Democrats book $27 million in ads in California congressional races

In a sign of how important several tight California congressional races are to determining control of Congress in the November election, a Democratic super PAC has booked more than $27 million in television and digital ads in the state.

It’s the most the House Majority PAC booked in any state in its initial $186-million advertising buy announced Sunday, the largest amount the organization has ever spent in early campaigning.

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“House Republicans have done nothing but sell out the American people while creating chaos, and we are holding them accountable for their anti-American extremist policies and agenda,” said Mike Smith, the president of the PAC allied with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

“Through these historic television and digital reservations, House Majority PAC has made it clear that we are ready to do whatever it takes to flip the House and elect Hakeem Jeffries the next Speaker of the House,” Smith said in a statement.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican version of the House Majority PAC, has not yet released its early-spending plans. However, the group’s leader expressed confidence in the GOP’s chances in the fall.

“We have incredibly strong Republican incumbents in the toughest races, far better recruits, and a political environment that seems to favor Republicans,” Congressional Leadership Fund President Dan Conston said in a statement. “If the resources are there, we will hold the Majority this fall.”

The Democratic political action committee announced last year that it would spend $35 million in the state, roughly triple what it did on California congressional races in the 2022 midterm elections, when Democrats underperformed in some districts that should have been strongholds.

Political groups on both sides of the aisle don’t always follow through with their advertising reservations, so it remains to be seen how much the PAC will actually spend in California.

However, Democrats need to win four seats to take control of the House, which is why the House Majority PAC’s spending plan — which is aimed at 45 congressional districts nationwide, including Republican-held seats in districts that President Biden won in 2020 — is so focused on California.

The state’s 52-member delegation is the largest in the nation, and California’s independent redistricting process replaced the prior gerrymandering that created safe districts for both parties, resulting in more competitive races.

Of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 69 are running in November races that are rated as toss-ups, competitive or potentially vulnerable by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which has tracked House and Senate races for decades. Ten of those are in California.

Additionally, the state is home to some of the nation’s most expensive media markets.

These factors are reflected in the House Majority PAC’s spending plans.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Democrats’ stocks clash with politics

Environmentalists invest in oil firms and a social media critic owns Meta shares.

SACRAMENTO — Environmentalists with stock in oil companies. A vocal social media critic with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the owners of Facebook and YouTube. Union-backed Democrats making money off the very companies whose worker policies they’ve criticized.

A third of the members in the California Legislature collectively reported at least $14 million worth of investments on their most recent financial disclosures — but their stocks don’t always align with their political values, a Times analysis found.

Their collective holdings could total tens of millions of dollars more, but exact amounts are unclear because financial disclosure forms required by the state allow politicians to report a wide range of minimum and maximum fair market values.

Elected officials and other public employees who influence government decisions are required to report investments including stocks, bonds and business partnerships, along with income, properties and gifts they’ve accepted on annual statements of economic interests. Diversified investments, such as certain retirement accounts and mutual funds, are not required to be disclosed.

The requirement is meant to hold officials accountable for any potential conflicts of interest and to ensure their decisions are “in the best interest of the public and not enhancing their personal finances,” according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political ethics watchdog.

But it also reveals when officials’ financial investments run counter to their purported political mission or differ from how they represented themselves to voters during their campaigns.

Democratic state Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, for instance, has a record as an environmentalist but owns stock in major oil, chemical and mining companies that have been criticized for their contributions to climate change. Her colleague Assemblymember Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) has publicly criticized social media platforms for being harmful to children, and wrote legislation aimed at addressing their potential mental health risks. Yet he invests in the companies that own Instagram and YouTube.

That’s not illegal, but it raises questions about why some officials manage their personal finances in ways that clash with their public positions. In these cases, lawmakers are often voting for policies that go against their personal financial interests. While some voters may see them taking a principled stance, others see hypocrisy.

“A lot of these people tell their constituents what they think they want to hear even if they don’t necessarily believe in it or they’re not doing necessarily what’s in the best interest of the public, but themselves,” said Sean McMorris, who focuses on transparency, ethics and accountability at California Common Cause, a government watchdog group.

The Times analysis also found that some legislators are invested in companies that could be affected by the laws they influence and vote on.

According to the most recent financial disclosures, 40 of California’s 120 state lawmakers reported at least $2,000 in investments in 2022 — about 30% of Democrats and about 46% of Republicans. Data on lawmakers’ finances were collected by CalMatters, a nonpartisan nonprofit news outlet, and analyzed by The Times.

All the lawmakers contacted by The Times defended their investments and said they do not weaken their policy stance related to the industries they hold stock in or create conflicts of interest. Many pinned the investments on their spouses.

Federal legislation has been introduced that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, though no such law has been pitched in California, home to one of the largest economies in the world. In 2020, U.S. representatives who were privy to COVID-19 information ahead of the general public faced backlash for selling stocks just before the virus slammed the economy.

Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, which supports legislation to ban members of Congress from trading stocks, said investments by state lawmakers should be scrutinized too.

“Individual stock holdings can absolutely, regardless of what level of government you’re in, cause those conflicts of interest that raise serious problems with the public’s trust in government,” Marsco said.

Disclosing investments also shows voters if lawmakers are “essentially putting their money where their mouth is,” she said.

Democrats and big oil companies

Assemblymember Pellerin (D-Santa Cruz) was endorsed by environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club when she was elected last year, heralded for her climate policy goals, including a commitment to end the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“A vote for Gail Pellerin is a vote for the environment,” Clean Water Action California said in an endorsement in 2022.

But among the roughly $2 million the freshman lawmaker has invested in stocks are holdings in several oil and gas companies, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell, according to financial disclosure forms.

California filed a lawsuit against those companies this year, alleging that they have led a “campaign of deception” about their role in climate change and the environmental risks of fossil fuels.

According to state disclosure forms, Pellerin also has invested at least $10,000 in Freeport-McMoRan, a metal mining company that was fined millions of dollars by the federal government after an Arizona copper mine allegedly polluted rivers and streams.

Another $10,000 or more is invested in Dow Chemical Co., which manufactured napalm used as a weapon by the U.S. in the Vietnam War and urged the Trump administration to ignore findings that its pesticides are harmful to endangered species.

Pellerin is the only California lawmaker who invests in Philip Morris, the tobacco maker that manufactures Marlboro cigarettes, according to financial disclosure records. Oil and tobacco companies are viewed as so anathema to California Democrats’ agenda that party leaders have in some years prohibited donations from them.

When asked about her stock portfolio, Pellerin said her husband, who died in 2018, was an “avid investor.”

“I vote with only one interest, and that is for what is best for the constituents of the 28th Assembly District,” Pellerin said in a statement, pointing to her support for environmental legislation this year, including a bill that increased penalties against oil and gas companies that violate regulations.

Pellerin pointed out that companies she invests in, including Exxon and Chevron, recently received positive environmental, social and governance scores, an index used by investors to evaluate stocks.

“With my financial advisor, I continue to align these investments with my values,” said Pellerin, who chaired the committee on natural resources and the water, parks and wildlife committee until last month and has written bills that established California Ocean Day and supported environmental restoration projects.

Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) also invests in oil and gas companies. According to his 2022 filings, he has at least $730,000 in investments, including thousands in Chevron and Phillips66, a Texas energy company that paid millions to settle a lawsuit that alleged its gas stations violated California’s anti-pollution laws.

Roth, who declined to comment for this story, also invests tens of thousands more in NuStar, one of the largest petroleum pipeline operators in the nation, and HF Sinclair, which manufactures and sells gasoline and jet fuel.

Roth is a moderate Democrat with a mixed record on environmental legislation. He voted last year to speed up the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, which pleased environmentalists, but did not support a bill they championed this year to require corporations to report their climate impacts.

Mike Young, senior director of California Environmental Voters, which endorsed Pellerin last year, called for all lawmakers to divest from oil companies.

The organization supports a bill that aims to prohibit the state’s retirement systems from investing in fossil fuels. The expectation should be the same for elected officials, Young said.

“It certainly is our recommendation that everyone should divest away from fossil fuels however they can,” Young said. “The less hold that oil has, the better.”

Critics of Big Tech

The environment isn’t the only issue in which lawmakers’ investments seem to be at odds with their public-facing politics.

Assemblymember Low-enthal spoke passionately this summer about the harms of social media, telling lobbyists they should be ashamed for opposing legislation he supported to hold tech companies more accountable.

“I’ve seen in my children’s social media the presentation of diet pills, of other things that make them question their own self-worth and their own body image. I’ve seen it firsthand,” Lowenthal said at a hearing this summer. “It is totally and completely inappropriate.”

To opponents of attempts at social media regulation, he said, “Shame on you.”

However, Lowenthal himself has invested at least $100,000 in Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and at least another $100,000 in the company that owns YouTube.

“As a legislator, my job is to protect and improve the quality of life for all Californians. While as a shareholder, I and many other shareholders have exercised our responsibility to be vocal and use our positions to ensure the best product,” Lowenthal said in a statement, adding that he does not trade the stocks that he owns.

In November, California joined dozens of states in a lawsuit against Meta, with Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta alleging the company “designed and deployed harmful features” for youth.

Lowenthal wrote a bill this year that directs a commission to report a statewide strategy that would address the mental health risks of social media. He’s also supported proposals aimed at protecting young people on social media that the companies he’s personally financially invested in opposed.

Tech regulation is a perennial issue in the California Capitol, with companies frequently fighting lawmakers’ attempts to govern social media, data privacy and artificial intelligence. Yet Lowenthal is not the only legislator who owns tech stock.

Ten legislators collectively own at least $372,000 in Apple shares; four legislators collectively have invested at least $212,000 in Meta; and six legislators collectively own at least $118,000 in stock in Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, according to disclosure forms.

Labor-friendly Democrats

Perhaps no issue dominated this year’s legislative session more than worker rights,as strikes took off across many industries during what was coined as a “hot labor summer.”

But even vocal union-supporting Democrats in the state Capitol who were rallying alongside union leaders this year invest in some of the companies they have publicly criticized for their treatment of workers. That includes:

At least $1.2 million in Amazon stock collectively owned by seven lawmakers, including Democrats who voted for a 2021 law backed by unions to crack down on alleged quotas in the e-commerce company’s warehouses amid criticism that workers did not have time to take bathroom breaks.

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) owns at least $1 million in Amazon stock and voted for that legislation. The lawmaker, who was endorsed by some unions, said the stock was provided to her husband as part of his compensation when his former employer was acquired by Amazon.

“My voting record and my long-standing support for and from unions speaks for itself,” she said in a statement.

At least $12,000 in McDonald’s stock owned by two Democrats, Roth and Pellerin, who voted for union-backed legislation to raise wages and improve conditions for fast-food workers, which the restaurants fiercely opposed.

At least $100,000 in Disney shares owned by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), who wrote a controversial bill that would have allowed workers on strike to collect unemployment as the company battled with employees over pay and benefits. He marched alongside Hollywood actors and writers as they went on strike against Disney. The California Chamber of Commerce, whose board of directors includes a Disney executive, opposed the bill as a “job killer.”

A spokesperson for Portantino said that the Disney stock was part of his wife’s compensation when she worked for the company years ago, and that the lawmaker “does not engage in the trading of stocks and rigorously follows all ethics and disclosure laws.”

Lawmakers who spoke to The Times for this article said that their investments do not negate their calls for change, and that their holdings do not influence their work in any way.

Instead, it’s their voting records that count, they said, including instances when they have pushed for policies in Sacramento that could be bad for the bottom line of the companies they’re invested in.

Although many lawmakers discounted their investments as their spouses’ and not their own, Ann Ravel, former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, rejected that argument.

California is a “community property” state, which means any income is considered to be owned by both spouses equally.

“They have a self-interest in it,” Ravel said.

When do stocks pose a conflict?

Voters may be unhappy that some politicians hold investments inconsistent with their rhetoric or their party’s values, but it is not a crime.

A potential legal problem occurs, Ravel said, when the companies that lawmakers financially invest in are directly affected by the laws they help craft, and vice versa.

“That’s where the conflicts of interest arise, is when you’re investing in a particular company and then not only are you giving them money for the stock investments but you are also using that company for your own self-interest if you vote in favor of what they do,” Ravel said.

It’s difficult to determine what amounts to an explicit conflict of interest for lawmakers under the ethical guidelines laid out by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The law defines a conflict of interest as a decision in which the financial impact or effect “is foreseeable” and is “significant enough to be considered material.” That includes when it comes to personal finances, including that of an official’s immediate family.

Some lawmakers own stock in companies that could be affected by legislation they have voted on or oversee committees in charge of decisions regarding those companies, The Times’ analysis found.

Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) has invested at least $100,000 in Comcast Corp., her only stock holding, according to disclosure forms. She was recently named the chair of the state Assembly’s Committee on Utilities and Energy, which oversees legislation related to the California Public Utilities Commission, the body in charge of regulating telecommunications companies such as Comcast.

In a statement, Petrie-Norris said her committee is unlikely to deal with any issues directly related to Comcast. Her husband works for a company that was acquired by Comcast, she said, “and was given stock as part of that acquisition.”

“I take my obligation as a State Assemblymember very seriously, and I would never allow a family member’s employment to influence my position on legislation,” Petrie-Norris said in a statement. “I will continue to recuse myself from voting on any legislation that specifically relates to Comcast.”

State Sen. Roger W. Niello (R-Fair Oaks) last year reported nearly $3.4 million in investments in dozens of companies in industries that include insurance, technology, banking, real estate and defense contractors.

He has voted against legislation aiming to tighten regulation of oil and gas companies, including attempts to penalize refineries and cap their profits, while investing tens of thousands of dollars in companies including Chevron and ConocoPhillips.

Niello said his holdings do not have any effect on how he votes on bills. His financial disclosure form shows that he sold many of his stocks in individual companies last year. Niello said he shifted most of his investments to professionally managed diverse portfolios, which do not require public disclosure because they are independently managed and do not focus on a specific industry.

“The complete pain in the neck of doing that [financial disclosure] report, the detail, gets to be just oppressive, number one,” Niello said as to why he made the shift. “And number two, to the extent that there’s any appearance of conflict, it helps to minimize that.”

Niello isn’t the first politician to move stock holdings to diversified accounts that don’t require detailed reporting to the public.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who reported $1.7 million in income on recent tax disclosures, placed his financial investments in a blind trust in 2018, a move sometimes used by public officials to shield them from any violations by limiting their knowledge of their own financial interests.

Concerns over public officials’ stocks have arisen in California before.

In 2001, when the state was hit with widespread power outages amid an electricity shortage, Gov. Gray Davis fired several consultants over conflict-of-interest concerns regarding their stock holdings in power companies.

That year, Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist in Sacramento who was serving as Davis’ spokesperson, sold his 300 shares of stock in a California power company over criticism that his ownership constituted a conflict of interest.

For public officials, “ignorance is bliss,” Maviglio said, pointing to mutual funds as a way to avoid conflict. Still, those funds could include investments that concern the public — they’re just not required to be reported in the way that stocks in individual companies are.

All that the public knows is what is reported on financial disclosure forms each year.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Democrats start competing to succeed Gavin Newsom. Party leaders aren’t excited yet

California Democrats have lots to deal with as they head into 2024 — an open U.S. Senate seat, deep divisions over the Israel-Hamas war, a debate over reparations for Black residents. All of those issues — most notably protests over the war — dominated the party’s weekend Endorsing Convention in Sacramento.

But in the background, a handful of hopefuls were eyeing 2026, laying the groundwork to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom. Most voters have yet to focus on the 2024 presidential election, much less who will succeed the two-term governor.

But running a statewide campaign in one of the country’s most expensive media markets means candidates must start raising money and courting supporters years before their names appear on California ballots. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and former Controller Betty Yee announced their bids for governor earlier in the year. Attorney General Rob Bonta and outgoing Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins have publicly stated they are seriously considering campaigns of their own. Atkins told the Associated Press about her interest just days before the convention.


Atkins, Kounalakis and Thurmond all used the convention as an opportunity to showcase themselves for party activists. Kounalakis — who announced her candidacy in April, less than four months after Newsom took the oath for his second term — hosted a welcome reception on Friday night.

She took photos with supporters, chatted with young Democrats and used the occasion to remember the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose 1992 election marked Kounalakis’s first foray into politics. “In many ways, our party and our progressive values and the things that we fight for, they’ve hit a point where they sort of passed by Dianne’s platform that she originally ran on,” Kounalakis said. “And we know that. But I truly hope that she will be remembered for some of these incredible things she did — breaking glass ceilings in an entirely man’s world again and again.” Atkins circulated through various events on Friday, including her own “Party for Progress,” which she hosted with Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas. The legislative leaders packed the Park Ultra Lounge, where Atkins kept the focus on 2024 as her fellow lawmakers enjoyed drinks and appetizers.

“Every year we say the stakes are high and elections and races are important, but this next year, I think our democracy is at stake,” she told the crowd. “And that overrides everything else, because the foundation of who we are as a people in this country and in this state is built on democratic principles and democracy.” Outside the party, Atkins said she is considering a run for governor because she loves her work and has “more to offer” as a public servant once she terms out of the Legislature next year. “Governors work with legislators to get things done,” she said. “I’ve done the policy work, I’ve done the budget work. And it really is a unique experience to be able to work with those different parties — the speaker, the pro tem, the governor. I feel like I’ve got experience with each. And for me, experience matters.” The next day, Atkins released a campaign ad-style video with her personal story and messages from party notables, including Planned Parenthood Action California CEO Jodi Hicks and labor leader Dolores Huerta.


Ahead of the convention, Thurmond’s campaign sent out an email touting his appearance at a July Chino Valley Unified School District board meeting, where he spoke against a now-halted policy forcing employees to out transgender students to their parents. Security officers ejected Thurmond from the meeting, which he highlighted in his message. “As governor, I’ll go toe to toe with this growing extremism and fight for a California where everyone can live freely and safely,” the email said. Thurmond faces an uphill battle when it comes to fundraising. Kounalakis, Atkins and Bonta had millions of dollars in various campaign accounts as of the last filing period this summer, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Thurmond had closer to hundreds of thousands of dollars in his campaign accounts as of early November. The superintendent made the most of the weekend. He addressed the convention floor on Saturday and maintained a campaign booth in the exhibit hall. “The response of delegates to my candidacy has been so positive and so encouraging,” Thurmond said. “I can’t get anywhere without being stopped by delegates who say, ‘We support you.

Please run, make our state better.’” When asked what distinguishes him from the rest of the growing field, the superintendent had a response similar to the one Atkins shared. “For me, this always comes down to experience,” Thurmond said. “I’ve been elected for 15 years at every level of government: city council, school board, state Assembly and two times the state superintendent. And then 20 years working in the nonprofit sector building housing for homeless youth, building affordable housing.” PARTY


Some Democrats are not seeing a lot to get enthusiastic about at this point in the race. Gubernatorial candidates may be ready to make their case to voters, but party leaders are focused on the 2024 elections and other pressing issues. “Right now, the truth is, I’m not over-the-top excited about anyone,” said Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, chair of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus.

She wants to see more from candidates before she can back someone for governor. “For me to get behind a candidate, I would want them to demand a cease-fire and an end to all killing,” she said. “I would want them to come on strong for single-payer health care, for not taking corporate money. Those are the kind of candidates I’m going to get behind.” Kendra Lewis, chair of the California Democratic Black Caucus, said Black voters are currently focused on the Senate race and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee’s candidacy.

The push for reparations is also important to Black Californians, Lewis said. The state’s reparations task force completed its work during the summer, and the Legislature will consider its recommendations and potential action starting in January. “The next governor is someone we’re going to have to talk to about continuing the reparations work,” Lewis said. “That can’t just die.” The caucus was unable to hold its scheduled meeting on Saturday night after protesters shut down the convention. Typically, those gatherings are where candidates seek support, Lewis said. Without those conversations, she was not quite ready to get behind anyone.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee

A party divided in the Golden State

Democrats are split over Israel and Gaza, as well as candidates in the Senate race.

SACRAMENTO — The California Democratic Party Convention provided an opportunity for delegates and activists to project unity heading into a high-stakes election year.

The weekend-long gathering proved to be anything but that.

Democrats remained divided on the most pivotal issues facing the party and the nation: the raging war between Israel and Hamas and a 2024 California race featuring three popular party members, congressional veterans, hoping to win the seat held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein for more than three decades.

The internal fissures mirrored the national debate within the party that some believe could imperil the reelection hopes of President Biden and the balance of power in Congress.

Israel’s deadly invasion of Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack dominated the convention. Protesters angry about the war disrupted a Senate candidate forum Saturday afternoon and later in the evening stormed into the Sacramento convention center, just blocks from the state Capitol, leading to the cancellation of official party events that evening.

“An injustice to one is an injustice to all,” said delegate and lawyer Magali Kincaid, who joined with protesters who disrupted the remarks of Senate candidates Reps. Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff along with Lexi Reese.

Kincaid, who supports Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakand) for Senate, joined a Saturday afternoon rally where demonstrators loudly chanted “Cease-fire,” which briefly disrupted the Senate candidates. She said that she wanted to see “peace not war” in Gaza and that any resolution to what’s playing out with hostages in Gaza shouldn’t involve more violence.

“We need to make sure to stand up to genocide and colonization and it’s what I feel like we were doing,” Kincaid said.

The clash among delegates and protesters over the death and destruction in Israel and Gaza has angered young voters in particular. Ameera Abouromeleh, an 18-year-old Palestinian American who joined the protest with six members of her family — including her 74-year-old grandfather who she said was born in Jerusalem — said she looks forward to voting next year for the first time as a way to show solidarity with family who remain in the West Bank.

“Even though you squish someone under the rubble, our voices will be heard further,” Abouromeleh said.

Her grandfather Naff was less enamored with the civil disobedience, mostly content to support his grandchildren. He felt the violence by both Israelis and Palestinians had gone too far and wanted there to be a durable and sustainable resolution to the conflict.

Abouromeleh was unsure whom to back in the Senate race but in the presidential election she plans to vote for Cornel West, a progressive academic who is running as an independent. A newly released poll from NBC News showed that 70% of voters 18 to 34 disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war. It came as his popularity declined to 40% — the lowest level of his presidency.

The events of the weekend angered many Jewish delegates — some who said they felt harassed and unsafe at the convention. They criticized state Democratic Party leader Rusty Hicks for not doing enough to protect members and prevent disruptions.

Andrew Lachman, president of Democrats for Israel California and a Jewish delegate, said he’d heard from more than a dozen people who either were reluctant to come to the convention or didn’t come because they worried about antisemitic confrontations.

Lachman said they were right to be worried given what played out.

“Many were shaken from the disruptive and violent acts they saw,” Lachman said.

The split within the party could imperil the party’s success in the 2024 election, Lachman said. Democrats will need the support of Jewish and Muslim voters in battleground states and congressional districts if they want to hold the White House and make legislative gains.

“We can’t win Michigan or Virginia without Muslim votes. You can’t win Nevada or Pennsylvania without the Jewish community,” Lachman said. “So anyone who thinks that they can shout the other one out of the room is hurting the Democratic Party.”

On Sunday, Hicks condemned the behavior of protesters and said that “any delegate who actively participated in or aided in the furtherance of those activities and events … will be held accountable.”

Saturday “concluded with a series of events that left me both deeply saddened and disappointed,” he added.

The most anticipated vote among party delegates over the weekend was for California’s 2024 Senate race, which pits Lee against fellow Democratic Reps. Schiff of Burbank and Porter of Irvine. In 2018, the California Democratic Party sent a clear message when members voted to back then-state lawmaker Kevin de León over Feinstein. This time though, no candidate reached the 60% threshold necessary to get the nod.

Lee won 41.5% of the delegates with Schiff coming in a close second with 40.2%. Porter came in third with 16%.

Though Lee has lagged behind Schiff and Porter in recent opinion polls, her support among Democratic delegates reflected the strong loyalty she inspires among the party’s faithful who tend to be more liberal than the broader voting electorate. During Saturday’s forum, her supporters cheered after as she reiterated her call for a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza along with her casting the only no vote on the authorization for the use of military force allowing the invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Basem Manneh, a Bay Area Palestinian American who supports Lee and is a delegate, said he was frustrated by the disruptions of the Senate forum. The broader push for a cease-fire and the moves to help Lee were the “right way to approach solidarity,” he said. He spoke at the evening protest inside the building and felt there was little evidence that the disobedience was anything but peaceful and constructive.

“I don’t see any of this as a hateful message.”

Manneh, who works at San Francisco International Airport, said both Porter and Schiff were very smart but that Lee has been at this work far longer.

“She’s that captain of the locker room,” Manneh said.

Brian Krohne, 41, who had campaigned for Porter in her congressional races, is supporting Lee partly because of Porter’s unwillingness to call for a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza.

Porter and Schiff have been broadly supportive of Biden’s efforts to support Israel while gently urging its leaders to be more mindful of civilian loss of life and thinking about what comes next in Gaza.

“I find it so disappointing she’s on the wrong side of this,” Krohne said of Porter.

Hicks and other state party officials said that the divided party was a reflection of the strength of the candidates and that these divisions wouldn’t hurt Democrats’ ability to come together next year.

Riverside County Party Chair Joy Silver, a Jewish Palm Springs resident, said she never felt unsafe during the protests Saturday, but was angry that they prevented the party caucuses from convening — adding they seemed “deeply un-democratic.”

California Democrats say pro-Palestinian protesters who broke rules will be ‘held accountable’

Chair Rusty Hicks said delegates who joined protest that led party to cancel caucuses would be ‘held accountable.’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The chair of the California Democratic Party vowed repercussions Sunday for members who took part in a raucous pro-Palestinian demonstration that forced an early halt to meetings the night before.

“Any delegates who actively participated in or aided the furtherance of those activities or events in violation of our party’s code of conduct will be held accountable,” Chair Rusty Hicks told party members gathered for a convention in Sacramento.

Protesters demanding a cease-fire in Gaza overwhelmed security guards and poured into the convention center on Saturday evening, leading the party to cancel planned caucuses. Earlier in the day, demonstrators shouted over and cut short a forum for U.S. Senate candidates.

Hicks did not elaborate on potential punishments. The party’s code of conduct says violators can be barred from attending events or stripped of their delegate status.

The chair said he was “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the disruptions, saying two security guards sustained “minor injuries” and that Jewish attendees “were openly intimidated and harassed.”

“Every delegate, volunteer, staff person and attendee has the right to be safe and to feel safe in the peaceful expression of their own voice and viewpoint,” Hicks said.

The conflict in Gaza has loomed over the convention, highlighting a gulf between progressives demanding a cease-fire and pro-Israel Democrats who have stopped short of that position.

None of the candidates running for an open U.S. Senate seat won the party’s endorsement, which requires a 60 percent vote. Rep. Barbara Lee — the only House Democrat in the race to back a cease-fire — secured a plurality, slightly eclipsing Rep. Adam Schiff.

Many delegates holding cease-fire signs also sported Lee gear. Activists backing a cessation of hostilities called it a moral imperative and warned they would withhold votes from Democrats who did not join them.

Saturday’s turmoil also drew pushback from some Jewish party members who noted protesters chanted “from the river to the sea,” a Palestinian liberation slogan that can be viewed as a call to do away with the state of Israel. Some demonstrators also chanted “intifada, intifada.”

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus said in a statement that some Jewish delegates “now believe it is unsafe to participate at all.”

Click here to read the full article in Politico

Voting group founded by Abrams, once led by Warnock, faces financial scrutiny

The New Georgia Project, a voting rights organization founded by the state’s Democratic star Stacey Abrams and overseen for more than two years by Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, is beset by allegations of financial misuse and irregularities, according to a six-month POLITICO investigation.

The organization, which played a key role in registering the new voters necessary to turn Georgia from a red state to a swing state with two Democratic senators, is conducting its own internal probe into its finances in response to the claims of irregularities, one of its two board chairs, Frank Wilson, said.

The move comes as the group’s tax filings indicate that its former executive director — who was hand-picked by Abrams in 2014 but fired last year without notice — owes the organization thousands of dollars in “non-work-related” reimbursements. The former director, Nsé Ufot, who left the group last year after heading it for eight years, denies owing money and calls the allegation “a fucking lie.”

The debt attributed to Ufot — a nationally recognized leader in voting rights efforts and frequent political commentator — is one of multiple instances of poor financial record-keeping and allegations of misuse of funds uncovered by POLITICO. The New Georgia Project didn’t properly track company expenses that were allegedly prepaid to employees on Visa gift cards and failed to account for salary advances and other expenditures, according to a review of financial disclosures, internal documents and interviews with 12 current and former employees, including senior leadership. Most were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The organization has also been fending off other administrative battles, including a state ethics investigation over whether its election advocacy violated rules limiting direct political activity by nonprofits, which it has sued to terminate, and a dispute with the IRS over payment of payroll taxes, which the group’s new CEO, Kendra Davenport Cotton, said has recently been settled.

Like similar nonprofits, the New Georgia Project operates under two federal tax designations — 501(c)3, which cannot engage in politics, and 501(c)4, which can devote up to half its work to politicking — but has one CEO and a common staff leadership.

Wilson, chair of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, its 501(c)4 arm, said the group is committed to rooting out any irregularities and tracking expenditures more closely.

“We’re going to do a forensic look at our records,” said Wilson, a civil rights activist and retiredscholar at Albany State University. “We’ll start at the beginning, and just lay it out, clean it up and redirect as necessary … so we’ll be in a position where anybody who will come — be it authorities, be it media, be it whomever — we will not be concerned about who looks at our records because we’ll have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed. So I’m comfortable with that, you know, and I’ll almost welcome it.”

The organization’s troubles loom larger in the world of Democratic advocacy because of the intense national excitement generated by Abrams and her network, which audaciously set out to move one of the pillars of the Republican South into the Democratic column. Organizers and activists in other states have sought to emulate her success.

Abrams, who created the New Georgia Project in 2014 as an offshoot of another Abrams-founded nonprofit called Third Sector Development, declined to comment. Abrams hasn’t been part of the group’s leadership since 2017, when she began her first run for governor.

Warnock, who served as chair from 2017, when the group first registered as an independent 501(c)3, to January 2020, when he launched his first Senate campaign, did not respond to requests through his office for an interview. In a brief interview in the Senate subway, when asked whether he was aware of any mismanagement at the New Georgia Project, he said “not at all.”

After Abrams’ 2018 campaign for governor ended in a narrow defeat to current Gov. Brian Kemp, then the Georgia secretary of state, her forceful claims of voter suppression drew the attention of Democrats around the country. What followed was a huge influx of donations, many of them from out of state, intended to advance voting rights and voter registration. In fiscal year 2020, the New Georgia Project collected more than $36 million in donations to its two entities.

While the organization has built up political capital in the state among Democrats and a large volunteer base for canvassing and voter education events, behind the scenes there was often disarray, according to multiple former staffers. There was frequent turnover in the top finance role, allegations of money misspent or missing and complaints of inadequate tracking of expenditures. Ufot was fired at the start of 2022’s early voting period — ostensibly the group’s busiest moment.

“I went there all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but I’m disillusioned now,” recalled a former C-suite employee. “I got the assumption that it was driven by ego after the 2020 elections. That there was this: ‘We can do anything we want, look at how much money we got.’ … I think these things combined with no checks and balances, not having an operations department in place that is allowed to put in policies, procedures and safeguards — which is what I thought I was hired to do — and the rapid growth has just facilitated this.”

Ufot’s staff was notified of her firing on a Zoom call before she was told, she and other staff members said. Other resignations followed, including from the chief legal officer and chief communications officer. Then came a round of layoffs as executives in internal Signal group chats discussed the desperate need to ramp up donations. In October 2022, the head of HR told staffers on a Zoom call that the company could no longer afford to make payroll, according to a video of the call made by a participant.

Francys Johnson, board chair of the New Georgia Project,the 501(c)3 arm, and board treasurer of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, said the group is “taking all necessary steps” to secure the return of a $8,865 salary advance to Ufot that is detailed in the organization’s tax filings, which also identify $4,377 that Ufot allegedly owes its 501(c)4 branch.

Johnson, a noted Georgia civil rights attorney, acknowledged the organization has made “some mistakes,” but suggested the book-keeping problems and organizational issues stemmed from hiring people from underserved communities who had strong grass-roots ties but little management experience. He claimed the group’s critics have disrespect for the type of people on its staff.

“It goes back to people who disdain the kind of communities we serve and disdain the kind of people we seek to employ,” Johnson said. “They believe that we need to have a bunch of Northeastern educated folks who come down and freedom rides, we love to talk about that, and help them liberate the South, as if the South can’t help liberate itself. And so we hire people from community, we hire people who live on the margins, primarily because politics has failed them. And we have to deploy tactics that are not necessarily consistent to what POLITICO might have.”

“And in some instances, I will tell you that, you know, where we are aware of good intentions, but not nearly enough transparency, we’ve course-corrected for those things,” he added.

But multiple staff members said the recent turmoil at the New Georgia Project was only the outward expression of a climate of chaos that dated backto at least the 2018 midterm elections.

“What you saw was real, the people that were knocking doors and doing other things, incredible, incredible,” said another former high-level New Georgia Project employee. “The sad part is those are the people that were incredible. And they deserve better. The volunteers, the people that were on staff were absolutely incredible, believed in the mission, were the mission. It was a complete failure of leadership.”

The sense that New Georgia Project funds weren’t being appropriately tracked has long been a matter of internal concern. Regular turnover in the top finance manager role served to limit institutional knowledge and continuity on the budgeting side.

Management disarray was compounded by infighting. Multiple former employees claimed the organization had a toxic work environment that became unnecessarily stressful and fomented distrust between staffers. Frustrations often erupted in private Signal group chats.

Wilson, who said the ongoing internal review will look at finances and procedures dating back to the start of the organization,said he first heard of potential financial mismanagement when he received an anonymous tip that about $50,000 had been withdrawn from the organization’s accounts by a then-senior administrator who was serving as one of Ufot’s deputies prior to 2020.

“I had no reason to believe the rumors,” Wilson said. “I had gotten an anonymous call — and I don’t really know where it came from — saying that [the senior administrator] had taken money.” He added that the fact Ufot, as executive director, did not file any complaints against the administrator made him feel like he could forget about the tip.

The administrator denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged transactions. Nonetheless, the administrator was fired in 2019 by Ufot. POLITICO is not naming the administrator because they have not been formally accused of any offense.

“Definitely not talking about that,” Ufot said, when asked about the allegations. “[The administrator] left the New Georgia Project because [they] weren’t that great at [their] job. And that’s all I’m gonna say.”

Wilson said the administrator called him after their firing and expressed concern about what the allegations would mean for their future employment. He said he offered to be a job reference but hasn’t spoken to the person since.

The administrator declined to comment. Four former New Georgia Project employees said they had been told contemporaneously or after the fact that the administrator had withdrawn money from the organization without proper authorization, raising ongoing doubts about financial controls.

POLITICO obtained records from two Wells Fargo bank accounts controlled by the New Georgia Project, which had been turned over to the state Ethics Commission as part of its probe into possible violations of its tax status. The administrator’s name appears in the memo lines of the Wells Fargo bank accounts’ transactions, a copy of which was provided by the state to POLITICO in response to an open records request. There were 16 outgoing transactions totaling $57,693 from mid-2017 to mid-2019, matching the roughly $50,000 mentioned in the tip received by Wilson.

Current New Georgia Project leaders declined to answer questions about the administrator since the withdrawals occurred before their tenures.

“I don’t have any knowledge of that,” Cotton said, “And only a fool would speak on something that they have no direct understanding of.”

Johnson also declined to speak about it. “I don’t have any situational knowledge of that matter of fact,” he said.

Fallout from the Wells Fargo accounts continued after the former administrator was fired, and eventually led to the removal of the group’s chief financial officer and Ufot herself.

Ufot said she received multiple fraud alerts from the bank, flagging withdrawals that the bank deemed suspicious. At first, she said, she ignored them, but when they started coming “regularly” she alerted Randall Frazier, then the group’s CFO.

“So periodically when they come through, like, whatever,” Ufot said of the alerts, “but when they started coming through, like, regularly, I contacted our CFO, and was like, ‘Help me understand what is going on.’ And then he told me to call Wells Fargo and make the fraud claims. And that’s exactly what I did.”

However, Ufot said, she never officially filed the claims because “we started, and then they asked me a bunch of questions, and they wanted to shut the [company] cards down immediately, like, while I was making the claim.” She explained that others in the organization used these cards and she didn’t want to disrupt business operations without notice.

“We started to file and then I asked for a pause so that I could consult with our CFO,” she said.

Separately, New Georgia Project and New Georgia Project Action Fund, in both of their most recent 990 filings, are claiming that Ufot herself owes the organizations thousands of dollars from fiscal year 2021 for what Johnson said were “expenses that need to be reimbursed to the organization.”

The New Georgia Project reported that Ufot received a salary advance of $8,865 in 2021 that has not been “corrected” and New Georgia Project Action Fund noted that Ufot owed the 501(c)4 arm $4,377, according to the respective Schedule L sections of the 990 form.

Johnson said the organizationwas “discharging our fiduciary responsibilities as an organization. … My expectation is, is that will be resolved in the general course of business.”

Johnson said the $8,865 paid to Ufot was, in fact, not an advance, but represented non-business expenses. The New Georgia Project is taking “all necessary steps” to get paid back, he said.

In an interview with POLITICO, Ufot said she’s never used New Georgia Project funds inappropriately orfor personal expenses.

“This is also the subject of litigation and dispute — like, it’s the subject of an active dispute right now between me and NGP and their lawyers,” Ufot said. “It’s complete bullshit.”

Disputed spending from Ufot allegedly continued in 2022, according to two former employees and internal messages seen by POLITICO. These came in the form of Uber Eats, Apple, Hulu, Lyft and other expenses.

Ufot said that as a boss, she wouldn’t hold meetings without “food, music and child care” and that those expenses could account for some spending that current leaders consider questionable.

According to an internal memo in 2022 that was shown to POLITICO by a former administrator, the CFO, Frazier, had flagged withdrawals from the Wells Fargo accounts in emails to Ufot, other members of senior leadership and the two board chairs. Frazier also brought up other charges in 2021 as he was preparing to file the 2021 990 form to the IRS.

Shortly after he shared his concerns, on July 7, the then-chief legal officer, Aklima Khondoker, asked members of the organization’s C-Suite Signal group chat for information about Frazier’s job performance.

Khondoker wrote in the chat, which was shared with POLITICO by an administrator: “We need all emails, signal threads, texts, meeting notes, and the like concerning Randall’s performance. This would include anything related to his job as CFO, interactions with staff members, and anything that shows his lack of performance or insubordination … please feel free to send that over as soon as you can.”

Soon after, Frazier was fired by Ufot and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Khondoker, who has since resigned in the wake of Ufot’s own departure, said she couldn’t go into the details of anyone’s specific employment situation. But “more than anything, the organization did not have the right match for what it needed,” she said, referring to Frazier’s performance in the CFO role.

Johnson said the organization doesn’t speak about internal operations or personnel matters.

These disputes followed two fundraising boom years during which, former employees said, the New Georgia Project’s fast growth strained its guardrails.

In 2019, the New Georgia Project and New Georgia Project Action fund raised only $1.6 million and $1.8 million, respectively. But in 2020, the coffers ballooned to $24.5 million and $11.9 million for each organization. The organization also restructured in 2020, adding a host of C-suite employees. Ufot, who was already heading the organization, officially became CEO (with a $60,000 raise to roughly $187,000 per year), in addition to new hires CFO Chineava Georgia and then-COO Kendra Cotton, according to 2020 990 forms and LinkedIn accounts. In 2021— when the project was basking in the triumph of helping carry the state of Georgia for Democrat Joe Biden and elect two Democratic senators — fundraising dipped, but both arms took in $12.5 million and $3.6 million, respectively.

During this time of growth, multiple New Georgia Project employees said the board operated in a hands-off fashion.

Click here to read the full article in Politico

New York Times: Sen. Dianne Feinstein ‘Should Resign’

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has had a “distinguished career in the U.S. Senate,” the New York Times editorial board said on Friday, adding, however, that she “should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor.”

The 89-year-old senator, planning to retire at the end of her current term, has been absent from work since early 2023 as she was hospitalized with shingles. She has missed more than 90 votes in her absence and has given the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee the ability to stall some of President Joe Biden’s court nominees.

The Friday editorial board acknowledged that Feinstein, the oldest Senate member, has had a distinguished career in the upper chamber but said that “if she cannot fulfill her obligations to the Senate and to her constituents, she should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor.”

“If she is unable to reach that decision on her own, Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, and other Democratic senators should make it clear to her and the public how important it is that she do so,” the editorial said. “Under the circumstances, Mr. Schumer should turn up the public pressure on her to return or resign, setting aside the antique Senate gentility that can hobble common-sense decision-making there.”

Additionally, the editorial board pointed to a report from last year in the San Francisco Chronicle, her hometown newspaper, that revealed Feinstein’s “memory has so deteriorated that she can no longer fulfill her job duties” and that her colleagues have even acknowledged that she “cannot keep up with conversations … [and] doesn’t seem to fully recognize other senators and relies almost entirely on staff members.”

The editorial board recognized that some of the past calls for her to resign had been called “sexist” but that senators have a “primary and inescapable duty” to show up and vote, which Feinstein has been unable do while she has recovered from shingles.

“Senate seats are not lifetime sinecures, and if members can’t effectively represent their constituents or work for the benefit of their country, they should not hesitate to turn the job over to someone who can. Ms. Feinstein owes California a responsible decision,” the editorial concluded.

Click here to read the full article at BreitbartCA

California Bill Advances, Requiring Big Tech to Pay for News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Big Tech companies such as Google and Meta might soon have to pay media outlets for posting and using their news content under a proposed California measure attempting to save local journalism.

The bill, which cleared an important Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday with bipartisan support, would require Google and Meta to share with California media companies their advertising revenue stemming from the news and other reported content. The amount would be determined through an arbitration process.

Supporters of the bill said it would provide a “lifeline” to local news organizations that have seen their advertising revenues nosedive in the digital era. Opponents, including trade groups and some journalism groups, said the legislation would be an unprecedented mandate that violates the First Amendment.

The bill would mandate that at least 70% of their revenue go to local news organizations to help pay for reporters’ salaries. Big Tech companies would also be prohibited from retaliating against a news outlet for demanding a fee by excluding their content on the platforms.

“As news consumption has moved online, community news outlets have been downsized and closing at an alarming rate,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland, who authored the bill, said during the Tuesday hearing.

The Democrat said that California has lost more than 100 news organizations in the past decade.

“The dominant type platforms, both search engines and social networks, have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share the content they produce, which tech companies sell advertising against for almost no compensation in return,” she said, noting her bill is being backed by major journalism unions such as the News Media Alliance and Media Guild of the West, which represents The Los Angeles Times and other newsrooms.

But critics of the bill said the legislation is unconstitutional for requiring online platforms to post content from all news organizations. It would also reward clickbait content and limit the ability for Google and Meta to fight misinformation on their platforms as it could be seen as retaliation, said a representative from Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Chris Krewson, executive director of LION Publishers, a national news group representing more than 450 independent newsrooms, said the bill is “fundamentally flawed” and wasn’t written with small newsrooms in mind.

The bill would mostly benefit newspaper chains and hedge funds that have gutted local newsrooms in the last few decades, he said. His group represents more than 50 local newsrooms in California, 80% of which are operations with five or fewer journalists. Most of those news outlets wouldn’t meet the requirements to benefit, he said.

“I applaud the lawmaker for getting bipartisan support on this,” Krewson said in an interview Tuesday. “But this is backward.”

Over the last two years, LION Publishers has received at least $1 million in funding from Meta but Krewson said he’s not speaking on the tech company’s behalf.

Similar efforts to bolster local news companies have been attempted across the United States, Australia and Canada, among others, with various levels of success. Australia adopted a law in 2021 that resulted in $140 million in payments to news companies from Google and Facebook last year.

U.S. lawmakers are also pushing for similar initiatives, reintroducing a bill in March that failed in the last congressional session and would have allowed news companies to jointly negotiate an advertising rate with tech giants such as Google.

Meta declined to comment on the California bill but pointed to a statement it made to the U.S. Congress in 2022 and another it made to the Canadian government this year when it threatened to pull all news content from its platform if the company would have to pay for news. Google didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the California bill.

Despite clearing another hurdle Tuesday, questions remain about how the bill would be implemented. Some lawmakers noted that Meta’s Facebook and Google do not operate the same way. Google scrapes news websites and provides users with summaries of reported content, while Facebook shows content such as photos, videos and articles to users based on their activities on the platform.

Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco said he’s also concerned with how the state would ensure the money goes to local journalists.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Democrats to Focus on State In Their Bid to Retake House

Super PAC plans to spend $35 million on races in California

Democrats consider California pivotal to the party’s efforts to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2024, with a super PAC tied to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledging last week to spend $35 million on competitive congressional races in the state.

That’s roughly triple what the group spent in the 2022 midterm campaigns in the Golden State, when Democrats underperformed in heavily blue strongholds such as California while fending off an expected Republican red wave in congressional races across the nation.

“Democrats can’t retake the House without winning seats back in California,” said David Wasserman, a congressional forecaster for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Wasserman said Democrats’ strategic decisions have historically teetered between the need to win House seats in states such as California and the cost of campaigning in areas with such expensive media markets. In the November election, the party suffered the consequences for not spending big in California races and losing some close contests.

“Democrats abandoned … multiple California districts that ended up being fairly close, and they spent a lot of money in other districts that didn’t end up being very close,” he said.

The party and affiliated committees have “long been hesitant about laying down big bucks on California races because the markets are so expensive. They feel like there’s a better return on investment” elsewhere, Wasserman added.

Despite Democrats’ overwhelming voter registration advantage in California, it is home to several competitive congressional districts, in large part because they are drawn by an independent commission that pays no heed to protecting officeholders. The Republicans’ main congressional super PAC invested heavily in the state to protect the party’s incumbents, won an open seat in the Central Valley and nearly knocked out a prominent Democratic House member.

Although the GOP took control of Congress in 2022 and Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy won the House speaker’s gavel in January, the margin of both victories was far narrower than expected, given historical trends, economic malaise and President Biden’s lackluster approval ratings.

Mike Smith, president of the House Majority PAC, which is aligned with Democratic leaders in Congress, said the committee plans to focus on 18 congressional districts nationwide that are represented by Republicans but voted for Biden in 2020. Five are in California — the exact number of seats Democrats need to flip to reclaim control of the House.

“California is critical to the path,” said Smith, a former senior Pelosi advisor. “We want to lay a marker down early.”

Under federal election law, the House Majority PAC is allowed to raised unlimited sums from donors for independent expenditures on individual races, while the national parties and candidates themselves face contribution limits.

In 2022, Republican incumbents held on to seats in the Central Valley, northern Los Angeles County and Orange County that Democrats were confident about winning because of Biden’s success in these districts.

The reelections of GOP Reps. David Valadao of Hanford and Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita are prime examples, and were the result of finding candidates who fit their districts politically, as well as smart and effective campaign spending, said Republican redistricting expert Matt Rexroad.

“It’s not going to be a layup” for Democrats, Rexroad said. “McCarthy has done a good job of recruiting candidates who can hold their districts for not just one term, but for an extended time period.”

Paul Mitchell, a Democratic redistricting expert, agreed that his party “totally walked away” from the Garcia race, which he believed was one of Democrats’ best opportunities in the nation.

But Mitchell also argues Democrats will have a better chance in a number of California congressional districts because 2024 is a presidential election year, which means greater turnout among young people, minorities and other voters who tend to favor Democratic candidates.

“We are going to have much, much higher Democratic turnout,” he said.

The Democratic political action committee’s pledge to spend a significant amount of money supporting the party’s candidates comes months after former state Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who unsuccessfully ran against Garcia three times, called out national Democrats for not backing her campaign in 2022.

“The utter lack of investment made no sense,” Smith said in an interview late last year, shortly after she castigated her party on Twitter for failing to support her sufficiently in the race to represent California’s 27th District, which includes Santa Clarita, the Antelope Valley and parts of the San Fernando Valley.

The onetime GOP stronghold has grown more Democratic as Los Angeles residents moved there seeking affordable housing. The decennial redrawing of congressional maps made the district even bluer by excising Simi Valley.

“Our campaign got next to zero outside resources to fight this battle,” Smith said in her remarks on Twitter. With no help on the airwaves and little elsewhere from liberal committees and PACs, “we didn’t stand a chance,” she said.

The parties’ political action committees’ 2022 spending in California was incredibly lopsided, with the House Majority PAC spending less than $12 million compared with the $33.1 million spent by its Republican counterpart, the Congressional Leadership Fund linked to McCarthy.

The GOP super PAC is expected to spend a similar amount in California this cycle to aggressively defend its incumbents in tight races and to try to oust vulnerable Democrats.

“We won for two cycles in a row in California because of great Republican candidates and voters being fed up living in a state where Democrat governance has led to high crime and high costs. California will remain key in the fight to protect the House majority,” said Dan Conston, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund.

McCarthy has long been a fundraising powerhouse, and his prowess appears to have grown since he became speaker. In February, at his first fundraiser after being elected the leader of the House, he reportedly brought in more than $12 million in one night.

The Congressional Leadership Fund spent $2.5 million in the Garcia-Smith contest, while the House Majority PAC spent a little more than $23,000.

Democrats argue that their 2022 strategy was grounded in the realities of the campaign — including the anticipated GOP congressional victories across the nation and the cost of television advertising in California, home to some of the nation’s most expensive media markets.

Also, Democratic candidates such as Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine — now running for retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat — had tens of millions of dollars in their campaign coffers, so they did not receive the financial backing that their Republican rivals did.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

‘We’re Not Victims of Circumstances’: Here’s How Mayor Breed Plans to Revive San Francisco

Mayor London Breed laid out a vision for how to revive San Francisco in her annual State of the City address Thursday, pledging to tackle the city’s biggest challenges, including the housing crisispublic safety concerns and a struggling downtown.   

Breed unveiled proposals to pump $25 million more into overtime for a Police Department struggling to fill vacancies and to revitalize downtown by lightening the tax burden on businesses, and reiterated her plan for how to build 82,000 homes in eight years. 

The mayor painted a picture of San Francisco as resilient and stressed she was committed to its economic recovery and addressing its social issues as the city struggles nearly three years after the pandemic began. She spoke to a packed crowd of city officials, politicians and residents, who greeted her arrival with cheers.

“We are San Franciscans,” Breed said inside the glass atrium of a modern building in the Dogpatch neighborhood, which hosts a satellite communications company and tech human resources business. “We’re not beholden to past catastrophes. We’re not victims of circumstances. We are the captains of our own ship. We are the City That Knows How.” 

Since her address last year, Breed’s had political wins and losses. While the city celebrated a drop in homelessness, it’s struggled to contain a lethal drug epidemic and open-air drug dealing, despite Breed’s efforts to do so in the Tenderloin. The moderate Democratic mayor clashed with more progressive supervisors over housing policy and the limits of her own power.  

“The last few years have been tough, and our challenges ahead are even tougher: public safety concerns, a spiraling fentanyl crisis, empty offices, shuttered businesses, and profound learning loss among our kids,” Breed said from Pier 70, a once industrial neighborhood on the waterfront that’s being redeveloped. “I know we can overcome these, in part because, through four consecutive elections last year, our voters re-instilled every level of our government with a mandate to get the basics right, to put children before politics, to put results before posturing.” 

Breed now has another year in office to show results after elections last year extended her term to January 2025. Voters also gave her the ability to pick political allies to fill vacancies after two historic recalls. In her speech, Breed praised two of her appointees, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and Supervisor Matt Dorsey, both of who won election in November, and new Supervisor Joel Engardio, who ousted a progressive incumbent, pointing out all three are focused on public safety. 

“I’ve been waiting for help like this, for a long time,” Breed said. 

What Breed didn’t have to wait on was control of the Police Department, whose chief she also appoints, to pursue her top priority of public safety. 

More than a year ago, Breed promised to crack down on open-air drug dealing and use as part of her three-month emergency to tackle the overdose crisis in the Tenderloin. But critics took issue with her promises of a crackdown, calling it a second War on Drugs, and she struggled to make meaningful change, according to people who live and work in the neighborhood. 

But tides shifted when San Franciscans, furious about crime, ousted progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who critics perceived as too lenient. To replace him, Breed picked Jenkins, who promised to balance criminal justice reform with accountability for repeat offenders, including drug dealers. 

Over the past year, Breed has pumped money into the Police Department to help recruit and fill vacancies and has added community ambassadors downtown to deal with drug use and other issues. Many residents have welcomed changes, but some have accused the city of just pushing problems out of sight. 

“I am not OK with open-air drug dealing in this City. Period,” Breed said Thursday. She stressed home and business break-ins also require timely responses, but the city needs officers to respond. 

Breed announced Thursday she would introduce a $25 million budget supplemental to fund police overtime to get the department through the end of the fiscal year while it continues to try to hire new officers. The money — which the Board of Supervisors would need to approve — comes on top of the Police Department’s $713 million budget in fiscal year 2023, an increase of $50 million from the year before. The overtime will come out of the city’s $108 million general reserve. 

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