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When Halloween gets political: Check out this tiny Maxine Waters

It happens every year: Halloween and politics mix.

California’s politicos got in the spirit on social media.

Rep. Maxine Waters got a shoutout from a little girl in Oakland, with a play ona now viral incident in which Waters dismissed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for not answering her questions in a committee hearing and using up her allotted time.

Sen. Kamala Harris posted a photo of a mini-me of her own, saying 4-year-old Micaela “wins best Halloween costume in my book.”

California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman’s costume was pointed: President Trump in a clown suit.


Orange County at center of fundraising in California’s most contested races

Orange County GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, Mimi Walters, Ed Royce and Dana Rohrabacher
(Los Angeles Times, Roll Call, Associated Press, Getty Images)

More than half of the money raised for the most contested House races in California is going to candidates in Orange County, another indication of its starring role in the Democratic effort to win back control of the House next year.

Of the 80 or so challengers in California, 27 are running in Orange County. A Los Angeles Times analysis of this year’s campaign finance filings found it is also where the cash is going to: About $15 million of the nearly $28.5 million raised this year for 13 key races went to candidates in just four Orange County districts:

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Gov. Jerry Brown plans climate trip to Vatican, Belgium, Norway and Germany

(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown has mapped out a busy European travel schedule that includes attending the next United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany.

“While the White House declares war on climate science and retreats from the Paris Agreement, California is doing the opposite and taking action,” Brown said in a statement. “We are joining with our partners from every part of the world to do what needs to be done to prevent irreversible climate change.”

Roughly two dozen public events are planned over 10 days, starting with a speech at a Vatican symposium on Saturday. Brown won’t be the only California politician at the conference. Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) is speaking later that day, and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is scheduled to appear Friday.

After the Vatican, the governor is bouncing between Germany and Belgium, plus a stop in Norway to meet with scientists. He’s holding press conferences with the president of the European Parliament and the minister-president of Baden-Württemberg, a German state that has collaborated with California on an international climate pact.

Once the Bonn conference begins, much of Brown’s focus will be on how states, provinces and other local governments can tackle climate change absent stronger action from national leaders. He was named a special advisor to the U.N. conference for states and regions earlier this year.

Brown is scheduled to appear with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Nov. 11 and speak at numerous other events, a packed itinerary much like the one he kept at the Paris climate conference two years ago.

His last event is expected to take place Nov. 14.


Tom Steyer’s impeachment petition gets over 1 million signatures in first week

(Los Angeles Times)

Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer says his online petition asking Congress to impeach President Trump garnered more than 1.1 million signatures in its first week.

Last week, Steyer began airing an ad calling for Trump’s impeachment and asking viewers to sign his petition urging Congress to do so. He has spent more than $10 million to air the ad nationwide, including during the World Series.

Trump attacked the effort -- and Steyer -- on Twitter after the ad ran during “Fox and Friends” on Friday. Steyer’s staff members said they haven’t determined whether the president’s tweet boosted the signature effort.

Steyer has donated millions to Democrats and get-out-the-vote efforts in recent years. He’s weighing a primary challenge to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Petitions are a common way to try to change politicians’ minds, though they work to differing degrees. Still, the rate of people signing on to Steyer’s effort is quick. For example, one of the most popular petitions on deals with removing health insurance for members of Congress if they get rid of the Affordable Care Act. It took four months for it to top 1 million signatures.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) drafted and circulated articles of impeachment against Trump this summer, but most members of Congress -- even Democratic leaders -- have been reluctant to press for impeachment and Sherman’s efforts haven’t gained traction.


1:19 p.m.: The post was updated with details about Rep. Brad Sherman’s impeachment efforts.

This post was originally published at 1:08 p.m.


California business tax incentive program should end, legislative analyst says

Venice-based Snap, whose logo is seen here on a billboard promoting the company, has been the beneficiary of California's tax credit program
(Kristoffer Tripplaar / Sipa USA)

California no longer should give specific tax incentives to businesses and instead should provide broad-based tax relief, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a new report.

The analyst’s office examined California Competes, a program that began four years ago to give tax credits to businesses looking to move to the state or remain here, and found it puts existing companies that don’t receive the awards at a disadvantage without clear benefits to the overall economy.

“Picking winners and losers inevitably leads to problems. In the case of California Competes, we are struck by how awarding benefits to a select group of businesses harms their competitors in California,” the report said. “We also think the resources consumed by the program are not as focused as they should be on winning economic development competitions with other states to attract major employers that sell to customers around the country and the world.”

California Competes has allowed the awarding of nearly $800 million in tax credits.

The legislative analyst found that more than a third of the credits awarded through California Competes resulted in no change to the overall economy and put the state’s existing businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The analyst couldn’t assess the value of the remainder of the credits because it’s impossible to know how businesses would have reacted had they not received them.

California Competes is scheduled to end next year. The analyst’s office recommends replacing it by lowering business taxes overall or, should lawmakers want to keep it, tailor the program more narrowly to focus on attracting and retaining high-value companies.


Electric companies found at fault in North Bay fires won’t be able to pass costs onto residents under proposed bill

Jason Miller, 45, plants an American flag on the charred remains of his house in Coffey Park. He had lived in the Santa Rosa neighborhood for 23 years.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

If electric utilities are found at fault in the recent wildfires in the North Bay, a group of state lawmakers want to ensure they don’t pass along their costs to residents.

“Victims of devastating fires and other customers should not be forced to pay for the mistakes made by utilities,” state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said in a release.

Hill is one of four Bay Area legislators who said they plan to introduce a bill when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January to block any effort by utilities found at fault to recoup any costs from ratepayers.

Investigators have not identified the cause of the wildfires that ripped across Northern California this month that left more than 40 people dead and thousands of homes destroyed.

But the lawmakers said their legislation is motivated by San Diego Gas & Electric’s efforts to recover costs from wildfires in that region a decade ago.

Co-authoring the bill with Hill is Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael).


Nancy Pelosi endorses Sen. Dianne Feinstein for reelection

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) endorsed the reelection bid of longtime colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday, saying her seniority is a source of strength for the state.

“Feinstein is a strong voice and a staunch advocate for the people of California. Dianne Feinstein is uniquely positioned to defend California against Donald Trump’s constant attacks on health care, immigration and voting rights. She is a recognized leader in the Senate on economic policies that work for all Californians, defending against tax policies that hurt our state,” Pelosi said in a statement released by the Feinstein campaign.

Pelosi avoided getting deeply involved in the expected fight between Senate leader Kevin De León and Feinstein during an interview at a Los Angeles Times and Berggruen Institute event in downtown Los Angeles.

“People running against each other for office, that is a democracy,” she said at the event. “I do think that it is important to note how powerful Dianne Feinstein is in Washington, D.C., and how important that is to the state of California…. Another case can be made as to whether that is valuable or not, and that is what the discussion is about.”


Proposed initiative would end early release for some crimes, allow more DNA collection

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A coalition including police officers and prosecutors on Monday proposed a California state initiative that would end early release of rapists and child traffickers and expand the number of crimes for which authorities could collect DNA samples from those convicted.

The ballot measure is sponsored by the California Public Safety Partnership, and would reverse some elements of Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in 2014 and reduced some crimes deemed nonviolent from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The proposed initiative would add 15 crimes to the list of violent crimes for which early release is not an option, including child abuse, rape of an unconscious person, trafficking a child for sex, domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon.

“These reforms make sure that truly violent criminals stay in jail and don’t get out early,” said Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, a leader of the coalition.

The initiative would also allow DNA collection for certain crimes, including drug offenses, that were reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) said there have been 2,000 fewer hits matching DNA to cold cases annually in recent years.

He cited one case from 1989 involving the murder of two young girls in Sacramento that was solved last year by DNA taken from a man in a drug case before those were excluded from DNA collection.

“If that case happens today, right now, it does not get solved,” said Cooper, a former sheriff’s captain.

Changes in law also made theft of goods valued at less than $950 a misdemeanor, so some criminals are committing serial thefts and keeping each one to $949 or less, Cooper said. The initiative would make serial theft a felony.

The measure also mandates a parole revocation hearing for anyone who violates the terms of their parole three times.

“A Whittier police officer was recently murdered by a parolee who had violated parole five times,” said Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally, who supports the initiative.

A representative of the group behind Proposition 47 said it was not reasonable to blame the ballot measure for an uptick in some crimes in some parts of the state.

“Fluctuations in crime have much more to do with economic and social policies and practices,” said Tom Hoffman, a spokesman for the group Californians for Safety and Justice. “It’s so much more complicated than one piece of legislation as an issue.”

The proponents of the initiative need to collect signatures from 365,880 voters by the end of April to qualify the initiative for the November 2018 election.


When men with power go too far: After years of whispers, women speak out about harassment in California’s Capitol

Tina McKinnor, left, Sadalia King, Amy Thoma Tan, Jodi Hicks and Sabrina Lockhart have come forward to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment at the Capitol.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

It started with a dinner invitation from a former assemblyman more than twice her age. He had offered his services as a mentor, but his hand reaching for her knee under the table revealed other intentions. Then came the late-night phone calls and unexpected appearances at events she had to attend for her job in the Capitol.

Fresh out of college, Amy Brown did what she thought women were supposed to do in these situations — she reported him. The former assemblyman accused her of slander, an experience that left her so humiliated that she left Sacramento for a new job in San Jose.

“I immediately got the hell out of town,” Brown said. “I felt like the people — the person — I was relying on for advancement in my career was preying on me.”

Stories like these have taken many forms through the years. Sometimes it’s a professional meeting that turned inappropriately sexual, or it’s a groping hand on a backside. In one case, a woman said a lawmaker masturbated in front of her in a bar bathroom.

No matter the details, each story involves a man with power — the kind of power bestowed by voters, an influential lobbying client or a supply of campaign cash. And instead of wielding that power to shape politics or public policy, the man used it to proposition women or to touch them inappropriately.

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Big jump in the number of House challengers isn’t great news for California Republicans

So far this year, 80 challengers have reported raising money across California for the 2018 midterm elections, more than triple the number who had done so at this point in the 2016 election. Collectively, they’ve raised more than $14.9 million, and 70% of that has gone to the four Republican-held districts in Orange County that Democrats consider key to their chances.

There haven’t been this many congressional challengers in California’s House races this early in the game since at least 2003, and that could be bad news for Republican incumbents.

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California’s Senate culture doesn’t encourage women to file complaints. Here’s how that could change

Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), shown in September, acknowledged that the Senate could improve its procedures for reporting misconduct.
Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), shown in September, acknowledged that the Senate could improve its procedures for reporting misconduct.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

In 2014, reeling from scandals that led to the suspension of three Democratic senators, California’s state Senate changed its policies to make it easier for employees, members and the public to sound the alarm about misconduct.

A Times analysis of those rule changes shows a lack of follow-through to make reporting complaints more accessible. And the lawmaker who worked on changes in the Senate’s operations after that scandal says more could have been done.

Then-Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) suggested at the time that the move would lead to “positive cultural change and strengthen the integrity of this great institution.”

But as the Capitol now soul-searches over allegations of widespread sexual harassment, the current legislative leaders acknowledge the culture still does not encourage women to file complaints. The Senate’s effort to reform itself three years ago — and how it fell short — is instructive as both legislative houses embark on a new round of self-improvement.

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From the 1979 archives: Politics, Marriage Hard to Mix, Legislators Find

Today’s column about sexual harassment in Sacramento references the above May 7, 1979, article detailing how the Capitol was a sexual playground.

I’ve been closely watching Sacramento for half a century. It’s my observation — OK, a guess, because no one keeps statistics — that sexual harassment at the state Capitol is about the same now as it was decades ago. Sexual bullies of both parties have always plagued politics.

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High taxes on legal pot in California could mean black market will thrive

The Farmacy, a California medical marijuana dispensary.
The Farmacy, a California medical marijuana dispensary.
(Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times)

State and local taxes on marijuana could surpass 45% in some parts of California, jeopardizing efforts to bring all growers and sellers into a state-licensed market in January, according to the global credit ratings firm Fitch Ratings.

“High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets,” the firm said in a report Monday. “California’s black markets for cannabis were well established long before its voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.”

As the top pot-producing state in the nation, California could be on thin ice with the federal government >>

The report said that increased enforcement may blunt the illegal market, “but high taxes may complicate such efforts by diverting in-state sales to the black market.”

California is scheduled to begin issuing licenses to grow, transport and sell medical and recreational marijuana on Jan. 1 and will charge a 15% excise tax, as well as a state cultivation levy of $9.25 per ounce for cannabis flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves.

Hundreds applied to be on California’s pot advisory committee. Here’s who got picked >>

In addition, local business taxes have been approved by 61 cities and counties ranging from 7.75% to 9.75%.

The marijuana market is expected to provide a windfall for state and local treasuries.

“In the handful of states that legalized nonmedical cannabis prior to 2016, tax receipts have generally outpaced initial revenue estimates and have shown strong year-over-year gains,” Fitch Ratings said. But California could end up being one of the highest taxing states in the country if proposals stand.


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says he won’t run for governor


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California Assembly Speaker applauds Capitol staffer’s ‘bravery’ in going public with complaint against assemblyman

Gyore spoke publicly for the first time about a 2009 complaint she filed against Bocanegra.
Gyore spoke publicly for the first time about a 2009 complaint she filed against Bocanegra.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said Friday that the experience of a staffer who filed a complaint eight years ago against now-Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra illustrates why the Capitol culture must change.

Elise Flynn Gyore told The Times about her experience filing a complaint against Bocanegra, who was then a legislative staffer, after she said he groped her and followed her in a manner she found threatening at a 2009 after-work event in a Sacramento bar.

The Friday morning story in The Times was the first time she had spoken publicly of the incident and the complaint, which resulted in Bocanegra being disciplined.

“I appreciate Ms. Gyore’s bravery in bringing this incident forward. We have to change the culture in the Capitol and in society and her experience shows why,” Rendon said in a statement Friday afternoon. “How incidents of harassment were handled in the past can inform our current efforts to improve the system and to build a future where these injustices are prevented before they happen and no employee has to fear harassment or abuse.”

Bocanegra, who was first elected in 2012, is part of Rendon’s leadership team, serving in the position of majority whip. A top lieutenant to Rendon, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), also chimed in with support for Gyore on Friday.

Former Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), who led the Assembly from 2010 to 2014, said he was unaware of the complaint’s existence until The Times’ report.

He said he had never heard of any complaints — formal or informal — against Bocanegra, nor had he witnessed any inappropriate behavior from the Pacoima Democrat.

Also on Friday, the organizers of We Said Enough, a recently launched campaign against harassment, thanked Gyore for sharing her story.

“This is an act of true courage — and we support every woman who chooses to do so. Sadly, this story is just one example of how the existing system fails victims and survivors. We are resolute in our call for action,” the group said in a statement. The group’s organizers added that they are calling for an overhaul to the complaint process — such as confidential reporting, an independent oversight body and whistleblower protections — to better guard against harassment.

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Rep. Darrell Issa goes after Gov. Jerry Brown on tax debate, criticizing ‘contrived letters pretending to care’

As the debate over tax reform rages in Washington, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is blaming Gov. Jerry Brown’s policies for creating a situation where Californians pay high local and state taxes and claim them as a deduction of their federal taxes.

An estimated one in three Californians claim the State and Local Tax, or SALT, deduction, that would end under a tax plan proposed by the GOP.

“I recognize the role of the state and local tax deduction to reduce the tax burden on many Californians, but let’s be clear: It has only become of such importance as a direct result of the tremendous weight that your misguided policies have put on California taxpayers,” Issa wrote in a letter to Brown on Friday.

Brown sent letters of his own to the GOP delegation Wednesday urging them all not to support the Republican budget, which allowed for a $1.5-trillion deficit increase that sets the stage for President Trump’s tax cuts.

With the midterm elections critical to the battle for control of the U.S. House, Issa and other vulnerable California Republicans, especially those in wealthy Southern California, where constituents save thousands on their taxes through the deduction, are being closely watched.

There were 20 Republican “no” votes. Several opposed the budget because of a potential repeal of the federal deduction for state and local taxes, which would hit especially hard in wealthier states such as New York and California. But all 14 California Republicans voted for the budget.

Issa also admonished Brown for sending the letters.

“Government must foster an environment that promotes economic growth. Rather than sending contrived letters pretending to care about the burdens placed on taxpayers in our state, I implore you to turn away from the era of ever-increasing taxes that have continued under your Administration and instead seek policies that actually lower the tax burden on all Californians,” Issa said in his letter.

Brown responded Friday in a statement to The Times: “It’s unconscionable that Rep. Issa would tax the people of his district while exempting his corporate allies and sponsors. What a betrayal of his oath of office.”

2:04 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Brown. It was originally published at 12:58 p.m.


California Legislature colleagues back Kevin de León’s U.S. Senate bid


Behavior that didn’t meet ‘expectations for professionalism.’ Read the 2009 letter disciplining Raul Bocanegra

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra was disciplined after a human resources investigation eight years ago, when a female Capitol staffer accused him of “inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact,” The Times has learned.

Elise Flynn Gyore said Bocanegra, at the time chief of staff to then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, groped her and followed her in a manner she found threatening at an after-work event attended by legislators, staff and lobbyists.

A weeks-long investigation by independent attorneys hired by the Legislature concluded that “it is more likely than not that Bocanegra engaged in behavior that night which does not meet the Assembly’s expectations for professionalism,” according to a June 22, 2009, letter from the Assembly Rules Committee reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

Read our story >>

Read the letter >>


Gov. Jerry Brown says California Republicans have ‘slavish adherence’ to their party’s tax plan

(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Gov. Jerry Brown took aim at the sweeping tax overhaul plan in Congress and California’s Republican delegation on Thursday, saying their support of the plan is wrong “economically and morally.”

Brown, who joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a conference call with reporters, aimed most of his fire at the provision to cancel deducting local and state taxes paid from federal taxes. Both governors said it could have a profound impact on their states’ bottom lines. Brown criticized California’s 14 Republican House members for their Thursday budget vote, which allows for a $1.5-trillion deficit to help finance tax cuts.

“I know there is a lot of slavish adherence to the Republican leadership,” Brown said. “It’s bad for California. They’re doing a disservice.”

California and New York taxpayers have long been able to deduct the cost of paying local and state taxes from their federal tax liability. Both governors said Thursday they believed the effort by President Trump and Republicans to be at least somewhat motivated by their states voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump last November.

“It’s using a handful of states to finance the tax cuts for their states,” Cuomo said.

Brown, who sent personal letters to all California GOP members of the House urging them not to go along, said the proposal was particularly unfair in light of how it would not apply equally to corporations.

“It’s a gross manipulation of our tax code,” he said. “It’s a Hail Mary pass by the Republicans.”


California Rep. Jackie Speier shares her sexual assault story in an effort to change Capitol Hill

Rep. Jackie Speier told a story of being forcibly kissed by a high-ranking congressional staff member to kick off her effort to change how sexual abuse reports are handled on Capitol Hill.

Speier is urging other members of Congress and staff to tell their stories using the hashtag #MeTooCongress in a play off the viral #MeToo hashtag that began after a New York Times story detailed sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Speier (D-Hillsborough) said in a video posted Friday morning that she was a staffer on Capitol Hill when a chief of staff she doesn’t identify grabbed her face and kissed her. Speier worked for a congressman in the 1970s.

Speier told Politico she will introduce legislation next week calling for an overhaul of the Office of Compliance, where Capitol Hill staffers are expected to file harassment complaints.

Speier has repeatedly filed legislation aimed at changing the reporting process for victims who work on Capitol Hill. Harassment victims must contact a little-known office, where they first receive up to 30 days of counseling. Then, victims must go through a 30-day period of mediation with the accused before they are eligible to pursue an administrative hearing or a lawsuit against their attackers.

The current system is “constructed to protect the institution — and to impede the victim from getting justice,” Speier told Politico.

Speier told Politico that few staffers are aware of where to go, or are put off by the long process. That means individual Capitol Hill offices handle claims internally, or not at all, she said. Sexual harassment training also is not a requirement for working in Congress — it’s left to individual offices.

Speier has used personal stories as examples before, including when she discussed an abortion she had on the House floor in 2011.

9:49 a.m.: This post had been updated with more detail.

This post originally published at 5:58 a.m.


Here’s why Republicans could help send Dianne Feinstein back to Washington — even if they can’t stand her

It’s the voters like Republican Larry Ward — conservatives who feel voiceless and adrift, bobbing like red specks in a blue sea — who could help usher the 84-year-old Dianne Feinstein back to Washington with a new lease on her Senate seat.

Like most voters here in El Dorado County, Ward supported President Trump. He can’t understand why Democrats and the media pile on and keep him from cutting taxes and fulfilling a campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare.

He certainly doesn’t think Feinstein’s been too kind to Trump — the argument made by her newly announced challenger, Kevin de León. The state senator from Los Angeles and others on the left were spitting fire a few weeks back when Feinstein allowed as how she hoped, given time and a radical transformation, Trump might end up being a good president.

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Trump calls billionaire activist Tom Steyer ‘wacky’ and ‘unhinged’

President Trump called Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer “wacky” and “unhinged” Friday after apparently seeing an ad that features the San Francisco billionaire calling for Trump to be impeached.

The 60-second television ad has been running for nearly a week, and has been spotted during World Series broadcasts, but it was its appearance during “Fox and Friends” on Friday morning that might have caught Trump’s attention.

Trump tweeted shortly after the ad ran that Steyer “has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from the beginning,” adding the billionaire environmentalist “never wins elections!”

The $10-million advertising campaign directs people to a website with a petition calling on Trump to be impeached.

Steyer has donated tens of millions to Democratic candidates, and funded get-out-the-vote operations through his climate change political action committee.

The former hedge fund manager has flirted with running for office, and is currently weighing whether to challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate seat she currently holds.


Car runs into immigration protesters outside Rep. Ed Royce’s district office


A vehicle drove into a group of protesters outside of GOP Rep. Ed Royce’s office in Brea on Thursday afternoon, but no injuries have been reported to police so far. (Tony Mendoza / Unite Here)

A vehicle drove into a group of protesters outside GOP Rep. Ed Royce’s office in Brea on Thursday afternoon, but no injuries have been reported to police so far.

The alleged driver, 56-year-old Daniel Wenzek of Brea, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. He was booked and released pending further investigation, according to Lt. Kelly Carpenter of the Brea Police Department.

Organizers say several hundred people were protesting outside Royce’s office, many of them arriving on buses after a morning news conference with elected officials and labor leaders in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park. They were trying to deliver letters to Royce (R-Fullerton) about what losing temporary protected immigration status would mean to them, said Andrew Cohen, a communications specialist with the organization Unite Here.

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California Secretary of State Alex Padilla backs Gavin Newsom for governor over former colleague Antonio Villaraigosa

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, left, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the highest-ranking Latino in a statewide elected position in California, endorsed Gavin Newsom for governor on Thursday.

Padilla said he had known Newsom for more than a decade and admired his track record as mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor.

“It’s always important to [have] leaders that are committed and get it done, and that’s what I’ve seen in Gavin Newsom over and over and over again,” Padilla said, speaking to dozens of Newsom supporters at a union hall in downtown Los Angeles.

The endorsement was seen as a slap at former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is one of Newsom’s top rivals in the governor’s race. Padilla was president of the Los Angeles City Council during the two years Villaraigosa was a member of the body, and for the first six months of Villaraigosa’s tenure as mayor.

But the two men have never been viewed as close allies. They come from different power bases for Latino politicians in Los Angeles — Villaraigosa from the Eastside and Padilla from the San Fernando Valley. They also have not supported each other’s political pursuits. In 2001, Padilla backed James Hahn over Villaraigosa in the mayoral race. In 2006, Villaraigosa backed Cindy Montañez in a state Senate race over Padilla.

Padilla said he has a relationship with all of the top Democrats running for governor.

“This is a tough one because I do know Antonio Villaraigosa and I know John Chiang and I know Gavin Newsom, but I think that because of what’s happening in the political environment at this time, this isn’t one where we can sit back, ‘Yeah. OK. Cool, let’s see who wins and we’ll work with whoever,’” Padilla said. “If there is a candidate I believe is best for the future of California, I’m compelled to weigh in and that’s what I’m doing today.”

Luis Vizcaino, a Vilaraigosa spokesman, said the announcement was to be expected and noted that Padilla had a leadership role in Newsom’s short-lived 2009 gubernatorial campaign.

“The only surprise here is we thought Alex had endorsed Gavin months ago considering he was Gavin’s Campaign Chair the first time he ran for governor,” Vizcaino said in an email.

Villaraigosa and Chiang, the state treasurer, have also received key endorsements from Latino politicians. Villaraigosa has the backing of the Latino Caucus in the state Legislature, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina and Lucille Roybal-Allard. Chiang has won the support of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar.

Updated at 2:07 p.m.: This post was updated to add a comment from Villaraigosa’s campaign.


Rep. Maxine Waters asks Twitter for information about Russian accounts used to attack her

(Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters wants Twitter to hand over information about any Russian-linked accounts that have attacked her or her Los Angeles congressional district.

In a letter to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Thursday, the outspoken Democrat asked the company to disclose all of the accounts associated with Russian- or Kremlin-linked firms that have targeted her since the 2016 election. She also asked for details on how many times the tweets mentioning her were shared, including if they were shared by President Trump or conservative outlets.

Waters has been a vocal critic of Trump, which has made her a darling of the left and a frequent source of derision on the right.

“While I have never publicly discussed it before today, I have been aware for some time that I was targeted by Russian operatives whose interests were aligned with Donald Trump,” Waters said in a statement. “I have often noticed that every time I tweeted about Trump and Russia, dozens of strange accounts would immediately tweet various lies and falsehoods that fringe alt-right websites would subsequently use as a basis to write fake news stories.”

Waters said the information from Twitter is needed to demonstrate that congressional members’ efforts to communicate with constituents online have been targeted by Russian disinformation campaigns.

Earlier this month, Buzzfeed reported that an account pretending to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party was actually run by Russian trolls. The account tweeted about Waters for months, including during a town hall meeting in her district, prompting an “Impeach Maxine Waters” hashtag to trend on Twitter.

She blames her criticism of Trump as the reason she was targeted by the account.

“I am concerned that if this issue is left unresolved, more elected officials whom Russians determine are Donald Trump’s political opponents, both Republicans and Democrats, will be targeted and subjected to social media schemes to undermine and interfere in their elections at local, state and national levels,” Waters wrote in the letter.


California’s Rep. Paul Cook picked to lead Foreign Affairs subcommittee

Rep. Paul Cook
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) has been named chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) made the announcement in a news release Thursday morning following the former subcommittee chairman Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-S.C.) departure from the committee this week.

“As a former Marine Corps colonel, Rep. Cook is deeply committed to defending U.S. interests worldwide. I look forward to working with him to continue holding the [Raul] Castro and [Nicolas] Maduro regimes [of Cuba and Venezuela, respectively] accountable for their brutal repression, while increasing U.S. commercial opportunities throughout the hemisphere,” Royce said in a statement.

California holds several leadership positions on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) is the chairman of the Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats subcommittee. Rep. Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks is the highest ranking Democrat on the Asia and the Pacific subcommittee and Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles is the highest ranking Democrat on the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations subcommittee.


GOP tightens restrictions on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s subcommittee because of scrutiny over his Russia connections

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher speaks to Russian lawmakers at a meeting in the Russian parliament's lower house in Moscow in 2013.
(Misha Japaridze / Associated Press)

The congressional subcommittee led by California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) is being heavily monitored by GOP leaders because of allegations the Orange County congressman has been overly influenced by his connections to Russia.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) will be “more involved in guiding the direction” of the subcommittee that is in part responsible for examining U.S. policy in Russia, said a senior congressional aide who asked not to be identified in order to discuss internal committee matters.

Rohrabacher has long said that the United States needs a better relationship with Russia, puzzling colleagues who have speculated privately about why he’s willing to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Connections between Rohrabacher and Russian officials have been newly highlighted as Congress investigates Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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California’s GOP members vote in favor of Republican budget, paving way for tax overhaul

Rep. Steve Knight speaks at a Capitol news conference in 2016.
(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

All 14 California House Republicans on Thursday voted in favor of the GOP’s budget, which paves the way for overhauling the U.S. tax system.

The budget, which allows for a $1.5-trillion deficit increase that sets the stage for President Trump’s tax cuts, passed 216 to 212, with 20 Republicans joining Democrats in opposing it.

At the root of their objection is the potential repeal of the federal deduction for state and local taxes, which would hit especially hard in wealthier states like New York and California.

Gov. Jerry Brown had implored the GOP members not to support the budget, saying there hasn’t been enough time to fully understand what it will mean to the estimated 1 in 3 Californians who claim the deduction. Democrats are targeting nine of the state’s 14 Republican-held districts, and have said they’ll make the elimination of the tax deduction an issue in the campaign.

Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale said he voted for the budget because he’s been assured that a fix will be made to the tax plan that will address or offset the potential tax increase caused by the elimination of the tax deduction. The tax plan is scheduled to be unveiled next week.

“Still worried about it, still working on it,” Knight said after the vote. “I am confident [it will be fixed], but I’ve also said that is my No. 1 priority, so if we can’t get it fixed then we’re going to have problems.”


Gov. Jerry Brown urges California GOP House members to vote no on budget bill: ‘First let’s get the facts’

Gov. Jerry Brown implored California’s GOP House members to oppose their party’s budget bill over a provision that will end a deduction for state and local taxes used by one in three Californians.

In letters to each Republican member of the California congressional delegation, Brown asked the members to at least ask for more time to learn the specifics of the plan.

“First let’s get the facts. Then, debate the issue. And then we can decide what’s the right thing to do,” Brown says in his letter.

The potential repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction — the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes paid — would hit especially hard in wealthier areas.

The vote is scheduled to take place Thursday morning.


Six female California lawmakers back Dianne Feinstein in Senate race

Assemblywomen Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, right, and Susan Talamantes-Eggman in May.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Six California Assembly committee chairwomen endorsed Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday over their state Capitol colleague, Senate leader Kevin de León.

In a statement released by Feinstein’s campaign, Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), Blanca E. Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) said the state needs Feinstein “in these uncertain and difficult times.”

“We are proud to endorse Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has been an inspiration for all of us. The first woman to serve on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Feinstein is now the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. In that position, she is defending California against the Republicans and the Trump administration on critical issues like immigration, women’s rights, federal judicial appointments, LGBT rights, civil rights, and gun control,” they said.

De León is the highest-profile Democrat to announce plans to challenge Feinstein in her bid for a fifth full term.


Rep. Scott Peters endorses fellow Democrat Paul Kerr in House race against Darrell Issa