California's chief elections officer said U.S. government officials believe Russian hackers tried to find weaknesses in the state's election website during the 2016 campaign, but that there's no evidence their effort was successful.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the Department of Homeland Security only told him on Friday of last year's attempt. He described the attack as a "scanning" of the state's website in hopes of finding weaknesses in its computer network.
"Our office actively monitors scanning activity as part of our routine cybersecurity protocols," Padilla said in a statement. "We have no information or evidence that our systems have been breached in any way or that any voter information was compromised."
Those involved were "Russian cyber actors" according to Padilla's description of information he received from federal officials. In June, a top federal official told the Senate Intelligence Committee that systems in 21 states were believed to have been scoured by cyberattackers.
The election website, www.sos.ca.gov, contains public information about voting procedures as well as data on past election results and current issues. More sensitive data, including the electronic files of some 17 million registered voters, are not included on the website.
A leaked National Security Agency document earlier this year outlined a Russian effort to hack into devices made by a Florida-based voting software company. One California county, Humboldt, used the company's software, but did not find any evidence of tampering.
Padilla, a frequent critic of President Trump's special panel investigating the potential of voter fraud, said federal officials should have notified him much earlier of the attempted breach.
"The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy," he said.
Supporters of a measure to establish single-payer healthcare in California were thrilled by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's embrace of their bill on Friday, but a rival gubernatorial campaign was less impressed with his position.
A spokesman for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa accused the lieutenant governor of flip-flopping because after Newsom was asked if he explicitly endorsed the legislation — Senate Bill 562 — he responded that he endorsed "getting this debate going again."
"This is an outrageous parsing of words when millions of people are at risk of losing their healthcare," Villaraigosa spokesman Luis Vizcaino said in a statement.
"It is a yes or no question, lieutenant governor. Are you for SB 562 or not? The nurses and California voters deserve the truth," Vizcaino added.
The question of backing SB 562 is thorny since it was shelved earlier this year after Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) called it "woefully incomplete." Backers have said they'd be willing to make changes to the measure, but the contours of those proposed changes have not been made public.
Vizcaino said Villaraigosa "has always supported universal healthcare and the concept of single payer," but agreed with Speaker Rendon that the bill couldn't be sent to the governor without a funding plan.
Speaking to reporters, Newsom said he saw a single-payer system in which the government covers healthcare costs as the best way to achieve universal coverage and said he would be "actively engaged in designing and developing it" if SB 562 does not pass next year.
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United, said she saw Newsom's remarks as a clear endorsement of their measure and a stance she said was not surprising.
"We always knew Gavin would support our bill," DeMoro said.
She lambasted Villaraigosa — who does not support SB 562 — for criticizing Newsom, whom her group endorsed nearly two years ago.
"I want Villaraigosa to explain to the Latino community why he doesn't think they should have ... comprehensive healthcare," she said. "Villaraigosa's being disingenuous. He knows better. He's just politically posturing trying to find a wedge issue and he knows better."
4:32 p.m.: This post was updated with an additional statement from Villaraigosa's spokesperson on the former L.A. mayor's support for universal healthcare.
Sen. Bernie Sanders headed west to drum up support for his recently unveiled "Medicare for All" proposal Friday, but first trained his sights on the Obamacare repeal bill currently gripping Congress.
Sanders (I-Vt.), whose speech was the cornerstone of a California Nurses Assn. gathering in San Francisco, blasted the Republican plan led by Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as "horrific legislation."
"How cruel, how immoral it is, to say to those millions of Americans, we are going to take away that health insurance that keeps you alive," Sanders said.
Sen. John McCain announced on Friday he could not support the measure, dealing the GOP plan a blow. Sanders thanked McCain for his stance, prompting the liberal crowd to cheer the Arizona Republican.
Some Democrats had worried that Sanders' push for his single-payer plan could distract from efforts to oppose the repeal bill. But the senator was explicit in his appeal to the approximately 2,000 supporters in attendance to focus their energy on defeating the repeal measure.
"Our job is to continue to make sure the Republicans do not get the 50 votes they need ... I beg of you, please, do everything you can to stop the bill," he said.
Still, the crux of Sanders' speech focused on his single-payer bill, which he sold as an improvement over the status quo.
"The Affordable Care Act, as we all know, made significant improvements to our healthcare system," Sanders said, citing the expansion of the number of Americans with health insurance and the ban on insurance companies' ability to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
"But we must be honest and acknowledge that with all the gains of the Affordable Care Act, it does not go far enough," he added.
The bill expands the Medicare program to cover the healthcare costs of all Americans with no out-of-pocket payments for patients. The measure does not include a plan to finance such a system, but Sanders has released a report laying out various ways to cover the costs, including a progressive income tax.
During his pitch, Sanders said the implications extended beyond health policy.
"It is a struggle about what this great nation stands for," Sanders said. "It is a struggle about whether or not every working person in this country has healthcare as a right or whether we allow insurance companies and drug companies to continue to rip us off."
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters has gotten a lot of attention this year as she's pushed back on the Trump administration, earning the nickname "Auntie Maxine." Now her words will be the theme of the new Women's Convention.
The two-day Women's Convention in Detroit is hoping to capitalize on the energy of January's Women's March, when hundreds of thousands of women marched in cities across the country the day after Trump's inauguration. It is scheduled for the end of October, and announced this week its theme will be "Reclaiming Our Time."
The theme refers to a heated exchange in July between Waters of Los Angeles and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a House Financial Services Committee hearing. It began when Waters asked Mnuchin why he hadn't responded to a letter Democrats sent him asking for information about President Trump. Committee members get a set amount of time to question a witness and Waters became frustrated that Mnuchin appeared to be skirting her question and using up her time. Waters over and over demanded "reclaiming my time" as Mnuchin tried to speak over her.
"Reclaiming my time" became a rallying cry for women, producing the requisite hashtags, memes (including a catchy gospel cover of the exchange) and merchandise like T-shirts.
Convention organizers said on Twitter that Waters gave her blessing for them to use the phrase, and that Waters is also scheduled to attend the convention.
Healthcare advisors to Gov. Jerry Brown believe the latest effort on Capitol Hill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would blow a monstrous hole in the state budget, slashing federal health funds by $138.8-billion over a seven-year period.
The estimate, released Friday by the state Department of Healthcare Services, comes on the heels of increased focus on the Republican bill championed by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
It is the third time since President Trump took office that GOP lawmakers in Washington have proposed changes to federal health subsidies that would downsize California's share of federal funds. No firm estimates have been made of the number of state residents who might lose health coverage under the Cassidy-Graham proposal, though earlier efforts from congressional Republicans were estimated to put millions of Californians at risk.
"Simply stated, this proposal is the most devastating of the three federal health care proposals that we have evaluated this year," wrote Jennifer Kent, director of the Department of Healthcare Services in a memo to Diana Dooley, the governor's secretary of health and human services.
The report estimates a loss of $4.4 billion to the state budget in 2020 through reduced dollars for Medi-Cal, the state's version of the federal Medicaid program. By 2026, state officials estimate the annual reduction in health dollars would grow to $22.5 billion.
That moment in time is key, say state officials, because the Senate GOP plan calls for no additional dollars under a new "block grant" healthcare funding plan beyond 2026.
"The Graham-Cassidy proposal represents a significant shift of costs from the federal government to states," wrote Kent.
The expansion of Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act has had a dramatic impact on reducing the number of uninsured people in the state. Estimates are that almost one of every three Californians is now enrolled in the Medi-Cal program.
With a $183.2-billion state budget, California would have no easy options for replacing even a portion of the missing dollars. The state is projected to have an $8.5-billion "rainy-day fund" by next summer, which would cover only a portion of the lost federal dollars and even then, only for a single year.
"Given our state's significant population of low-income individuals," Kent wrote, "this proposal abandons our traditional state/federal partnership and shifts billions in additional costs to California."
In a rare court rebuke of the state Attorney General’s Office, a judge said Friday that the title and summary written for a proposed initiative is misleading — and that he'd do a rewrite himself to make it clear the measure would repeal recently approved increases to gas taxes and vehicle fees.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley said he would draft a new title and summary to be placed on petitions for the initiative after attorneys for the state and proponents of the ballot measure could not agree on compromise language.
“In this circumstance, I honestly believe that the circulated title and summary that has been prepared is misleading,” Frawley told attorneys during a court hearing Friday. He hopes to release the new title and summary by Monday.
The initiative proposed by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) would repeal a bill approved in April by the Legislature and governor that would raise the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and increase vehicle fees to generate $5.2 billion annually to fix the state’s roads and bridges and improve mass transit.
Allen and his attorneys said the state attorney general sought to confuse voters with a title that does not use the words “taxes” or “fees.”
The title was proposed to say: "Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes."
Allen, who is running for governor in 2018, said the court decision showed the attorney general was trying to sway voters against the initiative.
“Justice is being served for the voters of California,” Allen said after the court hearing. “I think that he [the judge] has properly seen that the attorney general has tried to intentionally mislead the voters of California because he has tried to prejudice their vote and tried to keep increased taxes for Californians.”
A coalition of business, labor and government officials called Fix Our Roads, which supports the gas tax legislation, had representatives in the courtroom who later criticized Allen for seeking political gain at the expense of California motorists.
“This is more about Travis Allen’s gubernatorial race than anything else,” said coalition spokeswoman Kathy Fairbanks. “He’s condemning voters to driving on potholed roads and being stuck in traffic.”
Allen said the initiative and his campaign for governor are both aimed at giving voters power to fight higher taxes.
“Finally ordinary Californians are understanding that they actually can hold Sacramento accountable,” Allen said. “This is why I’m running to be the next governor of California, because for too long Sacramento has been run by out-of-touch elitists that are coming from Sacramento and the Bay Area of San Francisco.”
A second initiative to repeal the gas tax has been proposed by a different group of Republican activists.
Allen said he supports the second initiative but noted it has to collect many more signatures because it seeks to change the state constitution. “It has a long way to go,” Allen said.
If the judge issues a new title and summary Monday, Allen said the petitions will hit the streets immediately and he is confident they will get the 365,880 signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has made his most explicit endorsement yet of a controversial single-payer healthcare proposal that has roiled Democratic politics in California.
Newsom appeared Friday before the California Nurses Assn., the most ardent backers of SB 562, a stalled bill to establish a system in which the state would cover all residents' healthcare costs.
"There’s no reason to wait around on universal healthcare and single-payer in California," Newsom said. "It's time to move 562. It's time to get it out of committee." The line prompted cheers and a standing ovation from the audience of about 1,500 members of the nurses' union.
He capped off his remarks with a promise: "If we can’t get it done next year, you have my firm and absolute commitment as your next governor that I will lead the effort to get it done. We will have universal healthcare in the state of California."
Enthusiastic nurses in the room heard an unequivocal backing of their effort to push forward with the bill.
"When he says he's going to get this done, he means, seriously, that he will pass SB 562 and make sure that there is healthcare for all Californians," said Catherine Kennedy, a neonatal nurse from Roseville.
But speaking to reporters after his address, Newsom was less clear in embracing the specifics of the proposal.
"I 100% support moving this process along, getting this debate going again and addressing the concerns, the open-ended issues that the nurses themselves have acknowledged as it relates to the need of going through the legislative process and to fill in the blanks on the financing plan, among other issues," he said.
The race to replace Jimmy Gomez, who was elected to Congress earlier this year, has so far been waged by mail and door-knocking in northeast Los Angeles.
Most of the mailers feature local leaders and endorsements from groups including Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.
But one mailer that arrived in my mailbox Thursday has a much more familiar face — former President Barack Obama. While it might seem like one to the casual voter sorting through junk mail, this isn't an endorsement.
"Want to know what kind of job Gabriel Sandoval will do in the Assembly? Listen to the people he's worked with in the past," the mailer reads, above Obama's official White House portrait.
In small type, it notes that Sandoval "served as a Senior Civil Rights Attorney and Senior Advisor" for a White House initiative within the Department of Education.
It features a glowing quote over an image of a July 12, 2013, letter from the president to Sandoval written on White House letterhead.
With the hyperpartisan politics surrounding healthcare stirred up by efforts to repeal Obamacare and calls for a single-payer system, both Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa are claiming the mantle of healthcare visionary.
On the campaign trail the two Democratic candidates for governor are touting their signature healthcare accomplishments from earlier in their political careers as their bona fides.
For Newsom, it’s about Healthy San Francisco, the nation’s first municipal universal healthcare program, approved while he was mayor; and for Villaraigosa, it’s Healthy Families, which provided healthcare coverage to the children of California’s working poor, legislation he authored as a California assemblyman.
But do they deserve all the credit? It sure doesn’t look that way.
Healthy San Francisco is one of the many topics Newsom is expected to highlight when he speaks to the California Nurses Assn. convention in the Bay Area on Friday morning.
On Thursday night, Newsom took a shot at the latest Republican effort in Washington to roll back the Affordable Care Act – a bill written by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
“The numbers on this make my skin crawl. Under Graham-Cassidy, an individual with metastatic cancer could see their premiums increase by $142,650. Diabetes? $5,600. Want to tackle the opioid crisis? Gets a lot tougher if an individual suffering from drug dependence sees their premiums go up by $20,450,” Newsom said in an email sent out by his campaign. “This is not a game. Lives are at stake.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter said that the United States needs to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea in order to prevent the rogue nation from harming the U.S. first.
“You could assume, right now, that we have a nuclear missile aimed at the United States, and here in San Diego. Why would they not aim here, at Hawaii, Guam, our major naval bases?” Hunter, an Alpine Republican, said Thursday during an appearance on San Diego television station KUSI.
“The question is, do you wait for one of those? Or two? Do you preemptively strike them? And that’s what the president has to wrestle with. I would preemptively strike them. You could call it declaring war, call it whatever you want,” Hunter continued.
Hunter, a member of a House Armed Services Committee and the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the United States’ nuclear arsenal, did not say whether the military should strike North Korea with conventional or nuclear weapons.
When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Beverly Hills last May, he made a full-throated appeal for California to “lead the country” and pass a pending state proposal to establish single-payer healthcare.
On Friday, he’ll return to California for a San Francisco speech trumpeting his own higher-stakes plan — a bill to drastically overhaul the nation’s healthcare system by covering everyone through Medicare.
The push for single-payer, in which the government pays for residents’ medical care, has already rattled California’s political landscape. Now, the Sanders measure brings an additional jolt, elevating the issue to a national debate that has implications for the future direction of the Democratic Party and early jockeying in the 2020 presidential race.
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock still has at least nine challengers..
As he gaveled down what may be his last full year as leader of the California Senate on Saturday, Kevin de León had still not said what he planned to do next.
Will he run for governor or U.S. Senate? Does he want to be mayor of Los Angeles some day? De León told reporters they will have to wait to find out.
His advisors, supporters and political observers have their own ideas what De León could do next.
"Late Night" host Seth Meyers focused on Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Wednesday in a segment looking at the Republican congressman's relationship with Russia, titled "Who the Hell is Dana Rohrabacher?"
The seven-minute segment highlights Rohrabacher's recent trip to meet with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who claims he has evidence Russia wasn't involved in hacking Democratic emails during the election, then hits on some of Rohrabacher's other more eccentric moments — his patriotic songwriting, medical marijuana use and musing about whether global warming was caused by dinosaur flatulence.
Rohrabacher's friendliness toward Russia has drawn increased attention in recent months, especially as his name has popped up on the periphery of the House and Senate investigations into Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election.
Rohrabacher is one of nine Republicans whom Democrats have identified as vulnerable in California, and Rohrabacher's 2018 opponents have tried to use the congressman's relationship with Russia against him.
One of his challengers, biotech firm chief executive and Democrat Hans Keirstead, made a statement early Thursday on the segment.
"I, like many people in Orange County, wish we could laugh at some late-night TV and then turn it off and move on, but unfortunately Dana Rohrabacher is our representative in Congress," Keirstead said. "For too long he has put his own career and ideology before the people of Southern California, and it’s time we had someone representing us whose No. 1 priority is the quality of life for the people in our community."
Rohrabacher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two presidential election bills are on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, sent to him by the Democratic Legislature. Both should be tossed in the trash.
No doubt I’m in the minority on this. These bills do offer some fun, even if they’re flawed.
One has strong pluses that are outweighed by unacceptable minuses.
The first bill moves up California’s presidential primary from June to March. Great idea. But it also moves up the state primary along with it. A horrible idea.
The second measure would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns for the last five years. Anyone who refused wouldn’t be allowed on the California ballot. That’s a sharp poke at Trump, who in 2016 was the first presidential candidate in 40 years not to release his taxes.
Yes, watching Trump squirm would be entertaining. And maybe the tax information would be useful for some voters. But even if the disclosure requirement were constitutional — and there’s substantial doubt about that — it’s a crummy precedent.
Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher officially got another challenger this week. Kevin Kensinger, 33, is an investor from Aliso Viejo and is running as an independent in the 48th Congressional District.
Kensinger, who filed papers with the Federal Election Commission this week, says he thinks using an agenda-driven campaign will appeal to members of both parties as well as the district's growing number of voters who don't register by party.
(Most voters who identify as independents still tend to vote for one party or another).
"We're in a purple district that voted for Hillary [Clinton] and Dana [Rohrabacher]," Kensinger said in an interview. "I know a lot of people that could never bring themselves to pull the lever for a Democrat."
A former Democrat himself, Kensinger says his policy proposals, which include support for single-payer healthcare and allowing states that allow legalized marijuana use to create banking structures that can accommodate the industry, will transcend the district's 11-point voter registration advantage for Republicans.
"We're at a crossroads where both parties seem to have lost their direction," he said. "I believe we have the opportunity to speak to both sides of the fence in this election."
Rohrabacher is one of nine Republicans the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified as vulnerable in California. He has faced increasing criticism for his fondness for Russia and antics such as a visit with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his comments on the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
California could stand to lose the most under the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill that would roll back the Affordable Care Act, which is perhaps why GOP members of Congress have stayed mostly silent on the Republican-backed proposal.
But one congressional challenger, Republican James Veltmeyer, called it a "major step in the right direction."
Veltmeyer, a physician from La Jolla, is running against Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) in the 52nd Congressional District. "There is a lot of good stuff in this legislation," he said in a statement Wednesday.
The measure leaves major details to be determined and the Congressional Budget Office likely won't have time to release a full analysis of the bill's impacts before the Senate's scheduled vote next week.
California's GOP members have not indicated how they might vote if the bill makes it to the House, but all 14 of them voted in favor of repealing Obamacare earlier this year.
Veltmeyer praised the proposal to use block grants to states to fund healthcare, saying it allows states "the flexibility to run their own healthcare systems" and that the repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate would help create jobs.
Veltmeyer, who has called Obamacare a failure, recently wrote an op-ed supporting a membership-based model of healthcare. Peters is one of four Democrats the National Republican Congressional Committee is hoping to unseat in 2018. Other candidates running in the June primary include Republicans Daniel Casara and Omar Qudrat and Democrat Alexander Miller.
Five of California's House Republicans are being featured in new digital ads urging them to oppose the so-called Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill to roll back Obamacare.
But the newly formed group that's running the ads isn't saying where it's getting the money for them.
The ads, which began running Thursday, highlight the bill's provisions, saying they would would "gut Medicaid" and get rid of affordable coverage for patients with preexisting conditions.
The nonprofit behind them, SoCal Health Care Coalition, was formed over the last few weeks and is "supported by a diverse group of donors who believe healthcare is a criticial issue for Californians," according to spokesman Yusef Robb.
Robb declined to identify the group's major donors or who funded the ads. The group's website was registered at the end of August, and its social media accounts became active last week.
They are aimed at five Republicans who are being targeted by Democrats in 2018: Rep. Darrell Issa (Vista); Rep. Steve Knight (Palmdale); Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Costa Mesa); Rep. Ed Royce (Fullerton) and Rep. Mimi Walters (Irvine).
The video ads are part of a five-figure campaign that will reach "hundreds of thousands" of constituents in their districts, Robb said.
All 14 of California's GOP House members voted for an earlier Obamacare repeal bill. None of them have released public statements about the newest effort, which would likely leave millions more Americans uninsured and hit states such as California the hardest.
Graham-Cassidy is first expected to face a vote in the Senate next week.
Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't yet signed legislation making California a so-called sanctuary state, but state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is preparing to defend it in court.
In between several immigration events in Washington on Wednesday, De León (D-Los Angeles) said he met with former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. — who has served as outside counsel to the Legislature for much of the year — "to continue to further discuss inoculating California from [U.S. Atty. Gen.] Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice."
Passed early Saturday by the Legislature, the sanctuary state bill would limit state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities and prevent officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.
Sessions has threatened to withhold some federal grant funds from cities and counties that refuse to assist federal immigration agents.
Holder and other former Justice Department lawyers believe the bill is defendable, and if the Trump administration tries to compel California cities to act by withholding funds, it will find itself in court, De León said. Defenders of so-called sanctuary cities often rely on a 1996 Supreme Court ruling that cited the 10th Amendment and found the federal government can't compel local governments to cooperate with enforcing federal laws.
“It is immoral, and quite frankly un-American, that America’s top law enforcement official would withhold dollars that our local police officers need — precious dollars we need desperately to counter terrorism, to deal with the issue of human trafficking as well as international drug cartels,” De León said.
"It protects public safety, but it also protects hardworking people who contribute a lot to California," Brown said. He has until Oct. 15 to sign the bill.
De León also shot back against Sessions' statement that the federal money isn't an "entitlement," saying Californians pay more in federal taxes than they receive in federal funding.
"That’s not a gift or a grant from the Department of Justice to California. Those are our dollars; they belong to the people of California,” he said.
California and a growing alliance of states committed to fighting global warming said Wednesday that they're slashing greenhouse gas emissions at the rate required by the Paris climate agreement.
However, the rest of the country would need to join their effort for the United States to actually hit the target of cutting emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.
President Trump has pledged to pull the country out of the Paris deal, but the states reiterated their pledge to keep pressing forward during a news conference in New York.
“We’re all in," California Gov. Jerry Brown said. "Eventually, Washington will join with us. You can’t deny science forever.”
California's climate goal is even more ambitious than the Paris target. A law signed by Brown last year requires the state to cut emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
California became a founding member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, along with New York and Washington state, months ago.
“Either we end this problem, or this problem will end us," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On Wednesday, North Carolina became the 15th member of the U.S. Climate Alliance. Other members include Massachusetts, Oregon and Puerto Rico.
“Clean air and a healthy environment are vital for a strong economy and a healthier future,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a newly elected Democrat, said in a statement.