Colin Bishopp, one of Filson’s staffers about this.  He had no comment.  I e-mail Rao, who apparently didn’t think this merited any response.  Maybe I’m missing something.  I kind of hope I am.  But I can tell you, if I’m missing something, I’m not the only one.  And right now I really don’t like what I see.              

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Red, Blue and Green

Mostly, this blog talks about Democrats vs. Pombo. When talking about Republicans, it is mostly Pombo = bad, McCloskey = good. Well, to add to the mix, according to a friend of mine, "SF Green Party also last night endorsed a resolution opposing Pombo's effort to undo the Endangered Species Act."

The chorus is growing. I know of a Libertarian (even ran for office as one) who has blasted Pombo a number of times on her editorial pages. When Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Greens can agree on something it must be right. Pombo has to go.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A quick guide to the Delta

For anyone who wants to get a quick overview of the issues in the delta from an unbiased source... not me in any case, I suggest reading two stories in High Counbty News: Current Issue. That page has the links for both stories:

Tiny stream invaders may harm Western trout talks about the fact that an exotic species of New Zealand Mud Snails is causing trouble all over the west. This will give the background of the arguement that "exotic species" are causing the decline of fish populations in the delta, not the fact that LA wants more water. Story is short.

Trouble in the Delta is a good overview of all that is going on. In this one, note specifically that CalFed is a potential solution, but could also be seen as part of the problem as long as that agency does not do what it was supposed to do. This is a Diane Feinstein idea that is falling apart because the Metropolitan Water District and San Joaquin Valley Farmers have all the power and need the water. (Note the bias in my comments.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Has George Bush Gone Green?

This post is, in a way, a description of what will happen in the forthcoming election cycle as it concerns the environment. Margaret Kriz of the Hoover Institute has an interesting commentary about politicians and their biennial environmental conversion. Has George Bush Gone Green? ;is not about Bush, but about the way that politicians play the enviornmental card at election time.

In this election year, especially with McCloskey running against him, you can expect to see Pombo soften his tone on the environment. You will also see him make as many joint statements as he can with Diane Feinstein. Both are running for re-election. Feinstein's is more assured than Pombo's. But, joint statements on anything will show that they are really not so extreme.

In particular, look for this as it relates to the delta, water use and protection of local fish. Pombo will hope to blunt some of McCloskey's criticism on this issue and what better way to do so that getting a joint statement with DiFi.

What the Democrats have to consider is that DiFi's favorite water project, called CalFed, is a part of the problem more than it is a part of the solution. In the years that she worked to get it in place, so much was compromised that now, CalFed is the organization that wants to drastically increase the pumping of water from the delta with all of the negative consequences that this might have.

The entire process is probably going to begin in Stockton early Monday Morning, Feb. 27.

Another Event...perhaps THE event

This was only announced this AM and is in the following week. But, Sir Richard d'(arth) Pombo will have his Resources Committee visiting Stockon on Monday, Feb. 27th at 8:00 AM. The announced purpose is an oversight hearing on the decline of fish populations in the Bay / Delta. The Resources Committee Media Advisory is just now on line...they did not even get the HTML title right yet.

The witness list has yet to be announced. I did make sure that Dan Bacher at The Fish Sniffer got a copy of the hearing notice. If anyone should be there and on the witness list, it is Dan: and then Dr. Jeffrey Mount from UC Davis Center for Watershed Management. I would hope that McCloskey and some of the Dems can find a way to make it there also.

I still suggest that anyone who can possibly make an early Monday Morning session try and be there. It is the normal practice of the Resources Committee to set up hearings so that they only hear testimony supporting the positions that they have already taken. In parsing the announcement, I would guess that the position will be "no sound science."

As I said before, this is an issue where the sports community is our ally If you know any fishermen, sports enthusiasts, etc., make sure that they know about this. If you know anyone who belongs to an environmental group in the area, pass on the announcement.

WHEN: Monday, February 27, 2006 8:00 AM (PST)

WHERE: Port of Stockton
________ Rough and Ready Island
________ 315 Fyffe Ave.
________ Stockton, CA

Monday, February 13, 2006

Events This Week

UPDATE: Leighton Woodhouse has written in the comments section that Markos Moulitsas, the founder of Daily Kos, will be talking about the CA-11 race at the event on Thursday. It will be interesting to see his take on the race as he is a influential opinion leader among the netroots. So now there is an added incentive to attend the event.

I want to make sure people know about the following events. All but the second event directly relate to the anti-Pombo effort. The second event is something I’m publicizing because it looks like it will be an awesome program and I think the people on this site might be interested in attending. Read this notice and use the comment section as an open thread.

Tuesday February 14

The Medicare Part D Plan is a huge disaster. Many seniors and disabled persons have been denied drugs they need to stay alive and healthy. Others have been asked to pay huge co-payments – that they don’t have. Meanwhile, the drug companies who sponsored this legislation are raking in the dollars. Congressman Pombo voted for this bad bill. On Valentine’s Day, please join us to ask him to have a heart and help us fix Medicare and win real prescription drug relief.

Don’t Break Our Hearts – POMBO!
TUESDAY, February 14th in STOCKTON
11:00am: Rally & Valentines Party at Pombo’s Office
2495 W. March Lane, Stockton

12:00pm: De-brief and Tailgate Party/Lunch in parking lot
(sponsored by CWA District 9 Locals)
Sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans.

To RSVP, call the Bailey’s @ 209-951-0499 or Jodi Reid @ 415-550-0828


SACRAMENTO: Vans leave at 9:30 am from the Target parking lot, Riverside & Broadway, Sacramento.

RSVP toBill Powers, 916-446-4240

ALAMEDA: Vans leave at 9:00am from Ashby BART, Berkeley.

RSVP to Jim Forsyth, 510-581-5169

SANTA CLARA: Vans leave at 9:00 am from South Bay Labor Council, 2102 Almaden, San Jose.

RSVP to Rufus Wesley, 408-578-8113

MODESTO/MANTECA: Vans leave at 9:30am Food Max, Prescott & Briggsmoore, Modesto. 10am at St. Mary’s Church, Louise & Cottage, Manteca
RSVP to Addie Brinkley, 209-545-8680

CONTRA COSTA: Carpools leave at 9:00am from Sam’s Club, 1225 Concord Ave, Concord

RSVP to Ruth Roe, 925-680-8269

Thursday February 16

The Action Caucus and the East Bay Young Democrats present:

Realizing Our Power: Visions for Youth Organizing in the Bay Area

A panel discussion on building a movement that will fight for young people and win.

Thursday, February 16th, from 7 to 9pm
Humanist Hall
390 27th Street
Oakland, California

Our panel:

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga founded and blogs for Daily Kos, a Democratic blog that receives about 20 million unique visits per month. His book, Crashing the Gate, co-authored with's Jerome Armstrong, will be out in March.

Hallie Montoya Tansey is the National Program Director of the League of Young Voters (AKA the League of Pissed Off Voters). She was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM.

Graciela Elizabeth Geyer is the Executive Director of the University of California Students Association. Liz is an alumna of UCLA and a former USCA board member 98-00. Liz also served as the Student of Color Campus Diversity Project Director for the United States Student Association 2000-2002.

Chloë Drew is Campaign Director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee's re-election campaign. She manages the Congresswoman's High School Activists Project that recruits and trains high school students from across the 9th District. Chloe is a founding board member of OaklandVOTE, a non-partisan voter education project dedicated to engaging voters in low turnout communities of Oakland.

Melanie Nutter is the Deputy District Director for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Prior to her current position, she was Executive Director of the San Francisco Democratic Party. Melanie will MC our discussion.

Friday February 17

The Lamorinda Democratic Club is pleased to present three excellent Democratic party candidates that are running in the June primary to defeat the right winged congressman from the 11th congressional district at its February meeting on the 17th.

Pombo, who is in his seventh term in the United States House of Representatives represents parts of San Joaquin, Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties.
In addition to supporting most issues that are in opposition to Democratic party values, Pombo has most recently penned a bill that critically weakens the landmark Endangered Species Act.

Named one of 13 most corrupt members of Congress by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Pombo is a close associate of indicted representative Tom DeLay. A right-wing zealot in charge of the House Resources Committee, he has worked vigorously to overturn environmental laws and destroy our natural heritage.

For more about Pombo click here.

Hear from these fine condidates running in the June primary:
  1. Steve Filson: click here for more information.

  2. Jerry McNerney: click here for more information.

  3. Steve Thomas: click here for more information.

Saturday February 18

There is no announcement about this, but I figured people should know that on Saturday there will be a large meeting with representatives from the stakeholder groups in the Democratic Party concerned with this election. Both Steve Thomas and Jerry McNerney will attend, and Steve Filson will send a representative. The purpose of the meeting, as I understand it, is to lay the groundwork to ensure that whoever wins the primary has a coordinated campaign to run against Pombo. If any readers attend the meeting and have anything to report back about what happened, feel free to send me an e-mail. I won’t be able to attend because I will be out of town.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday Open Thread

As I mentioned in a previous post, this week I will be posting Open Threads like this in the hopes that they engender some discussion.  For those who do not know, an Open Thread is a place for the users to discuss what they think is important.  So if you have something relevant to say, post it in the comments section.  You can use these threads to pitch story ideas for Say No to Pombo, to comment on relevant media articles, to report on any experience you had with the candidates or their campaigns, or to discuss this blog itself.  And feel free to ask questions of your fellow readers and the Say No to Pombo bloggers.  It’s your space.  Just try to keep it germane to the topic of the blog and more or less respectful of the Say No to Pombo community members.    

Lessons from Benicia City Council race


There was an election for the Benicia (CA) City Council this past November. It gives a good lesson in current politics. First, I should point out that Benicia is the home to the Valero Refinery and also that it still has some outlying areas for new home developments.

Valero Refining Company gave $35,000 to a group euphemistically called "Coalition for Responsible Government" (meaning, it seems, responsible to corporate interests). West Coast Homebuilders, owned by developer Albert Seeno, gave the same group $15,000.

Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 7, the group spent $31,000 on fliers, phone calls, and signs supporting two "pro-growth, corporate" candidates and $13,000 opposing the "slow-growth, people-oriented" candidate.

Note that most of the money was spent in the last week before the election. As posters here have pointed out, it is the advertising and push right before the election that has the most effect. In Pombo's case, this will be TV and radio ads, as well as those fliers that always picture him as "Mr. Greenjeans". Political consultants know that most voters generally don't pay attention until just before the election, and that they can be easily influenced by a big push at that time.

So the two pro-corporate candidates had lots of money (for a small city race) due to their support from an oil/gas company and a developer. The corporate-sponsored group used the money to promote their candidates and beat up on the one they did not like.

Of course, those two won, and the other guy lost.

I am mentioning this here not to criticize Benicia (actually a very nice small town), but as a microcosm of the Pombo race. Big oil/gas/development money has been pouring into Pombo's coffers, there will be a "just before the election" push to hammer Filson or McNerney, and to make Pombo look like "Mr. Good Guy/Mr. Security/Mr. Green", and if nothing has been done on the Dem side to counter this or reframe Pombo before the crucial last week, the voters will dutifully march into the polling booth and vote for the image of Pombo conjured up by the corporate advertising dollars.

Where's the beef?

Whether you think that the title comes from an old Wendy's Ad, from a Mondale speech, or from a Coyote McCloud recording, I think that we have to look at ourselves and ask the question.

The posts to SNTP that get lots of comments are those that deal with either personalities or are keeping score in the "game" of politics. This is what you should all expect, because that is the way that the media presents elections. Notice to all: most media will not deal with issues. That is too much work.

I noted that my comments about the problems with the delta and the way that the Pombo led House Resources Committee was screwing things up got hardly a comment. When someone talks about the personal interplay at a Democratic Club function, it draws many a comment. When I suggested in my first post that Pombo had a vulnerability because of the opposition of sportsmen to some of his programs, someone wrote that this was a welcome, fresh perspective. When Matt posted about an editorial put down of Pombo in a magazine called the Fish Sniffer, the only commenter was myself.

Hey, this requires that someone understand the issues in the delta and how they affect our lives. That is complex. That is not as easy as chatting about how a candidate is doing. But, consider this. The Fish Sniffer has ~25,000 reader in the Valley. I would be that most of the fish the Delta, or fish the mountain streams for trout. If someone is really upset about Pombo, you need reasons that get to people where they live and this is one for a population of sportsmen. If I were living in Lodi, or Brentwood, and I wanted to see Pombo gone, I would make sure that I visited all the little Marina's around...I might even leave a copy of the Fish Sniffer editorial. I sure wouldn't sit around complaining about whether Matt edited a piece fairly or not.

On second thought, maybe you should read the Fish Sniffer's latest editorial before you do: Congressman George Miller Urges Anglers To Join The Battle To Save The Delta

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lemons and Lemonade

I want to respond to a comment that was made in response to the last diary and the comments that it engendered.  Specifically, I want to respond to this:

This has got to stop. This is absolutely insane. Has anyone noticed what happens on this blog? A post attacking Pombo -- 0 to 5 comments. A post about Filson -- 25 comments of all of us bitching at each other, pointing fingers, and now, calling one of the candidates a condescending asshole.

I am going to respond to this in two ways. One way is probably defensive.  The other way is probably constructive.  But I believe both and want to put both out there.

So first, the defensive and unrepentant part.  

I think we try to limit the extent of the finger-pointing and name-calling to a minimum here.  But one of the purposes of this blog is to hash out in a public way some sort of shared (truthful) understanding of who the candidates are and what their strengths and their weaknesses are.  

So let us take the case of Steve Filson.  Both Filson and his backers have proclaimed Steve Filson the “electable” candidate capable of wooing the swing voters. This is not something that has been mentioned in passing.  This has been made one of the central arguments in favor of Filson.  

Well suppose Filson comes across to a lot of people as a condescending asshole.  I mean, really, let’s assume he’s a genuinely nice guy and something in the tone of his voice or how he carries himself (something unconscious and unreflective of his true nature) really comes across badly.  I think that might make him a lot less electable.  And if so, why ought it to be illegitimate to bring up? I know it’s not pretty or polite to discuss, but screw politeness.  

Honestly, nothing Babaloo or I say will come close to the type of things Pombo and his people is going to say about the eventual Democratic nominee.  There is a difference between creating an issue where there is none and addressing an issue that isn’t being addressed.  I know some of the Say No to Pombo readers want a completely positive, no criticism of Dems allowed, discussion. But at a certain point that becomes indistinguishable for wishing that the Democrats live in denial.  And the call for restraint simply becomes a palliative that makes us feel better but does not address the underlying issues at hand.            

To be clear, I don’t want to make it an issue about who he is; to me it’s about how he will be perceived.  And ever since I first met Filson I have been concerned that he will be perceived in a way that will prevent him from connecting with the people he will need to connect with.  And my perception has been borne out by further experience and by what a ton of people have told me, including people who are by no means on the McNerney bandwagon.  

I have no doubt that if Babaloo had not posted her transcript of the MySpace diary, then the speech would still be up there.  And Pombo’s people would have been just as able as I to find it on MySpace.  Now it’s down from the site, which means on some level that someone from Filson’s campaign agreed with me and Babaloo that it wasn’t Filson’s most shining moment.  Great.  

Hopefully he’ll avoid making such mistakes in the future.  God only knows that Filson made a similar mistake in San Ramon.  At this point, if Pombo tries to make hay all Filson needs to do is own up to his mistake and apologize.  But if he kept on saying similar things the entire primary, he’d be in a lot worse shape come June.  And frankly, if Filson continues to say such stupid and needless things I don’t see a problem in pointing out that Rahm Emanuel’s Great Democratic Hope for CA-11 can’t even act like he respects the voters of the district.  

Now the productive part.

Part of the reason there are so few comments about Pombo is because it’s really hard to write up new stuff about him.  At least that’s true in my experience.  So what I’m going to try for the next week is to start posting open threads in which people can comment about good articles they read, thoughts they had about the articles, questions they’d like to see answered, etc.  Hopefully the open threads will open a new space for people to discuss important developments without feeling constrained by the framework one of the Say No to Pombo authors imposed on a post.  

Also, I am hoping that if some authors choose a pseudonym to use in an open thread, we will see voices developing that have different takes on Pombo such that the open threads will have dialogues as interesting to follow as normal posts are to read (I hope the posts are interesting to read).  I have become more and more convinced that Say No to Pombo needs more authors, and maybe if people start commenting consistently in the open thread that will make them comfortable enough to periodically write guest posts of one sort or another.  I don’t know.  But I’ll do it for the week and see what happens.  

Friday, February 10, 2006

Steve Filson Speaks

It has been one of the few rules of this site, from its inception, that we try never to say anything about the Democratic challengers that Richard Pombo could use later on to impugn them.

So I want to be abundantly clear that I am merely passing on information made public by Steve Filson. Filson addressed the Morgan Hill Democratic Club recently (if I’m not mistaken, the event occurred on January 21). His comments were recorded, and he has posted audio of the speech on his MySpace profile. For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to hear Steve Filson speak, SNTP has prepared a transcript of the speech. Feel free to listen along!

[Update, 11:05 pm: The audio has been pulled down from both the MySpace site and the site that Matt linked to in the Comments section. SNTP has saved an MP3 version of the speech, but for the time being, we've decided not to publish a link to it.]

STEVE FILSON: Thanks, Mark, for inviting us down here to the Democratic club. And to be at a Democratic club, what a better place. By the way, I'm a converted Democrat. Anybody a naturalized citizen out here? Naturalized citizen? What did you have to do to get -- become a citizen, take a test? Take a test, right?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, I didn't because I came when I was very young.

STEVE FILSON: Okay. But those who came and immigrated here, take a big test, a test that you couldn't pass and I couldn't pass. And their devotion to this country is huge. Converted Democrat. I've been on the dark side; I came out of the primordial soup into the sunlight. And I'm a Democrat.

Health, education, energy, taxes, security. If anyone has any doubt about my strong adherence to Democratic positions on those issues, please see me after this demonstration. Universal health care, energy independence in oil. We need to get the taxes realigned away from the rich for the break and into the middle class where it belongs. I will go on to those other issues. Please talk to me; please ask me. There are some people who have a doubt about my devotion to Democratic principles. I want to dispel that today and this point forward.

Well, let's have a little fun. Jeff Foxworthy -- "You might be a redneck if" -- you've seen the comedian? A Pombo supporter is a Pombo-ite in my book.

Let's have a little fun. If you think universal health care is to just walk it off when you're sick, you might be a Pombo-ite. If you think dental care, comprehensive dental care, is to chew on the other side, you might be a Pombo-ite. And if you've ever tried to cure a wart with the use of a firearm, you might be a Pombo-ite.

Now, we know this guy to be a bad guy. All of us in this room are well-educated, well-read; we all drink from the fountain of knowledge. Mr. Pombo? He just gargles.

We know this guy needs to be unseated, and we know he's vulnerable. You know what? The word “vulnerable,” in this election and every election prior to this, is now like a broken record. He's been vulnerable for a decade. Why haven't we picked him off? You need to answer that question. The vulnerability thing has been said. "This is the great year," we say. "This is the great year; this is the year." You know what? We've always had years to do this. And I'll guarantee you, we won't do it based on vulnerability.

We have to do it by switching voters. We have to switch 200,000 centrist voters to vote for Democrats. We already have the hard-core Republicans; we have the loyal Democrats; they're going to be there. That's about 50 percent of the votes. We've got 50 percent of the center that are leaners. They have voted for Bush; they have voted for Barbara Boxer; and tens of thousands of Democrats in the 11th district have voted for Richard Pombo. We cannot let that happen. And so the issue is the strong candidate, not the vulnerability. It's the strong candidate.

I'm going to say a few numbers here. If you've got the number -- (inaudible). 205, 4, 12, 5, 99. What are those numbers?



STEVE FILSON: Exactly. And where do most of those exist? San Joaquin County. If you don't know the issues for that, you don't belong in this race.

Mark Lewis, the million-dollar man. Anybody know who that is? Mark Lewis is the city manager of Stockton, just got fired. The million-dollar man, Neil Diamond, they booked him into the new arena up there; they only sold $600,000 in tickets; the city just took a bath for $400,000. If you don't know issues like that, you don't belong in the race.

Morgan Hill, Jerry mentioned good issues for Morgan Hill. You have to know the local issues; that's how you get voters to switch. We here in the clubs, we strong Democrats, we talk about health care; we're for universal health care. I'll guarantee you, that's not going to switch a centrist voter. We care about that passionately; we have to lead them and pull them. But I'll guarantee you, what they care about is they're stuck on the highway, paying 3 bucks a gallon a gas. That's what they care about, and that's how we have to reach them; that's how I plan to reach them. It's a moderate group; I'm a moderate. I plan to connect with those two, and that's how I'm going to win this race.

I'm asking for your endorsement. This is very, very important. Your endorsement is critical. Morgan Hill, in my view, could be the swing. Four percent of the vote's down here. Sounds small, but you have power down here to do that. This club has power through your endorsement. Very, very critical to us to defeat Richard Pombo.

You have to make a tough call. You may have to go against a friend, a loyal friend who's been dedicated to this process. You may have to choose somebody else and hurt their feelings. But politics with Mr. Richard Pombo is tough. This is tough ground. I know in your heart -- uppermost in your head and deep in your heart, you want to defeat Richard Pombo over advancing your own personal agendas. Think about that. And I'm asking for your endorsement; I need this endorsement. It's very important to defeat Richard Pombo.

I thank you for your time. And remember one thing: the rich are different; they pay less taxes.

I am left speechless. What do you think?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Richard Pombo's Ethically Questionable Activities

I know I have been focusing a lot on the Democratic horserace the last couple of days, but Richard Pombo has had a lot of bad press recently and I want to focus on two articles. These articles involve the allocation of public money in ways that potentially violate House ethics rules. There is another article, that I will not explore in this post, that is more complicated and involves a newly revealed connection between Richard Pombo and a lobbyist connected to Jack Abramoff’s dirty deals. Look for a post about that tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, there is more than enough here to think about.

First, Nick Juliano in the Tracy Press today revealed that in 2003 Richard Pombo took what appears to be a family vacation on the taxpayers’ dime. Although Pombo has now tried to claim that he did official business on the trip, at the time he clearly implied that the purpose of the trip was recreational. As such, the reimbursement he received for the trip would violate House ethics rules, not to mention the standard ethical prohibition against abusing the public trust.

From the Tracy Press:
In summer 2003, just after he was named chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Richard Pombo loaded the family in an RV for “two weeks on vacation” traveling around the West.

Documents obtained by the Tracy Press show taxpayers covered most of his expenses.
“This August, my family and I rented an RV and set out to explore the West,” Pombo, R-Tracy, wrote in a 2003 article posted on the Resources Committee’s Web site.

“We spent two weeks on vacation, stopping along the way to enjoy the splendor of many of our national parks.”

Pombo was reimbursed $4,935.87 to rent the RV and spent $1,500.51 on a government credit card for “travel subsistence” during a two-week span from July 27 to Aug. 11, 2003, according to a Resources Committee spending ledger obtained by the Press.
I will not spend too much time commenting on this. This seems like a pretty straightforward ethical issue. Nobody in government should try to pass off personal expenses as expenses relating to official business. If Pombo was engaged in official business, then he is entitled to be reimbursed for the expenses related to that business. But the fact that he referred to the trip at the time as a vacation with his family seriously calls into question whether he in fact conducted any official business.

This dovetails with another issue, which concerns the recent revelation that Richard Pombo has been paying for expenses relating to a top aide, Steven Ding, in contravention of House ethics rules. Representatives Ellen Tauscher and George Miller have both asked for an investigation of these apparent violations.

The Hill describes the alleged violations a follows:
Steven Ding lives in Stockton, Calif., which is in Pombo’s district. Ding serves as chief of staff both in Pombo’s personal office and for the House Resources Committee, which Pombo chairs. The committee pays Ding $150,000, and the personal office gives him an additional $100 each month.

The two Democrats allege that Ding’s arrangements violate three House rules. First, lawmakers cannot use their personal-office budgets — officially called the members’ representational accounts (MRAs) — to pay for a committee’s expenses and committees cannot subsidize expenses for a lawmaker’s personal office. Second, if a staffer’s job or “duty station” is in Washington, he cannot be reimbursed for commuting expenses.

Finally, House rules state that a lawmaker “cannot retain an employee … who does not perform official duties commensurate with the compensation received for the offices of the employing authority.”
In other words, Richard Pombo wants to have his cake and eat it to. Pombo wants Ding on the staff of the Resources Committee, which is in Washington. But he also wants Ding in Stockton, where Pombo has a district office.

Now, although it’s not the focus of the ethics complaint by Tauscher and Miller, an important part of the back-story is that Ding receives a lot of money as an outside political consultant. And from what I’ve heard, Ding is the head of Pombo’s little machine in the San Joaquin County. So here’s my speculation about the issue at hand.

Pombo gets to pay Ding’s salary out of the Resources Committee budget, but he also gets Ding in Stockton to help the up and coming Pombo cronies. Plus Pombo gets whatever other services he needs from Ding in Stockton.

But the problem is that Pombo cannot pay Ding enough out of the Pombo MRA to afford the commute, especially since Ding has been racking up something like $40,000 a year in commuting expenses. If Ding had to pay that money out of pocket, Pombo would have to pay Ding enough money before taxes for Ding to afford $40,000 after taxes. And since we know Ding is in the top tax bracket, Pombo would have to pay something like $60,000 in salary to Ding from the Pombo MRA just to make the commute neutral on Ding’s wallet. However, there are two problems with this.

First of all, it would be more expensive for Pombo to do this because of the pre-tax/post-tax dynamic. As it is now, Pombo reimburses Ding and Ding doesn’t have to pay any income tax on the price of the planet travel. So in effect Pombo pays less from his MRA and Ding gets the same amount of travel. So, on this level, the arrangement benefits Pombo and is neutral for Ding.

But Ding actually derives some benefit from this too. The ethical rule that mandates that salary paid is commensurate with services rendered causes a bit of a problem for Pombo and Ding. If Pombo upped Ding’s salary from $100/month to say $5,000/month, you’d expect some sort of commensurate increase in Ding’s work product for the Pombo office. But if Ding is making $60,000 a year from Pombo’s personal office, the question arises whether he’s doing enough for the Resources Committee to merit $150,000 annually. And let’s not forget that Ding does significant outside work and he spends a significant amount of time commuting between Stockton and Washington. There are only so many hours in the day after all, and Ding would need to be working more than full time between Pombo’s office and the Resources Committee to merit the money he’d have to make in order to afford the travel.

And then one would wonder why Ding would endure such a hellish schedule and what must be an annoying commute just to a) work more hours and b) make very little money. It’s seems reasonable to me that Ding’s outside consulting sweetens the pot for him and makes traveling between Stockton and Washington more enticing. But if nothing else, Ding would have to work more in Pombo’s office to merit a $60,000 a year salary, which would lessen his availability to do the outside consulting.

So even if Pombo wanted to allocate more of his MRA budget to pay Ding enough salary for him to afford the airfare out of pocket, Ding would still lose time for his outside consulting. And Pombo, for his part, would lose Ding’s ability to strengthen the Pombo machine in San Joaquin County. So you can see why both would want to avoid such a scenario.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Population Up, Registration Down

I have looked at the most recent voter registration numbers from the Secretary of State. The most interesting fact is that, while the population of the district is climbin, total voter registration is down. There are about 7,000 fewer registered Republicans in January 2006 as compared to February 2005. It is similar for Democrats and DTS Registrations stayed about even.

A lot of people have moved into the district. Those people are not yet registered.

This election will turn on whoever is able to get feet on the streets and getting those voters registered. Historically, Democrats have done a better job of this. However, with the overall shift in voters to a Decline to State preference, this opens up the possibility of new voters registering Decline to State and then voting in the Republican Primary.

Time is short. Voter Registration required organization. Let's get going.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pete McCloskey to Press: "Follow the Money."

The following is a press release put out by Pete McCloskey that raises ethical questions about Congressman Richard Pombo’s fundraising. It is a great piece that pulls together a lot of different types of questionable activities and puts them in the context of the donations Pombo received from parties who had business in from on him and his committee.

Here is the release in full (hat tip, VPO):

McCloskey for Congress

February 6, 2006

For Immediate Release


In a speech to the Lodi Rotary Club today, former Congressman Pete McCloskey responded to press reports that incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo had raised $1.2 million in campaign funds by year end 2005, as against McCloskey's zero.

"I intend to make Pombo's campaign funding sources and Mr. Pombo's actions in response to those sources a major issue in this campaign," McCloskey said.

He challenged Pombo to respond to the following facts:

1. Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff has recently pled guilty to felonious efforts to bribe Members of Congress.

2. Mr. Pombo and his PAC, "RICHPAC," have received more money from Abramoff, his wife and clients ($54,500) than any other California congressperson.

3. Mr. Pombo has also received more money (over $500,000) from Indian tribes than any other Member of the House.

4. One of Mr. Abramoff's most lucrative clients was the infamous clothing manufacturing industry in the Marianas Islands, a U.S. trust territory under the jurisdiction of Chairman Pombo's Committee on Resources. The industry, led by one Willie Tan, paid Abramoff millions to fend off legislation which would reform applicable immigration and labor standards to the thousands of young women brought to the Marianas to work in the sweatshops there.

5. Working conditions had become so notoriously bad by 2000 that conservative Senator Frank Murkowski, (R. Alaska) was able to obtain unanimous Senate passage of a Marianas reform bill. The bill upon passage was referred to Pombo's Committee on Resources, then chaired by James Hansen (R-Utah) where it died.

6. Over a two year period Abramoff records reflect he met on at least two dozen occassions [sic] with Majority leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) seeking to prevent Marianas reform legislation and on other topics.

7. During an 8-month period in 2000, Mr. Pombo's press secretary and legislative assistant received at least a dozen tickets to Abramoff's private "skybox," on five separate occasions, the tickets being valued at $1,000 each for inside-the-Beltway fundraising purposes.

8. On September 16, 2003, Abramoff's associate Kevin Ring, a former staff person for Congressman John Doolittle, gave Pombo's RICHPAC $1,000. Mr. Ring also gave Mr. Pombo an additional $3,000 between September 13, 2002, and February 18, 2005. In the fall of 2005, Mr. Ring took the 5th Amendment when questioned by Senator John McCain's Committee on Indian Affairs.

9. In January 2004, Mr. Pombo traveled to the Marianas, and on May 18, 2004, received nine campaign contributions from the following residents of the Marianas connected with the garment industry or the government of the Marianas.

Jerry Tan $500
Eloy Inos $500
Juan Baubata $500
Paul Zak $500
Hsia-Ling Lin $2,000
Richard Pierce $1,500
Clarence Tenorio $1,000
Pedro Atalig $1,000
Diego Benevente $500

10. In January 2005, Mr. Pombo and the House Republican leadership changed the House Ethics Rules to prevent any further investigation of Tom Delay who had been three times admonished on the House Ethics Committee.

11. As of February 2006, Chairman Pombo has neither considered a bill to implement the Murkowski bill, nor has he responded to repeated requests to investigate the Abramoff influence on either the Marianas reform bill or the Indian casino industry.

"At the very least, Mr. Pombo should explain to his constituents why he has taken so much money from Mr. Abramoff, his clients, and the Indian tribes interested in casino gambling," McCloskey said.

For more information contact:
Robert Caughlan
650 575 9448

Meta: Our 10,000th Hit

Say No to Pombo received its 10,000th site visit today, according to my Site Meter. Interestingly enough, the 10,000th hit came from the House of Representatives. (Update: the graph shows the growth in hits and page views since we started). Furthermore, Google Analytics has recorded over 3,000 different unique visitors since November 15, 2005. This is something of a milestone, and I want to thank my co-bloggers for all of their hard work and all of the readers, especially the regular readers.

Also, as of now Say No to Pombo has raised nearly $3,000 for the anti-Pombo effort. Donations have been coming in more slowly these days, I think because I have been less insistent on asking for them. But if you have not given to the anti-Pombo effort, you can do so here. There is no time like the present. At the very least, I hope someone will top off the ActBlue page at $3,000.

Guest Post: Report from the Alameda Labor Council's Endorsement Meeting

The following is Mike Bird’s first-hand account of last night’s Alameda County Central Labor Council endorsement meeting, at which the Alameda County CLC endorsed Jerry McNerney for the CA-11 Democratic primary. The account was originally posted as a comment here.

Bird is a supporter of Jerry McNerney and an active member of his union. He is also a regular reader of Say No to Pombo.

I am reposting the text of his comment here without discussing, or indeed editing, its contents. I have done so partially because Mike Bird has attached both his name and his phone number to his account of what happened. So treat this as a guest post. (Go here for my early take on what I think the endorsement means).

Lastly, I am posting this here with the proviso that Bird speaks for himself, not as an official representative of the McNerney Campaign.


Alameda Central Labor Council* Delegates met last night on Monday February 6th, and endorsed 11th CD Congressional Candidate Jerry McNerney for the June Democratic Primary.

Candidates Steve Filson, Steve Thomas, and Jerry McNerney each gave 20 minute presentations and then answered questions. This was a candidate interview, not a debate; each politician addressed the delegates alone. Seventy plus rank & file delegates along with several elected union office holders attended a packed meeting.

Immediately following a vote was held, and Jerry McNerney overwhelmingly won. Three reasons mathematician Jerry McNerney won.

1) Jerry connected with Labor Delegates by creating shared visions. He then skillfully enlisted audience support asking, ‘If we are to make this happen, I will need your help.’

2) Jerry does not stand up telling how great a person he is. It is more believable when friends and volunteers give personal recommendations.

3) When it comes to winning union endorsements “Filson is Clueless.” A quote from an up & coming political person observing last night’s proceedings.

McNerney Quotes:
“For too long, the Democratic Party has taken Labor for granted, if you elect me I will not do that, I will fight for you.” McNerney concluded, with a dramatic pause, “Here’s the deal If you Endorse Me, I will support Labor on every issue...... like George Miller has.” (D-CA)

Delegates to speak in favor of McNerney.

Jim Prola AFSCME Retirees Local 57 & FORUM (Fed of Retired Union Members)

Michael Eisenscher
Peralta Fed of Teachers Local 1603 & US Labor Against War (USLAW)

Victor Uno, Business Mgr.
IBEW local 595

Victor Pamiroyan
ILWU local 6

Joe Coy, Pres.
San Joaquin Central Labor Council Pres IAM local 1546 & Dist 19

Michael Bird
District One MEBA Marine Engineers

No Delegates spoke in favor of Filson

Steve Filson repeated a phrase I heard last time I met him, “Labor.., that’s my Base.” Both times he has lost a major labor endorsement. In my opinion Filson suffers from a White collar / Blue collar Disconnect; that image cannot be changed by being the only candidate to dress down and not wear a tie.

When asked why he was running for office, Filson started out strong explaining how as an Untied Airlines pilot he had lost his pension, and felt this was the best way he could fight back. For three minutes Filson had the audience in the cockpit flying with him, concerned about his personal ordeal. Filson started losing delegate’s attention when he quickly shifted to election challenges that lay ahead. A skilled and crafted speaker would have next identified and addressed the audiences concerns, Filson didn’t. He then drove the proverbial wedge deeper explaining a Central Valley Democratic victory required a centralist conservative strategy.

Filson claimed he would not support a withdrawal time table from Iraq, but conceded withdrawal a likely scenario. Unbeknownst to Filson the questioner was none other than USLAW national anti-war leader Michael Eisenscher. In response to Eisenscher’s follow up question Filson blundered badly.

Asked if it was necessary to send (or spend?) more bodies (or blood?) to Iraq if we are going to withdrawal anyway, Filson replied to the effect, ‘look, I can’t agree with your position and still win in the Central Valley. We can’t agree on all issues, but trust me I am with you on Labor.’

When question about how his strategy for victory would unfold, Filson greatly underestimated the political savvy of the audience. All I remember is a low toned insult which claimed, ‘I don’t expect you’d Get the complexities in undertaking a commercial/ media type campaign.’

The Alameda Council is legendary for its phone banking system, Get Out the Vote efforts, and over the years many members have developed personal relationships with some of the state’s top political leaders.

*The National AFL-CIO has recognized the Alameda Central Labor Council as one of the most effective labor organizations in the country. The Council represents 130 Union Locals from the East Bay; ranging from private employees to federal, state and local public employees, including, "the Whole Working World of labor," according to Exec Director Sharon Cornu.

Matt, or anyone seeking more info call me at (925)249-0427.