<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Political News, Bay Area Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:01:43 -0700 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:01:43 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Bill Would Make Pharmacy Syringe Sales Permanent ]]> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 10:45:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Flu+Syringes+011414.jpg

A bill to allow Californians to buy an unlimited number of syringes without a prescription is making its way through the legislature.

Health officials said more than three million Americans are infected by Hepatitis C, an infection caused by blood-to-blood contact commonly associated with dirty needles used for drug injections.

Supporters of the bill said they believe expanding access to sterile needles is the best way to stop the spread of diseases.

"We see it as a good public health measure," California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth said. "The cost to treat, for example, a patient with HIV can be upwards of $600,000 or more depending on their life-span. And so simply, providing clean needles is a safe cost-effective way that doesn't contribute to increasing crime but actually helps reduce infectious diseases."

California law enforcement groups opposed the bill, saying studies supporting the bill do not align with their officers' day-to-day experiences.

The bill passed the assembly on a 45-28 vote Thursday, and it now heads to the Senate.
 



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Who is Likely to Vote on June 3 Primary?]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:53:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000006572155_1200x675_232240195834.jpg With the June 3 California primary upon us, some of us will be more likely to vote than others. NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston joins Sam Brock with some numbers and the meaning behind them.]]> <![CDATA[In SF, Hillary Clinton Says She's "Thinking" About 2016 Run]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 08:21:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-08-2014-hillary-clinton.jpg

Will she or won’t she run? Hillary Clinton appears to be inching closer to an answer.

After months of speculation and sidestepping, Clinton tackled the big question with a maybe, telling tech innovators she is "thinking” about a 2016 run.

“I am thinking about it, but I am going to continue thinking about it for a while,” Clinton said Tuesday at a conference for marketing professionals in San Francisco.

Looking very much like a presidential candidate, former U.S. Secretary of State Clinton kicked off a series of West Coast appearances with a keynote speech addressed to several thousand people at a customer conference hosted by Marketo, a Silicon Valley maker of marketing software.

Following her speech, Clinton participated in a question-and-answer session with Marketo chief executive Phil Fernandez.

Clinton told Fernandez she’ll have to weigh some difficult questions before she decides whether to run for president in 2016.

“I’m not going to make a decision for a while because I’m actually enjoying my life,” Clinton said. “I’m actually having fun doing ordinary things like seeing my friends and going on long walks, playing with dogs.”

Back in 2011, Clinton told NBC's Today show a 2016 run for the Oval Office was not "in the realm of possibility."

Clinton’s keynote speech included comments on clean energy, the immigration debate, and education and unemployment.

“I see the small and the large changes we can make right now that will put us on the path to the kind of success that I know awaits us if, individually and together, we make the right decisions,” Clinton said.

Clinton travels to Portland Tuesday night to speak to the World Affairs Council of Oregon. Then she’ll make a stop in Las Vegas and then it’s back to the Bay Area.

Clinton, who ran for president in 2008, is widely expected to run again in 2016.

Political analysts say Clinton has been doing a great job keeping herself relevant and in the public eye since she left her post as secretary of state 14 months ago.

“Barack Obama showed that it was very effective to try and bring new voters into the system and to really target young voters, so I think that Hillary Clinton is following that same playbook,” said Melinda Jackson, associate professor of political science at San Jose State University, where Clinton will speak Thursday night.

Clinton is scheduled to appear on the SJSU campus as part of a lecture series featuring prominent women. As of Tuesday evening, StubHub had 67 tickets left to see Clinton at the 5,000-seat SJSU Events Center.

Clinton stepped down as secretary of state at the end of President Barack Obama's first term. Before that, she served as a U.S. Senator from New York from 2001-2009.

She is married to former President Bill Clinton and was first lady from 1993-2001.

San Mateo-based Marketo was founded in 2006 and produces marketing automation software. Its annual summits attract thousands of participants, with 3,500 people expected to attend this year.

 

Lisa Fernandez, the Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[San Francisco Could Raise Minimum Wage to $15]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 00:42:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/78773767.jpg

While Congress is fighting over increasing the minimum wage to $10, one Bay Area city might raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Labor activists in San Francisco are pushing to raise the city's minimum wage to $15.

They plan to to file the paperwork Monday, which would put the proposal on the ballot in November.

A recent poll showed about 60 percent of voters support the proposal. If it passes, San Francisco would have the highest minimum wage in the country.

Right now, the minimum wage is $10.74 in San Francisco.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Fuse]]>
<![CDATA[Larry Gerston on Increase in Absentee Voting]]> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 11:00:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/web7amgerstonabsentee_11572739_1200x675_218316355505.jpg On May 5, absentee voting will begin for the June 3 primary election, and plenty of people will vote that way. NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston explains the increase in absentee voting over the years.]]> <![CDATA[Calif. Bill Could Help Protect Consumers From ID Theft]]> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 04:51:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Target+CC+Security+121913.jpg

Protecting consumers from identity theft is the new goal of a new bill in Sacramento that would require businesses to adopt better security practices to protect people's personal information.

Under the new legislation, if data breaches do occur, retailers, not banks, would be responsible for reimbursing any compromised consumers.

Last holiday season, Target was the victim of massive data breaches that compromised millions of customers’ credit and debit card numbers.

"Trust me, credit card companies and banks and credit unions and the retailers do not want to have their systems hacked into," Fremont Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski said. "This is not good publicity for them, so we’re trying to figure out some rational improvements in the law that will restore the confidence that consumers want.”

The bill would also require businesses to notify consumers within 15 days of detecting any possible data theft.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[George W. Bush Unveils His Paintings of World Leaders]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:48:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/040414-bush-portraits.jpg

Former President George W. Bush shares an exclusive, first-ever look at the portraits he painted of fellow world leaders, including his most personal subject: his own father.

His interest with painting began two years ago after using drawing app, Penultimate, on his iPad. After moving on from his stick figure drawings, he enlisted the help of an art instructor who he tasked with unleashing the Rembrandt "trapped in this body."

TODAY contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager reports in the video clip below:

Later, former first lady Barbara Bush joined TODAY to chat about her son, the former president, and his new painting hobby. She gives thumbs up to a portrait he did of his father: “He’s good.” But when asked if she'll sit for a portrait herself, she says, "Absolutely not." 

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<![CDATA[San Jose Councilman Reconsiders "Pension Reform"]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 18:01:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/donaldrocha.jpg

San Jose Councilman Donald Rocha once supported Measure B – Mayor Chuck Reed’s initiative on pension reform. 

Now he says he wants the council to take a second look at the controversial measure, which is also being battled in court, that San Jose voters approved in 2012.  The measure had employees contribute 16 percent more of their pay to retirement costs, known as a "pension reform measure."

Rocha says in the wake of Measure B, San Jose is having a hard time retaining and recruiting employees.  His biggest area of concern is within the police department.  He says because of the changes, many officers are retiring or simply going on to jurisdictions with stronger benefits packages.

The next San Jose police academy is next month and only 29 new recruits will be going through it – about half of what the department is used to.

"It's a tragedy that San Jose hasn't been able to recruit the personnel that it needs," said J.J. Vallejo, one of the veteran officers who left the San Jose Police Department.

Vallejo left undercover work and the department's elite homicide unit for a midnight patrol shift in Redwood City.

"People want to feel secure in their line of work," he said. "That they're going to be taken care of. And that's the bottom line.

Rocha said the city needs urgent action to stabilize staffing at the police department.

"I think we have a track record that shows the status quo isn't working," he said.

The areas Rocha is looking at include retirement age, accrual rates and the disability retirement issue on the police side. One option being explored is to put this up for a vote on the November ballot.

Mayor Reed argues the changes won't work.

"I think it's a mistake to go back. Next year we will be in excess of $30 million," he said. "If we rewind that, then we have to come up with $30 million in cuts from somewhere else."

The council is scheduled to discuss the potential modification to the disability rules at their April 8 meeting.  Rocha is pushing for a comprehensive review.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Sen. Leland Yee in Court for Bond Hearing]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 03:57:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/LelandYee1.jpg

California state Sen. Leland Yee appeared in federal court on Monday morning, stemming from a shocking arrest last week where FBI agents charged him with seven felonies related to firearms trafficking and promising political favors.

The hearing before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins was mostly uneventful. Attorneys discussed the terms of Yee's $500,000 unsecured bond. Yee didn't say much during the hearing, but smiled before heading off to the federal building, looking more well rested than he did when he was arrested by FBI agents on Wednesday.

Before hopping into a car, Yee casually waved to an NBC Bay Area reporter and said in a businesslike tone: "I'll see you in court." His next court apperance is scheduled for April 8.

Previously, his attorney, Paul DeMeester  told the media that Yee intends to plead not guilty to the charges.

Sen. Leland Yee's attorney, Paul DeMeester, speaking with the media after court. March 31, 2014.

Outside court, DeMeester noted to reporters that this investigation has been going on since 2011 and questioned aloud "what took three years?" He criticized the FBI agents for "pushing this idea of the arms dealing," noting that the firearm trafficking charges came late in the investigation.

NBC Bay Area broke news of Yee's arrest.

On Friday, Yee was suspended by the state Legislature; the day before, he withdrew from his bid for Secretary of State.

The 137-page federal affidavit (PDF) charges the San Francisco Democrat - a longtime vocal advocate of gun control - with conspiring to commit wire fraud and traffic firearms, and that he, along with political consultant Keith Jackson, allegedly defrauded citizens of "honest services."

Yee and 25 others, including Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow - Chinatown gang leader known as a "Dragonhead -" were caught up in a multi-year undercover FBI operation. Chow, dressed in a yellow Alameda County jail jumpsuit, also appeared in court on Monday to be appointed an attorney. Finding him one has been a challenge because the public defender's office has already defended him during previous criminal charges.

Jackson was told to return to court on Tuesday.

Despite the evidence against Yee, which to many, appeard overwhelming, some legal experts said those charges could be hard to prove. 

Legal Analyst Dean Johnson said it is not illegal for a person to give money to a politician’s campaign, expecting to influence that politician. It is also not illegal for a politician to take into account the wishes of contributors when making decisions.

But the illegal part is if there is a quid pro-quo or a tit -or-tat, a blatant exchange of money for political favors. Johnson said proving that can be tricky.

"Legally, this case is wide open," Johnson said. "These are kinds of cases that defense attorneys love because so much is open to interpretation, and everything turns on what was going on in Sen. Yee’s head. What was his intent?"

Johnson said the strength of the prosecutors case will also depend on how much video and audio evidence there is, and he said he assumes there is such evidence.

Johnson also said Yee’s attorney will likely argue the FBI entrapped Yee by setting up such an elaborate sting, with made up scenarios and crimes that, in the end, never took place.

 NBC Bay Area's Monte Francis and Vince Cestone contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Legal Expert: Leland Yee Case Far From Open and Shut]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 06:19:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/johnson-legal-analyst.jpg

California state Sen. Leland Yee is facing a series of charges, including conspiracy to traffic firearms, and although the evidence against him appears overwhelming, legal experts said it is far from an open and shut case.

Most of the charges have to do with public corruption, and legal experts said those charges can be hard to prove. Although Yee’s political career may well be over, the legal case against him is another matter, according to Legal Analyst Dean Johnson.

Johnson said it is not illegal for a person to give money to a politician’s campaign, expecting to influence that politician. It is also not illegal for a politician to take into account the wishes of contributors when making decisions.

But the illegal part is if there is a quid pro-quo or a tit -or-tat, a blatant exchange of money for political favors. Johnson said proving that can be tricky.

"Legally, this case is wide open," Johnson said. "These are kinds of cases that defense attorneys love because so much is open to interpretation, and everything turns on what was going on in Sen. Yee’s head. What was his intent?"

Johnson said the strength of the prosecutors case will also depend on how much video and audio evidence there is, and he said he assumes there is such evidence.

Johnson also said Yee’s attorney will likely argue the FBI entrapped Yee by setting up such an elaborate sting, with made up scenarios and crimes that, in the end, never took place.

Yee is expected to appear in federal court tomorrow to tell the judge who will be handling his defense.

A  grand jury indictment against Yee is expected by the end of the week.

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<![CDATA[Ro Khanna Not at Fault: Judge]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 03:55:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0325-RoKhanna.jpg

There's one less challenger to U.S. Rep Mike Honda.

And disqualifying Vinesh Singh Rathore, a Republican, isn't Democratic challenger Ro Khanna's fault, a court has found.

Khanna, an ex-Obama administration official, was accused in a lawsuit of recruiting other Republican candidates to run against Singh, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Rathore, a 35-year old Google attorney, is off of the ballot because not all of the 40 people who signed his nominating petition were found to be legitimate voters, the newspaper reported.

An Alameda County Republican official filed the suit against Khanna, a Fremont resident, as a "dirty trick," the Democratic challenger said.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Sen. Yee Withdraws Sec. of State Candidacy]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:53:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP588054204940.jpg

A day after he was arrested in a federal sweep, California state Sen. Leland Yee on Thursday announced through his attorney that he is withdrawing his candidacy for secretary of state.

The announcement came amidst growing calls for Yee to resign from the Senate, with everyone from Sen. Dianne Feinstein to State Sen. President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg asking him to step down.

“The allegations against Senator Yee are shocking," Feinstein said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. "It has become clear he has lost the confidence of his colleagues and for the good of his constituents should step down.”

State senators will meet in the Senate Chambers in Sacramento on Friday morning to ask Yee to resign, according to Steinberg's office.  If Yee refuses, he will be suspended, Steinberg's office said.

State Sen. Mark Leno said, after Friday's vote, Yee "will not be on the floor of the Senate ever again."

At a Thursday morning news conference in front of San Francisco's Federal Building, attorney Paul DeMeester said  Yee has not yet made a decision about whether to resign from his state Senate seat, as he is making decisions "one day at a time." Yee, who had been termed out of his position as state senator, had been one of eight candidates for the secretary of state position.

DeMeester said that Yee informed Secretary of State Debra Bowen of his decision to withdraw from the race after noon on Thursday.

"It's a very personal choice, a personal thing that he wanted to do," DeMeester said.

A federal complaint unsealed Wednesday accused the San Francisco Democrat of engaging in a conspiracy to traffic firearms and accepting campaign donations in exchange for official acts. In one instance, Yee, who has been a strong advocate for gun control during his decade in the state legislature, allegedly discussed setting an undercover agent up with an international arms dealer, warning that such business dealings are "not for the faint of heart," according to the complaint.

Yee, 65, was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

NBC Bay Area broke news of his arrest.

Yee and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, leader of the Chee Kung Tong Free Masons in San Francisco, were among 26 defendants charged in the federal criminal complaint Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said.

Yee has served in the state Legislature for more than a decade, and was elected to the State Senate in November 2006, representing District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County.

He posted a $500,000 unsecured bond and is scheduled to return to court on Monday.

Yee represents Senate District 8, which includes the western half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County. He declared his candidacy for secretary of state in 2012.

This is not Yee's first brush with the law. Yee was arrested in 1992 in Hawaii on suspicion of walking out of a KTA store with a bottle of Tropical Blend Tan Magnifier Oil stuffed under his shirt. The case was eventually dismissed.

He had another brush with law enforcement in 1999, when he was stopped in San Francisco's Mission District's "hooker-row area" near Capp Street. Yee denied soliciting prostitues, telling the media: "They presume that people are driving around there looking for prostitutes, but there are people who use that street to go home. They said there was somebody they thought looked like me who may have been soliciting. And I said, 'No, I was coming from work.'"

Meanwhile, the remaining candidates running for Secretary of State have reacted to Yee's arrest and alleged political corruption.

Fellow state senator and Democratic candidate Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, issued a statement calling the criminal allegations "another blow to the institution of the California State Senate."

Padilla did not comment on how the arrest and charges against Yee would affect the upcoming June primary and November election.

Secretary of State Green Party candidate David Curtis said this morning that the focus of the race has turned to "Yee's situation" and he said he wondered, "How do you get people's attention back to the other candidates?"

Curtis said for frontrunner Padilla, Yee's arrest is a double-edged sword with some voters concerned that a fellow state senator comes from the same money-grubbing "gene pool," while others are moving away from Yee and aligning with Padilla instead.

Democrat Derek Cressman was also running against Yee for Secretary of State, and said in a statement that Yee's address is a "wake-up call" and that, "We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate."

According to the California Secretary of State office, at this point in the election process, Yee's name cannot be removed from the ballot and he is considered an official candidate for the position.

State Sen. President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has called on Yee to resign from the senate.

He said senators would move to suspend Yee and that he is removing Yee from his committee positions.

Bay City News contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Congressman Ron Paul Coming to Bay Area]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 03:55:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Ron+Paul+campaign.jpg

First was Rand. Now, it's Ron.

Former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul is coming to the Bay Area for a pair of speeches, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The Ron Paul Revolution will stop at the campus theater at California State University, East Bay in Hayward at 4 p.m. on April 9. Tickets to "Liberty Defined: The Future of Freedom" are free, but are given on a first-come, first-served basis.

He'll also sign books and press flesh at a private reception. $75 gets you in -- and gets you one of his books, the newspaper reported.

The next day, on April 10, he'll speak at the Commonwealth Club of California at 10 a.m. That's at 595 Market Street in San Francisco.

Paul will speak on liberty -- and, presumably, the need to end the Fed and other ills of government he spent 24 years in Congress speaking out against.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[State Senator Faces Corruption, Gun Trafficking Charges ]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 16:15:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/03-26-2014-leland-yee-leaves-court.jpg

California state Sen. Leland Yee is facing a slew of corruption charges as part of a massive FBI sting operation that surfaced allegations of firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire and drug distribution.

A federal complaint unsealed Wednesday accuses the San Francisco Democrat of engaging in a conspiracy to traffic firearms and accepting campaign donations in exchange for official acts. In one instance, Yee, who has been a strong advocate for gun control during his decade in the state Legislature, warning that such business dealings are "not for the faint of heart," according to the complaint.

He was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

Yee and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, leader of the Chee Kung Tong Free Masons in San Francisco, were among 26 defendants charged in the federal criminal complaint Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said. 

The federal criminal complaint, filed on March 24, charges the defendants with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud, the FBI announced. According to the affidavit

If convicted on all charges, Yee could face more than 100 years in prison. His bail was set at $500,000, unsecured, with the provision that he not leave the state. He was released from custody late Wednesday afternoon.

Yee is due back in court on Monday.

Chow's charges include money laundering and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.

One of the places the FBI searched Wednesday was at the San Francisco Chinatown office of the Chee Kung Tong at 36 Spofford Street, where Chow, a notorious former Chinatown gangster, conducts business. Chow was arrested during the raid.

Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.

According to the complaint, a pattern of alleged racketeering activity emerged as FBI undercover agents infiltrated the CKT through introductions made by Chow and others.

Over the course of the undercover agent's relationship with Chow and other defendants, the complaint shows, the undercover agent informed the group that he was interested in generating income from illegal schemes. He was then inducted into CKT as a "consultant," and allegedly introduced to a number of the defendants in order to launder money, traffic narcotics, firearms and purpotedly stolen cigarettes and liquor and engage in murder-for-hire schemes over the course of multiple undercover operations.

The FBI also arrested Keith Jackson, a well-known political consultant who owns San Francisco-based political consulting firm Jackson Consultancy.

Leland Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

State Senator Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Chow also introduced Jackson -- a "consultant" to the CKT -- to the undercover agent. Jackson and his son Brandon Jackson allegedly responded to the undercover agent's request for weapons, selling him various types of firearms and two ballistic vests.

Jackson, Brandon Jackson and another defendant allegedly conspired on a murder for hire scheme at the undercover agent's request.

The complaint also says that Jackson is a close associate of Lee and has been involved in raising campaign funds for him from at least through May 2011 to the present.

Yee, who has served in the state Legislature for more than a decade, was elected to the State Senate in November 2006 and represents District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County. The former San Francisco supervisor and 2011 mayoral candidate is currently running for secretary of state.

The complaint alleges that starting in 2012 and continuing until now, Yee and Keith Jackson allegedly raised money and campaign funds for Yee's secretary of state campaign by soliciting donations from undercover FBI agents in exchange for multiple official acts.

The compaint also alleges that Yee and Jackson were involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms.

The complaint details how, starting in May 2011 and continuing for several months, Jackson allegedly asked an undercover FBI agent to make contributions to Yee's San Francisco mayoral campaign. The agent declined to make contributions but introduced Jackson and Yee to a business associate, who was another undercover agent. When Jackson and Yee asked the agent for campaign contributions, it resulted in at least one personal $5,000 donation.

The complaint claims that Yee tried to get rid of a $70,000 debt after losing the November 2011 election by making a call to the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract with the second undercover agent's purported client and writing an official letter of support in exchange for a $10,000 campaign donation.

Yee allegedly made the call on Oct. 18, 2012, and provided the letter around Jan. 13, 2013. Jackson accepted the $10,000 on Nov. 19, 2012.

Yee is known for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws.On his website, Yee promises that if elected as secretary of state, he will be "committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy."

He was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional journalists for his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act.

Chow, who ran a Chinese criminal organization and was convicted of gun charges, was released in 2003 after spending 11 years in prison. He has since been praised for his involvement in the community and for trying to turn his life around.

On what appears to be Raymond Chow's Facebook page, Chow displayed a picture of a certificate of honor presented to him by Lee that honored him "for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working 'in the trenches' as a change agent."

Chow also appears to have been tweeting from the Twitter handle @RaymondChow10, using hashtags that included "sunoftheunderworld," "mafia." and "chinatown." His last tweet was on Nov. 17, which shows him at his sister's birthday, enjoying a glass of red wine.

Chow has also posted pictures of him with other notable public figures and local business owners, including former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and a picture of another certificate of recognition from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Yee's arrest shocked the Chinese-American community, many of whom view him as an important figure in San Francisco politics.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Sergeant at Arms were stationed outside Yee's state Capitol office in Sacramento Wednesday morning, where the FBI agents conducted a raid, taking computers and other documents, according to KCRA-TV.

The FBI confirmed to KCRA-TV that it had raided homes and businesses in the Bay Area and Sacramento Wednesday morning, issuing multiple search warrants and making arrests.

State Senator Yee was arrested Wednesday morning on public corruption charges. (Photo: Diane Dwyer)

Yee’s press secretary, Dan Lieberman, declined to comment when contacted by NBC Bay Area. An official statement would be released sometime Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Yee's arrest would make him the third Democratic state senator fighting charges this year.

His arrest comes just one month after prosecutors announced federal bribery and corruption charges filed against state Sen. Ron Calderon.

Prosecutors say the Los Angeles-area Democrat accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes and other perks in exchange for his supporting or opposing bills. Calderon has pleaded not guilty.

Earlier in the year, Democratic Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty of multiple charges that stemmed from accusations he did not actually live in the Southern California district he represents. Wright is appealing the conviction.

Both Wright and Calderon have taken a leave of absence from the state Senate.

Democrat Derek Cressman, who is one of several candidates also running for secretary of state, called Yee's arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate," Cressman said in a statement. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he was shocked and disappointed by the news.

"Leland Yee has been a part of public service for a long time, sorry to see that tainted by these allegations," Lee said.

A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons.

Yee is the first Chinese American ever elected to the California State Senate. He emigrated to San Francisco from China at age 3. Yee graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and receieved a master's degree from San Francisco State University. Yee and his wife Maxine have four children.




Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Khanna Says He Won't Take Corporate Money]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 20:50:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0325-RoKhanna.jpg

To a population disenchanted with the functionality of its government, and specifically, an inept Congress struggling to pass even core legislation (government shutdown, anyone?), visions of reform and campaign finance transparency sure sound sweet right about now.

Democratic hopeful Ro Khanna, a former Obama Commerce Department appointee and current Silicon Valley attorney, is vying for the Democratic nomination for California’s 17th Congressional District.

Khanna has promised Bay Area voters something that does not grace the headlines of many political campaigns: A pledge not to accept corporate dollars, special interest dollars, lobbying dollars or the like.

“Everyone knows that corporations and special interests have too much power in Washington, and ordinary citizens’ voices are not being heard,” Khanna told NBC Bay Area Tuesday. “And the reason is that corporations and special interests are funding a lot of the influence in Congress. And so I’ve said, I’m not going to take any money from corporations or lobbyists, only money from individuals.”

A candidate’s fundraising activities have to be filed with the federal government, and specifically the Federal Election Commission, so a claim like Khanna’s can be fact-checked. The rub lies in how you define corporate money.

Khanna’s most recent filing covers all activity through Dec. 31, 2013. The next filing deadline will come in less than a month (they’re done on a quarterly basis).

Of the roughly $2 million Khanna has raised through December 31, the report indicates that all of the money is sourced to individual donations. The section for political action committees, advocacy groups and other entities capped by fundraising ceilings, called “other committee contributions” on the report, shows a zero sign.

So Khanna has upheld his lofty pledge so far?

Bill Whalen, a veteran California political expert and research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, says it’s a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.

“It’s very clever tactics,” Whalen said, referring to Khanna’s guarantee. “I won’t take money from those lousy lobbyists. I won’t take money from those evil corporations. All of those things that we associate with bad doings in Washington, so it’s a very smart tactic,” he said. “But you look at it closely and it doesn’t quite stand up.”

Whalen offers push back on two fronts.

One, incumbent challengers don’t generally receive huge financial backing from national parties, special interest groups or even corporate PACS, Whalen said. Those riches typically get channeled to establishment candidates.

“To the extent that Washington groups are giving money, they’ll give money to the Washington candidate, the incumbent congressman,” he continued. “To the extent that Nancy Pelosi or established Democrats are directing money, they’ll direct it toward Mr. Honda. So [Khanna] can take this very principled position because, in part, it’s not like he has a choice,” Whalen noted with a smile.

On this point, Khanna acknowledged the typical, systemic support for incumbent candidates but also challenged Whalen’s premise.

“A lot of challengers get special interest money,” Khanna responded. “If you look at the challengers who’ve run and are running across the country, they take political action committee money. They take corporate money. We could certainly go to some of these corporations and say, ‘Fund me through your corporate PAC,’ but we have not.”

Perhaps the more pressing question is whether some of Khanna’s individual donors should be considered ‘corporate’ sources.

An attorney who represents technology companies in intellectual property cases, Khanna has no shortage of deep-pocketed friends on his donor list, many of whom represent Silicon Valley’s most titanic corporations.

Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer are all among the supporters donating to Khanna’s campaign.

Should that count as a corporate endorsement?

Khanna says the tech elite who’ve backed him do so for his platform and ideas, but Whalen says it can be hard to separate the two.

“Here’s the interesting question,” Whalen posed. “Does that mean that Marissa Mayer’s money is good but Yahoo, which is a corporation, their money is bad? Does that mean that Sheryl Sandberg’s money is good, but Facebook, which is a corporation, their money is bad? What if Tim Cook wants to write you a check, or John Chambers? Does that mean that Apple and Cisco are bad? I think it’s kind of a double-standard here.”

The 17th District incumbent, Representative Mike Honda, a seven-term congressman, questions how a non-corporate campaign could contain so many sizeable donations from some of the tech industry’s biggest names.

"Ro Khanna has taken over $600,000 from CEOs and Venture capitalists: people who run, or own, corporations,” said Honda Communications Director, Vivek Kembaiyan, in an email statement. “This includes max-out contributions from Peter Thiel, who spent millions to elect tea party Senator Ted Cruz, and Marc Leder, who hosted the Mitt Romney 47% fundraiser. Congressman Honda has a strong progressive record, and the grassroots support to back it: over half of his contributions are from people giving $100 or less."

Venture to Honda’s FEC filing page and you’ll find that he’s raised roughly $1.2 million in campaign donations through December 31.

Roughly $300,000 or 26 percent of his total funds are attributed to “other committees contributions.”

Some of those funds come from the political action committees of companies whose CEOs and higher-ups donated directly to Khanna’s campaign, such as Yahoo and Oracle.

If you’re wondering, ‘what’s the difference,’ Khanna says for one, it’s level of donation.

“All of my contributions are individual contributions and they’re restricted- they can’t give the amounts that these corporations and political action committees can give,” Khanna said.

And that’s true, individuals are limited to $2,600 per candidate per election, while PACs are limited to $5,000.

Here, Whalen says context is everything.

“So you can’t take money from the Yahoo PAC, which is [limited to] $5,000 or $10,000, but what if the CEO puts you in a room with 50 of his or her fellow employees?” Whalen asked. “And they raise a lot more than $5,000 or $10,000 dollars?”

Should the Khanna and Honda race tighten up before their June primary, the greatest financial impact may in fact come from the so-called Super PACS, groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations and individuals and cannot donate directly to candidates, but *can purchase ads attacking or supporting those candidates.

Khanna has said he will reject help from the Super PACS, and is calling on Honda - who has also voiced his opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, opening the door for a flood of corporate money - to do the same.

Thus far, Honda has not accepted the offer.

Whalen believes Super PACS could seal the fate of the primary.

“You have these large, nebulous outside groups which park money against candidates,” he said. “So at some point a Super PAC, should Honda be in trouble in this race, a Super PAC will descend into Silicon Valley and try to take apart Mr. Khanna.”



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Dying Monk Granted Wish: Calif. Gov. Signs Burial Bill]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 03:56:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/209*120/3_monksketeers_to_SF_Chronicle_20140317.jpg

A 76-year-old monk dying of cancer can now be buried at his beloved monastery, thanks to a bill OK'd by California's governor, who studied to be a priest himself.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who was a Jesuit seminary student in the 1950s, signed a bill on Tuesday allowing Archimandrite Theodor Micka to be buried on the grounds of Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley.

The bill, which was authored by California Sen. Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (D-Hayward), allowed an exemption to the current law regarding burial sites. As the law is written, it's a misdemeanor to bury someone in a place other than a designated cemetery without the proper state and county permits. 

In what's known as a "gut-and-amend bill," Corbett wrote the bill to allow Alameda County to expedite the permittng process.

"He had a very compelling story," Corbett said in a phone interview on Tuesday from Sacramento. "We wanted to fulfill his dying wish."

Micka's wish is to be buried on the monastery grounds where he has lived for three decades. The monastery is the only Orthodox one of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there, monks perform weddings, baptisms and services for Orthodox Christians of all ethnic backgrounds.

Micka is the abbot, or the head monk.

"[Corbett] called us today," Holy Cross Monastery Father Stephen Scott, who is Micka's caregiver, told NBC Bay Area. "We were very impressed. Father Theodor has been the abbot here for basically 50 years. He wanted to be buried here."

When Micka was diagnosed with stage IV cancer last April, Scott said that he discussed his friend's burial issue with members of the Stanford Religious Liberty Clinic, who were already helping the monastery with other legal matters. Students Greg Schweizer and Caitlin Bradley helped draft a narrowly crafted bill, CA SB 124, to allow Micka to be buried on the 9-acre rural grounds of his home. Micka's cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, Scott said, though all his friends and supporters are hoping that "he will rally."


The grounds of Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley, Calif. (Photo: Father Stephen Scott)


Micka has been "courageous" in the face of his diagnosis, said Scott, the monastery's co-founder. The two have been friends since 1970, when Micka was a parish priest in Los Altos Hills.

When Micka's mother died, she left her son all that she owned. He decided to use her inheritance to buy the 9-acre monastery, helping to build its walls and plant its gardens. Nature is Micka's passion.

"He made a vow to build a monastery," Scott said. "He creates beauty and order out of chaos. We have no fences so that deer can come onto our lawn. We are surrounded by green and parkland. Father Theodor loves the idea of finding God through the beauty of the place."
 

 



Photo Credit: Father Stephen Scott]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Clara County Mulls E-Cigarette Regulations]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 09:59:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/182*120/184769106.jpg

Santa Clara County is joining a number of other Bay Area counties and cities looking into whether e-cigarettes should be regulated.

E-cigarettes claim to help people stop smoking, but the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors wants to know just how safe e-cigarettes are, and they will consider whether they should be subject to the same laws as traditional tobacco products.

"I want to get off cigarettes. I’ve been smoking too long already," e-cigarette user Terry Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he is hoping an e-cigarette will help him quit completely.

"Honestly, it tastes just like a real cigarette to me," he said.

Billed as a safer, cleaner way to get a nicotine fix, electronic cigarettes are gaining in popularity. But how safe they are is still up for debate.

"I don’t like them blazing on a trolley while my kids are there," San Jose resident Juan Galdan said. "I just don’t like it. I look at it just like a cigarette."

Eliza Morales of San Jose offers another point of view.

"It’s a water vapor," she said. "There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a water vapor. It’s equivalent to chewing gum. Nobody would ever know what it is. If it wasn’t shaped like a cigarette no one would ever know."

On Tuesday, Santa Clara County supervisors will join the debate, considering a resolution that would subject e-cigarettes to the existing anti-tobacco laws, making them illegal to use in all county buildings and within 30 feet of any outdoor service area--like a ticket line.

"I don’t think it’s right," Reynolds said. "Here we are trying to quit and doing the best we can, and with this, it's not tobacco smoke, so I think we should be able to do that."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that e-cigarette vapors do contain carcinogens, but it is too soon to know the health risks. Multiple studies are now underway.

"I think right now it is simply just the unknown, and because it’s unknown, people have a tendency to reject it or at least hold it at arms length," Great Vape Inc. owner Robert Jones said.

Jones also said there should be both federal and local regulations in place, but he said he thinks lawmakers are putting the cart before the horse.

"I think that the way that a lot of the cities are going about this is just a bit out of sequence," he said. "I think the research should come in before the regulations."

The Board of Supervisors will take up the issue on Tuesday.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[State Sen. Hill: Calif. Not Prepared For Crude Oil Accident]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 10:01:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/senator-jerry-hill.jpg

The California Energy Commission said the amount of crude oil being transported by train to the Bay Area has sky rocketed thanks to an oil boom in North Dakota and Canada--but that is raising concerns with at least one state lawmaker.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is worried about what could happen if there is an accident. Hill held a hearing about this very issue in Sacramento, and he said California is not prepared if there is an accident involving one of these trains.

Hill said in 2011, there were 9,000 tank cars filled with oil brought into California from out of state. By 2016, that number is expected to reach 200,000 tank cars.

Hill said that amounts to about 2.7 million gallons of oil being carried by each train. The trains are operated mostly by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, and they travel through Solano and Contra Costa counties.

The federal government oversees the safety of the trains, but Hill is concerned about the ability of the local fire departments and emergency responders to react to a disaster if one happens. In the Bay Area, crude oil gets to refineries such as Chevron by sea, and to refineries such as Tesoro by train.

"It’s the response time, and the preparedness that we don’t have in California," Hill said. "We’re back in 1980 when it comes to what we’re prepared for and we can’t deal with that volume."

Hill pointed to a train accident in Quebec last year, involving a train carrying crude oil in which 47 people were killed. He said that right now, California is not prepared for that kind of disaster.

But he said efforts are underway to help solve that problem. The governor’s proposed budget includes a fee for each tank car brought to a refinery in California.

Those funds could help employ about 38 people in the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control to help deal with this issue. The governor puts out his revised budget in May, and it is expected to go to lawmakers for a vote in June.

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<![CDATA[San Jose Mayoral Candidates Speak at Education Forum]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 03:55:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/san-jose-mayoral-education-forum.jpg

Candidates running for mayor in San Jose made their case for education and helping students succeed.

Ten people will be on the ballot for the mayor’s race, and five candidates showed up at Saturday’s Education Forum at Santana Row.

Their first question–what role can the next mayor play in schools and education in San Jose?

"One of the things that a mayor can do is leverage her power to make sure that she coordinates with the corporations," San Jose City Councilmember Madison Nguyen said. "Because these CEO’s want us to invest in these students…so when they enter the workforce, they’re ready to work and contribute to the economy."

"These parents have timelines and milestones to make that makes my work on the city council look like nothing," Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio said. "I have huge admiration for the parent-teacher organizations, and I think the next mayor should work alongside those parents who are actively involved in the excellent preparation for their students into the college years."

The mayoral candidates also answered questions about funding for schools and how they would raise more money for classes and activities.

"I hope that Mark Zuckerberg is watching right now," Nguyen said. "Because he gave $100 million to a school in Newark...and recently, he also gave millions of dollars to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to help with education endeavors. And since San Jose is in his backyard, I don’t see why Mark Zuckerberg should not contribute to the schools here in San Jose."

"I certainly support the idea of encouraging Mark Zuckerberg to kick in a few bucks our way," Councilmember Sam Liccardo said. "But I don’t have him on speed dial, so I have, however, spent an awful lot of time fundraising from the corporate sector to support schools."

The mayoral election is on June 3.

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<![CDATA[Michelle Obama Visits Beijing's Summer Palace]]> Sat, 22 Mar 2014 16:45:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/michelle-obama-china.jpg

First Lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to Beijing's Summer Palace Saturday.

Mrs. Obama was accompanied by her daughters and mother. They joined a group of visiting students from the U.S. and even took in a Chinese opera performance.

Mrs. Obama and her family are set to visit other historical landmarks including the Great Wall of China and a panda breeding facility.

The focus of the weeklong trip is on the importance of education.

The First Lady is encouraging students across the U.S. to follow her trip on her web site.
 

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NECN]]> <![CDATA[Scott Brown Readies N.H. Senate Run]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 15:15:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP19064830984.jpg

Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts officially announced Friday he has formed an exploratory committee for a bid in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race this year.

However, the Republican did not officially say he will run against the state's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, NECN reported.

Brown blasted Obamacare Friday, and also talked about what his party needs to be doing to move forward.

Brown said he is looking forward to meeting people in New Hampshire as he starts traveling around the state starting Saturday.

"Obviously I have to do some listening and learning and find out from everybody what their concerns are and make sure I have a full understanding of the challenges, and then I'll make a further decision down the road," Brown told reporters after the speech.

There are already other Republicans in the U.S. Senate race, but analysts agree that Brown would immediately be the frontrunner if he officially ran against Shaheen.

Democrats in the Granite State have been preparing for months now for Brown's announcement.

Earlier Friday, Fox News cut its ties with Brown when he notified them of his intentions.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Feds: DC Mayor Got Illegal Funds]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:45:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/20140310+Jeffrey+Thompson.jpg

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray knew that his 2010 campaign received money donated illegally by a businessman with multimillion-dollar city contracts, and even asked personally for the funds, federal prosecutors alleged in court Monday.

Businessman Jeffrey Thompson, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to violate D.C. and federal campaign finance laws by funneling more than $3.3 million in unreported donations to at least 28 local and national candidates and their campaigns beginning in 2006.

The candidates who benefitted from the illegal donations are not named in the court filings. However, in court, prosecutors confirmed that Gray was the person called "Mayoral Candidate A" who met with Thompson to discuss the fundraising, presented Thompson with a $425,000 "one-page budget" -- and agreed to keep the fundraising secret by referring to Thompson with the code name "Uncle Earl."

Gray also asked Thompson to pay $40,000 for improvements to a friend's home, prosecutors said. In court, Thompson acknowledged giving $40,000 to a close friend of Gray and $10,000 to a relative of Gray.

In total, Thompson -- whose company had a contract worth $300 million a year with the city -- funneled $668,800 to "a political candidate for Mayor," the charging documents say. Those documents also claim that the unreported donation was made "in coordination with" the candidate.

Gray refuted the claims in an interview and said he was innocent. “I maintain these are lies,” Gray told News4’s Tom Sherwood Monday afternoon. “These are absolute lies.”

Gray attended a mayoral forum Monday evening, just hours after the allegations surfaced. His supporters were in full force, chanting, 'Four more years!' Gray again told News4 the allegations are untrue. 

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a press conference late Monday that more charges may be forthcoming as Thompson continues to help investigators. Many other candidates were implicated in Thompson's plea agreement, including a candidate for mayor in 2006, a candidate for D.C. Council At Large in 2008 and a candidate for Ward 4 council in 2007.

Also connected: candidates for Congress and a candidate for president in 2008, prosecutors said in court filings. The presidential candidate is believed to be Hillary Clinton, who has said she did not know of the fundraising and has cooperated with the investigation.

“Election after election, Jeff Thompson huddled behind closed doors with corrupt candidates, political operatives, and businessmen, devising schemes to funnel millions of dollars of corporate money into local and federal elections,” Machen said. “Today's guilty plea pulls back the curtain on years of widespread corruption. With Mr. Thompson's cooperation, we have the opportunity to hold many wrongdoers accountable and to usher in a new era of honesty, integrity, and transparency in D.C. politics.”

Gray is running for re-election campaign in D.C.'s April 1 Democratic primary for mayor; early voting starts next week. 

THE CASE AGAINST THOMPSON

Thompson was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy in a criminal information filed Monday morning. He appeared in court Monday afternoon, where a judge said he faces two years in prison. If he complies fully with the terms of the plea deal, one count carrying an 18-month sentence could be dropped and he could serve a total of six months on the second count.

The sentence also could be reduced to home confinement.

Court documents allege Thompson solicited relatives, friends, employees and others to make donations to candidates and assured them he would reimburse them for these "conduit contributions" -- which he did with personal money and money from his company. On his company's books, the payments were listed as "advances" and "bonuses," prosecutors said.

Thompson's company also paid for in-kind gifts to candidates, which prosecutors called "shadow campaigns" in a detailed statement of the case against him. That included $653,000 in money for "Mayoral Campaign A" and $608,750 to the candidate for president.

The document also allege "Candidate A" met with Thompson in June 2010, when the candidate promised to use the code name, "Uncle Earl."

Gray told News4 he agreed to that because Thompson was worried then Mayor Adrian Fenty would find out Thompson was supporting Gray and interfere with Thompson's companies' contracts with the city.

“Initially he said no, that he wouldn’t raise money for the campaign,” Gray said. “He was fearful of what would happen to him because of the Fenty administration.”

“With respect to him raising money for my campaign, I thought that was being done in a perfectly legitimate fashion,” Gray said. “I’ve said that from day one and I maintain that, to my knowledge anyway, it was a perfectly legitimate experience.”

THREE-YEAR INVESTIGATION LED TO THOMPSON

A big player in both local and federal politics, Thompson owned multiple million-dollar companies with large contracts from the city. That included the most lucrative contract the city gives out, worth more than $300 million each year for Thompson's company D.C. Chartered Health Plan, to provide health care services to the city's poorest residents.

Thompson stepped down from D.C. Chartered Health Plan in April 2012, after FBI and IRS agents raided his home and office. He then left his accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, in July 2012.

The investigation that led to his guilty pleas began in spring 2011, after Gray was elected. U.S. Attorney Machen began looking into whether Gray or his campaign aides secretly gave cash and checks to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate for mayor, in return for Brown's aggressive attacks on then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Brown contended the campaign did pay him and also rewarded him with a $110,000-a-year city job, from which he was later fired for inappropriate conduct.

Since those allegations caught Machen's attention, nine people with ties either to Thompson or to Gray's 2010 campaign -- including Thompson himself -- have pleaded guilty to various charges over the course of the investigation.

Two Gray campaign supporters, Howard Brooks and Thomas Gore, pleaded guilty to covering up the payments to Brown.

In July 2012, Jeanne Clark Harris, a long-time supporter of Gray and business partner of Thompson, pleaded guilty to funneling more than $650,000 from Thompson to a shadow campaign for Gray. "The 2010 mayoral election was corrupted by a massive infusion of cash that was illegally concealed from the voters in the District," Machen said at that time.

Not long after, three business associates of Thompson's -- Troy White, Lee Calhoun and Stanley L. Straughter -- pleaded guilty to helping Thompson illegally fund national campaigns, including Clinton's.

Last August, Vernon Hawkins, a longtime associate of both Thompson and Gray, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the shadow campaign. During Hawkins' plea hearing, Gray's name was mentioned for the first time as the beneficiary of the shadow campaign.

In addition, former D.C. Councilmember Michael A. Brown has admitted to taking money from Thompson. Brown has admitted to taking about $120,000 in secret, illegal campaign donations in 2007 and 2008 in conjunction with Harris and a businessman only identified as "Co-Conspirator 1." Media reports have identified "Co-Conspirator 1" as Thompson.

Though the investigation has continued for three years, Gray remains a front-runner in the race for mayor. A poll for NBC4, WAMU, the Washington Informer and Marist released in February shows Gray leading the race.

PREVIOUS STORIES:

 

 
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<![CDATA[Ten Candidates Running for Mayor of San Jose]]> Sun, 09 Mar 2014 18:07:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dave-cortese.jpg

Ten San Jose mayoral candidates filed paperwork with the city clerk before the Friday deadline--all of them Democrats.

The top five candidates are familiar names in the South Bay.

Four of the candidates are current city council members, including Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen. She has been representing District 7.

Councilman Sam Liccardo, a former deputy district attorney, is the top fundraiser so far. And Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio is making police support the cornerstone of his campaign.

Councilwoman Rose Herrera's district has sizable Latino and Asian-American populations.

Also in the top five is former city councilman and current Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.

NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston said with a field of 10, the city is likely to see a runoff.

"With so many candidates, it's very unlikely that any one candidate is going to get 50 percent plus one that's required to win outright," Gerston said. "Therefore, the top two will move on to the November finals, the time of the general elections."

In a poll of likely voters, sponsored by several unions, Dave Cortese leads the pack with 19 percent of likely voters, followed by Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen.

Here are the results of the poll:

Dave Cortese -19%
Madison Nguyen -15%
Sam Liccardo - 10%
Pierluigi Oliverio - 8%
Rose Herrera - 6%

Forty percent of the people polled did not choose a candidate.

Gerston said while the methodology of the poll is solid, it was only conducted in English.

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<![CDATA[Report: Millennials Unattached to Organized Politics]]> Sat, 08 Mar 2014 23:33:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/generation-y.jpg

Millennials are unattached to organized politics and are linked by social media, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

Millennials are young adults, ages 18 to 33, and the new poll shows this generation, compared to Generation X, tends to be more politically independent.

And they are less religious. In fact, only 58 percent said they were "absolutely certain" God exists, according to the poll.

Millenials are also less likely to get married.

The Decline in Marriage Among the Young

 

Twenty-six percent of millennials are married versus 48 percent of baby boomers at the same age, the poll said.

"They're so earnest," Time Columnist Joel Stein said. "They're so easily offended whereas I'm Generation X, and all of the horrible things that are written about us--I don't think any of us cared."

According to the survey, many Americans said this generation faces more economic challenges than their elders did when they were first starting out.
 

While Millennials say they don't earn or have enough now, they are the most upbeat about the future.

Fewer Millennials See Big Differences Between Parties

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<![CDATA["Rosie the Riveters' Heading to D.C.]]> Sun, 09 Mar 2014 00:59:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-AP03111102795.jpg

After months of fretting and uncertainty, five Rosie the Riveters from the Bay Area will head to Washington, D.C. to meet the vice president after 100 donors decided to help the elderly women on fixed-incomes make the cross-country trip.

Marsha Mather-Thrift, executive director of the Rosie the Riveter Trust in Richmond, Calif., said that the big contributors include Kaiser Permanente, Virgin America, the Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters UA Local Union 393, Trico Pipe, and the Electrical Industry Advancement Program for IBEW 302. In all, nearly $30,000 poured in, including free plane tickets.

"The response was amazing," Mather-Thrift told NBC Bay Area on Friday. "From donors big and small. The outpouring was great. These women represent a huge number of Rosies around the country. These women deserve to go."

The money will be plenty for sisters Phyllis Gould, 92, of Fairfax, Calif., and Marian Sousa, 87, of El Sobrante, Calif., and three other “Rosies” to visit the nation’s capital. Each of the women will be accompanied by a chaperone.

The big trip comes after Gould received a personal invitation by phone from Vice President Joe Biden this fall.

"We're all really happy that the public came to our aid, " Gould's younger sister, Sousa, told NBC Bay Area on Friday during a break being a docent at Rosie the Riveter/ WWII Home Front National Historical Park. "I am really looking forward to it. I had every confidence we were going to go."

As for meeting Biden, Sousa said: "He's such a nice guy, not stuck up. He's one of us."

MORE: VP Joe Biden Invites Calif. Rosie the Riveter to White House

Biden called Sousa's older sister on Oct. 22 to acknowledge Gould's place in history as one of the first women welders during WWII stationed at the Kaiser shipyard in 1942. The Rosies have are a cultural icon, representing American women as a whole who worked in factories during World War II, often replacing men in jobs while they served in the military.

Biden told Gould she came from a "remarkable, remarkable generation of women." And in classic Biden fashion, the vice president told Gould: "That's pretty impressive, kid."

Then, Biden invited her to visit him, something she desperately wanted to do, but couldn't, as she and her pals live on fixed incomes. That prompted them to fundraise through the trust that supports the Rosie the Riveter/ WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif., where most of them still work every week.

Mather-Thrift said the women don't have an exact date to visit Biden's office just yet, but they've had representatives help them secure the future meeting. In the last few days, the women have had to give their Social Security information to clear their backgrounds before the visit.

Aside from the sisters, the other three Rosie the Riveters invited on the trip were Marian Wynn, 87, and Kay Morrison, 90, both of Fairfield, Calif.; and Priscilla Elder, 93, of Pinole, Calif. They will take off from San Francisco International Airport on March 29, and tour Washington, D.C. and its museums and monuments until April 5.

For her part, Gould thinks the whole thing is "fabulous." She's very anxious to know what's going to happen when she gets there.

"I have no idea what the White House is going to do," she said. "They haven't told us anything."



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[San Jose Rejects Plan to Increase Police Spending]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 08:24:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/san-jose-city-council.jpg

San Jose's mayor is calling a proposed ballot measure "a horrible mistake."

The plan would have given much of the city's budget to the San Jose Police Department. The city council rejected a plan by council member Pierluigi Oliverio to increase spending for the department from 30 to 40 percent of the budget.

Oliverio argued public safety should have a guaranteed share to nearly half of the city's budget.

But Mayor Chuck Reed and the council disagreed and said they would have to close libraries and community centers in exchange for that big of a piece of the pie.
 

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<![CDATA[Surprises, Runoffs Likely in Texas Primary]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 10:08:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Vote+Generic+Vote+Tuesday+Voting+Sign.jpg

Gov. Rick Perry isn't on the ballot, but a new member of the Bush dynasty is. Wendy Davis can clinch a feat no woman has achieved in Texas since Ann Richards. Heavyweight Republicans are trying to survive, and a new voter ID law gets a major test.

Throw in a March blast of winter weather that could dampen turnout, and Texas' primary elections Tuesday figure to be anything but ordinary.

The results will begin the biggest reshuffling of state power in a decade. Although most of the competitive primary races are on the Republican side, Davis' bid for governor headlines a roster of underdog Democrats girding instead for the Nov. 4.

That's the only day that matters to Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott in the year's marquee showdown. Neither has a competitive primary, leaving Davis poised to become the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since Richards in 1994, and Abbott the first new GOP nominee after 14 years of Perry.

But a frigid forecast could leave voters with a dangerous -- or at least dreary -- drive to the polls. Meteorologist say freezing rain overnight Tuesday could sock Central Texas, the Houston area should be wary of elevated roads and a biting cold will be felt most everywhere.

"It doesn't take much when you're not used to winter weather," National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said.

Unlike Davis and Abbott, few other Texas candidates have the luxury of uneventful primaries.

The conservative star power of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has GOP candidates -- from local races to statewide offices -- jostling farther right and wooing voters with vows to emulate Cruz's no-compromise style. Even U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, two of the state's most powerful Republicans, have spent money campaigning against longshot challengers who say the incumbents have grown moderate in Washington.

But changes are far more likely in Austin. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost to Cruz for the Senate seat in 2012, appears headed for his first runoff in 11 years on the job.

Millions of dollars have been spent between Dewhurst and three prominent challengers: state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The race has been the nastiest and most competitive this primary season, with the four all taking aim at President Barack Obama in television ads when they're not sniping at each other.

Primary runoffs are set for May 27. Settling GOP nominations for attorney general, comptroller and agriculture commissioner may also have to wait until then.

"When there's a fair amount of negative out there it makes the electorate very unpredictable," Patterson said Monday. "You couldn't accurately poll it -- or you could and that poll would be good for probably about four hours."

Noticeably absent this primary season has been Perry, who announced last summer he wouldn't seek re-election but continues mulling a 2016 run for president. The longest-serving governor in Texas history hasn't endorsed in major races or even heard his name mentioned much in campaigns by his fellow Republicans.

They've instead talked about the future of the Texas GOP, which is expected to include George P. Bush in a prominent role. The 37-year-old nephew of former President George W. Bush, and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is running for land commissioner.

"Help is on the way," Bush told supporters in El Paso on Monday. "After this primary season, we will go out there and fight the good fight."

For Democrats, who haven't won a statewide election in 20 years, the primary serves little but an early test of voter strength. A team of Obama campaign veterans launched the group Battleground Texas last year to give Democrats a chance and will watch turnout Tuesday to gauge their efforts so far.

Another race being closely watched Tuesday night involves U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, who at age 90 is the oldest member of Congress. Five GOP challengers are vying against him in an effort to deny him an 18th term.

Election administrators say the primary will be the first real test of the state's new voter ID law, which the Republican-controlled Legislature passed in 2011 but wasn't enacted until last summer amid legal challenges. No major problems or controversies flared when the law debuted in November during a low-turnout, off-year election.

Associated Press Writers Will Weissert in Austin and Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Battle Brewing on California's Death Penalty]]> Sun, 02 Mar 2014 17:38:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/web7amgerstondeathpenalty_11301615_1200x675_179029571737.jpg A battle is brewing between three former California governors who want to hasten the state s death penalty and reformers who argue it s time to end it. NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston explains the conflict and the issues. Is it odd that three former governors would agree on anything?]]> <![CDATA[Bay Area Ukrainians Urge U.S., World to Intervene With Russia]]> Sun, 02 Mar 2014 05:00:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ukraine-san-francisc-protest.jpg

Ukrainians who live in the Bay Area are following the developments very closely and some are taking action, urging the U.S. and the rest of the world to intervene with the Russian military entering Ukraine.

Protesters gathered outside the Russian consulate in San Francisco Saturday afternoon, opposing Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.

They sang together the Ukrainian national anthem and other patriotic songs in a show of support for their compatriots on the other side of the globe.

Yulia Zimmermann is a U.S. citizen who speaks Russian and immigrated from Ukraine.

"If you would read the history of Ukraine, just for 10 minutes, you would understand the pain of these people," she said. "Ukraine has never attacked anyone."

While some Russian-speaking Ukrainians are welcoming Russia’s presence, many protesters said they are filled with dismay watching the Russian military take control of Crimea, which has been part of Ukraine since 1954.

Dr. Lisa Shostakovich is a Ukrainian-born Russian citizen who now lives in the Bay Area.

"If [a] whole society [is] gonna let Putin do that too, it can lead to much conflict and basically a nightmare situation in the world."

Russia’s actions appear to violate a treaty signed by the U.S. and Russia in 1994, which promised to respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty.

Many of the protesters want the U.S. to intervene and even take military action if necessary.

"I don’t see if there is a peaceful resolution," protester Vadim Zaliva said. "I hope very much there would be. And we hope the United States government will support Ukrainian independence."

"We do not want war," Zimmermann said. "We are not against Russians. The only problem is the regime of Putin."

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<![CDATA[Oakland Councilwoman Schaaf Officially Runs for Mayor]]> Sat, 01 Mar 2014 20:54:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/libby-schaaf.jpg

Once the target of racist fliers, Oakland city councilwoman Libby Schaaf has officially launched her campaign for mayor.

On Saturday, Schaaf announced she wants to make the city safer, prioritize education, and promote the"Made in Oakland" that will create local jobs and kick start manufacturing and start-ups.

In January, several posters with Schaaf's face with a swastika drawn on them popped up all over Oakland.

The fliers criticized the city's plans to build a controversial surveillance center.

Schaaf is one of 12 people who is planning to run against current mayor Jean Quan.

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<![CDATA[Gov. Brown Announces Plans to Seek Re-Election]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 15:00:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/02-27-2014-jerry-brown.jpg

Gov. Jerry Brown made it official Thursday and announced plans to seek re-election.

Brown filed paperwork in Alameda County in search of a fourth term as California's governor. The 75-year-old Democrat tweeted a picture of the filing with a link to the announcement.

In a statement posted on a campaign web site, Brown said: "Four years ago, I asked that you support my candidacy for governor based on my bringing an 'insider’s knowledge but an outsider’s mind' to fix the budget breakdown and overcome Sacramento’s poisonous partisanship. Now, four years later, a $27 billion deficit has become a surplus and our credit rating and public confidence are rising. State budgets are not only balanced but they are on time and free of the rancor of past years."

The announcement, which comes ahead of the June primary, has long been expected as Brown has been fundraising for another run. He faces no opposition in the June 3 primary.

His Republican opponents for governor include former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, Southern California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

Brown has made progress easing the state's long-running budget problems, but California is facing a potentially devastating drought, aging freeways strangled with traffic and multibillion-dollar unfunded pension bills.



Photo Credit: @JerryBrownGov via Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[CA State Sen. Surrenders]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 06:40:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/california-senator-ron-calderon.jpg

Embattled California State Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded not guilty Monday after he was charged last week with a long list of federal bribery and corruption allegations.

The 56-year-old Montebello Democrat was traveling when the 24-count indictment was announced on Friday, and FBI officials said he agreed to surrender when he returned.

Prosecutors said Calderon accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes, chartered plane trips, high-end golf trips and gourmet meals. Calderon allegedly accepted these bribes in exchange for supporting or opposing legislation.

Wearing handcuffs and shackles, Calderon pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Monday and was set to be released upon releasing his passport and his wife signing a $50,000 surety bond. A trial date was set for April 22.

Tom Calderon, the state lawmaker’s brother, also faces charges in connection with the alleged scheme.

“The charges allege that the defendants traded influence for cash, and used kickbacks and other tactics to keep the system working in their favor,” said Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge.

The indictment charges Ron Calderon with mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

Ron Calderon is also accused of paying his daughter $39,000 for a bogus office job and paying around $30,000 for his son’s schooling.

Tom Calderon faces a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of money laundering for allegedly funneling bribe money through a non-profit group and consulting company he operates, prosecutors said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors said Ron Calderon accepted $28,000 in bribes from Michael D. Drobot, former owner of the now-closed Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, in exchange for supporting legislation that “delay or limit changes in California’s workers’ compensation laws relating to the amount of medical care providers are reimbursed for performing spinal surgeries.”

Drobot has agreed to plead guilty regarding a major health care fraud scheme in another case announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office Friday.

The charges against the hospital executive involve tens of millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks in exchange for a huge number of patient referrals who received spinal surgeries. The referrals led to more than $500 million in bills, which were fraudulently submitted and, in large part, paid by the California worker’s compensation system, prosecutors said.

Law-enforcement sources described the allegations as what could be one of the largest health care fraud cases in state history.

Drobot is suspected of having had a heavy hand for some 15 years in the alleged kick-back scheme, which exploited the spinal pass-through law, which Ron Calderon allegedly kept on the books after receiving bribes from Drobot, authorities said.

Drobot was not indicted in the Calderons’ corruption case, but admitted to paying bribes to the senator, the FBI said. He is scheduled to be arraigned March 31.

As part of a plea agreement, Drobot has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of the health care fraud scheme, as well as the government’s prosecution of the Calderon brothers.

In addition to accepting bribes from Drobot, Ron Calderon allegedly also accepted $60,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio head, authorities said.

The lawmaker’s attorney, Mark Geragos, called the allegations in the affidavit “false and defamatory,” and Ron Calderon alleged that his office was raided in 2013 after he refused to “secretly record conversations with Senator [Darrell] Steinberg and Senator [Kevin] de Leon.”

If convicted, Ron Calderon faces up to 396 years in prison. Tom Calderon faces up to 160 years behind bars. 

NBC News' Andrew Blankstein and NBC4's Sean Fitz-Gerald contributed to this report.

 



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncell]]>