2020 Election

Embattled California Dems Team Up With Defund the Police Group

Dems have dodged 'defund' movement on the trail

A trio of embattled California Democrats have welcomed extensive campaign support from a radical group spearheading the push to defund police departments.

Neither Rep. Harley Rouda, nor Rep. T.J. Cox, nor state representative Christy Smith have offered a definitive position on defunding police. The trio of Democrats, however, have all touted endorsements from Indivisible Project, a far-left group that pushes its members to "call your local officials and tell them to defund your local police department." In its effort to defund police, Indivisible has accused America of "structural racism" that "persists across every facet of American life."

Smith said she was "proud to have the support of the activists that make up Indivisible" during her failed May special election bid against Rep. Mike Garcia (R.). Local Indivisible chapters sponsored phone banks in support of Smith ahead of the election, and the Democrat has served as a featured speaker at Indivisible events in the past. Smith accepted $1,000 from Indivisible Action, the group's super PAC, in February.

Rouda has also campaigned extensively with Indivisible. He called their endorsement a "great honor" in his 2018 run against former GOP congressman Dana Rohrabacher, thanking the group for its "grassroots fundraising and support." Cox also said he was "honored" to receive Indivisible's endorsement in 2018. The group is again backing Rouda and Cox in 2020—the pair has accepted a combined $2,000 from Indivisible Action since February.

The California Democrats' unwillingness to openly embrace police defunding—while welcoming the support of police abolitionists—reflects the issue's electoral unviability. A June YouGov poll found that less than 20 percent of Americans of all parties support cutting police funding. The opposition extends to black Americans—over 80 percent want police to spend as much or more time in their neighborhoods as they currently do, according to an August Gallup poll. Despite the apparent disapproval in black communities, Indivisible has called the push to defund police "especially" important for "those of us who are white allies."

Smith has tried to distance herself from the defund police movement in the past. When the Los Angeles City Council voted to cut its police budget by $150 million amid a fiscal crisis in July, Smith blamed the decision on "POTUS failures."

"Budgets are being slashed everywhere," Smith tweeted. "Check in with #MoscowMitch and fight for more federal $ to support cities, counties, and [law enforcement]."

Smith did not respond to a request for comment on Indivisible's support, nor did Rouda and Cox.

Indivisible has also touted a partnership with the social justice umbrella organization Movement for Black Lives in its push to defund police. The group partnered with far-left Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) in July to push the BREATHE Act. The legislation aims to close all federal prisons, end federal funding for police hiring, abolish life sentences and mandatory minimums, and pay reparations to prostitutes, among other proposals.

In addition to its call to defund police, Indivisible has pushed to decriminalize border crossings, close detention camps at the southern border, and defund the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The group received $1.75 million from liberal billionaire George Soros in 2019.

Indivisible has also endorsed progressive Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Deb Haaland (D., N.M.), Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The group gave Biden $5,000 in June and has spent nearly $90,000 opposing President Donald Trump. Indivisible has also spent a combined $320,000 boosting Democratic Senate hopefuls in Kentucky, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Indivisible declined to comment.