Good morning, California. How about The Santa Rosa Press Democrat!

What’s your privacy worth?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill last week as Congress contemplates Internet regulation. In Sacramento, Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, is moving ahead with a bill to regulate the net.

California, which regulates many things, is considering going far beyond its borders to regulate the Internet.

Reacting to privacy concerns and data breaches, legislators and an initiative promoter are trying to rein in Internet companies. One bill would crack down on Facebook and others that purportedly don’t do enough to limit marketing of minors’ personal information.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, is pushing legislation to stop Internet Service Providers from slowing or blocking content based on whether companies pay them for access to their lines. He’ll face a buzz-saw in the opening Senate hearing today from the Internet Association, Technet, AT&T and others. The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are backing Wiener’s bill.



Even if he gets the bill through the Legislature, Wiener knows corporations will sue, arguing that states cannot limit interstate commerce. Wiener answers:

“We have the power and responsibility to protect California consumers from unfair and anti-competitive practices. Congress has not preempted us. We know it will be worked out in the courts.”

San Francisco developer Alastair Mactaggart, meanwhile, has donated $2.1 million-plus to gather signatures to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would make it easier to sue companies for data breaches. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Google and Facebook each have donated $200,000 to defeat the initiative.

Much more will come, though CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reported that Facebook, facing criticism in Congress over its handling of users’ personal information, will donate no more.

Bottom line: As with so many steps California Democrats have taken since Trump became president, legislators are reacting to a decision by the Trump administration, this one to scrap an Obama administration rule imposing net neutrality. They also know the public is increasingly worried about threats to their privacy. Whether they have the power to do much is another question.

When $9.2 million is a pittance

Antonio Villaraigosa has been dialing for dollars for two years, trying to raise money for his campaign for governor. He has gone beyond traditional sources of Democratic money in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, to the Central Valley, where he is courting farmers for money and votes, as I detailed in this analysis.

The result: State law caps individual donations directly to candidates at $29,200. Villaraigosa has raised $9.2 million, not nearly enough, compared to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $20 million-plus. Rich benefactors can fix that, as Netflix Founder Reed Hastings and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad proved with their combined $8.5 million contribution last week to an independent campaign fund established to benefit Villaraigosa.

How can they do that? The U.S. Supreme Court long ago ruled that individuals and organizations can exercise their free speech rights by spending as much as they want on independent campaigns for and against candidates. Spending by outside groups, not candidates themselves, could determine who succeeds Jerry Brown as governor.

Presidential politics of Skid Row

Nightmarish scenes of the human misery that is Los Angeles’ homeless crisis would not play well in Iowa, as any mayor-presidential candidate knows.

As Los Angeles City Hall, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti declared Monday in his State of the City speech:  “We are here to end homelessness. Accepting things the way they are is unacceptable.”

Garcetti and other big-city mayors are calling on the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to commit $1.5 billion to combat the crisis.

Garcetti gave the speech after spending a long weekend in Iowa, contemplating running for president in 2020, as The Los Angeles Times reported. Yes, it’s a long shot. So was Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Over coffee in Sacramento, Garry South, Los Angeles Democratic political consultant, noted that mayor of any city has jumped from a city hall to the White House. “The last one who tried was Rudy Giuliani. We saw how far he got.” That was in 2008, and the former New York mayor didn’t get far.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer wouldn’t count out Garcetti, telling me by phone: “The tumult of his moment is a friend to candidates who have not been thought of before.”

Bottom line: No matter his motivation, Garcetti will be a hero if he focuses on fixing homelessness, and makes progress. Good policy, as pundits say, is good politics.

John Cox, optimistic Republican

CALmatters reporter Ben Christopher, on Republican John Cox’s recent visit to our office: “You’d have to be optimistic to run for governor of California as a conservative Republican in 2018. But Cox—who has lost previous bids to be elected to Congress, the U.S. Senate and the White House—says he’s already planning his first term in Sacramento.”

If elected, Cox promises to abolish California’s income tax; provide tax-funded private school vouchers; cut regulation to spur housing; let charities care for mentally ill people; and reduce corruption by retooling the Legislature and dividing the state into 12,000 neighborhood-sized districts.

Math is hard: Polls show Cox is in second place to the Democratic front-runner, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and ahead of Villaraigosa. Newsom would love to face Cox in the November general election. No matter how optimistic Cox is, the math shows Republicans account for a fourth of the electorate, not nearly enough to win a statewide office.

And finally

Hats off to The Santa Rosa Press Democrat for winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, for its coverage of the historic wildfires that ravaged its city and county late last year. The Pulitzer Committee called the coverage “lucid and tenacious.”

Darius Anderson, who, in addition to running Platinum Advisors, one of the top lobby shops in Sacramento, is managing partner of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Press Democrat. Anderson told me he hopes his experience inspires other wealthy people “to buy newspapers for the right reasons.”

In Sacramento today, legislators will consider limiting of Pacific Gas & Electric’s liability for any role its downed power lines had in the wine country fire.
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.