<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:48:30 -0700 Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:48:30 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[NewsConference EXTRA: "Congress is Not Some Suitor to be Asked to the Dance"]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 13:00:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NCXTRASCHIFF20914_1200x675_328791107620.jpg Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is a senior member on the House Intelligence Committee. He talks with NBC4's Conan Nolan about the tug of war between President Obama and Congress and the war against ISIS or ISIL as some people refer the radical group.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference EXTRA; Rep. Schiff "It's Going To Be a Long Tough Fight"]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 12:59:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NCXTRASCHIFF10914_1200x675_328765507645.jpg Congressman Adam Schiff, a senior member on the House Intellingence Committee, tells NBC4's Conan Nolan that the American public has to understand that the US's involvement in Iraq and Syria is going to be a long hard fight.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference EXTRA: Eli Broad, "We Should Have Done More"]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 07:49:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TLANCXTRABROADSUN0907_1200x675_325903427958.jpg Billionaire-businessman-philanthropist Eli Broad reacts to California losing Tesla battery factory to Nevada and the state of business in Los Angeles. Broad also talks with NBC4's Conan Nolan about education and touches on minimum wage.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference: Unintended Consequences]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 07:48:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NCSEG2GONZALEZ09072_1200x675_325920323664.jpg Point man on public policy and political affairs for the Los Angeles area Chamber of Commerce Ruben Gonzalez says hold on...the raise of minimum wage is not such a great idea and here's why.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference: Eli Broad Endorses A Hike on the Minimum Wage]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 07:48:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NCSEG1BROAD0907_1200x675_325909059753.jpg Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to hike minimum wage to $13.25. NBC4's Conan Nolan talks with billionaire-businessman-philonthropist Eli Broad on what it means for businesses and how will it help the local economy.]]> <![CDATA[Push by LA Mayor to Raise Minimum Wage Argued on Both Sides]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 21:16:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/N6PPKGBROADMINIMUMWAGEforweb_1200x675_325900355756.jpg Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's push to increase minimum wage to $13.25 an hour is being met with support and opposition. Conan Nolan reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept, 5, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[Meet Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press"]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 06:22:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/090714_LSP_Chuck_Todd_1200x675_325741123764.jpg

Chuck Todd makes his debut as moderator of "Meet the Press" on Sunday, and has landed President Barack Obama as his first guest. On Friday, Todd took to Reddit to introduce himself.

The Miami native, who attended George Washington University, was previously NBC’s chief White House correspondent and political director. Despite his years in Washington, the sports lover remains committed to teams outside D.C.; he has been a fan of the Miami Hurricanes and the Green Bay Packers since birth.

Here, from his Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” are five things we learned about the famed political junkie.

When will he shave his facial hair?

Don’t hold your breath — even if, as suggested, it would improve his ratings. When he looks in the mirror, he sees his late father, he says. Shaving his beard would be like getting rid of that piece of his father that he carries with him

Who is one person, now dead, that he would have loved to have interviewed?

Richard Nixon, because it would have been a challenge

How does he see his role as a reporter and moderator?

His job is to push back against bloviation and talking points by being grounded in facts, and to get to the nut of the debate.

How does he feel about his name?

He hates having two one syllable names, and has given both of his children multiple-syllable first names. “I’ve been ‘ChuckTodd’ with every coach and teacher during my childhood,” he wrote on Reddit.

Does he ever get nervous interviewing high profile guests?

He's always a tad nervous. "Any moment can be a career ender," he wrote.

What did he think about the University of Louisville’s football win over Miami on Monday?

His late father-in-law was a star quarterback at Louisville, so criticism of Louisville is off-limits in his house. He’s not upset about Louisville, he says, but about the University of Miami being unprepared.
“It’s time for the ‘State of Miami’ to return, meaning that the best players in the best high school football factories in the country go to Miami,” he wrote.

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<![CDATA[Gov. Urged to Approve 4-Year Community College Degrees]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:00:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/education+stock+diversity+college+students+happy+graduation+graduate.jpg

California community colleges could offer four-year degrees as soon as next January if the governor approves, according to officials.

San Diego political, education and business leaders gathered Thursday to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 850. SB 850 has already passed in the state senate and assembly.

The Golden State will need one million more people with four-year degrees by 2025, according to State Sen. Marty Block of San Diego who wrote the bill. Block said SB 850 aims to fill skill gaps in the California workforce.

“One of our biggest issues of the moment is finding skilled people to support the ongoing growth of our business,” said Rick Timm, President of SeaBotix, which hosted Thursday’s news conference. SeaBotix manufactures remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for law enforcement, Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal and more.

If the bill is approved, community colleges would offer a variety of four-year degrees, including Respiratory Therapy, Radiologic Technology, Health Information Management, Automotive Technology Management, Veterinary Technology and Public Safety Administration.

“None of the degrees will duplicate degrees offered by the UC or CSU,” Block said.

The new measure isn’t meant to turn community colleges into four-year institutions, but rather adapt to increased job requirements, according to San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll, Ph.D.

Carroll cited dental hygiene as an example. The job used to require a two-year associate’s degree, but now calls for a bachelor’s degree.

“No public university in California offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. You would have to go to a very high cost, for-profit institution,” she said.

In the first year, 15 community colleges across California would each offer a different four-year degree based on regional workforce needs. Mesa College in San Diego would be part of the pilot program.

Block said community colleges could offer four-year degrees for about $10,000.

SB 850 also targets military members. About 15,000 troops transition from the military to civilian life each year in San Diego, according to San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) Executive Director Larry Blumberg.

“We hope that once these curriculums are established that our veterans will be given priority for admission,” Blumberg said.

Gov. Brown received the bill on Aug. 28. He has 30 days to sign it into law.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonnells Guilty on Most Charges]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:16:31 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mcdonnell-guilty-AP977255973421.jpg

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been found guilty of most of the public corruption charges they faced in a marathon trial centered on lavish gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman.

The former governor has been found guilty of 11 of the 13 charges against him. Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell has been found guilty of nine of the 13 charges against her.

It was a bombshell ending to a trial that included the dissection of the former first couple's marriage, testimony that Bob had moved out and was living with a priest, and testimony that Maureen had begun frequently texting and emailing the businessman in the case, Jonnie Williams, who wanted help promoting his dietary supplement.

Three of the McDonnells' five children clutched each others' hands and prayed before the verdict was announced, breaking into sobs as their parents' guilty counts were read aloud.

The couple's son Bobby McDonnell looked at his father with tear-glazed eyes as the former governor's head collapsed into his hands.

Bob McDonnell is "broken" and "devastated," said defense attorney Henry Asbill, who added that he would appeal the verdict.

The government had accused the McDonnells of doing special favors for Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, Inc., in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans.

Courtroom observers said two jurors wiped their eyes as the verdicts were read.

As co-defendants, the former first couple was separated in the courtroom, with three lawyers sitting between them. Maureen McDonnell teared up, but appeared composed compared to the emotional reactions of her husband and children.

The McDonnells didn't look at each other as the verdict was read. They left the Richmond courthouse together but got into separate cars. It was a marked difference from the rest of the trial, which verged into soap opera territory as defense lawyers suggested that the McDonnells' marriage was so broken they could not have conspired to obtain gifts, trips and loans from Williams.

Throughout the trial, Bob McDonnell had appeared confident, telling reporters repeatedly that he was sure he would be exonerated and was putting his faith in God.

"All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord," he said in a brief statement as he left the courthouse Thursday with Maureen, before they got into separate cars.

McDonnell, who was once considered a rising GOP star and potential vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney in 2012, now faces, along with his wife, up to 30 years in federal prison when they're sentenced in January.

"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the Commonwealth and its citizens," said Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "Public service frequently requires sacrifice, and almost always requires financial sacrifice. When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have no choice but to prosecute the case."

Bob McDonnell is the first former governor of Virginia to be convicted of a crime. The commonwealth had long had a reputation for clean politics, a reputation shattered in the five-week McDonnell trial.

Political analyst Bob Holsworth called it "a day of infamy in Virginia."

The Verdict, Count by Count

Bob and Maureen McDonnell were each charged with 13 counts in a 14-count indictment:

  • In the first count against them, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud for accepting gifts and loans from Williams.

  • The next three charges, counts 2-4, involved accepting checks from Williams: On counts 2 and 3, the McDonnells were both found guilty of honest-services wire fraud for accepting a $15,000 check to pay a caterer for their daughter's wedding, and for accepting a $50,000 loan check for MoBo Real Estate, a company the former governor operated with his sister.

  • On count 4, Bob McDonnell was also found guilty of a count of honest-services wire fraud for a $20,000 wire transfer for MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty on that charge.

  • On count 5, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right for the gifts and loans they received.

  • The McDonnells also faced six charges of obtaining property under color of official right, counts 6-11: On counts 6-8, they were found guilty of three charges of obtaining property under color of official right for a $50,000 check to Maureen, for the $15,000 check to the wedding caterer, and for a $2,380 golf outing.

  • On count 9, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for a $1,424 golf outing. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • On count 10, both McDonnells were found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $50,000 check to MoBo.

  • On count 11, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $20,000 transfer to MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • Only Bob McDonnell was charged with count 12. He was found not guilty of making false statements on a TowneBank loan application.

  • In count 13, both McDonnells were found not guilty of making false statements on a PenFed loan application.

  • Only Maureen McDonnell was charged with count 14. She was found guilty of obstruction of official proceeding for a handwritten note to Williams.

They will be sentenced Jan. 6, 2015.

Inside the Testimony

The trial centered on the testimony of the former governor and Williams, the prosecution's star witness. Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand.

Williams was granted immunity for his dealings with the McDonnells and possible securities fraud violations, which had been investigated by a separate grand jury. He testified that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells to secure their help promoting and obtaining state-backed research for Star Scientific's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc. Williams intended to share the results of that research with doctors to gain their support of the product.

Prosecutors claimed the former first couple had an "unconscionable amount" of credit card debt and presented testimony that they were eager to accept gifts from Williams, including a $6,500 Rolex watch that Maureen gave Bob for Christmas, a vacation at Williams’ luxurious home on Smith Mountain Lake outside Roanoke, use of Williams' Ferrari and a shopping spree for designer clothes and accessories for Maureen.

Testimony showed Williams loaned $50,000 to Maureen McDonnell that she used to pay down credit debt in 2011. He also loaned $50,000 and $20,000 to MoBo Real Estate, a small company that Bob McDonnell and one of his sisters ran to operate two beach properties.

Prosecutors also said Williams paid $15,000 in catering expenses when one of the McDonnells' daughters got married. And they claimed Maureen had developed a close relationship with Williams, exchanging more than 1,200 texts and calls over a nearly two-year period, including 52 in one day.

In his defense, Bob McDonnell testified he did nothing more than extend routine political courtesies to Williams. Before the indictment, he had apologized for what he described as bad judgment and said he had repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but denied breaking any laws.

A key part of the defense strategy was the claim that the McDonnells couldn't have conspired, because their marriage had deteriorated to the point that Bob McDonnell had moved out and was now living with a priest, who is a family friend. Maureen McDonnell's lawyers called Williams her "favorite playmate."

Both the prosecution and the defense called Maureen volatile and emotional. One prosecution witness called her a "nut bag." Bob McDonnell himself said his wife didn't take well to the role of first lady, calling her handling of behind-the-scenes matters "a disaster." Testimony revealed staff members at the governor's mansion had threatened to resign en masse.

Judge: 'Can't Take Another Second'

After lengthy days of intense testimony -- on day four, the judge in the case said he was stopping testimony because he "can't take another second" -- the jury faced the task of deciding the McDonnells' guilt or innocence.

Judge James R. Spencer issued lengthy instructions to the jury Tuesday morning, including the warning that the testimony of a witness who is granted immunity must be more closely examined than testimony of other witnesses.

The heightened scrutiny was required to determine whether the testimony of the immunized witness is "affected by self-interest," Spencer said.

To be found guilty, Spencer said, a defendant must understand the nature of the conspiracy and deliberately join it.

However, Spencer said a conspiracy does not have to achieve its goals, which could have undercut a defense claim that Williams never received anything of substance, including the research he took preliminary steps to seek.

He also said an agreement need not be stated explicitly by the conspirators and that it didn't matter whether the defendant would have done those favors absent a bribe.

Spencer also told jurors -- who heard from three character witnesses, two for Bob McDonnell and one for his wife -- that "evidence of good character alone may create a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[2016 Presidential Contenders Flock to NH]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 09:26:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/rand-paul.jpg

It's still two months from the 2014 mid-term elections, and already numerous potential 2016 presidential candidates are flocking to New Hampshire.

Politico reported on Wednesday that GOP Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will speak at a Generation Opportunity event on Sept. 11 and the NHGOP Unity Breakfast on Sept. 12. Both events will be held in Manchester.

This weekend brings two more Republican presidential hopefuls to the Granite State. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to make appearances in Dover and Stratham on Saturday, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be in Concord, Manchester and Nashua on Sunday.

It was also announced last week that Donald Trump will travel to New Hampshire on Nov. 12 to speak at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communication's 12th annual First Amendment Awards.

Paul, Jindal, Cruz and Trump have all made previous trips to New Hampshire this year.

Vice President Joe Biden, a possible 2016 contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, was scheduled to speak at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Wednesday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor: Minimum Wage Bump Would "Restore Dignity"]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:40:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/211*120/garcetti+immigration+web.PNG

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a proposal to raise the city's minimum wage to $13.25 an hour and "restore dignity for all Angelenos" when he attended a Labor Day rally Monday in South Los Angeles.

Garcetti has been shopping a plan to business groups to raise the  minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. The wage would go up by $1.25 the first year,  and $1.50 each of the following two years, after which it would be pegged to  the cost of living.

The minimum hourly wage in California is $9 and set to go up to $10 in  2016.

Los Angeles would be joining cities like New York, Chicago, San  Francisco and Oakland where minimum wage increases are being considered,  according to the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for  minimum wage increases. Seattle recently approved a measure to increase the minimum hourly wage  to $15 by 2017, while San Diego approved a wage that would rise to $11.50 an  hour by 2017.

The $13.25 per hour minimum wage that is expected to be pushed by  Garcetti would be among the highest in the nation, the group said.

The anticipated $13.25 proposal would still be less than the $15 minimum  hourly wage that is on the November ballot in San Francisco. The business and  labor community there agreed to put the issue to the voters, the group said.

Los Angeles business leaders voiced concern last week over the plan, but two major business groups have not taken official stances on the issue. Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce  Association, said the group's board members will listen to Garcetti's proposal before taking a position.

Waldman said last week the proposal would hurt some businesses and could  result in job loss.

Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce,  said the feedback from members has "largely been one of concern about what  impact this will have on small businesses and nonprofits." Toebben said earlier that the recently instituted statewide hike of the  minimum wage to $9 and ultimately to $10 "will have less of an impact" than a  hike for an individual city.

The mayor's office would not confirm the specifics of the proposal, but  mayoral aide Jeff Millman issued a statement saying officials have been meeting  with business leaders, as well as "labor, community and faith leaders" to  talk about "ways to help L.A. families and our economy thrive."

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<![CDATA[NewsConference EXTRA:Union Leader, The Culture of Unions is Failing]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 07:58:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TLANCXTRAREGANSUN0831_1200x675_323494979809.jpg Dave Regan is the President of Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West. He talks with NBC4's Conan Nolan about the state of unionism...and it's not good.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference: Unions in America Must Change]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 07:58:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NCSEG3REGAN0831_1200x675_323493955826.jpg Union leader Dave Regan represents 150,000 healthcare workers. He is the president of Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West He tells NBC4's Conan Nolan unions today are in trouble...and will disappear unless they change. He tells how.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference: Getting paid for voting?]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 07:57:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NCSEG2LEVINSON83114_1200x675_323498051582.jpg Low voter turnout rate is a real problem in municipal elections.. and it's getting worse. Jessica Levinson, the VP of the LA City Ethics Commission and a professor at the prestigious Loyola Law School talks with NBC4's Conan Nolan about the concept of enticing more voters to the ballot box with money. How will this idea work?]]> <![CDATA[Perry in NH: Charges All Politics]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:03:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/edtAP259994489655.jpg

New Hampshire wasn't kind to Texas Governor Rick Perry back in 2012. He's hoping voters in the granite state will give him a fresh start as he considers another presidential bid in 2016.

On Friday, Governor Perry returned to New Hampshire for a series of GOP sponsored events.

He met with business leaders in Portsmouth and focused many of his remarks on border concerns and the growing threat of ISIS, even connecting the two by speculating members of ISIS could enter the U.S. through unsecured borders.

"ISIS has said we are coming to America and they are going to attack us, I take them at their word," said Gov. Rick Perry.

Governor Perry also addressed his recent indictment on coercion charges by a Texas grand jury. He called the charges politically motivated and said he will fight them with every fiber of his being.

He also acknowledged making mistakes in New Hampshire back in 2012, saying he didn't spend enough time in the state and wasn't as prepared as he would have liked.

Governor Perry will make several more stops in New Hampshire through Saturday.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Staffer in Chicken Suit Faces Charges After Clucking at NH Governor, Senator]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:25:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/zona+chicken+suit.jpg

A GOP state committee staff member has been charged with disorderly conduct after heckling New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan at this past Saturday's Old Home Day parade.

Michael Zona, of Manchester, was dressed in a chicken suit when he began to interfere with the parade, reports The Eagle-Tribune.

The 23-year-old allegedly ran out into the parade route toward Shaheen and Hassan, clucking at them.
"I believe Senator Jeanne Shaheen should be holding town halls and I have a First Amendment right to express that point of view. I wasn't bothering anyone. I wasn't disturbing anyone. In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route," said Zona in response to the incident.
Zona was escorted from the parade after failing to comply with numerous requests to stop. 
“At one point, the governor had to take a few steps back toward her security staff,” Detective Christopher Olson told The Eagle-Tribune.
Julia McClain of the New Hampshire Democratic Party used the incident to blast the state Republicans, saying the party "wastes taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter--like raising the minimum wage, creating good paying jobs, and protecting social security and Medicare for our state's seniors."



Photo Credit: Twitter: John DiStaso]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Council Speaker Tweets About HPV Diagnosis, Urges Annual Check-Ups]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:34:22 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/MarkViverito.jpg

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced via Twitter Sunday that she had "high-risk HPV" in an effort to boost awareness about the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the country and encourage women to have regular gynecological exams.

In a series of tweets, Mark-Viverito divulged that she learned Friday she had the infection, and that she hadn't been to a gynecologist in two years prior to her most recent visit.

"At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out last one, 2yrs ago. Friday got call re: results. Told have "high risk HPV". #Biopsy needed #ASAP," she tweeted.

"Tuesday I'm there. To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer."

Mark-Viverito, 45, tweeted that she is "an extremely private person," but that her position has given her a platform -- and a responsibility to use it.

"Our health should never be compromised," she tweeted. "Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn't lend itself to this for many."

Mayor de Blasio called Mark-Viverito's decision to share her experience "brave" and "exemplary."

About 79 million people in the United States have HPV, and another 14 million contract it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can get it once they become sexually active, and nearly half of the new infections each year occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the New York City Health Department.

Most people who get HPV have no symptoms of infection. Each year, about 12,000 women diagnosed with HPV nationwide develop cervical cancer, the most common cancer associated with the infection, and about 4,000 of them die from it.

To learn more about HPV treatment and prevention, including a vaccine, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California



Photo Credit: McMullan/Sipa USA]]>
<![CDATA[Former Vt. U.S. Sen. Jeffords Dead at 80]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:57:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/James+Jeffords.jpg

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., died Monday at Knollwood, a military retirement home in Washington, D.C., a former aide said. He was 80.

A navy veteran, Jeffords made a name in politics as a state senator and attorney general before he was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House, once splitting with his fellow Republicans in opposing a President Reagan tax cut plan. Vermonters voted him into the Senate in 1988, where he was a champion for environmental causes.

The moderate, even liberal, Republican shocked Washington in 2001 when he said the GOP had drifted too far to the right for him. He quit the party, became an independent, and caucused with democrats.

“I am confident it is the right decision,” Jeffords said upon making his famous “jump.” “I hope that the people of Vermont will understand it.”

Jeffords announced in 2005 he would not seek re-election the next year, citing declining health.

"I think we have to bring back people like Jim Jeffords, who say running for office is really a form of public service," former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin said Monday.

Kunin remembered Jeffords as a good-hearted guy who just wanted to do what he thought was right; not tow some party line. "The comparison is rather painful, where we now have a Congress that prides itself on doing nothing, where in those days, people really went there to get things done and to improve the lives of the public," Kunin said.

"He's going to be very sorely missed," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was in the U.S. House when Jeffords was in the Senate. "He was a guy who, I think, much preferred to be around Vermonters here in Vermont than among the big shots in Washington. It wasn't who he was."

Tom Vogelmann, the University of Vermont's agriculture and life sciences dean, told New England Cable News he thinks of Jeffords as "one of the giants." The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is housed in the building that bears Jeffords' name.

"He was a very strong supporter of education, a very strong supporter of environmental legislation, and that's the curriculum that's basically taught in this building," Vogelmann told NECN. "So we have thousands of young people who are training here and that's all adding to his legacy."

Reflections on the life and legacy of Jim Jeffords poured in Monday. Here are several of those:

President Barack Obama:

Michelle and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator James M. Jeffords on his passing. Jim devoted his life to service - as a Naval officer, a local leader in his hometown of Shrewsbury, and eventually as a U.S. Senator representing his beloved Vermont. During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him. Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance. Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud.

Our prayers are with the Jeffords family, including his son Leonard and daughter Laura. And we're grateful to Jim for his legacy of service to Vermont and the United States of America.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Jim Jeffords was a personal friend, a great senator, and a good man. He was not only beloved by the people of Vermont, but by anyone who ever worked with him. For the nearly four decades I served in the United States Senate, nearly half were spent with Jim as a colleague. Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward. He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty. And he always knew what he was talking about—and his colleagues and constituents always knew where he stood on an issue. Jim was a reflection of Vermont—independent and non-ideological and always about solving problems. Jill and I are saddened by his passing and join his family, friends, and his former staff in remembering all that he stood for: basic fairness and principled independence.

Former President Bill Clinton:


Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Senator Jim Jeffords, who served the people of Vermont and the United States for more than 30 years. Jim was one of our strongest advocates for better health and education, a cleaner environment, and increased opportunities for people with disabilities. I will always be especially grateful for his support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and our 1993 health care reform effort. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends across the country.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:


He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate's history.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.:

I know I share the view of all Vermonters today in expressing condolences to the family of Senator Jim Jeffords on his passing, and our gratitude to him for his life of service.

While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation. With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress. Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education. Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.

And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew: Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions.

Jim and his wife, Liz Daley Jeffords, were mentors to me in my early days in the House of Representatives. I am deeply grateful to them both for their friendship, their support and their contributions to Vermont and our country.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt.:

I join Vermonters and citizens nationwide today in celebrating the life of Jim Jeffords, a true gentleman and an independent-minded maverick in the best tradition of our state. Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country. Jim’s contribution to Vermont spanned his service in the Vermont House, as Attorney General, and as Vermont’s Representative in the U.S. House, where he developed his passion for high quality public education that forged his policy work on behalf of our kids and continued throughout his career. The passing of Senator Jim Jeffords will be felt throughout Vermont and our country. We need more like Senator Jeffords. My heart goes out to his children and extended family.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt.:

The story of Vermont politics cannot be told without Jim Jeffords. He served in the most honorable way a person can serve: Selflessly, and always with the best interests of others at heart. He did what he felt was right, not what he felt would make him popular. Whether it was during his time in the Vermont Senate, or as Attorney General, or in the United States House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate, Jim valued the voices of Vermonters and leaves a legacy we can all learn from: Respect over rhetoric, pragmatism over pandering, and love for Vermonters overall.

In our large, and largely faceless, system of government, he demonstrated the power that one person speaking for their constituents can have. His example of moderation and independence is what I’ve tried to model my own career off of. My sincere condolences go out to Laura, Leonard, and the entire Jeffords family.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Florida Ad Tries to Connect Pot With Date Rape]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 05:56:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/potdaterapead.jpg

The campaign against medical marijuana in Florida is in high gear as it tries to link easier access to pot to date rape in a new online ad campaign.

The website, "Vote no on 2," claims that if the medical marijuana bill is passed, teenagers will have easier access to pot. A Twitter picture then asks if the new face of date rape will look like a marijuana cookie.

“These are products that are very dangerous,” said Javi Correoso of Vote No on 2. “They are a lot more powerful than smoking a joint and they can lead to various serious situations and circumstances.”

Correoso said that “potentially” includes date rape. But Dr. Jorge Bordenave of Larkin Community Hospital insisted that Correoso is wrong.

"Right now, as we know, you can get pot anywhere, on the corners, kids get pot,” said Dr. Bordenave, who supports legalizing medical marijuana. "There has been no incidents of date rape with the pot they are smoking currently. So what they are saying is trying to scare the people; trying to lie to the people."

Other organizations like United for Care said there are plenty of benefits for patients with cancers, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments. Dr. Bordenave also pointed out that other legal vices are doing major damage.

“We have more people dying of alcohol, tobacco smoke than marijuana,” Bordenave said. “I did research recently; out of the 25 FDA approved drugs most commonly sold in the United States, in one year there were 10,000 deaths. There were no deaths from marijuana.”

Still, opponents say that the medical marijuana oil recently approved by the legislature is enough and there should be no smoking of marijuana allowed, despite any medical benefits.

“What Amendment 2 is is an amendment that has so many loopholes that it allows for marijuana to be used for non-medical reasons such as pot cookies and pot smoking,” Correoso said.

Voters will have the final say in November when the state constitutional amendment is on the ballot.



Photo Credit: Vote No on 2]]>
<![CDATA[Yee Pleads Not Guilty to RICO Count]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:43:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/07-31-2014-leland-yee.jpg

Suspended state Sen. Leland Yee pleaded not guilty on Thursday – as he did before to previous charges – to the latest racketeering charge, which alone carries a maximum 20-year sentence.

The senator, who is out on $500,000 bond, appeared to be in a good mood in the hallway of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"I'll talk to my attorney and see where we go from there," Yee told reporters while leaving the courthouse in a charcoal gray suit.

His next court date is scheduled for Aug. 7.

Yee and more than two dozen others were swept up in a wide-reaching federal investigation in late March, first reported by NBC Bay Area, during an FBI raid on Yee’s office.

The San Francisco Democrat is accused of a string of illegal actions in exchange for campaign contributions, including conspiring to mastermind an international arms deal involving machine guns to an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob figure and, as alleged in the most recent indictment, offering his support on legislation for the NFL.

In April, Yee pleaded not guilty to the first set of charges. He is being represented by Curtis Briggs, who said in a previous interview that the government's case is very "weak" against Yee, who is still being paid his annual salary of $90,000.

But on Friday, federal prosecutors added the racketeering count, under the statute known as RICO, to a superseding grand jury indictment. A racketeering conviction carries a possible prison sentence of 20 years or more and huge fines.

That means Yee now faces three additional charges: one count of "conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity" and two counts of conspiracy "to obtain property under the color of official right."

The revised indictment alleges that Yee tried to extort "individuals and professional sports teams related to the passage of legislation governing the ability of professional athletes to collect workers compensation for injuries in California."

In 2013, investigators allege that Yee told an undercover FBI agent posing as an Arizona businessman that he should contact an NFL team owner the agent claimed to know and the owner "should contact Yee with an offer to help Yee," because he would be a key vote on the workers compensation bill, according to the indictment.

The undercover agent allegedly asked Yee how much his vote would cost. "Oh no," Yee is accused of having replied. "We gotta drag it out, man. We gotta juice this thing."

The undercover agent offered Yee $60,000 for his vote, the indictment reports, but Yee, after voting for the bill in committee, did not receive a campaign contribution. Yee abstained when the full Senate approved the bill.

The documents do not implicate the NFL.

If convicted on all counts, Yee faces a maximum of 165 years in prison and $2.25 million in penalties.

The revised grand jury indictment now includes 228 charges against 29 defendants.

Two of those high profile defendants have already entered not guilty pleas. They include: Keith Jackson, a former Yee consultant and San Francisco school board president and Chinatown gang leader,  Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.

Chow's attorney, Tony Serra, said outside U.S. District Court on Wednesday that the government's case is weak, and that the grand jury would indict a "ham sandwich."



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[5 Things to Know About New House GOP Leader McCarthy]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:14:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/450883992.jpg

House Republicans are getting a new second-in-command this week, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy takes over for outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The California native was selected for the position in June, after Cantor was handed a surprising defeat by a little-known GOP challenger in Virgnia's primary election.

The promotion puts the 49-year-old McCarthy, who has quickly risen through the leadership ranks during his four terms in Congress, next in line to potentially succeed House Speaker John Boehner.

Here are five things you may not know about the new majority leader:

He got his (lucky) start in sandwiches.

A young McCarthy used a $5,000 lottery prize to start his own business, opening a sandwich shop called Kevin O's Deli at age 19. The shop he has descibed as "Subway before there was Subway," offered "fresh Dutch Krunch white rolls every day," and sandwiches "hot upon request," according to The Orange County Register. McCarthy says he used the profits from later selling that deli to finance his college education. The experience of building a business before hitting 21, he says, helped shape his views on limited government regulations and taxes.

He sees (some of) himself in “House of Cards.”

When Netflix’s popular political drama debuted in 2013, a few things felt a little too familiar to McCarthy, who, like the show’s fictional lead, Rep. Francis Underwood, served as majority whip. That framed whip hanging in Underwood’s office? A spitting image of the one McCarthy received as a gift from Cantor. The scene where Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, tells members “Vote your district, vote your conscience, don't surprise me"? Sounds strikingly like what McCarthy says he tells his own conference. The real-life whip believes those nods came out of a meet-and-greet he had with Spacey before the show started filming. He says the similarities between him and Underwood, a Democrat known for his duplicitous and Machiavellian ways, stop at those superficial references, though. "This one is made professionally about Washington, but it's not Washington," he said of the show during an appearance in Sacramento. "Don't believe what you see in there, but it's intriguing."

He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the California state Capitol, that is. McCarthy, first elected to represent his home district in Kern County in the state Legislature in 2002, rose to leader of the Assembly’s Republican caucus during his first term. That put him at the bargaining table with then-Gov. Schwarzenegger, who entered office via a 2003 recall election, on state budget negotiations and other major issues facing the Golden State. McCarthy left California's Capitol for the halls of Congress after the 2006 election, when he won the House seat vacated by his own political mentor and former boss, former Republican Rep. Bill Thomas.

He’s an all-star Instagrammer.

McCarthy’s filter-laden Instagram account has attracted more than 12,000 followers to date. While cameos from the likes of Beyonce, Ringo Star and cute dogs don’t hurt, the GOP congressman also uses the social platform to post behind-the-scenes photos from his political and personal life (including frequent “Throwback Thursday” pictures). His social media savvy led BuzzFeed to name him the “best Republican congressman on Instagram” in 2013.

 


He splits with some GOP conservatives on immigration.

McCarthy hails from one of the nation's bluest states. But the California native hasn’t strayed much from the GOP line in his own time in office, voting with his party 96 percent of the time, according to one Washington Post analysis.  Still, he's split with the more conservative factions of his caucus on at least one key issue seen as a potential factor in Cantor’s primary defeat: immigration reform. Unlike his tea party-aligned colleagues, McCarthy has expressed support for creating a path to legal status for the country’s undocumented immigrants. His campaign for majority leader drew criticism from some conservative commentators, who blasted his backing of immigration reform, Sandy relief funding and a budget compromise. Despite some differences in ideology and style, McCarthy, a skilled networker and social butterfly, has made many friends in Washington, thanks in part to his success in raising cash and building a program to train and support up-and-coming candidates.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gushing Main Break Could Have Bad Impact During Historic Drought]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:28:37 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/ucla-flooding-9.jpg

It was an accident, but the water main mess in Westwood could not have come at a worse time.

Not only for a region suffering a drought, but one asking residents throughout the state to sacrifice.

Besides the damage to a major Westwood artery, to the storied venue of college basketball, and all the time and treasure it will take to repair a 90-year-old water main, there was this:

The image, sent throughout California, of millions of gallons of freshwater wasted, in the middle of one of the worst droughts in decades.

Mark Silva, a construction worker said, "such a waste. This entire neighborhood could have used that water."

Silva, 33, is from Alhambra, land of the brown lawn, where the mo-blow-and-go gardeners kick up more dust than leaves.

It's a city which just this week passed one of the strictest water conservation measures in the state.

"I don't want to get fined," he said. "I'd rather just let my lawn die, I guess. I got no choice."

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson says while most will appreciate that this was an accident, Tuesday's blow-out wasn't what you'd call inspirational for water conservation.

"We can't react to the way that it looks," Wesson said. "We have to react and do the things necessary to secure the situation right now."

Just this week, environmentalists protested a proposed water tunnel that would fast-track Northern California water for Southern California.

Lawmakers in Sacramento are debating a water bond measure they plan on putting before voters in the fall.

Their worry is that it will fail if voters from Northern California don't trust those in Southern California to manage water wisely.

Pictures from Tuesday out of Westwood won't help.

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<![CDATA[CA Has 1st Openly Gay Governor - For Part of Day]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:39:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/toni+atkins+swearing+in.jpg

For eight or nine hours on Wednesday, California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will be acting as the state's top chief executive— the first openly gay governor in state history.

That's because this week, the three above her on the state org chart are not in town.

Gov. Jerry Brown is on a trade mission in Mexico this week. As the Washington Post noted, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom filled in for a bit, but is on the East Coast for a Special Olympics event. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg then took over for a while, but he had plans to be in Chicago on Wednesday.

"I feel so grateful," Atkins said in an email on Wednesday forwarded by her spokesman. "I wish my parents could see this. Now I know that may sound hokey to many. But honestly, this is what is going through my mind. If Governor Brown wants a few more days away I'm here for him!"

Atkins spokesman Will Shuck confirmed Atkins will "hold the role of acting governor for approximately one business day, ending this evening on the return of governor." 

Atkins, D-San Diego, is the first openly lesbian leader of either California chamber, succeeding the first openly gay Assembly speaker, John Pérez, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

She shared on her Facebook page that filling in is nothing new: during her time on the San Diego city council, the now 51-year-old Atkins served as acting mayor after other city officials stepped down. She was the first lesbian to hold that position, too.

But Atkins was not focusing on making history due to her sexual orientation on Wednesday. She took the opportunity to highlight her roots -- growing up "in poverty in Virginia" -- and her journey to becoming acting governor for a day.

Atkins, who has focused on funding state universities and advocating for victims of violence and abuse during her time at the Capitol, had a full calendar ahead of her.

But the first act, she tweeted out, was to make sure the temporary first dogs of California - Haley and Joey -  got their morning walk. She shares her pooches with wife, Jennifer LeSar, in the South Park/Golden Hill community of San Diego.



Photo Credit: CA State Assembly]]>