Author Archives: KQED News Staff and Wires

VP Debate: Biden, Ryan at Each Other on Everything

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) — At odds early and often, Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan squabbled over the economy, taxes, Medicare and more Thursday night in a contentious, interruption-filled debate. “That is a bunch of malarkey,” the vice president retorted after a particularly tough Ryan attack on the administration’s foreign policy.

“I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t interrupt each other,” Ryan said later to his rival, referring to Democratic pressure on Biden to make up for President Barack Obama’s listless performance in last week’s debate with Mitt Romney.

There was nothing listless this time as the 69-year-old Biden sat next to the 42-year old Wisconsin congressman on a stage at Centre College in Kentucky.

Ninety minutes after the initial disagreement over foreign policy, the two men clashed sharply over steps to reduce federal deficits. Continue reading

Vice Presidential Debate Fact Check

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden has mangled a heaping helping of facts over the years. Despite being newer to presidential-campaign politics, Republican Paul Ryan has already earned something of a reputation for taking flying leaps past reality.

How’d they do Thursday night?

Here’s a look at some of their claims:

BIDEN, on whether U.S. should have beefed up security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya before the deadly terrorist attack there: “We weren’t told they wanted more security there.”

RYAN: “There were requests for more security.”

THE FACTS: Ryan is right, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at a congressional hearing this week.

Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told lawmakers she refused requests for more security in Benghazi, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate. “Yes, sir, I said personally I would not support it,” she said.

Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security. He said conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was “abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?” Continue reading

Find Where to Vote Early County-by-County

SAN FRANCISCO (Bay City News and KQED) Early voting has started all around the state. In San Francisco, residents eager to cast their ballots for the November election can now take part in early voting at City Hall.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Voters can go to the Department of Elections on the ground floor of City Hall between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays to fill out a ballot.

The department is also setting up weekend voting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the two weekends prior to the Nov. 6 election, which includes the presidential race as well as other federal, state and local contests.

City election officials have also started sending out more than 200,000 vote-by-mail ballots and recently finished mailing voter information pamphlets to registered voters.

People wishing to vote by mail must send a request to the Department of Elections by Oct. 30.

More information about early voting or vote-by-mail ballots can be found on the department’s website at or by calling (415) 554-4375.

Here are addresses county-by-county where you can now vote in the Bay Area:


  • Alameda County: Registar’s office at 1225 Fallon Street, Rm. G-1, in Oakland.
  • Contra Costa County: 555 Escobar Street, in Martinez
  • Marin County: Marin Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 121, in San Rafael
  • San Mateo County: 40 Tower Road, San Mateo, or 555 County Center, First Floor, Redwood City
  • Santa Clara County: 1555 Berger Dr, Building 2, San Jose. Office hoursvary as the election approaches.
  • Sonoma County: Registrar of Voters, 435 Fiscal Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
  • Solano County: Registrar of Voters, 675 Texas St. Suite 2600
  • Napa County: Carithers Building, 900 Coombs Street, Suite 256, Napa. Starting the weekend before the election, Napa County will also set up satellite voting assistance centers, where voters can drop off their ballots or receive new ones if they have lost or spoiled them, or if they need a new envelope.Satellite offices:-Calistoga – Tubbs Building, Fairgrounds Gate 3 – Oak Street-Saint Helena – Stonebridge Apartments Community Room – 990 College Avenue
    -Yountville- Library Reading Room – 6516 Washington Street
    -American Canyon – Public Safety Bldg – 911 Donaldson Way, East of Hwy 29
    -Fairgrounds – 4th and Burnell Streets – Enter on Burnell

Rising Asian-American Political Star From Calif. is Romney’s Chief Policy Director

By Frank Stoltze

One of Mitt Romney’s top advisors is a rising Asian-American political star from Southern California. As Romney’s chief policy director, 34-year-old Lanhee Chen plays a key role in advising the Republican presidential nominee on foreign and domestic issues.

Lanhee Chen in 2007. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

At the GOP Convention in Tampa in August, Asian-American journalists from around the country couldn’t wait to talk to Lanhee Chen. They peppered him with questions about Mitt Romney’s immigration policy and views on Asia.

Chen responded to one of the reporters, “Well, I mean obviously there are some challenges in the region. China is becoming increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea.”

Chen, dressed in a sport coat and open collar, answered questions easily, until a reporter asked a more personal question, about his role as one of the few prominent Asian Americans inside a Republican campaign for president.

“I’m not really ever sure what to say about that, but it is interesting to look around and realize that most people don’t look quite like you do,” said Chen.

Lanhee Chen was born in Rowland Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles, to parents who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. He is something of the classic second-generation success story — he holds four degrees from Harvard, including a law degree and Ph.D. Chen is a policy wonk, but also a skilled Romney spokesman who has appeared on Fox News to represent the campaign. Continue reading

A Powerful Way to Get Out the Vote: Share with Your Facebook Friends

(Joel Saget: AFP/GettyImages)

(Joel Saget: AFP/GettyImages)

From AP: Here’s something most politicians can “like”: Facebook friends played a big role in getting hundreds of thousands of people to vote in 2010, a new scientific study claims.

Facebook researchers and scientists at the University of California, San Diego conducted a massive online experiment in the mid-term congressional election to test and measure the political power of online peer pressure.

They found that people who got Facebook messages that their friends had voted were a bit more likely to go to the polls than those who didn’t get the same reminder. And from there the effect multiplied in the social network, they reported in Thursday’s journal Nature.

The friend-prodding likely increased voter turnout by as much as 340,000 in the non-presidential election that voted in a new Republican congress, the scientists calculated. They said that it could potentially change the outcome of close elections.

“Our study is the first large-scale scientific test of the idea that online social networks affect real world political behavior,” said study lead author James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego. Continue reading

Soda Industry Outspends Beverage Tax Supporters 10-1 in Richmond

by William Harless, California Watch

Groups aligned with the soda industry already have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars as Richmond prepares to vote on raising taxes on sweetened drinks an extra penny an ounce. Since the spring, tax opponents have outspent supporters almost 10 to 1, new financial records show.

A group backed by the American Beverage Association sent this mailer to Richmond voters. (Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners)

The American Beverage Association, a Washington, D.C., trade organization that represents PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and other major beverage companies, has spent $150,000 to fight the soda tax measure since June, according to recently released campaign finance disclosures.

The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, the beverage association-backed organization created to defeat the tax, spent an additional $200,000, according to campaign finance records. The money is going largely to political consulting, attorney, and polling and research firms. Almost $60,000 was earmarked for outdoor advertising.

Meanwhile, another organization has entered the fray to support the tax. The California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit group with offices in Oakland, Davis and Los Angeles, has spent about $21,600 on polling and focus groups.

Richmond City Council Member Jeff Ritterman, a cardiologist who is leading the campaign for the sweetened-beverage tax, said he believes soda drinkers will start to turn to tap water, saving money and drinking something healthier. He said the American Beverage Association is worried that Richmond will set a trend.

“I think they’re quite aware that if these dominoes begin to fall, a lot more will,” he said, referring to the two California cities, Richmond and El Monte, in Los Angeles County, that are considering penny-per-ounce sweetened-beverage taxes, which would be the first of their kind in the United States.

Ritterman and a handful of Bay Area residents have raised about $10,400 for their own campaign, dubbed Richmond Fit for Life, and have sent out brochures and mailers advocating for the tax, outlining obesity statistics and describing how it and a companion health measure are phrased on the November ballot.

The Richmond City Council voted to place the soda tax on the November ballot. Ritterman estimates the measure would raise $3 million a year, which advocates want to use for obesity programs, school fruit and vegetable gardens, and playing fields. The tax would apply to soft drinks and other beverages with added sugar.

Opponents of the soda tax point out that the ballot measure does not guarantee the new money would be spent on health measures, though supporters say they have enough pledges from City Council members to ensure it would be.

“Our campaign activities are and will continue to be focused on helping voters cut through the false claims of the tax backers,” Chuck Finnie, a vice president of the San Francisco public relations firm Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners, which is working on the campaign to defeat the tax, said in a statement. “They say the measure is intended to fight obesity but they know not one thin dime is being raised specifically for new public health, recreation and other anti-obesity programs.”

Both sides have sent out mailers, including one by the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes that irked soda-tax supporter Tom Butt, a Richmond City Council member. Last week, he sent a complaint to the city’s attorney claiming the mailer didn’t contain the specific disclosure, as Butt said city law requires: “Major funding from large out-of-city contributors.”

“Although the BS (Big Soda) campaign is free to use the rest of the mailer to imply that this was paid for by local interests, it is not free to do that in the part of the mailer where the disclosure is required,” Butt wrote, forwarding this complaint to his constituents in an e-mail.

The brochure does mention American Beverage Association funding at its bottom. And Finnie said the city’s requirement for disclosing out-of-city contributions applies to independent expenditure committees, not campaigns against specific ballot measures like the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes.

“It is Councilmen Butt and Ritterman who are misleading voters,” Finnie said. “They are misleading voters by failing to acknowledge the so-called soda tax is going to raise the cost of living on everyone, not just on consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages and certainly not just on soda drinkers.”

William Harless is a journalist with California Watch.

Want to Contribute to a Political Campaign Via Text? LOL Not This Year

by Rachael Myrow

The Federal Elections Commission cleared the way June 11th for political campaigns to collect small contributions from mobile phone users through text messages. Both presidential campaigns applauded, as did a gaggle of grassroots groups. But phone companies aren’t ready to applaud just yet. At least, not until some of their concerns are addressed.

Getty Images

I asked Ann Ravel, Chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, just what wireless carriers are worried about.

“They have expressed both to us and also to the Federal Elections Commission a couple of concerns. One of them is they say they don’t want users to think they are endorsing a particular political campaign that might be odious. But it seems that now their bigger concern is they fear they’re going to be held liable if some of the campaign laws are violated.”

Would anyone presume AT&T, Verizon or any other phone company supports a group just because they allow customers to text their money to it? Continue reading

High Court Ruling Vindicates Obama, What’s Next for Romney?

A man protests against the Obama administrations health care plan during a protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(AP) — Marking a pivotal point in the presidential campaign, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Barack Obama’s sweeping federal health care law handed the Democratic incumbent crucial election-year vindication for his signature legislative accomplishment.

Republican rival Mitt Romney, an ardent opponent of the law, prepared to use the decision for his own political gain and planned to cast himself as the next best hope for the millions of Americans who favor the law’s repeal.

The decision put an end to what had been one of the biggest unknowns in the presidential race. Four months from Election Day, both Obama and Romney will seek to use the high court ruling to bolster their vision for the country, as well as raise money for their campaigns.

The Romney campaign said it had collected more than $100,000 in online donations in the hour after the decision was announced.

Both men were expected to comment around midday Thursday from Washington. Romney was scheduled to speak first, followed by Obama.

The high court announced Thursday, in a 5-4 decision, that it was upholding the requirement at the heart of the health care law: that most individuals must buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

The decision means the historic overhaul will continue to go into effect over the next several years, affecting the way people receive and pay for personal medical care. The ruling also handed Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance.

The Obama and Romney campaigns have been quietly preparing for months how they would respond to the ruling.

While the White House publically expressed confidence that the overhaul would be upheld, Obama aides feared the political ramifications for the president if the law were to be overturned.

In anticipation of the law being overturned, Romney aides cautioned against excessive celebration, fearing that could alienate voters who could lose health care benefits as a result of the decision.

Romney, who as Massachusetts governor signed a health care law on which the Obama’s federal law was modeled, previewed his likely response to the decision during a campaign event earlier this week.

If the court upholds the law, Romney told supporters at a northern Virginia electronics manufacturer Wednesday, it’s still bad policy. “And that’ll mean if I’m elected president we’re going to repeal it and replace it,” he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the decision sets the stakes for the Nov. 6 election.

“Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare’s budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president,” Priebus said.

The court’s ruling will have a far-reaching impact on the nation’s health care system. About 30 million of the 50 million uninsured Americans would get coverage in 2014 when a big expansion begins.

Polling suggests that most Americans oppose the law, but an overwhelming majority want Congress and the president to find a new remedy if it’s struck down.

The court’s announcement was expected to be followed almost immediately by a barrage of advertisements and fundraising appeals from Democrats and Republicans all trying to cast the decision in the most advantageous light for their candidates.

Obama’s campaign began trying to raise money off the ruling even before it was announced. In a Thursday morning fundraising email with the subject line “Today’s Decision,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told supporters “no matter what, today is an important day to have Barack Obama’s back.”

Outside groups also are ready to unleash a flood of advertising, including a 16-state, $7 million ad buy from the conservative political action group Americans for Prosperity.

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Act

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Act Update, 7:27 AM, More details on nuances from the individual justices: Now from Kennedy is reading a dissent saying the whole thing should be invalid. Meanwhile Ginsberg writes it should be entirely valid. “Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax.

Read more at:

Democrats Pin Hopes on Calif. to Gain New Seats

By Amy Isackson

For the last decade, California’s races for the United States House of Representatives have held few surprises. Just one seat has changed parties in the last decade. This election, newly drawn district lines have put California in play and emboldened the Democrats, who are depending on the state, help regain the House majority. However, two races in the Inland Empire shows it will be a tough fight.

Democratic candidate Mark Takano has run his campaign for the House of Representatives out of his two-bedroom condo.

He’s a candidate in a newly formed district in Riverside. The Democratic Party hopes he’ll be able to pick up one of the 25 seats they need nationally to take back the House.

“My living room is a mess,” said Takano.

Volunteers and campaign workers who camp out on the couches have left a trail of stains

“We’ve been saving some money by running everything out of a condo. But I think it is a testament to American democracy that in a humble space such as this, we’re going to change the world,” said Takano. Continue reading