Two California Republican Congressmen Vote Against GOP Tax Reform

800px-US_Capitol_from_NWTwo California Republicans, Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), voted against the tax reform bill on Tuesday.

They were the only Republican members of California’s congressional delegation to do so. Every one of California’s Democrats did so, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are also expected to vote against the bill.

Ten other Republicans also voted against the tax reform bill, most from other high-tax states, notably New York and New Jersey.

Both Issa and Rohrabacher are considered vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections, after Hillary Clinton won their districts in 2016. Both are among seven Republicans in the Golden State who are being targeted by Democrats.

Issa was barely re-elected in 2018, and faces four Democratic challengers next year; Rohrabacher already faces seven Democratic challengers (plus two Republicans, one Libertarian, and an Independent) in next year’s primary. Notably, five of those Republicans still voted for the tax reform bill.

Rohrabacher has stated publicly that he opposes the tax reform bill because he is concerned that the partial repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and the cap on mortgage interest deductions, could see taxes raised on some of the residents of his district despite the lowering of income tax and corporate tax rates.

Issa opposes the bill for the same reason, but also publicly blamed Governor Jerry Brown and California Democrats for the dilemma facing California taxpayers.

One Republican who switched from “no” to “yes” was conservative Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), who voted against the original House version of the bill but supported the compromise bill drafted with the Senate because of revisions that addressed his concerns.

In a speech on the House floor, he said, in part:

The new version leaves the casualty loss, medical expense and student interest deductions intact.  No family needs to fear being ruined by taxes after a major declared disaster or illness, and graduates can continue to plan their lives knowing interest on their student loans will not be taxed.  The new bill eases the proposed limit on mortgage interest deductions and allows up to $10,000 of state and local taxes to be deducted – all important improvements for Californians.

Most importantly, the lower tax rates in this bill now more than compensate in almost every case for the remaining limits on state and local tax and mortgage interest deductions.  Even taxpayers who lose tens of thousands of dollars of deductions will still pay lower taxes than they do today.

The House will have to vote again on the bill, after two minor provisions in the legislation ran afoul of Senate parliamentary rules for reconciliation (which allows votes pertaining to budget issues to pass on a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority). Rohrabacher and Issa are expected to repeat their “no” votes.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Will Bay Area political crowd trump LA yet again?

Gavin newsomIt’s been a fait accompli that Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and current lieutenant governor, will be California’s next governor after the iconic Jerry Brown heads off into the sunset next year. Moonbeam is a hard act to follow, having served as the state’s youngest and oldest chief executive, but it’s too bad California can’t at least muster a feisty and contentious political debate before crowning another Bay Area pol as successor.

You know, where politicians actually debate issues, take varying political stances and give voters a choice rather than a coronation.

It’s hard to understand Southern California’s inability to exert much clout at the highest levels of California government. Brown is from Oakland. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the former state attorney general who got here start under the tutelage of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, already is touted as the inevitable Democratic nominee for president.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose slim accomplishments certainly are on par with those of Harris, is mostly garnering skepticism for his possible presidential run. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is from Marin County and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon is, of course, from Los Angeles, but he’s too busy dealing with an unfolding sexual-harassment scandal in his own chamber to have the time for a serious shot at her U.S. Senate seat.

De Leon and the low-key Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, have the top legislative spots, but they’ve mostly rubberstamped the governor’s priorities. No one would suggest that either man is a true power broker – or is on the fast track to the governor’s mansion or the U.S. Capitol. There’s little doubt that Southern California politicians play second fiddle to their Bay Area counterparts and don’t even put up a fuss about it.

They rarely set an agenda that’s distinct from the one set by their Bay Area betters, so perhaps that explains why a region with so many people can’t seem to keep up with the power of an area that’s far less populous. San Francisco Democrats and Los Angeles ones are both progressive – but their priorities should not be interchangeable. The demographics and economies are vastly different between the state’s two megalopolises.

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll offers some mixed news for Southlanders. For instance, Newsom’s latest lead is far lower than expected. He is favored by 23 percent of surveyed voters, with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also a Democrat, coming in a surprisingly close second at 18 percent. The other contenders, including the two lackluster Republicans (John Cox and Travis Allen), are in single digits. With the top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters face off in the general election even if they are from the same party.

In the Senate race, Feinstein is besting de Leon by a two-to-one margin, and around half of the voters surveyed had never even heard of de Leon, which is perfectly understandable given his underwhelming tenure in the Capitol. De Leon did throw a really cool $50,000 party at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2014 to celebrate his inauguration as Senate president pro tempore, but apparently the “glitz-fest,” as the Sacramento Bee called it, didn’t help any lasting name identification.

On the surface, Villaraigosa’s competitiveness in the gubernatorial race does offer hope that a Southern California politician could once again lead the state. But don’t get your hopes up. He admirably has taken on the teachers’ unions to advance school reform, but he also touched the third rail of politics, when he called for “changes” to 1978’s property-tax-limiting Proposition 13. Instituting a “split roll,” for instance, would dramatically increase the tax bill paid by commercial property owners.

This is more than a policy problem. Villaraigosa’s path to the governor’s mansion involves rallying Southern Californians, Latinos and remaining conservative and Republican-oriented voters. The latter comprise a falling 26 percent of voters, but it’s a significant enough block to create a path to victory. But attacking Prop. 13 tax protection is a nonstarter for that group.

Last November, former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez seemed to embrace a similar political strategy (Latinos, mod Dems, Southern Californians, Republicans) to take on Harris for the U.S. Senate race, but despite her more moderate positions, her Latina background and SoCal credentials, Sanchez could only muster 38 percent of the vote. Unless, Villaraigosa expands his appeal, he is likely to face a similar fate.

“It looks just like the Harris race that it’s preordained that the candidate from the Bay Area will get the position rather than a qualified Latino candidate from Southern California,” said Alan Clayton, a San Gabriel Valley-based redistricting expert. “The political class in California protects its own, and they are significantly from the Bay Area.”

For Southern Californians to have a greater voice in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Southern California Democrats have to speak with a more regional voice – one that focuses on public-sector reform, fiscal responsibility and on working-class concerns (jobs, housing, etc.) rather than the often-bizarre fixations of San Francisco liberals. Until then, expect a county that’s more populous than 40 other states to remain the lapdog to the Bay Area political establishment.

Steven Greenhut is a Sacramento-based writer. 

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Kevin de León’s handling of sexual harassment scandal an issue

kevin de leon 2SACRAMENTO — Two days after state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced he would challenge fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in next year’s election, a sexual harassment scandal broke under his roof.

More than 140 women in and around the state Capitol signed an open letter on Oct. 17 and launched the We Said Enough campaign decrying the pervasive sexual harassment and abuse they have faced in their jobs in politics. But it didn’t take long for the women to hear the theory that their efforts were part of a well-oiled Feinstein machine kicking back an insurgent de León campaign.

“Yep, we’ve heard that rumor,” said Samantha Corbin, a leader in the We Said Enough campaign.

And, to be clear, Corbin said it’s not true. De León’s campaign said they didn’t start the rumor, nor do they believe it.

Corbin said the group has no intention of swaying any election. But she’s unapologetic that the sexual harassment scandal in Sacramento is creeping into California’s U.S. Senate race.

“Any candidate that puts themselves forward should be asked if they support finding solutions to ending systemic harassment and abuse, and what, specifically, they would advise,” Corbin said.

That’s why all eyes are on de León’s handling of the flood of accusations in the state Legislature. So far he’s getting mixed reviews on what some say could be a defining moment in his uphill campaign. De León has promised to have no mercy on any senator found to have violated the Senate’s sexual harassment policy. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Sen. Feinstein likely to face challenge from the Left in 2018

Dianne FeinsteinJust hours after U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced she was running for re-election, progressives in the state called for a primary challenge to the long-serving Democrat.

For example, Bay Area Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Calif., reportedly asked Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich to run against the incumbent, believing the party needs someone further to the left to occupy the seat.

“There are other voices in our state who are far more in touch with the values,” Khanna told Politico.

While Feinstein has been a fixture of California politics for decades, her softer tone toward President Trump and stances on issues like national security and encryption have caused her to lose favor with some in her party.
“She was totally out of touch when the whole debate happened on encryption,’’ Khanna added, according to Politico, referencing the dialogue that took place in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terror attack. “She didn’t even understand some of those issues.”

Furthermore, she faced jeers from a town hall crowd this summer after suggesting that President Trump could become a “good president” if he would “learn” and “change.”

“Look, this man is going to be president most likely for the rest of this term,” the senator said at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club in August. “I just hope he has the ability to learn and to change and if he does he can be a good president. And that’s my hope.”

Following backlash, she was forced to clarify her remarks.

At 84, she is the oldest senator in the upper chamber and the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As some reporters noted, the announcement is seen as bad news for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who were viewed as likely candidates if Feinstein decided to retire. De León in particular is thought to have been eyeing the seat, as he’s termed out of the state Senate next year.

The talks about a primary challenger come as Democrats nationally have been looking to revamp their image with fresh faces and “new blood” after Hillary Clinton’s defeat last November.

“Her policies are completely out of touch with California Democrats, and we think she’d be more at home in a Republican primary,” Corbin Trent of the Justice Democrats told Vox, expressing support for a primary challenger.

With California positioning itself as the center of the so-called “Resistance” against the Trump agenda in Washington, the stage could be set for a challenge to Feinstein from the left. But with support from top Democrats in the state like U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, along with a robust campaign infrastructure and strong name recognition, any effort to take her on will present a steep challenge.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Poll: State Dems want to oust Pelosi in 2018

Voter Views of California’s Three National Leaders in Washington

Pelosi:  State Democrats favor their party choosing someone else to serve as House leader after the 2018 elections.

Feinstein:  While voters rate her job performance positively, fewer than half are inclined to support a re-election bid.

Harris:  The freshman Senator’s job marks now exceed Feinstein’s, but most want her to remain in the Senate rather than run for president in 2020.

Data from Berkeley IGS Poll – Institute of Governmental Studies

California Democrats favor their party choosing someone other than Nancy Pelosi as House leader after the 2018 elections

California Democrats were asked their opinions about whether Nancy Pelosi should remain as House leader after next year’s elections or whether it would be better for their party to choose someone else. When posing this question, voters were divided into two random subsamples, with half asked the question under the scenario that the Democrats regain control of the House in the 2018 elections, and the other half asked the question assuming the Democrats do not regain control of the House.

In both settings, larger proportions of the state’s Democratic rank-and-file prefer their party to choose another Democrat as House leader rather than Pelosi. Were the Democrats to regain control of the House in 2018, 44% prefer their party choosing someone other than Pelosi as Speaker, while just 30% would like Pelosi to serve in that role. If the Democrats don’t regain control of the House next year, the proportion favoring the Democrats to choose someone other than Pelosi as their House leader grows to 50%.

Table 5

 

To view the entire poll, click here

 

He’ll Be Back? Schwarzenegger Reportedly Mulling Run for Senate

SchwarzeneggerJan2010Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is reportedly considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2018, when incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is said to be considering retirement.

Several media outlets report that Schwarzenegger, who recently raised his profile with a series of Twitter clashes with President Donald Trump, is thinking of re-entering the political fray after several years’ absence.

Politico’s Carla Marinucci reports: “The prospect of Schwarzenegger’s return to elected politics in a 2018 U.S. Senate run — possibly as an independent — is generating increasing buzz in state Republican circles, fueled by the former governor’s seeming ability to get under the skin of President Donald Trump on social media.”

Schwarzenegger also opposed Trump in the Republican presidential primary, backing Ohio governor John Kasich instead.

If elected, Schwarzenegger could pose a significant opposition threat to the Trump administration on issues such as climate change. California’s controversial cap-and-trade system was introduced under Schwarzenegger’s administration.

However, Schwarzenegger will have to confront his own political record along the way. Though he was re-elected to a second term in 2006, Schwarzenegger is mostly remembered for leaving the state in a fiscal mess after abandoning the reform agenda that brought him to office in the first place.

The East Bay Times recalls:

The Republican governor’s approval ratings fluctuated while he was in office and were as high as 63 percent in March 2007. But five months after he left office, a Field Poll found that three of four California voters surveyed had a negative image of Schwarzenegger in the wake of revelations he had fathered a boy with a former household staff member while married to TV journalist Maria Shriver.

Whether he runs as an independent or as a Republican, Schwarzenegger would face stiff competition from a long line of California Democrats who have been waiting, patiently, to angle for Feinstein’s seat.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

California Will Give In To Trumpism

donald-trump-3Now that Donald Trump is president, he will take the reins of the most powerful government the world has ever known: 7,000 nuclear weapons; a world-spanning conventional military; a $4 trillion federal budget, that’s $4,000,000,000,000.00; a couple dozen spy and armed domestic enforcement agencies: CIA, FBI, NSA, federal marshals, etc.; vast new powers, of dubious constitutionality, thanks to outgoing President Obama’s countless “executive orders”; a bully pulpit that now includes tweets; a huge following among the toiling masses.

So who’s going to challenge him in California and become a counter-president, nationally or even just here? Jerry Brown? Nancy Pelosi? Dianne Feinstein? The Calexit folks?

Nobody.

Although there will be maneuvers by the politicians and protests in the streets, California will knuckle under to Trumpism just like the rest of the country. The days of states resisting federal power ended on April 9, 1865.

What happens when the tax takings from early 2017 greatly exceed expectations and Democrats in the Legislature start salivating about spending all that dough? Will they be as upset with Trump about immigration and Obamacare? Will they wish Hillary had won and vastly increased taxes and regulations?

Even last July, Republicans in Congress were threatening to withhold $135 million in federal grants to law enforcement if the state’s Sanctuary Cities policies were enforced. Now Republicans will control the White House. And President Trump could withhold the money by himself with an executive order. How will the cop and prison unions respond to that?

California can’t stop Trump from reinforcing the wall that already exists along its border with Mexico. Nor can it do anything about the additional border agents who will be hired and placed there.

Nor can it do anything about whatever happens with Obamacare.

Then there’s education, by far the biggest state expenditure. The California Teachers Association long has hated President Bush’s No Child Left Behind. In 2015, the Republican Congress passed and President Obama signed a bill effectively ending NCLB, returning some control to state and local school boards. Trump also opposed NCLB, as well as Obama’s Race to the Top, and wants more decentralization. He also favors school choice, which the CTA really hates. And he opposes the Common Core standards, which the CTA favors and the state is adopting.

But the central factor is that Trump opposes centralization, which means the federal money will flow to the states with fewer strings attaches – likely meaning more power for the CTA.

On the environment, Trump can’t change AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. But he has appointed global-warming skeptics, such as Myron Ebell, to his administration. There’s nothing California can do about that.

According to the New York Times, “In a show of defiance, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.”

So? As the Times notes, Trump could cut funding for climate research going to state university research labs. Actually, I think he’s going to cut it nationally close to zero. In any case, California can do nothing about that except scream and hope its Democratic members of Congress can slightly reduce whatever Trump wants to do.

The EPA itself was established by President Nixon in 1970 with an executive order. It has accumulated vast new powers, including by President Obama’s executive orders. Trump can do the same, including canceling previous orders, affecting all states, including California.

Now, flip it over and look at what the more conservative states faced when Obama became president eight years ago. In 2010, Arizona passed SB 1070 to reduce illegal immigration. The Obama Justice Department insisted the bill went too far and usurped federal supremacy on immigration. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Obama and threw out most of the bill. The Feds won.

In 2008, California passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Most states also had similar bans. That year, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both came out against legalizing same-sex marriage. Soon, Obama and Clinton switched and backed same-sex marriage. Obama appointed two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court with similar views. In 2015, in the Obergefell decision, the court struck down all state bans. The Feds won.

The Feds always win. Lee lost at Gettysburg. Sherman marched through Georgia.

Finally, if you know anything about Congress, or any legislative body, there’s a lot of “horse trading” going on. New Rep. Lou Correa campaigned on a platform that, while in the Democratic majority in the California Legislature, he was nice and worked with the minority Republicans, so now he’ll cooperate with the majority Republicans on deals with California Democrats.

Especially with Trump in the Oval Office, there will be deals upon deals. Eventually, even Jerry Brown will be forced to come around. He’s a lame duck with waning power. He can brood only so long on his ranch.

29-year Orange County Register editorial writer now writes freelance. Email: writejohnseiler@gmail.com

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Donald Trump forces a California water deal without lifting a finger

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California’s politicians and pundits – including this one – have been busily speculating on what effect a Donald Trump presidency could have on a state that rejected him overwhelmingly.

Well, we saw the first major impact last week, without Trump even lifting a finger.

A compromise bill that, in effect, reallocates federally controlled water in California – much to the delight of farmers and the dismay of environmentalists – won final congressional approval Friday.

Hammered out by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House, it broke a half-decade-long political logjam over the issue, and there is little doubt that uncertainty over Trump’s attitude was its driving force. …

Click here to read the full article

Golden State Democrats Divide Over Race

The California Republican Party—an institution accustomed to embarrassment—suffered a novel and stinging indignity in the June 7 Golden State primary. Once the votes were tallied, it was revealed that the GOP’s candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer in the November election would be . . . nobody. It’s not that Republicans failed to recruit any contenders. Two former (and relatively obscure) state party chairmen, Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, competed in the primary, as did activist businessman and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz. Rocky Chavez, a state assemblyman from San Diego County who led the GOP field in early polling, had also been in the mix before abruptly withdrawing—at the beginning of a debate, no less—in February. So how does a party enter a race with four candidates and still emerge without a nominee?

Like most riddles associated with California politics, the answer is direct democracy. In 2010, voters approved Proposition 14, a ballot measure that abolished conventional party primaries for statewide and congressional races. Instead, the initiative created a system wherein primary voters get to cast their ballot for any candidate, regardless of party—but where only the top two finishers compete in the general election. This year, that process yielded a U.S. Senate contest between two Democrats: Attorney General Kamala Harris and Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

Among California’s political and media elite, the result is being discussed mainly as a sign of the GOP’s irrelevance in the nation’s most populous state—a reading with plenty of evidence to support it. Higher office has now been out of the party’s grasp for a decade, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection as governor marking the last time that a Republican won any statewide contest.

Democrat DonkeyYet, while public attention is focused on the GOP’s deathbed vigil, another equally consequential trend is unfolding largely under the radar: California Democrats, far from enjoying a frictionless ascendancy, are finding themselves sharply divided along racial lines. The breakneck demographic shifts in the state over the past few decades partly explain the tension. In 1990, California was more than 57 percent white, while Latinos made up just over a quarter of the state’s population. By 2014, however, Latinos had surpassed whites as the state’s largest ethnic group. At the same time, the state’s Asian population (the nation’s largest) had grown to 14.4 percent, more than double the number of California’s African-Americans. In a minority-majority state dominated by a party that practices identity politics, each group now finds itself in a zero-sum competition for a handful of positions at the commanding heights of Golden State politics.

Those spots don’t come open very often, making competition that much fiercer. Boxer and her Senate colleague Dianne Feinstein were both first elected to the upper chamber in 1992, a time when California was, in demographic terms, an entirely different place. They’re not the only members of California’s governing class who seem like relics of a bygone era. While the state’s population is ethnically diverse and young (in 2014 the median age was 36, sixth-lowest in the nation), its most visible political figures—Boxer, Feinstein, Governor Jerry Brown, and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi—are lily white and have an average age of nearly 78.

When Boxer announced her retirement in early 2015, it unleashed a frenzy of activity among California Democrats aiming to make their leadership more reflective of the party’s diversity. The problem was that no one could agree on exactly how to fulfill that mandate. Certainly Harris, born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, represented a break from the past. But the swiftness with which she attracted endorsements led to a backlash from Latinos, who felt they were being taken for granted. When the attorney general garnered near-instant backing from influential national Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, California State Senate president pro tem Kevin de Leon told Politico,“National figures should slow their roll a bit.” Arturo Vargas, head of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, cautioned, “Hispanic leaders are concerned about some kind of coronation, as opposed to a real electoral campaign.”

The coronation, however, largely proceeded apace. Harris’s substantial war chest and stack of endorsements deterred some of the state’s most prominent Latinos—namely former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and House Democratic Caucus chairman Xavier Becerra—from mounting a challenge. Sanchez, previously more of a comic figure than a serious political force (her main contribution to California politics has been a series of increasingly bizarre Christmas cards featuring her cat), exploited the vacuum for a Latino alternative, riding the discontent all the way to a spot on the November ballot.

Most observers—though not all—expect Harris to prevail in November, but the underlying tensions show little sign of abating. In May, Texas Democratic congressman Filemon Vela blasted the California Democratic Party for endorsing Harris, calling the act “insulting to Latinos all throughout this country” and “a disrespectful example of wayward institutional leadership which on the one hand ‘wants our vote’ but on the other hand wants to ‘spit us out.’” California Hispanics may share that sentiment. Though Harris won 40.3 percent of the vote to Sanchez’s 18.5 percent in the primary, a USC/Los Angeles Times poll released shortly before the contest showed 43 percent of Hispanics supporting Sanchez to just 16 percent for Harris.

Status anxiety is now pervasive among the racial caucuses within California’s Democratic Party. Hispanics worry that their votes will be taken for granted, while their elected officials are passed over for higher office. African-Americans, outnumbered two-to-one by Asians and six-to-one by Hispanics, fret that they’ll be relegated to junior-partner status within the party. Asians, meanwhile, chafe at certain liberal orthodoxies—a tension that became public in 2014 when a small band of Asian Democrats in the legislature blocked their black and Hispanic colleagues’ efforts to revive racial preferences in California college admissions.

Intra-party friction, of course, isn’t exclusive to California. However, with the Republican Party in steep decline in the state and the top-two primary system as the law of the land, the situation in California is particularly combustible. California Democrats have long dreamed of the unfettered power that would accompany vanquishing the state’s rump Republican Party. Few, however, seemed to anticipate the stress fractures that inevitably emerge in a political monoculture. With no worlds left to conquer, they’re now left warily circling each other. And no one seems inclined to slow his roll.

U.S. Security Oversight Dominated By California Politicians

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks after a closed-door meeting Thursday on Capitol Hill. The panel voted to approve declassifying part of a report on Bush-era interrogations of terrorism suspects.

California lawmakers have emerged as pivotal players in the state’s struggle over cyberlaw — and the country’s. In Sacramento and Washington, D.C., elected officials have placed themselves at the forefront of disputes over the intersection of technology and national security, potentially determining the course of America’s approach to civil liberties for decades to come.

Inside the Beltway, federal oversight of U.S. security agencies has been dominated by Californians. “The current chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is now investigating the alleged manipulation of war assessments by the U.S. Central Command,” as McClatchy recently noted. Faced with bombshell allegations from New York Times sources that military officials had spun intel to overstate U.S. progress against the Islamic State, Nunes told the news service that “a special multi-committee task force was needed to investigate the allegations because officials were ‘trying to hide’ from oversight through bureaucratic sleight-of-hand.”

As Nunes’ colleague to his left, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has rounded out the top two seats on the committee, observers have watched for signs that Schiff might opt to run to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein in two years, having previously chosen not to jump into the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Backdoor access

It is Feinstein who has put the biggest California imprint on national security policy. After a bruising tiff with the CIA over its interrogation program, Feinstein made fresh headlines co-authoring a piece of legislation that would recast the relationship between surveillance and technology inside the U.S. A draft of a Senate bill being finalized by Feinstein and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “would effectively prohibit unbreakable encryption and require companies to help the government access data on a computer or mobile device with a warrant,” the New York Times reported.

The bill has instantly ratcheted up the stakes in the already heated controversy surrounding the ongoing efforts of federal officials to force Apple to provide the means to unlock its iPhones. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told the Times that Feinstein and Burr’s bill would require all American companies marketing handheld devices “to build a backdoor” into them. “They would be required by federal law per this statute to decide how to weaken their products to make Americans less safe,” he told the paper, vowing to do “everything in my power” to block the effort.

A similarly sweeping bill has been crafted within California itself. Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, “introduced new state legislation that would require any new smartphone from 2017 onwards to be,” in the bill’s words, “capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider,” according to ZDNet. “That would impose a near-blanket ban on nearly all iPhones and many Android devices being sold across the state as they stand today, more often than not with unbreakable encryption that even the companies can’t unlock,” the site observed.

A widening threat

Although state and federal legislation has been prompted by terrorist threats and attacks, cybercrime has become sophisticated and prevalent enough to spur other concerns — especially in California, where recent strikes have raised fears that infrastructure and essential services could be crippled more out of greed than an appetite for destruction. So-called ransomware deployed by hackers paralyzed three Southern California hospitals several weeks ago.

“The security breaches — which temporarily disable digital networks but usually don’t steal the data — not only have endangered public safety, but revealed a worrying new weakness as public and private institutions struggle to adapt to the digital era,” as the Los Angeles Times noted. “Government officials are particularly concerned that hackers could lock up digital networks that run electrical grids, and oil and natural gas lines, according to Andy Ozment, assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications at the Department of Homeland Security.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog,com