The mailers

Oct 19, 2012

The public has picked up the tab for a flurry of political mailers sent out by incumbent lawmakers in tough races, targeting crucial areas of their districts.


The Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller tells the tale: "California lawmakers in competitive races Nov. 6 spent the summer sending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer-funded mailers to parts of their districts that overlap areas where they are on the ballot, a review of legislative records shows."


"From the day after the June primary through a pre-election cutoff in early September, those lawmakers sent more than 1.2 million town hall invitations, newsletters and other mailers at a cost of almost $300,000."


"The mail pieces always portray the lawmaker who sent them in a positive light. They contain multiple mentions of the lawmaker’s name, glossy photos and sometimes offers of free coffee. The summer mailers also didn't go districtwide. Legislative records show that a disproportionate amount of mail went to ZIP codes that overlap a lawmaker's current district and the seat they are running for."


The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the anti-tax group leading the charge against the governor's November tax initiative, is suing Cal State Monterey Bay, claiming the campus is illegally promoting the governor's plan.


From the LAT's Evan Halper: "The lawsuit comes amid a running dispute between anti-tax activists and the Cal State system over how far university officials can go in encouraging students to vote for Proposition 30. Brown has said that if the measure fails, the two public university systems will have their funds cut by $250 million each."


"The complaint, filed in Monterey County Superior Court, accuses the head of the Cal State Monterey Bay humanities department of sending an email to students that urges them to "work together to pass Prop. 30." The email, according to the plaintiffs, also noted that students could get a tuition refund of nearly $500 if the measure is approved."


"The email, the lawsuit says, was sent from a university email address and signed by the department director."


Speaking of lawsuits, the United Farm Workers has filed suit against California's job-safety regulators, contending that the state has failed to enforce rules governing heat safety.


From the AP's Grace Wozniacka: "The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the union and individual farmworkers, alleges that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health failed in the last two years to conduct inspections in response to some heat complaints, didn't initiate inspections on time, and failed to cite or adequately fine violators."


The agency said in a statement that it has "issued hundreds of citations and penalties for heat safety standard violations" and that "the lawsuit filed today risks draining resources away from these critical enforcement actions."


"An ongoing lawsuit filed in 2009 alleged similar violations in earlier years. At least 14 farmworkers have died of heat-related causes since 2005, when California adopted the nation's first rules requiring shade and water for the state's 450,000 farmworkers."

That Arizona group that poured $11 million last week  into California's ballot battles is headed by a Republican activist on a crusade against labor unions.
From Will Evans at California Watch: "Robert Graham, a candidate for Arizona Republican Party chairman, helms Americans for Responsible Leadership, a little-known group that delivered $11 million to a committee fighting a tax increase on November's ballot and supporting a measure that would weaken the political clout of unions. The money will either go toward opposing Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, or supporting Proposition 32, which would ban the use of payroll-deducted dues for political purposes."

"Americans for Responsible Leadership was formed last year by three Arizona businessmen, including Graham. The other directors are Eric Wnuck, who ran an unsuccessful campaign in the Republican primary in a 2010 congressional race, and Steve Nickolas, a bottled water entrepreneur. "


"These are not household names even to politicos like me," said longtime Arizona political analyst Michael O'Neil. "This is not the political A-team."


Rep. Pete Stark, the 81-year-old congressman seeking reelection in the East Bay after decades in the House, has made any number of bizarre allegations that have gotten him into trouble during the campaign. The latest is his claim in a mailer that a Castro Valley real estate broker is a dubious developer.


From Carla Marinucci in the Chronicle: "Catrina said he was shocked when his phone started "ringing off the hook" this week after he was named in an attack mailer from Stark that claimed he was one of the "shady," big-money "developers" who have donated to Swalwell, a Dublin city councilman."


"I've never developed anything in my life," said Catrina, who is on the board of directors of the California Association of Realtors. His attorney, Jim Wagstaffe of San Francisco, said the Stark attack mailer, which alleges pay-to-play politics, is "defamation by juxtaposition" because it is "clearly designed not to make (Catrina) look good."


"Wagstaffe said he will ask Stark to "correct the false statements made in the public arena." Swalwell called the new accusations from Stark "flat out lies."


Meanwhile, as long as we're on odd stories in the Bay Area, the director of the Port of Oakland is in trouble because one of his top aides allegedly spent thousands of dollars in public funds at a strip joint.


From the Chronicle's Matier and Ross: "Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin was placed on immediate paid administrative leave Thursday, after allegations that one of his top aides spent $4,500 in public money at a Houston strip club."


"Benjamin, who has been head of the port since 2007, was placed on leave by the Board of Port Commissioners after a lengthy closed-door session Thursday evening.

As director, Benjamin oversaw the port's maritime operations, Oakland International Airport and its commercial real estate."


"The commission named Deborah Ale Flint, the port's director of aviation, to take the helm for the time being."



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