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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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All's not swell with Swalwell

Uploaded: Dec 1, 2013
I interviewed Eric Swalwell on Blogtalkradio last year before the Primary Election in June of 2012. He proposed many creative ideas that I have yet to see materialize.

He wrapped up the interview with a promise to voters, "I will always listen to them, always stand up for them, and never take them for granted, and never forget where I came from." He also told me "Please never hesitate to contact me."

I took Swalwell up on that promise in July to ask him to join No Labels, an organization that encourages working across party lines to solve the country's problems. He sent me the following "Reply from Representative Swalwell" on July 25th.

"Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting me. I always appreciate hearing from my constituents, and I am glad to receive your input on this important issue.

This message is to confirm that I have received your comments. I receive many communications from constituents and am working diligently to prepare a response for each one. I ask for your patience, and I ensure that you will receive a response from me as soon as possible if you have requested one.

Again, I want to thank you for taking the time to share your views. I encourage you to visit my website at swalwell.house.gov. On my website, you can view my voting record, sign up for my e-newsletter, and access my Twitter and Facebook pages. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. "

This reply was identical to another reply I received from him on May 22nd in response to an email forwarded through the ASPCA opposing the King Amendment in the Farm Bill. The ASPCA also forwarded my message to my two Senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. Here are excerpts from the replies I received last August from Senator Feinstein (1) and Senator Boxer (2):

(1) "Please be assured that the King amendment language is not included in the 2013 Senate Farm Bill (S. 954), which passed on June 10, 2013 by a vote of 66 to 27. However, the House did include the amendment in its version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2642), which passed on July 11, 2013 by a vote of 216 to 208. The differences between the Senate- and House-passed Farm Bills must be reconciled in a conference committee before the Farm Bill can be signed into law by the President."

(2) "As the House and Senate negotiate a final Farm Bill, be assured that I will fight to defeat the King Amendment and keep working to protect California's ability to ensure that our food supply is safe and that farm animals are treated humanely."

Congressman Swalwell voted against the House version of the Farm Bill because, according to his Facebook page, "It takes food off plates of poor kids," which is a reference to cuts in the Food Stamp program. I agree that the Food Stamp program is very important for feeding poor children, but the King Amendment would weaken California State laws on animal protection and food safety and needs to be removed from the House version of the bill too.

As of now I still have not heard back from Swalwell with substantive replies to either of my concerns. He has not joined No Labels. However, in a recent Press Release Swalwell announced his leadership in the bipartisan United Solutions Caucus. The United Solutions Caucus was founded by Republican-turned-Democrat Congressman Patrick Murphy. Congressman Murphy is also one of the No Labels Problem Solvers.

I just received Swalwell's first mailer in his re-election campaign for next year. It is an oversized, glossy postcard with a stock photo of a senior couple on the front announcing in large type that Eric Swalwell is "DEFENDING SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE," followed by, in much smaller print, "Official Business. This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense."

Last year the better known Democrats in this state chose to wait until Stark officially retired before running for his seat. This opened the door to Swalwell to jump from the Dublin City Council to national office. Next year Swalwell will be facing state Democrats with real track records of accomplishments. Redistricting won't be to his advantage in 2014. We'll see how well Congressman Swalwell can convince voters that he should be reelected next year. So far he has not convinced me.

Comments

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Here's a follow up to my blog. I received a phone message this morning from Allison Bormel, Congressman Swalwell's press contact. We played phone tag a couple of times until we connected.

She told me that answers to my questions had been emailed, but for some reason I did not receive them. She said she will resend them. So I am waiting for them to come now.

She also said that the postcard on Social Security was to inform residents that Congressman Swalwell can help them with their concerns and questions about SS and Medicare. While the postcard is identified as "Official Business," it looks like campaigning to me. However, if residents of the Tri-Valley or East Bay cities have questions about Medicare or Social Security, they should call Rep. Swalwell's local offices in Hayward (510) 370-3322 or Pleasanton (925) 460-5100.

Rep. Swalwell recently proposed a bill to restore Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds taken by the State. This no doubt would not appeal to fiscal hawks who oppose increasing Federal spending but might help cities like Hayward that could use the money to finish projects. I added that San Ramon could use this money to retain and restore the Mudd's building or sell it to The Growing Room for use as a daycare. The Oversight Board is meeting this afternoon at 4 pm, and I shall bring that up in the comments.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, a PleasantonWeekly.com blogger,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

I wanted to add another follow up to my follow up message. Allison Bormel emailed me answers to messages sent through ASPCA, but I have still not received an answer to my request to join No Labels from Congressman Swalwell himself.

Oversight Board members asked me why any other Congresspersons would vote for Swalwell's bill to spend Federal money on California RDA's. Good question. I did not have a good answer.


Posted by Harry Sachs, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Roz- As you know, I have been a supporter of Congressman Swalwell from the time he announced his intent to run for Congress. With the redrawing of congressional districts, then Congressman Pete Stark had very little knowledge of or working relationship with the Tri-Valley. Additionally, Stark had served 40 years yet had little of recent accomplishment.

Swalwell is truly engaged with the district, has been given prominent committee seats that have benefitted the district. His advocacy of Livermore Labs and his securing of money for BART safety and security improvements are of note. Freshmen rarely have the ability to provide much to their districts immediately yet Swalwell has.

The federal RDA legislation may be wishful thinking but I applaud him for trying to bring money into the district. California as a whole does not receive nearly a portion of the money that goes from our state to Washington DC in terms of return to source dollars. Swalwell is making an effort to bring home the bacon.

I would rather have a youthful, energetic representative who will seek bipartisanship, rather than a tired political retread who brings stale rhetoric and the same old political dogma to the table; Pete Stark will apparently be sending large sums of money Ellen Corbett's way to defeat Swalwell. Corbett has no relation to this area and would be a tired choice compared to the intelligent and energetic Swalwell.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Harry,

I know you supported Swalwell in the election and I appreciate your opposing viewpoints on his merits. I won't defend Pete Stark, because I agree with you that he probably should have retired last year at 80.

I was favorably impressed with Chris Pareja last year, even though he leaned towards the Tea Party which I consider extreme. I still found Chris to be open minded and willing to work across the aisle. The most serious problem I see with Congress today is the extreme partisanship and lack of cooperation. That's why I am a big supporter of No Labels.

As you point out Swalwell's prospective opponents will be well-funded and better known. So if Swalwell wants to keep his seat he needs to work on substantive issues and not political ones.


Posted by Curious, a resident of Birdland,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Roz, I agree that Swalwell is just another party hack, but what are the tea party positions that you consider to be extreme? Is it the call for less government involvement in our day to day lives? Stopping the out of control spending by the federal government? Following the Constitution?


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Curious,

What do I consider extreme? "Is it the call for less government involvement in our day to day lives?" Less government involvement is not extreme. Eliminating most government involvement is extreme.

"Stopping the out of control spending by the federal government?" Controlling spending is not extreme. Taking money (and services) away from the poor and elderly is extreme.

"Following the Constitution?" Which Constitution, the one that included the fugitive slave act and calculated representation in Congress as "free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons," giving slave states a higher number of representatives than states without so many 3/5 persons.


Posted by Curious, a resident of Birdland,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Your answers are rather vague. Tea party groups are generally advocate limited federal government. Where do you come up with "eliminating most government"?

"Taking money (and services) away from the poor and elderly is extreme." This is a rather tired argument that doesn't seem to have any merit, that I have seen. Again, where are you coming up with this? I'm not aware of any organized push to take help away from people who truly need assistance. Are you suggesting there is no abuse, waste, or fraud in these programs?

Your last paragraph is rather silly; you completely forgot that women don't have the right to vote.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 6, 2013 at 2:17 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Curious,

You brought up the Constitution, but you do not appear to have read it. Nowhere in the original Constitution does it mention "the right to vote" or who has it. Article I, Section 2 describes the selection of Representatives:

"The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature."

Whatever is meant by "Qualifications," is left to the states to determine.

State Legislators selected the Senators until that was changed by the 17th Amendment in 1913. Prior to 1920 each state determined which "People" could select (i.e. vote) for Representatives and later Senators.

The 19th Amendment, which went into effect in 1920, clarified "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The Constitution never prevented women from voting, but in 1920 it gave the right to vote to citizens who were denied it because of their sex.


Posted by Sally, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 21, 2013 at 8:28 am

I am commenting on Roz's original topic of Congressman Swalwell's apparent non-response to her inquiries, save form letters. I wanted to describe a personal experience with the staff at the Congressman's office who made multiple phone calls to resolve my problem, including one just this week to "follow up and make sure I got what I needed". This is kind of a long story involving the IRS and a very helpful action on my behalf from Congressman Swalwell.

In filling out my income tax form, I erroneously put my taxes withheld on line 63, "Estimated taxes paid" instead of line 62, "Federal income tax withheld from Forms W-2 and 1099". Beginning in May, I received monthly demand letters from the IRS for the sum total of taxes owed, plus hundreds of dollars of penalties for non-payment, plus interest on the taxes and penalties. I was on round four of sending W2s to the IRS and receiving form letters stating "due to heavy workload, we have not yet completed our research to resolve your inquiry."... and "Please allow an additional 45 days for us to obtain the information we need and to let you know what action we are taking."... And then the government shut down for a while.

I was getting frightened. In October I typed in a request for help on Eric Swalwell's web page. I really needed the $4,000 refund because I had lost my job in April of 2013, let alone having to cough up the entire last year's income taxes to the IRS, a second time. I promptly received a letter in the US mail signed by the Congressman, stating "Dear Sally, Thank you for contacting my office for assistance with a federal agency. Please be assured that I will make every effort, consistent with federal law and ethics standards, to assist you… ", with an attached consent form to return to the Congressman's local office.

I mailed in the form, and the next week, Josh Huber of Eric Swalwell's staff called to give me an update that they would help the IRS to resolve my problem as soon as they could. He called a second time in a few days, saying to expect a resolution and return of my refund the week of November 8. In fact, I received a November 4 dated form letter from the IRS, thanking me for me for "my recent letter dated Oct. 24, 2013 that asked us to remove the penalty for failure to pay."

That was not exactly what I was expecting, but not knowing how the IRS works, I followed up with a status report to Josh through the website. The next week I got a call from Kelly Watkins (I think I have her name right) saying to expect a return of my original refund, PLUS about 68 dollars in reverse penalties, or whatever the IRS calls it, on 11/14.

The IRS was not finished with me, yet. I received in the mail from the IRS on November 16, another demand letter, subtracting $259.41 from my original amount due, stating, "Based on the information you provided, we changed your 2012 Form 1040 to correct your: penalty due to reasonable cause … I fired off another message to the staff of Eric Swalwell through the website telling them what was going on. Then, I happened to look at my bank account on line, and the refund was deposited November 14, just as Kelly had said would happen. I was thinking it would come in the mail. Which was why I did not look before.

On November 25, I received letter number 7 from the IRS, finally showing the taxes I had paid and reversing the penalties and interest, to come up with my net refund of $4,000.

Josh Huber called once more earlier this week, just to confirm things were settled. I told him I had submitted a thank you and progress report on the website and he and Kelly and the Congressman were tops in my book. I wonder how much time was wasted with the IRS in resolving this, that could have been better used by his staff for the big issues. Well that answer is above my pay grade.

So ends this long story involving the IRS and a very helpful action from Congressman Swalwell. And, I am happy to report I have just found employment as the year 2013 runs out. The IRS should be happy about that.


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