Cop-O Research: Is Kamala Harris Planting Evidence on Her VP Rivals?

Kamala Harris
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July 22, 2020

Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), whose failed presidential campaign flamed out before any primary votes were cast, is a top contender to be Joe Biden's running mate in 2020. Curiously enough, negative stories about Harris's potential rivals for the VP slot have been popping up of late in mainstream media outlets. Imagine that.

Biden's promise to select a female running mate, along with the increasing pressure to pick a woman of color, has left the former vice president with limited options. Only two women of color—Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.)—campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Despite her failings as a candidate, Harris is widely considered the favorite thanks to her relatively high profile compared with the other black women rumored to be on Biden's shortlist, such as Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D.), Rep. Val Demings (D., Fla.), and Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.). In recent weeks, all three have had negative stories published about them—almost certainly the result of opposition research fed to reporters by a rival.

Within a span of two days earlier this month, Vox and Politico published similar stories criticizing Demings's record as Orlando police chief. Harris has been criticized in similar fashion for pursuing "tough on crime" policies as California attorney general back when the Democratic Party still believed in crime prevention—although neither story mentions Harris's record.

Around the same time, ABC News published a story highlighting Bottoms's ties to "controversial figure" Kasim Reed, the former Atlanta mayor who left office in disgrace amid a federal corruption investigation that resulted in prison time for a number of his senior staffers. Harris herself is no stranger to controversial figures. Her political career emerged as she was in a relationship with former San Francisco mayor (and Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year) Willie Brown, who was also the subject of a federal corruption investigation—but once again, Harris's similar background went unmentioned.

Following reports that Biden was considering Bass because of her relative lack of interest in using the VP gig as a platform to launch a presidential campaign in 2024, Politico came through with an article about how the congresswoman once described Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as "comandante en jefe" (commander in chief). "Florida Democrats recoil at Karen Bass VP float," the headline read.

Harris clearly wants the gig. Pretty much everyone does, given the likelihood that the elderly and cognitively declining Biden might not even serve a full term in office. Enough to be shopping oppo about the other black women under consideration? Obviously.

The Atlantic described Harris's "shadow campaign for vice president" as a "very open secret" and noted the efforts of supporters to make the case that Harris is the only woman of color with "the experience to understand the scrutiny and pressure of being part of a national campaign." The New York Times reported that Harris has been "maneuvering privately" to avoid coming across as pathetically desperate.

Harris is reportedly "frustrated with the bureaucracy" in Congress and pines for the executive authority she enjoyed as attorney general of California, when she launched a war on truancy that led to the arrest of impoverished parents. Meanwhile, celebrity truants such as climate activist Greta Thunberg continue to evade justice.