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Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Feinstein, the NSA, and the Left

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 11:00:34 AM PDT

feinstein photo: Dianne Feinstein photo_feinstein.jpgNYT explores her relationship to the left on intelligence

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has had of a bit of an on-again/off-again relationship with the Left. But to the NY Times, our senior Senator is a "liberal lioness", whatever that means. Clearly she has done a lot for progressive causes, from gun control to fighting for reproductive freedom and many other issues. However, the issue that keeps coming up again and again is the balance between individual liberty and the importance of intelligence. And her position on the NSA leaks, PRISM, and the prosecution of Snowden doesn't help the rift:

She fought so hard to outlaw assault weapons that the National Rifle Association deemed her efforts tantamount to proposing the largest gun ban in American history. Well before the Supreme Court took up same-sex marriage, she sponsored a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. And she urged President George W. Bush, and later President Obama, to shut down the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein - California Democrat and liberal lioness - has taken on a role that is leaving many of her allies on the left dismayed: as perhaps the most forthright and unapologetic Congressional defender of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.(NYT)

Perhaps some on the Left would have expected something different, but for most, this is exactly what we expected. For better or worse, Sen. Feinstein has placed the needs of intelligence on a pedestal, there is nothing new here.

Discuss :: (11 Comments)

Sen. Feinstein Isn't Giving Up on Assault Weapons Ban

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 17:27:01 PM PDT

Assault weapons ban only garnered 40 votes, but Sen. Feinstein will continue her work on the issue

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Dianne Feinstein doesn't always get a lot of love from the progressive community, and some of her good work tends to get lost. But on the issue of gun safety, there aren't many leaders on par with our senior Senator.

Sen. Feinstein was the primary proponent of the assault weapons ban in 1994, and has been working on reinstating it since it lapsed in 2004. And, unfortunately, she just has not been able to muster up the votes, and even now, post-Newtown, the NRA proved too powerful.

A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines fell well short of the votes needed to pass the Senate Wednesday, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed to continue her long fight for such legislation.

"I'm disappointed by today's vote, but I always knew this was an uphill battle," Feinstein said in a statement after her amendment garnered only 40 votes. "I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue, and I will continue to fight for a renewed ban on assault weapons."(SacBee)

While some senators were posting tasteless photos on facebook, Sen. Feinstein was continuing her work on gun safety. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, vast majorities of the nation want universal background checks and other provisions of the law. But few leaders have Sen. Feinstein's tenacity on this issue, or any issue, and that alone is worthy of high praise.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

The Preview Health Insurance Executives Don't Want You To See

by: Consumer Watchdog

Wed May 02, 2012 at 11:07:20 AM PDT


Starting this week one million Californians will pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for their health insurance. It's a plot right out of Groundhog Day, only it happens every Spring, Winter, Summer and Fall.

Health insurance rates in California are like a runaway train and there's no police force or firefighting squad with the power to stop them.  Thirty five states require health insurance companies to get permission before raising rates, but not California.

So Hollywood's fighting back with a short movie trailer preview of an alternative future. This short preview is of the impact of a real ballot proposal - which only needs another two hundred thousand signatures to qualify for the November ballot. With enough signatures, Californians can then decide their own fate and stop outrageous rate hikes.

In Studio City, CA a self-employed, single mom watched her health insurance premium triple over the last decade. On May 1st the price will climb by 16%. She asks," If I have to get pre-approval from my insurance company every time I want my health care paid for, shouldn't they have to get approval when they want me to pay more?"

For a decade the legislature has answered no,  following the health insurance industries' line that the market and federal health care reform can be trusted to moderate rates. Tell that to the million Californians hit with rate hikes on May 1st.

Over the last decade health insurance premiums  have shot up 153% -- growing five times the rate of inflation (29%). Four companies, including Anthem Blue Cross, control 71% of the health insurance market - competition isn't in the cards. As a result Californians don't just move to cheaper plans, they also drop insurance. California has one of the nation's highest uninsured rates.

Since 2003, the California legislature has refused to pass a law requiring that health insurance companies get approval before raising rates in the same way that auto insurance and home insurance companies have to today.  That's why consumer advocates like myself have joined with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to qualify the ballot measure  that requires health insurance companies to live up to the same standards as other insurance companies.

More than 600,000 voters have signed our petition to make health insurance companies publicly justify their rates, as we rush toward the deadline to qualify for the November ballot. The preview of different future isn't just a Hollywood story. It's within our sights if 200,000 more Californians sign our ballot measure in the next two weeks.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Movie Rating: Not Suitable For Health Insurance Executives

by: Consumer Watchdog

Tue May 01, 2012 at 13:49:27 PM PDT

by Consumer Watchdog

One million Californians will be slammed today with health insurance rate hikes as high as 20%. Consumer Watchdog Campaign has a solution.

Watch this short, funny movie trailer about an alternative future with no rate hikes, and share it with your friends.

Health insurance price hikes recur more often than Groundhog Day -- Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall. Now there's something Californians can do about it.

Go to www.JustifyRates.org to download, print and sign the ballot petition to stop outrageous rate hikes. The short movie trailer tells the story. Watch it. Post it. Tweet It.

Let your friends know what's happening and what they can do about it!

Help us beat the health insurance companies at the ballot.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Scientific report shows HR 1837 is big threat to Central Valley salmon

by: Dan Bacher

Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 19:10:50 PM PDT

In their response to a report released by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), two prominent Representatives from California slammed legislation that would eviscerate protections for Central Valley chinook salmon.

Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk) and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) responded on April 26 to the scientific review by the PFMC warning that H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, would damage salmon populations and undermine the recreational and commercial fishing industries that rely on them.

The Council staff report, titled "A General Review of Potential Effects of H.R. 1837 the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, on Central Valley Salmon Productivity and Salmon Fisheries In Ocean and Inland Waters," blasted the legislation for the negative impact the legislation would have on Central Valley salmon fisheries.

"West Coast fisheries and coastal communities rely on a healthy level of salmon production from the Central Valley," the report stated. "It appears that H.R. 1837's provisions would have an adverse effect on Central Valley salmon habitat, total salmon production, fishery participants, and fishery economic benefits."

H.R.1837 addresses water use in the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), makes big changes in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, and repeals the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act, according to the PFMC.

"The Pacific Council remains concerned about negative effects of H.R. 1837 might have on salmon stocks and their habitat, and the consequent negative economic effects on communities that depend on a healthy, vibrant salmon fishery," the PFMC stated.

The bill, opposed by a broad coalition of fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmental organizations and family farmers, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on February 29, and has now been placed on the U.S. Senate Legislative calendar for consideration. It was recently included in the West Act introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), according to a joint statement from Napolitano and Thompson.

"This bill is a water grab," Napolitano said. "It throws out years of negotiations between California's water users in order to privilege some groups over others. This scientific review shows again how Californians will pay the economic price if this bill, or any part of it, becomes law."

"This scientific review shows that the House Majority's water bill puts politics ahead of established science and would kill local jobs," said Thompson. "The bill is nothing more than a giveaway to well-funded south-of-Delta water contractors. Solutions to California's water challenges should be based on sound science so that wildlife is protected, and our fishers, farmers, families and businesses that depend on the Delta for their livelihoods are not harmed."

Napolitano and Thompson said H.R. 1837 rolls back environmental protections for salmon and other species and reroutes a greater share of California's water to agricultural users in the San Joaquin Valley. "This lack of protection could lead to salmon die-offs and lost fishing seasons in California and Oregon, similar to what happened in 2008 and 2009, when fishermen were unable to fish due to dangerously low population levels, costing jobs and hurting the economy," they stated.

The report is available at. http://www.pcouncil.org/2012/0... Some of the report's key points include:

· There is a critical link between water flows dedicated to salmon, which allow the fish to spawn, and the overall salmon population. H.R. 1837 undoes many measures Californians have put in place to protect water flows for salmon and potentially puts that population at risk.

· H.R. 1837 rolls back broader habitat restoration efforts on the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers directed at boosting salmon populations.

· H.R. 1837 turns back the clock on Endangered Species Protection to 1994 levels, overturning many critical protection efforts that have been put in place to protect salmon runs since then.

· Declining salmon populations have a negative effect on both ocean and inland commercial and recreational fishing industries, costing jobs and negatively impacting the economy.

As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) attempts to push his salmon-killing legislation through the Senate, the Brown administration is fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal or tunnel. Delta advocates are fighting the peripheral canal plan because it would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and other fish species.

Both HR 1837 and the peripheral canal are designed to increase water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to southern California water agencies and corporate agribusiness. The water will be used to irrigate selenium-laced, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that should have never been irrigated.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Consumer Advocates, Patients Deliver Blank Check to Health Insurers Representing Cost of Rate Hikes

by: Consumer Watchdog

Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 14:07:38 PM PDT

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 644 words in story)

$11.6 Million In Campaign Cash to Politicians Fueled Health Insurer Campaigns to Kill Rate Reform

by: Consumer Watchdog

Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 12:58:02 PM PDT

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 433 words in story)

Feinstein pledges support for raising Shasta and Exchequer dams

by: Dan Bacher

Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 18:35:04 PM PDT

A report on the Radio KMJ 580 AM website reveals how Senator Dianne Feinstein vowed her support for the water bond, the raising of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River and the expansion of Exchequer Dam on the Merced River during two fundraisers at the homes of San Joaquin Valley agribusiness leaders this week.

The station reported first on a lunch on Wednesday at the Sanger home of the president of the Nisei Farmers League where Feinstein said the controversial $11.14 water bond "must appear on the ballot." (http://www.kmjnow.com/pages/landing_localnews_2011?Feinstein-Harvests-Donations-From-Valley=1&blockID=599372&feedID=8257)

"In Sanger - at the home of Manuel Cunha, Jr. - Senator Feinstein told a gathering of 64 specially-selected people that she had their backs when it came to several key issues facing San Joaquin Valley farming," the article stated. "She told the group that she has discussed the state water bond measure with Governor Jerry Brown and insisted that it must appear on the ballot in November. The governor has indicated a preference to move the bond to 2014 so as not to compete with his plan to raise taxes."

She also pledged her support for raising Shasta Dam, a project strongly opposed by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe because it would flood ceremonial sites sacred to the Tribe and would lead to the destruction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, and Exchequer Dam on the Merced River.

"Feinstein said she favors increasing surface storage, supporting such plans as increasing the heights of the Shasta and Exchequer Dams to increase supplies. As a Democrat, she is a proponent of preparations for the effects of global warming and increasing water storage and conveyance capacities is an important part of those preparations according to her remarks," the report continued.

This fundraiser was followed by a dinner in north Fresno at the home of the board president of the Westlands Water District, where she likewise voiced her support for the agribusiness agenda.

"After the meeting in Sanger, Senator Feinstein visited with Don Parucchi of the Westlands Water District and his guests," the article said. "The fundraiser covered many of the same subjects as the senator continues to portray herself as being California's ag representative."

"Groups like the California Farm Bureau Federation endorsed her re-election saying Feinstein has always been available to them and works for as many of their causes as her political orientation allows. They cite the ethanol subsidy as an example of where Feinstein lead the challenge against it and was able to get the $6 billion dollar annual program killed," the article noted.

Environmentalists, Tribal leaders and fishermen were alarmed by Feinstein's pledge of support for the raising of Shasta and Exchequer dams and the water bond, a virtual "festival of pork" that funds so-called "habitat restoration" under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal. State, federal and independent scientists all say the construction of the peripheral canal or tunnel would likely hasten the extinction of endangered winter run chinook salmon, Delta smelt and longfin smelt.

"Based on this report, it seems safe to say that the assault on the national Wild and Scenic river system is no longer just a rumor," commented environmentalist Jerry Cadagan. "She wants to raise BOTH Shasta and Exchequer dams (which is on the wild and scenic Merced River).

"I'd be curious to see how far Senator Feinstein intends to go to assist in putting a reservoir (Lake McClure) in a permanently protected National Wild & Scenic River," said Ron Stork, senior policy advocate for Friends of the River. "Since raising the reservoir would be illegal under state law (drowning a state fully protected species, the limestone salander), and it's not certain the project could pass dam-safety muster, I wonder if the Fresno farmers who attended her fundraiser actually expect for her to deliver the dam raise on the Merced River."

"And since there would be very little new water that would come from an expanded reservoir there, one wonders what they really have in mind; maybe it's breaking the 'permanent' in the permanent protection accorded wild and scenic rivers, our nation's premier river-protection system," Stork said.

"I can certainly imagine that some major statewide players still thirst after North Coast rivers now protected by the state and federal wild & scenic river system. They've never managed to break into this system before, but have appeared to have enlisted a gullible California Senator to help them do it---and without a Senate hearing," added Stork.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

California Insurance Commissioner Can't Stop Aetna's "Unreasonable" Rate Hikes

by: Consumer Watchdog

Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 11:31:42 AM PDT

Small Businesses Stuck With Unjustifiable 8% Rate Hike, 30% Increase Over Last 24 Months Says Department of Insurance

The California Department of Insurance has announced that Aetna is imposing an 8% annual health insurance rate hike on its small business customers despite state actuaries' findings that the increase is "unreasonable" and not supported by data.  Consumer Watchdog Campaign says this demonstrates the urgency of voters passing its proposed ballot measure to make health insurance companies justify their rate hikes and get permission before raising rates.  The initiative, which is currently being circulated for signatures to place it on the November 2012 ballot at grocery stores and online at JustifyRates.org, would allow the Insurance Commissioner to reject a rate hike such as Aetna's if state experts find it unreasonable.

"Until the Commissioner is allowed to say no to unjustified and excessive rate hikes, small businesses and families in California will continue to pay more than they should for health insurance," said Jamie Court, proponent of the proposed allot measure and a director of Consumer Watchdog Campaign.  "Aetna's rate hike is the poster child for why health insurance should be required to get approval before rate hikes take effect."

According to the Department of Insurance, the Aetna subsidiary that sells health insurance in California earned huge profits in 2011 and paid a $1.7 billion dividend to its parent company last year.  Additionally, while the insurance company claims that it needs the rate increase to cover increasing medical costs, Aetna's own data and documents don't support that claim, which also conflicts with national data about medical cost inflation.

The ballot initiative being circulated by Consumer Watchdog Campaign would require insurance company CEOs to justify under penalty of perjury that rate hikes are necessary and allow the Insurance Commissioner to reject any hike determined to be excessive.  Similar rules have applied to auto and home insurance in California and have saved motorists in California over $62 billion since 1988 when that law took effect.  The initiative also prohibits the use of unfair rating factors in health, home and auto insurance.

"Insurance companies like to say that there is already regulation of health insurance in California, because insurers are required to make their rate increase plans public.  But if a company can ignore official findings that a rate hike is unreasonable and jack up rates whenever they want, then the law needs to change," said Court.

The petition to place the initiative on the ballot can be signed outside supermarkets or by going to www.JustifyRates.org and downloading the one-page petition.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Anthem Plans Rate Hikes Up To 20% for Nearly 600,000 Californians

by: Consumer Watchdog

Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 11:55:16 AM PDT

( - promoted by Brian Leubitz)

As 2nd Anniversary of Federal Health Reform Law Approaches, CA Ballot Measure Seeks to Control Skyrocketing Health Insurance Rates.

Anthem Blue Cross will raise health insurance rates for nearly 600,000 Californians by as much as 20% on May 1. A ballot initiative to make health insurance more affordable by regulating premium increases is necessary to protect Californians from excessive rate hikes, said Consumer Watchdog Campaign today.

Friday is the 2nd anniversary of the federal health reform law, which will require every American to have health insurance by 2014 but does not control what private health insurance companies can charge. The ballot initiative proposed by Consumer Watchdog Campaign would require health insurance companies to publicly justify rates, under penalty of perjury, and get rate increases approved before they take effect.

"Every time insurance companies force another double-digit rate increase on consumers they make the case for our ballot initiative to rein in excessive rate hikes. If Anthem had to include a copy of our petition in the rate increase notice it mailed to more than half a million consumers, we'd already have the 505,000 signatures necessary to qualify the measure for the November ballot," said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog Campaign.

The ballot measure would regulate health insurance policies that cover 5.3 million Californians. 35 states have the power to reject excessive rate increases, but California does not.

"The Affordable Care Act ends some of health insurers' worst abuses - like cancelling coverage when patients get sick, or charging women more just for being women. But the law falls short on cost control. Health reform cannot succeed if we don't put the brakes on skyrocketing insurance premiums. Strong rate regulation will lower premiums, give insurers incentives to cut spending and save health reform," said Balber.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in a case that will determine whether the law's mandate that individuals purchase insurance violates the Constitution. Regardless of what the court decides, the experience with health reform in Massachusetts shows that consumers will need the protection of rate regulation to hold down insurance prices, said the group.

Consumer Watchdog released a report last year demonstrating how rate regulation has begun to curb insurance premiums in Massachusetts, where the mandate that people buy health insurance -- the model for the 2010 federal reform law -- failed to control costs. Other states that instituted or strengthened state laws requiring rate review and approval of health insurance rates, including New York, Oregon and Maine, have also seen cost-control results. States without regulation of health insurance rates have seen massive and unjustified rate increases take effect with no power to stop them.

A new report from the California HealthCare Foundation finds that 38% of Californians say the cost of their health insurance went up in 2011, and 37% delayed getting health care they needed because of costs.

"The reality is that consumers will not purchase insurance they cannot afford, and insurance prices become more out of reach for families every year," said Balber. "Experience in states from California to New York has shown that rate regulation is the only way to force insurance companies to open their books, justify spending, and block excessive profits."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that 1 in 5 Americans are burdened by medical debt and half of them are unable to pay the debt at all. Health insurance premiums in California increased at a pace five times the rate of inflation in the last decade, according to the California HealthCare Foundation.

Download the Consumer Watchdog Report, "Health Reform and Insurance Regulation: Can't Have One Without The Other".

Read more about the initiative at www.JustifyRates.org.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Health Insurance Companies Attack Consumer Watchdog As Special Interest!

by: Consumer Watchdog

Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 14:50:49 PM PDT

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 276 words in story)

Urgent Action Alert: Sign Letter Opposing HR 1837, the Salmon Extinction Bill!

by: Dan Bacher

Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 20:59:44 PM PST

As you have probably heard by now, HR 1837, the "Salmon Extinction Bill" sponsored by Congress Devin Nunes (R-CA), has passed the House of Representatives. And while we know that both Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer are opposed to the bill, we have heard that Congressman Jeff Denham is trying to negotiate a compromise with Senator Feinstein.

"This bill would allow for full pumping of water exports at the Delta pumps, strip away water rights from Delta area landowners, and dismember the San Joaquin River Restoration Act - a component of Delta restoration," according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.

The bill is backed by the corporate welfare/big government Republicans and Democrats who want to steal northern California water and send it to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that have become rich off years of feeding off the federal trough of subsidized water and agricultural subsidies.

This is a move by the wealthy 1% to take water from the 99%, including Delta residents, family farmers, fishermen, Tribal members and mom-and-pop businesses, as well as from recovering Central Valley salmon and imperiled Delta fish populations. This water grab amounts to a bailout for corporate welfare bums at great expense to fish, the environment and the people of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Restore the Delta is asking you to sign on by noon on Monday to their letter expressing our appreciation to the Senators for their continued opposition to this bill. Within this letter we also reaffirm why we are against this legislation.

If you have already signed on to this draft, you do not need to resend your information.

"To sign to this effort, please send your name, title, and organization/business name (if applicable) to Jessica [at] restorethedelta.org. We will then add your name as a signature to the letter," Barrigan Parrilla urged.

For more information, contact Barrigan-Parrilla via Email: barbara [at] restorethedelta.org or Web: http://www.restorethedelta.org.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

CDC Study Finds 1 in 5 Families Struggling With Medical Debt, Shows Urgency of Need to Curb Insuran

by: Consumer Watchdog

Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 15:30:36 PM PST

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 527 words in story)

DiFi Puts $5 Million To Replace Durkee-held Funds

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Sep 21, 2011 at 08:00:00 AM PDT

Senior Senator worried about short-term cash flow issues

by Brian Leubitz

Senator Dianne Feinstein has about $5 million in her campaign accounts, according to her June reports.  How much is really in those accounts remains a mystery.  As her treasurer, Kinde Durkee, seems to have been in the habit of using her clients accounts as her personal piggy banks, your guess is as good as the Senator's.

But, you know, Sen. Feinstein can do something about that.  After all, she is the spouse of one Richard C. Blum, who has $5 million checks just laying around the house.  So, she put one of those towards her campaign, this time under a hopefully more reliable treasurer. But despite her sagging poll numbers, this is it:

"That is my intention at the present time to try to work it out so that it's possible," Feinstein said Tuesday. "The effort is simply to replace the money that is lost."

Feinstein will transfer the money to her campaign by the end of September. Candidates and incumbents can spend an unlimited amount of personal funds on their own campaigns, although Feinstein is not expected now to commit any more of her own money beyond the initial $5 million, according to sources close to the campaign.(Politico)

Though she hasn't actually drawn any competitors yet, somebody will show up.  Apparently not Meg Whitman, and let's not kid ourselves about Schwarzenegger.  But, it would be hard to point to any current Republican elected official that would be competitive with Feinstein, they are just too far to the right.  And even Whitman was unable to buy the office.  Whether the lack of a true primary is able to allow a Whitman-esque competitor stay away from the right-wing things you have to say remains to be seen.  

But there will be some sort of challenge, and Sen. Feinstein will have some cash to deal with it.  I suppose it is time to give up on that whole debate on who should replace her for the time being.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

How Bad is the Durkee Mess?

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 08:32:18 AM PDT

Former campaign treasurer may have stolen millions of dollars from SoCal Democratic campaigns

by Brian Leubitz

The Kinde Durkee debacle is widening in scope and depth.  If you are on many Democratic email lists, you may have noticed a slew of emails in your inbox either telling you that their bank account was wiped out or asking for money.  Yesterday, we learned that Sen. Feinstein, who is looking at reelection for next year, might have lost millions of dollars:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said her campaign is among those that may have been "wiped out" by a Burbank-based Democratic campaign treasurer who was arrested on federal fraud charges earlier this month.

Kinde Durkee is accused of taking thousands of dollars from the campaigns of several elected officials, including Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-San Diego) and Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana). The Los Angeles County Democratic Party reported that more than $200,000 had been taken from its fund. (LA Times)

First, to clarify, Sen. Feinstein doesn't know if she was really "wiped out," but some money was stolen.  Part of the problem is that the bank that Durkee used is being rather unhelpful.  She kept millions of dollars at the bank, and they are concerned for their own liability.  I have heard that they are now attempting to get campaigns to sign a waiver of legal liability to access their accounts.

I'm not giving the bank, or any of the campaigns, any legal advice, but let me explain a legal concept right quick: promises given in exchange for no consideration are called "illusory" and are thus unenforceable.  The campaigns should legally have the right to access their accounts.  The money in those accounts belongs to them.  Giving them the access they are legally empowered to have is not consideration. Heck, even giving them the money to transfer out of the account is not consideration.  It is their money, and they should be able to access it.

That being said, the scope of the mess is growing ever wider.  It appears that Durkee played fast and loose with campaign funds for years.  Much of that time after a San Francisco Chronicle report about a "Californians for Obama" scam that Durkee was a part of.

Of, course, there is one more issue here: California campaigns have given far too much power to external campaign treasurers.  They are given sole access to bank accounts, sole authority to write checks, and typically get very little oversight from the campaigns.  If we are to learn anything from this mess, we should be sure that campaigns are better managed, we have better oversight systems, and campaigns don't allow individuals too much access.  Campaign treasurers are 99.99 honest, but at the same time we need to ensure that campaigns see actual bank statements once in a while, know how much money is in their account, and can handle their business in case of emergency.

Discuss :: (30 Comments)

What if Senator Feinstein Retired? (Fantasy Draft)

by: fnpople

Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 08:30:19 AM PDT

(Cross-posted on DailyKos)

As many of you already know, a recent Field Poll survey was released showing Senator Dianne Feinstein slipping in her approval rating. 43% of California voters surveyed approve of Sen. Feinstein, while 39% disapprove-- the highest disapproval rating she's had since first being elected to office in 1992. While these numbers don't necessarily spell trouble for California's senior senator, they do indicate that people are starting to think of a changing of the guards in the Golden State. It most certainly has crossed her mind as well.

There are always politicians and prominent Californians waiting in the wings for political jockeying. With Feinstein reaching 80 years of age soon, more and more elected officials are prepping their resumes and spending extra time coddling donors in preparation for the inevitable.

So it begs the speculative question, who would be ready and able to run a statewide campaign for the United States Senate in the event of Senator Dianne Feinstein's retirement? Who would make a great Senator? Who should make for a great race? Who would be an abysmal choice? In this "fantasy draft" diary, I've narrowed it down to the 13 most probable potential candidates who are at least thinking about a potential run from the Democratic side. All the apparent pros and cons will be listed, and your suggestions/comments are always welcome. And by all means, if you know of any Republicans that would seem likely, include those as well!

There's More... :: (10 Comments, 1458 words in story)

DiFi Under 50% Again

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 15:00:00 PM PDT

When Sen. Feinstein came in under the 50% back in the spring Field poll, most figured it was something of a fluke.  But today we find out that, no, those numbers appear to be pretty accurate.  Today's Field poll show her again under 50%:

As Feinstein prepares to run for re-election next year, California voters are inclined to support her, 43 percent to 39 percent, according to the poll.

That four-point margin - the same as Feinstein posted in a Field Poll earlier this year - is her smallest ever in a pre-election year. First elected to the Senate in 1992, her margins of pre-election year support ranged from 19 percentage points to 29 percentage points before, the poll said.

Yet Feinstein's public approval rating remains favorable, with 46 percent of voters approving of the job she is doing, according to the poll. Thirty-one percent disapprove, and 23 percent have no opinion. ()

Now, before you read too much into this, there are still a lot of questions before thinking that she's actually vulnerable.  First, no prominent Republican candidate has really emerged for the race.  Second, a primary challenge under the Top-2 system is virtually impossible. Given that voters can vote for anybody, the chance that a Democrat could defeat Feinstein and not just win the right to a rematch seems pretty slim.

Perhaps it is worth to keep a bit of an eye out on this race, but until I hear of a credible candidate, this looks to be Sen. Feinstein's race to lose.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Winnemem leader challenges Feinstein's idea of 'peace on the river'

by: Dan Bacher

Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 18:56:57 PM PST

In a letter to participants in the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), California Senator Dianne Feinstein praised the work done on the plan to build a peripheral canal and new dams, drawing criticism from Mark Franco, Headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

"The work you collectively are undertaking on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is very important," said Feinstein. "This is the closest the state has been, in recent memory, to a meaningful resolution of its constant water supply issues, as well as providing for protection and restoration of our fisheries and the Bay-Delta ecosystems. I hope you will work together to achieve its promise."

She reported on her recent meeting with Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency in charge of the Bay Delta Conservation Planning program, saying she was "encouraged by the new state administration committment to new conveyance and storage opportunities."

"As you know, I am very concerned that California is headed towards becoming a desert state," she continued. "Sea level rise, lack of sufficient water storage, and increased forest fire all put our ecosystems and water supply at risk. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has long seemed to me to be the best hope for 'peace on the river:' water supply reliability and restoration of the ecosystem."

Mark Franco challenged Feinstein's contention that the construction of the canal and new dams would lead to "peace on the river."

"Now if only the Senator would look at the entire effect of conveyance and storage on the tribe who has suffered because of the projects undertaken without compensation," said Franco. "The Winnemem wait for our 'Peace on the river.'"

"We understand that the desert she speaks of was a desert before and will be again: man can do nothing to stop that, but we can save the salmon and other fishes that indicate the future of us all!"

Until the day he left office, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger relentlessly campaigned for the construction of a peripheral canal and new dams to export more California Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California. Governor Jerry Brown and President Obama also support the construction of the highly unpopular canal/tunnel.

California Tribes, fishermen and environmentalists fear that the canal's construction will lead to the extinction of Sacramento River winter and spring run chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, the southern resident population of killer whales and other imperiled species.

Tribe continues effort to restore winter run chinook to McCloud

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe, along with opposing the peripheral canal and a plan to raise Shasta Dam, is trying to pressure the federal and state governments to support their plan to reintroduce McCloud winter run chinook salmon from New Zealand to the McCloud River above Shasta Lake. Thirty members of the Tribe went to New Zealand last spring to conduct joint ceremonies with the Maori people to bring salmon eggs from winter run chinook, now thriving in the Rakaira and other rivers, back to their native river.

"The salmon were introduced to the river from the fish hatchery on the McCloud in the 1870s and early 1900s," said Caleen Sisk-Franco, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu, at the annual Legislative Fisheries Forum in Sacramento on February 16. "The Ngai Tahu, the Maori Tribe with treaty rights over the salmon, are willing to work with us to return the fish back to the McCloud."

"These fish are of the same DNA as the original McCloud River chinook and they're disease-free," she said. "The New Zealand Fish and Game have given their support to the project. We need to establish a small conservation hatchery to raise the fish from eggs from New Zealand to be released back into the McCloud."

She said that the fish will be able to swim to the McCloud past Shasta Dam by connecting Dry Creek above the dam to Little Cow Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento below the dam, via a short channel. Water from the McCloud River would be channeled to these creeks and flow down to the Sacramento below the dam.

Returning adult chinook salmon would be able to enter these creeks and spill out into the reservoir near the mouth of the McCloud River. Once there, they would be cable to catch the scent of their birth waters and find their way home. There is currently about 1/4 mile of channel that would need to be created to make the connection between Cow Creek and Dry Creek and the lake.

To help the young fry to remember their home waters, Winnemem will rear the salmon in a small, open air hatchery until they're large enough to make the journey to the Pacific and fend off the myriad non-native predators that now inhabit the Sacramento River and the California Delta. The hatchery itself will be modeled on the hatchery on the Rakaira.

"The plan is simple, calls for a very small hatchery and would be far less expensive than the typical government plans to return salmon to traditional spawning grounds above the large dams," she said.

Sisk-Franco emphasized, "We have an obligation to restore the salmon - they are a gauge of how healthy the water is. What happens to the salmon, happens to us."

For more information and to find out how you can help the Winnemem bring their salmon home, visit http://www.winnememwintu.us, 530-275-2737, winnemem [at] gmail.com.  

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Who will be GOP's sacrificial lamb against DiFi?

by: Lucas O'Connor

Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:05:52 AM PST

Last week, PPP polling asked the Twitterverse what challengers they should test against Dianne Feinstein for her 2012 re-election campaign. It solicited a wide range of suggestions -- some serious, some decidedly less so -- including testing other Democrats given our state's new top-two primary.

The results rolled out yesterday, finding to (hopefully) nobody's surprise that DiFi "stomps the field." The full pdf of results are here, where PPP doubled down on the dire, declaring "No hope for Whitman, Fiorina, Arnold, anyone."

Before abandoning us for the Emerald City, Robert had an excellent series breaking down the long-term realignment that's settling in in California, and these PPP numbers certainly reflect that. But it goes beyond simply an overwhelming lead for DiFi due to her perpetually superhuman support. PPP, through their own calculations and twitter suggestions, couldn't come up with a single potential Republican candidate that hasn't already run a statewide campaign.

And of all those tested- Tom Campbell, Carly Fiorina, Darrell Issa, Steve Poizner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Whitman- only Campbell managed a net positive approval rating (+3). And he only pulled that off by being notably less known than the rest of the field.

Arnold's at negative 40. eMeg a solid minus-22 and Fiorina at minus-19. A bare majority have an opinion of Steve Poizner, putting him at 13 points to the negative. And of the 48% who have an opinion of Darrell Issa, it's an unfavorable one by a 2-1 margin.

In other words, it's impossible to run statewide as a Republican without alienating people faster than you win them over. It hasn't just left all recent GOP contenders in a deep hole, but it should scare off anyone thinking of using a doomed DiFi challenge as a boost to higher office- just running statewide from the right is a career-ender. The half-dozen California Republicans with leadership positions in the House have no reason to come back and end their careers, and the new House members ought to see these numbers as reason not to bother.

It's a cycle that'll feed on itself as long as the Republican party is set on a dead-ender agenda of hyper-conservative purity.

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Gun Control and Making Tucson Shooting Even Scarier

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 10:30:00 AM PST

As you might have guessed, I tend to get a lot of press releases. Most of them are relevant to what I do. Some are not, but are occasionally interesting.  Today, I got what must certainly rank in the top 5 of the most offensive emails I've received since starting Calitics over 5 years ago. A group is apparently planning on eliminating a Georgia ban on carrying weapons in a place of worship.

"We are literally one Jared Loughner away from a major massacre here in Georgia in one of our places of worship. Right now, you are in violation of the law, and a criminal, if you carry in your place of worship. Once H.B. 54 is passed, people like Jared Loughner will know that there is at least the potential for someone in a place of worship that would put him down before he could do any damage," said Mr. Parsons.

This is wrong on so many levels, but let's start with the biggest piece of faulty logic: more people with guns would prevent the situation. Of course, as we discovered in Tucson, that simply isn't true. In fact, one of the heroes who disarmed Loughner was almost shot by an armed passerby who thought he was the gunman.

But before we embrace Zamudio's brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let's hear the whole story. "I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready," he explained on Fox and Friends. "I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this." Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!'"

But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out. (Slate)

Of course, the same debate is going down in Arizona, where legislators are going so far as to say "When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim."

The sheer lunacy of this is astounding, and fortunately, Senator Feinstein understands that the way to combat gun crimes isn't to arm the citizenry.  In fact, she's been discussing the topic of bringing back a regulation that she originally passed in the 1994 assault weapons ban.  It's a simple, and sensible regulation: limit the size of clips to ten bullets.  Jared Loughner's clip had 30, and he didn't need to worry about reloading as he carried out his murderous spree.

Feinstein said in an interview Friday that she was exploring the idea of reviving a law to limit the size of ammunition clips. The assault weapons ban of 1994, of which Feinstein was the principal sponsor, limited clips to 10 bullets, a third of the size of the one Loughner used to kill six people and injure more than a dozen, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, his intended target. (LA Times)

While gun control can split the Democratic party, as the Western libertarian concept likes a wide open gun system, surely we can recognize that our failure to control the proliferation has resulted in higher rates of violence compared to similarly situated nations.  MoveOn is supporting an action by NYC Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns calling for additional gun reform. Perhaps now might be a good time to let our leaders know that America hasn't given up on controlling guns.

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