Big, fat hypocrites back from summer break

We’re not usually in the habit of defending the Speaker’s staff because they’re fully capable of doing it themselves. And let’s face it, more often than not we’re fighting whatever cause our frenemy Steve Maviglio is promoting, but we couldn’t help but jump in today. Nothing brings us together like mutual disgust at Harvey Rosenfeld and Jamie Court’s hypocrisy.

In today’s Los Angeles Times Jamie Court attacked four aides to Speaker Perez for owning stock in energy companies. He singles out Steve for previously owning stock in Linn Energy despite the fact that Steve has been completely transparent and disclosed his holdings. In fact, the only reason Jamie and friends know what stock the Speaker’s aides hold is because they disclosed.

It’s pretty rich for Jamie Court to criticize anyone based on information gained from transparency since Consumer Watchdog has never disclosed their donors despite repeated calls for them to do so. In 2008 alone Harvey made at least half a million dollars, funding his cushy $1.7 million Marina Del Rey digs. Where did that money come from? We know Consumer Watchdog has taken millions via intervener fees but we don’t know how else they’re funding their lifestyles of the rich and (sort of, I guess) famous.

Consumer Watchdog could easily clear this up by following their own advice and opening their books. But they won’t. Because the special interests, not the consumers, are likely paying for the whole thing.

PS. Just saying, Harvey Rosenfeld once owned Enron stock.

Democrats’ Deafening Silence

Yesterday Buzzfeed wrote an excellent piece on leading Democratic women’s deafening silence on various sex scandals including the one plaguing San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. You should read the entire piece but to sum it up leading Democrats including Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi won’t ask Bob Filner to step down despite a mountain of evidence and his own admission he hasn’t “respected women.”

The message I hear from the Democrats is: it’s okay to mistreat women in private and grope them at the office as long as you vote for “women’s issues.” All the votes in the world don’t matter if I’m afraid I’ll be groped when I walk in the office. The women’s movement starts one person at a time and sexually harassing anyone is never, ever okay. I’m grateful for the maternity leave and meaningless resolution on equal pay for equal work congress passed, but I’d like Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi to condemn this actual, concrete bad behavior.

What’s even more offensive is to think how differently these women would react if Filner was registered Republican. Recall how viciously Barbara Boxer rightly attacked Bob Packwood (R-Oregon) when he was accused of sexual harassment. She called for ethics hearings and used the situation to elevate her national profile. But now that one of her own, Bob Filner, is facing the exact same situation, she’s remained virtually silent. What, other than party affiliation, is the difference?

And, Dianne Feinstein cut a television ad that referenced Arnold Schwarzenegger’s treatment of women during the 2003 recall campaign. Again, what’s the difference other than party affiliation?

When a woman stands up and says she’s been harassed, the accusation is fraught with all kinds of awkwardness. You risk being labeled overly sensitive, afraid of your femininity and unable to hack it in what is, quite frankly, a still male-dominated world. The fact that these women won’t condemn Filner’s behavior only reinforces that and makes it less likely other women will come forward.

To be fair, courageous San Diegans like Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez and Toni Atkins and Congresswoman Susan Davis  have called on Filner to resign. But, they don’t have the national profile and political capital of a Boxer, Feinstein or Pelosi.

And where is the leadership of the California Democratic Party? Why hasn’t John Burton, who faced a sexual harassment suit himself, called on Filner to resign?

Despite our differences over most issues I’ve always respected Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi’s willingness to fight fiercely for what they believe is right. Until now. They’ve proven they’re just as partisan and just as responsible for the work we women still have to do to get the respect we deserve. The fact that leaders won’t condemn Filner is offensive. We’ve come a long way, but clearly not far enough.

-Amy Thoma

Consumer Watchdog Doing Its Part to Raise Healthcare Costs

Last week Harvey Rosenfield and friends launched yet another initiative to line their gold-plated pockets. Apparently they aren’t content making millions of dollars intervening in insurance cases and reviewing insurance rates on the taxpayer dime at the behest of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Put simply, the initiative is a giveaway to the trial lawyers. You don’t have to look very hard at the list of supporters to see who stands to benefit from the initiative. Raise the cap, raise the trial lawyers’ compensation. And we all know Harvey doesn’t do anything unless it funds his lavish Santa Monica lifestyle.

The price of health care is already set to rise starting next year and this measure will only make it worse. Raising the cap will make healthcare more expensive, driving up costs. As Dan Morain succinctly put it on Sunday, “Health care costs aren’t going down.”

Consumer Watchdog’s already been in trouble this year for shady campaign practices. They used taxpayer-funded findings to promote their ballot initiative. After receiving nearly $100,000 from the Department of Insurance to monitor insurance rates they turned around and used the findings in a press release touting their initiative. We aren’t the only ones who noticed. The Sacramento Bee said, “Some federal taxpayers undoubtedly will be uneasy knowing their money is being used to help an advocacy group with one of its ballot campaigns.”

Also, as an aside… we hear the coalition had to move their press conference at the last minute because they failed to pull a CHP permit to use the Capitol steps. Pulling the proper permits for press conferences is Communications and Advance 101. They’re not hard to find- enter the Capitol at the north steps and the door to the CHP is to your immediate right. The permits are kept on the outside of that door.

GOP’s future lies in heeding women’s concerns

SF Chronicle: GOP’s future lies in heeding women’s concerns
Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/GOP-s-future-lies-in-heeding-women-s-concerns-4395778.php#ixzz2P7uqMk77

Amy Thoma

March 31, 2013

The Republican Party needs help. That might be the understatement of the past two election cycles. It seems that we’re hemorrhaging voters – especially young women. Registration numbers released this month only underscore the party’s need to expand its base. We’re not giving women my age enough reasons to stay or join.

As a 30-ish young professional, I don’t see much coming out of the party that resonates with me. We didn’t lose twentysomething and thirtysomething women in the last election because our digital efforts lagged (though they did) or because some crazy white guys said ridiculous things about rape (though they did), but rather because no one bothered to ask what we think or care about. I don’t see any women on the national scene I relate to, and I don’t hear any politicians addressing issues I care about.

I want the Republican Party to succeed. A successful two-party system is necessary to enact reasonable public policy, and I still believe that entrepreneurship, personal responsibility and freedom make the United States great. And Republicans are best positioned to promote these ideas.

Women in my generation are the first to grow up in a post-feminist world. We haven’t had to fight for our place at the table the same way our moms did. For the most part, I grew up in a world where I could attend any college, have the chance to make the same wages as my brothers, have kids when the time felt right and chart whatever course I felt worked. Roe vs. Wade was decided before we were born, and birth control has always been available. Sexism still exists, and I’ve felt it, but we’ve come leaps and bounds since the initial women’s movement.

The world has changed. Women are working, and we’re grappling with how to balance our work lives, family lives and future each and every day in a way that’s very different than the generations before us.

Over the past few months, I’ve had endless conversations with like-minded Republican women and went so far as to informally poll them about what they hope to hear from party leaders. Below are the seven issues that emerged over and over:

Jobs: We don’t want to hear circuitous talking points recycled from the Reagan era; we want to hear how lawmakers will enact reasonable tax and regulatory reform so we can run small businesses and feel secure we’ll be employed for years to come. Figure out a way to use technology to streamline government processes, make health care cheaper and improve the business climate.

Most of us graduated college right as the dot-com bubble burst and we’ve disproportionately felt the impact of the recession. We want well-paying jobs, and we’re willing to work for them. We just don’t want the government to stand in our way or make it more difficult than is really necessary.

Quit acting like the government is the enemy: Many of us went to school on state tuition grants, bought houses with Federal Housing Administration loans or grew up in homes that required government assistance for a time. We’re not wildly antigovernment Tea Partiers – we just want a government that works for everyone. Instead of rhetoric that “slashes” or “starves the beast,” figure out a way to make our government sustainable and functional.

Start talking about education and education reform: The economy won’t grow, and we won’t succeed in the future, unless there is very serious education reform. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, particularly for girls, is critical to our future success. The economy of the future will largely depend on skilled workers prepared to compete globally and, frankly, I think we’re doing a terrible job. Stop demonizing teachers and figure out a way to implement real accountability at the local level.

Act like you care about people: The last campaign slogan that excited me was George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” We can debate government’s role in caring for the poor, but we should all be talking about what we’re doing to help.

We should speak about those who need a little help with compassion, not disdain, and stop acting like we resent it when they need our help. A smart friend said, “I’d like to see Republicans act like they care for those who are suffering.” Immigration reform falls under this umbrella: Don’t demonize undocumented workers and their children, but instead find a compassionate, legal way to help them become tax-paying citizens.

Stop talking about rape, abortion, birth control, etc.: Just stop. No more. Every time a Republican opens his or her mouth on this topic, we lose votes. These issues are critically important, but women my age want to have these conversations with our families and in our churches, not on CNN.

I understand we all have fiercely held beliefs on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. And there is a time and a place for that conversation. But even conservative, evangelical Christians aren’t against civil gay marriage, and we don’t see the need to relitigate abortion. Let’s instead have a conversation about how to reduce the frequency of abortion and help scared women in bad situations.

Figure out how to account for the modern family: We want to hear more about how lawmakers will account for changing family dynamics. Traditional maternity and family leave don’t meet the needs of most of my generation.

In some homes, the woman is the primary breadwinner or might choose to work full time while her husband stays home. I want to hear how flexible work schedules, telecommuting and technology will make my life possible when I have kids someday.

Work with Democrats to get things done: I want to see pragmatic lawmakers willing to compromise in order to actually move us forward. Stop signing no-tax pledges, stop drawing hard lines where it isn’t necessary, and show you can actually get something done. Gridlock and being the “party of no” is killing us. As one friend put it, “I would like there to be an adult in the room.”

Finally, find some smart women who represent our values and put them in the forefront. I don’t relate to John Boehner, Marco Rubio or Mitt Romney. Find the next Condoleezza Rice, Carly Fiorina or Olympia Snowe and let them deliver our message. Put women such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, out front and listen to what they have to say.

For the first time, it seems party leaders are really listening. And I hope they are. We have a long road ahead, but I’m confident we’ll make the necessary changes critical to future success.

Amy Thoma, vice president of consulting at Stutzman Public Affairs in Sacramento, served as a spokesman for Carly Fiorina’s 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate. To comment, go to http://www.sfgate.com/ chronicle/submissions/#1.

 

 

Get Out Your Hip Waders

Put on your hip waders, Consumer Watchdog is once again spewing their unique brand of sewage.

Today they attacked outgoing Senator Michael Rubio for missing a hearing on fracking issues in California. Look, we don’t know why Rubio didn’t go to the hearing, and we don’t really care, but come on… had he attended the panel wouldn’t Judy Dugan be screaming that it was a conflict of interest since apparently he was in talks with Chevron?

In the same post, Dugan criticized Rubio for taking the lead on the effort to modernize CEQA. Since Gov. Brown supports this effort, should we expect Consumer Watchdog to mount an attack on Governor Brown along the same lines? The broad coalition supporting CEQA reform is working on a sensible compromise that will bring the law in to the 21st century while protecting California’s natural resources. But then again what does Dugan, Harvey et al really know about job creation other than bilking real job creators for money?

It’s awfully rich for Consumer Watchdog to attack anyone on transparency, accountability or for having close relationships with regulators and legislators. As we like to remind everyone, this is the same group who has a sweetheart relationship with Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and as California Watch ably reported last fall, “Since 2011, under Commissioner Jones, Consumer Watchdog has gotten what it requested in every case except two…”

We’re dispatching the Wambulance to Santa Monica for Dugan and crew. Code three.

Lining Their Pockets

In Sunday’s Sacramento Bee, Dan Morain  (you can read the whole thing here) took note of Consumer Watchdog’s self-interest in promoting ballot measures that line their pockets with money. In his column, Morain explains how Consumer Watchdog has made millions of dollars of the intervenor process that they created in Prop. 103, and asks the exact question we’ve been asking for months:

“But if intervenors are needed to protect consumer interests, why exactly do we have an elected insurance commissioner? The answer, of course, is that Proposition 103 created the elected insurance commissioner.”  

Like we’ve said, Harvey Rosenfeld, Jamie Court and friends have collected at least $5.3 million since 2007 and, as Morain said, “no other organization has collected a dime in intervenor fees since 2008.”

Why aren’t other organizations able to intervene? What knowledge and “expertise” is Consumer Watchdog providing that apparently the Department can’t or won’t?

As Morain points out another organization, Greenlining, tried to apply for intervenor status but were rejected without explanation. Why is this system rigged for Harvey and his band of west-side royalty?

Who oversees this cozy relationship? To the best of our knowledge, no one. It’s encouraging to see the media starting to pay attention but we’d bet there’s more to the story.

Why Interveners?

California Watch published a long and comprehensive look at Consumer Watchdog’s “domination” of their self-created intervener program at the Department of Insurance. The article is worth a read. We’re not kidding about their domination. The piece says, “Since 2008, only one other group has attempted to dispute insurance rates, state filings show… but regulators denied them each time.” Read the article here.

We’ve written a lot about Consumer Watchdog’s cozy relationship with the Department of Insurance, but one line in the story jumped out at us. According to the article Department of Insurance general counsel Adam Cole said, “Consumer Watchdog, they are on one end of the spectrum, the insurance companies are the other,” he said. “They sort of frame the debate.”

That quote seems awfully cozy. Why does the Department need someone to frame the debate? And why Consumer Watchdog? What makes them better candidates to analyze rate cases than others? Why is the department  paying Consumer Watchdog hundreds of thousands of dollars for actuary analysis and lawyers when they have more than enough staff  to devote to those exact tasks? It seems the only thing Consumer Watchdog’s self-created intervener process does is enrich its founders (who, in the article, brag about their ability to make money).

And, it seems the scheme is paying off. California Watch also reported, “Since 2011, under Commissioner Jones, Consumer Watchdog has gotten what it requested in every case except two – an overall deduction of 1 percent.”

Like we’ve said before, this screams for oversight.

Senator calls on Steve Cooley to Investigate Rosenfield

It’s getting real out there. Senator Ted Gaines today called on Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley to investigate Consumer Education Fund based on problems revealed by their IRS form 990 filings.

Like we’ve shared before, the Fund has only one “charity,” Consumer Watchdog, who pays Harvey Rosenfield hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees. Who is the President of the Consumer Education Fund? One Harvey Rosenfield.

Gaines’ call for investigation is appropriate, and proof that someone needs to take a deep look at what Consumer Watchdog is doing and how they were allowed to create a variety of slush funds to enrich themselves. Of course all of this on top of enjoying a virtual monopoly on intervener fees in the state of California and writing a self-serving ballot measure to ensure they profit off consumers.

To read Senator Gaines’ letter, click here.

Notes On a Scorecard

A few notes on a scorecard after yesterday’s debate between Dan Lungren and Ami Bera.

Bera confirmed again that he is a candidate who runs on vapor.  Generally void of substance.  Sing song talking points.  Tired old platitudes.  There’s no there, there.  The only reason he’s in the ring is his vast network of friends and family donors from around the country.

Aside from repeatedly saying we all need to “roll up our sleeves” before launching into such Captain Obvious brilliance as, “life’s gotten hard for folks,” Bera apparently has been told by handlers to remind people he’s a doctor.  He began almost every sentence with “as a doctor.”

Well then. Since he wants to make a big deal about being a doctor, that seems to beg the obvious question, does Ami Bera make his living as a doctor?  The answer is no.

If Ami Bera were an honest man, he’d tell voters his principle occupation is “landlord.”

According to Bera’s 2012 candidate financial disclosure statements, he sits atop a real estate empire valued at $2.3 to $5.8 million.[1]

Gee, no wonder he has the “courage” to forgo his pension.  He’s a One Percenter.

Included in Bera’s real estate empire are three homes he bought in Sacramento County out of foreclosure.  So in other words, while some Sacramentans were losing their homes to foreclosure it was the good fortune of landlord Bera who picked up these properties at bargain prices.  Certainly nothing wrong with that… but let’s just be clear how this guy really makes a living. It’s worth noting he hasn’t received a salary from UC Davis since 2007.[2]

Of course the most curious part of Bera’s Real Estate Empire is the Colonial Motel in Downey, CA.

Three years ago after it was revealed that a registered sex offender lived at this motel owned by Bera, “Landlord Bera” moved quickly to claim he “sold” the property and didn’t own it any longer

In reality, he “sold” it to his brother for $750,000 but is carrying the loan.  In other words, he merely transferred title to his brother.  It’s a “lender take back” loan (making it easy for him to reclaim the property someday) and he still makes money off the Colonial Motel.[3]  In fact, he reported between $15k and $50k in income last year from owning that note.[4] And, the registered street address for Bera’s company, “Mango Management,” is the same as that for the Colonial Motel.[5]

So the questions the press never has followed up on to Bera should be, “why’d you simply transfer title to your brother when in reality you still essentially own the motel?  What are you trying to hide?  Is this an admission you shouldn’t have let a sex offender live in your motel?”

Why is this important?  It’s important because it reveals Bera’s character.  It’s evidence he’s not willing to take responsibility for his actions, but instead will just try to cover them up.

Want more evidence of his poor character?  Bera supported the High Speed Rail project two years ago, but now in the face of unpopular polling, he says he’s opposed.  Is this really the time to send spineless flip floppers in Washington?

Bera claims the Citizen United decision “corrupts our democracy” but hasn’t condemned the Super PACs funded by left wing organizations including the Sierra Club, AFSCME and SEIU spending over a million dollars on ads discredited by the Sacramento Bee attacking Lungren.

Ami Bera is a multi-millionaire landlord who desperately wants to be somebody.  That’s so true he even tells people he’s something he’s not. That’s right, Bera claims to be the “Dean of Admissions” at the UC Davis School of Medicine in campaign literature when in reality, and according to his own website, he was the Associate Dean. Big difference.  He’s either fraudulently padding his resume or he’s too reckless to take responsibility for a misleading error.

Bera’s never served on a parks board.  Never ran for school board.  He wants to jump right to the big job, even if he’s over his head.  He’s the wrong kind of person to send to Washington.


[1] Amerish (Ami) Bera Personal Financial Disclosure, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, filed May 24, 2012

[2] Sacramento Bee State Worker Salary Search, 25 Sep. 2012 <http://www.sacbee.com/statepay/>

[4] Amerish (Ami) Bera Personal Financial Disclosure, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, filed May 24, 2012

[5] Mango Management Statement of Information, California Secretary of State

Ouch!

Ouch. Our sometimes friend and sometimes adversary Steve Maviglio uncovered some pretty shocking allegations about Harvey Rosenfield and his friends at Consumer Watchdog. You can read his good work here.

Basically, Harvey created a non-profit corporation that made one grant (to Consumer Watchdog, obviously) and paid himself $100,000 plus $95,000 in expenses and his friend Jamie Court $200,000 to administer it. Wow. We knew Harvey was only interested in lining his own pockets and maintaining his comfortable Marina del Rey lifestyle but this is just plain sleazy.

Why aren’t they using that money to protect consumers? After all isn’t that their mission?  Or is the mission to make an easy buck?

 

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