Newsletter: Essential Politics: A close look at the California Legislature’s sexual harassment investigations over 11 years
Last fall, when more than 140 women came forward to decry what they called a pervasive culture of sexual harassment in California’s state Capitol, The Times attempted to get data to learn more.
As we reported over the weeks since, it’s not so easy to learn what’s been reported to California’s Legislature. On Friday, a somewhat clearer picture emerged when California lawmakers took the unprecedented step of releasing years’ worth of records on sexual harassment investigations that include allegations of inappropriate behavior by both legislators and top staff members.
Those records, showing 18 investigations since 2006 where some kind of formal reprimand was made, came more than three months after The Times began asking for details. Late last year, the newspaper’s attorneys warned that a California court could be asked to intervene without more disclosure.
The documents were released midday Friday, amid the frenzy over the House Intelligence memo. Names of the accusers have been redacted.
Read the documents:
We also learned how much legislative officials have spent in taxpayer money to conduct investigations: $294,271.
Here’s a look at some of the highest-profile names found in the documents.
-- State Sen. Tony Mendoza has been under investigation for allegations of sexual harassment, but the documents show he was warned in 2010 by a personnel manager that his habit of hugging staff members “comes with peril,” and he should stop. Mendoza is currently under investigation for inappropriate behavior with three former staffers, including former aide Haley Myers, who complained in 2010 about the same behavior described in the documents. Mendoza agreed last week to abide by an extended leave of absence during the harassment probe.
-- Assemblyman Travis Allen, a GOP candidate for governor, was accused of physical contact that made a staff member uncomfortable. He denied the allegations and said the release of the documents containing them was a partisan political attack, despite the fact that all the other sitting lawmakers named in the complaints are Democrats.
-- Two years ago, state Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) asked his chief of staff to resign after hearing that the man had been accused of sexual harassment, but later put the aide on the payroll of his political campaign.
-- Three months after a state Senate staffer was terminated over allegations of sexual harassment, he was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to a top position in the state Department of Veterans Affairs. Brown officials said the governor did not know about the accusations against Eric Worthen when he made the appointment.
-- Former state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) was given a “stern admonishment” in 2010 by the Senate Rules Committee for repeatedly using coarse and vulgar language that offended a female staffer. Wright said Friday that spoken-word poetry got him in trouble.
This week’s California Politics Podcast episode takes a closer look at what might happen next in Sacramento after sexual harassment records were released, as well as those top-line campaign cash numbers in the races for governor and U.S. Senate.
It seemed like all of Washington ground to a halt last week over a four-page memo about secret surveillance. The document, which was drafted by Republicans, was declassified by President Trump on Friday and released by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It focuses on how the FBI obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016 to eavesdrop on Carter Page, who had recently left his post as a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign.
Washington bureau chief David Lauter annotated the memo, and Chris Megerian, who has been covering the controversy and the investigation, walks you through everything you need to know to know about the document.
There are a few things that are important to know about the whole episode. First, Trump declassified the memo over objections from his own top law enforcement and intelligence officials.
Second, Republicans insist the memo shows wrongdoing by the FBI, which used Democratic-funded opposition research as part of its application for the warrant. But that case isn’t so cut and dried, and Democrats said the conclusions are misleading and legal experts doubted the existence of a scandal. They also warned of a “constitutional crisis” if Trump fires top intelligence officials — or the special prosecutor — over the memo.
Finally, no matter what the memo says, Trump made it clear on Saturday that he plans to use the document as a political cudgel against the Russia investigation. He tweeted that the document “totally vindicates” him in the “Russian Witch Hunt.” GOP lawmakers weren’t so sure about that one on the Sunday shows.
The memo had an upside for one Democrat: Andrew Janz says he raised $65,000 in one week for his bid to unseat Nunes.
The congressman, somewhat of a hometown hero back in Tulare, donated campaign cash for the effort to repeal California’s gas tax hike, something that could help boost turnout among conservative voters this fall when Republican members need it most.
NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND
-- An intensifying clash between California and Washington over getting cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road has put auto companies in a bind as they contemplate what cars they should be rolling onto showroom floors.
-- Before the Super Bowl, Trump renewed his disdain for kneeling players.
-- Reporters were barred from seeing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on horseback in Argentina.
-- K.T. McFarland, a former White House official whose nomination to be ambassador to Singapore was blocked in the Senate amid questions about her Russia ties, withdrew from consideration for the post.
-- With several high-profile officials out, check out our detailed graphic tracking hirings and firings in the Trump administration.
-- The Trump administration outlined sweeping changes in U.S. nuclear strategy Friday, calling for two new types of nuclear weapons and warning for the first time that in “extreme circumstances” the U.S. could use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks on infrastructure and civilians.
Get the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.
NEWSOM AND FEINSTEIN ARE DOMINANT
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has amassed a war chest of more than $16.6 million for his 2018 bid for governor, far outpacing his rivals and cementing his position as the clear front-runner in a race that’s just starting to liven up. With his dominant fundraising and consistent lead in the polls, Newsom is sailing toward the June primary as his two closest Democratic rivals, state Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, struggle to close the gap and Republican candidates lag far behind.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has nearly $10 million on hand, half of which she loaned herself, as she faces a reelection battle against a fellow Democrat, state Senate leader Kevin de León. He entered the race with some buzz but has only $360,000 in the bank as he tries to defeat the veteran senator.
THE MONEY PICTURE
Most of the Republicans in key California congressional districts got outraised at the end of 2017, casting a gloom over the party heading into competitive midterms. Digging into the numbers, it could be even worse than it looks at first glance.
Sarah D. Wire and Christine Mai-Duc found that on the whole, Democrats raised more than three times the funds raised by the Republican incumbents. And a lot of that money came from individual donors, an indication of the continuing enthusiasm on the left.
Other things we learned from the congressional filings:
-- Rep. David Valadao again out-raised his 2018 Democratic opponent, in a district Clinton won.
-- Rep. Steve Knight was narrowly outraised by an opponent in the 25th Congressional District.
-- Rep. Duncan Hunter raised a paltry $50,000 in the last three months of 2017 and was outraised by three challengers, including a Republican.
-- In Orange County’s 48th Congressional District, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher raised less than his challengers for the second quarter in a row.
-- Fundraising numbers are looking strong for Democrats in all the Orange County congressional districts they need to win to flip the House.
-- In Northern California, GOP Rep. Tom McClintock raised less money than two of his challengers ending the quarter with less in cash on hand than one of his Democratic opponents.
-- Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents defending their seats in California haven’t had nearly as many problems with fundraising, and have cushy leads in their bank account balances.
-- Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra maintained his large political fundraising lead over five possible challengers.
A reminder you can keep up with news on these contests in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.
HELP WANTED: REPUBLICAN TO RUN FOR THE SENATE
The official filing season for California candidates is only days away, and there’s something missing in the race for the U.S. Senate: The name of a prominent Republican to vie for Feinstein’s seat.
In his Sunday column, John Myers looks at not only the potential for Democratic domination come the November election but the very real chance that GOP voters in key congressional and legislative races stay home on election day without some kind of party standard-bearer on the ballot.
GOV. BROWN’S BULLET TRAIN GETS ANOTHER HARD LOOK
Democratic legislators have decided to take a closer look at Brown’s bullet train via a thorough study of the project’s handling to be conducted by State Auditor Elaine Howle.
Howle last audited the project in 2012. Republicans have pressed for a fresh look in recent years, but Democrats have resisted — until now, George Skelton wrote in his Thursday column.
A PITCH TO IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT … BY CURTAILING AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
Lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, make it too difficult to build projects, including those the state needs to meet its climate change goals, according to Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord).
Grayson is proposing a new bill to lower hurdles under CEQA for road and transportation projects in growth plans approved by state regulators. But, Liam Dillon reports, environmentalist groups are arguing that Grayson’s bill ignores important protections CEQA provides to analyze individual projects.
-- Hundreds of cities across California will need to make it easier to permit new housing to comply with a new state law, according to the state’s housing department.
-- Spending on lobbying for high-profile, failed legislation to fast-track a proposed Clippers arena in Inglewood topped $1 million last year.
-- Interest groups spent a record $339 million on lobbying California state government in 2017, much of that from the oil and gas industry attempting to influence the cap-and-trade debate.
-- 314 Action, the group looking to elect more scientists to Congress, made its pick in GOP Rep. Mimi Walters’ Orange County district: former President Obama advisor Brian Forde.
-- California’s mentally ill inmate population keeps growing. And state money isn’t enough to meet needs, lawmaker says.
-- California Republicans on board the train that crashed last week on the way to the GOP retreat shared what it was like to witness the grisly scene.
-- The complicated relationship between housing and environmentalism on the latest Gimme Shelter podcast on California housing issues.
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