Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is Kamala Harris The One? Not So Fast


Cotton-headed California progressives seem to be so relieved that our neoliberal lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, has decided to forego a Senate run-- who cares about the governorship, anyway?-- that they appear to be falling head over heals in love with Attorney General Kamala Harris based on... I'm not sure. She has a liberalism reputation but no one seems to know much about where she stands on the issues that will face the Senate if she's elected. I noticed a tweet Tuesday morning that indicated she had consulted with... not Elizabeth Warren, not Bernie Sanders, not Jeff Merkley, not Sherrod Brown... but with Wall Street puppet Cory Booker. That's scary. EMILY's List has embraced her with open arms which might be something or might not, but certainly never means anything good.

Guy Saperstein, a Bay Area-based major Democratic donor and strategist and a former president of The Sierra Club Foundation, is one of the few progressive activists not jumping right onto her bandwagon. He seems as wary as I am. Yes, she's an attractive black female but are people asking themselves if there is any real substance or record of achievement that would indicate she's be the best person for this job? Better than Jane Harman, Loretta Sanchez, Adam Schiff, Ellen Tauscher... well sure, but we need to hold our public officials to higher standards than that. Guy put together a few ideas about the picture of Harris he has and agreed to allow me to share it here:
Kamala Harris was a politically unknown assistant DA when she started dating and sleeping with Willie Brown, then the most powerful Democrat in California, a married man 30 years older than her. She parlayed that connection into support by the powerful Brown political machine to challenge and beat the incumbent Democratic San Francisco DA, Terry Hallinan. I don't know what you think about sleeping your way to the top but in my opinion it was not a high-integrity career beginning. Shakespeare warned us of the dangers of unchecked ambition and I think we should take the warning.

Then as DA, she presided over a wholesale violation of the constitutional rights of defendants-- violations so fundamental that nearly 1,000 felony prosecutions had to be dismissed by several very angry judges. There were a variety of incidents, but many of them had to do with the police crime lab failing to provide accurate "chain of custody" for evidence, as well as evidence of police techs stealing evidence.

"Chain of custody" is a technical term, but an important term, that insures, for example, that if someone is prosecuted for possession of drugs, when the police or police experts testify about those drugs, they actually are testifying about the drugs the defendant is being accused of, not just some drugs pulled out of a police file cabinet. "Chain of custody" is something every trial lawyer learns about and DAs deal with every day, but Harris' DA's office not only were screwing it up, but when they knew they were not sure of the chain of custody, they were required by law, Maryland v. Brady, a US Supreme Court case, to disclose any mishaps to defense counsel immediately, which Harris failed to do.

Worse, when caught, Harris tried to deny the problems, then tried to put all the blame on the police. Well, the police were responsible, but DA's present evidence every day and vouch for it and if the DAs don't know they are presenting tainted or the wrong evidence, then they are fucking incompetent or corrupt or both. In fact, as I recall, there was a memo or email written to Harris by the Sheriff or one of her deputies apprising her of the evidence problems and Harris failed to alert defense counsel, as she was constitutionally required to do. As I recall, Harris got personally called in by at least three SF Superior Court judges and just ripped for her malfeasance.

There also were incidents of the DA's office using experts and technicians who had been found by prior courts of being unreliable, one even had been called a "perpetrator of fraud" in her prior job, facts which the Brady case requires DAs to disclose to defense counsel, but which Harris failed to disclose.

If a Republican DA had been guilty of such malfeasance and wholesale violations of constitutional rights, Democrats would have tried to burn him/her alive, but Democrats have preferred to look the other way. I, for one, think that these violations were substantial, important, and that they reveal a pattern of low-integrity behavior which does not warrant giving her more power in a more powerful political office.

My recollection of Harris' performance during the foreclosure settlement isn't that glowing a recommendation for her as others contend. She had to be pushed and the idea for the [homeowner's] bill of rights came from, as I recall, the California Courage Campaign.

There is a very progressive potential alternative to Harris, Dave Jones, a lawyer who currently is California's Insurance Commissioner. Dave is probably the most progressive statewide office-holder in California, but he doesn't have the buzz or money Harris will have.
Harris is far from invulnerable and unless her record is carefully scrutinized and a real debate of ideas in engaged in for California voters, there is-- as unlikely as it would seem-- a chance a Republican could grab the seat. After all, in 2010 Harris beat Republican Steve Cooley 4,443,070 (46.1%) to 4,368,617 (45.3%). And after 4 years in office she was reelected in November against an unknown Republican opponent, Ronald Gold, 4,102,649 (57.5%) to 3,033,476 (42.5%) on the same day Governor Jerry Brown was beating Neel Kashkari 4,388,368 (60%) to 2,929,213 (40%).


Once the rumors about Boxer retiring started picking up steam in December, Tom Steyer hired a polling firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, to take a look at how he might fare. The polling memo was positive, as they usually tend to be. It calls him a "strong contender."
Lest anyone worry how healthy an opinion Steyer, 57, of San Francisco has of himself, the memo was addressed to “Team Cincinnatus”-- presumably referring to the Roman statesman hailed as an icon of virtue, selflessness and humility after twice being chosen for, and then twice resigning, the mantle of dictator in order to protect the republic. Big sandals to fill, there.

The poll conducted from Dec. 18-22 asked 600 California registered Democrats and nonpartisan voters about their priorities; they named the environment-- including climate change, the need for clean-energy jobs, and anti-pollution efforts-- among the three top issues facing California’s next senator, along with education and income inequality. The poll also found:
75 percent would be likely to support a candidate who led the fight to pass Proposition 39, the successful 2012 ballot measure that closed a corporate tax loopholes for out-of-state companies and set some of the revenue aside for schools and clean-energy construction jobs;

79 percent would be likely to support a national leader in promoting new clean energy technologies;

66 percent would be likely to support a candidate who “believes climate change is the biggest challenge of our times”;

66 percent would be likely to support a successful businessman who understands how the global 21st Century economy works; and

65 percent say they would be likely to support a candidate who has committed to giving away the majority of his personal wealth to help the next generation get a fair shake.
All of these questions were asked without any mention of Steyer’s name. Afterward, when respondents were read an actual description of Steyer, 75 percent said they would be likely to support him, including 41 percent who said “very likely.”

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At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A small red flag for me was Harris's appeal of the ruling that CA's death penalty was unconstitutional. I think she could be another junior Feinstein

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of all the CA Dems who announced their interest in Boxer's seat, I would prefer Harris to most of them, while reserving the right to switch to Steyer if he convinces me that he's genuine.

The choice of Dave Jones, however, is for me in the same category as wanting Liz Warren or Bernie Sanders to run for president. Each serves a vital role where they now are, exposing plots and preventing serious abuses of office. I'm not willing to risk this! The CA GOP drools over the prospects for replacing Jones with one of their own corporate crooks, and taking the money away from those in need.

The basic problem with the Democrats is that too many are Blue Dogs or New Corporatists on the take. There are no real heirs to the liberal mantles of so many retiring veteran politicians. Unless this changes soon, there will be no reversing the corporatist nation we are rapidly becoming.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Would that Hilda Solis would run!

At 11:52 AM, Blogger ffaristocrat said...

I didn't know who the true progressive was in this race until a white guy jumped in. I feel better already!


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