California Dems Mum on Sen. Harris’s Longtime Aide’s #MeToo Resignation

Dem pols who blasted Kavanaugh keep quiet on Harris aide, allegations against Cardenas

• December 11, 2018 5:00 am


California Democrats who have strongly supported the #MeToo movement and excoriated Republicans over their handling of decades-old sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh have been notably mum on the resignation last week of a top aide to Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) after news broke he had been sued for "gender harassment."

Prominent Democrats in the Golden State, along with newly elected Democratic members of the California Congressional delegation, have also remained silent about #MeToo allegations against several other powerful Democrats.

Many of them have also declined to take a position on a lawsuit against Rep. Tony Cardenas (D., Calif.), the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus PAC who has been accused of drugging and molesting a 16-year-old girl in 2007.

The silence on the resignation of the Harris aide and ­Cardenas comes a year after many of the state's political leaders acknowledged a reckoning when it comes to sexual misconduct in and around Sacramento.

In the fall of 2017, nearly 200 women signed a letter demanding more accountability for a culture of rampant sexual harassment in the state's political circles.

The fallout over the state's numerous #MeToo issues has continued ever since and has cost many state lawmakers and politicians, mostly Democrats, their jobs in a state where the party dominates the corridors of power.

Despite the reckoning, longtime Republican political operatives in the state say many Democrats have selective memory when it comes to #MeToo condemnations.

"They say they believe victims but only when there's some political gain for them," one GOP operative argued.

The critics point to the continued silence on Cardenas, as well reluctance to hold accountable Roger Hernandez, a former Democratic assemblyman who was under a restraining order for beating his wife. After the judge granted the order, his colleagues pulled Hernandez's committee assignments but allowed the unapologetic lawmaker to finish out the 2016 legislative session, after which term limits forced him from the job.

They also say more should have been done far earlier to oust Tony Mendoza, a former state senator who resigned after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

Mendoza was the roommate of former State Senate pro tem Kevin de Leon at the time of some of the alleged incidents.

De Leon, during his unsuccessful campaign to defeat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), criticized her handling of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation against Kavanaugh. Others argued that de Leon failed his own #MeToo test by blocking a whistleblower bill that would have given Mendoza's accusers and other victims of sexual harassment more protection.

The #MeToo revelations about Harris's aide follow another major sexual harassment scandal that hit California Democrats in late November, just weeks after celebrating victories across the state.

Two weeks ago, nearly 14 months after the #WeSaidEnough movement in the state began, California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman resigned amid political pressure over claims he sexually assaulted and harassed multiple people.

Previous reports of sexual misconduct had surfaced against Bauman in 2017 when he was running for the chairmanship, but he publicly denied them and denounced the "rumors" as "the politics of personal destruction."

Several Democrats applauded Bauman's decision to resign, including newly elected representative Katie Hill (D., Calif.).

"As a thorough and neutral investigation is conducted, I agree with Eric Bauman's decision to step down from his role as Chair of @CA_Dem. I stand with the survivors—harassment and assault don't happen along partisan lines."

Hill also said, "We have to start by believing the survivors" if "we are ever going to change our culture that perpetuates and often normalizes sexual assault and harassment."

"The time for those in power to get away with this behavior is over—it doesn't matter which party you're a part of, harassment and assault don't happen along partisan lines," she said. "It might not be politically convenient, but it's a moral imperative."

"We are all responsible for doing our part in promoting a culture of consent and changing the narrative around reporting [sic] and I am proud to be part of a new generation of leaders willing to stand up and loudly say, with our words and actions, ‘no more,'" she argued.

Despite this unequivocal pledge, Hill has not responded to repeated questions from the Washington Free Beacon about what she thinks of the molestation charges against Cardenas and whether he should step down from the chairmanship of the Hispanic Caucus political action committee, BOLD PAC. The congressional districts Hill and Cardenas represent border each other.

She also has not responded to questions about her decision to keep a $2,500 donation from the PAC. Newly elected Rep. Mike Levin (D., Calif.), a harsh critic of Kavanaugh, took a total of $10,000 from the same PAC, while Rep.-elect T.J. Cox (D., Calif.) also took $2,500 during the campaigns.

Levin and Cox also have not responded to repeated requests for comment about Cardenas. The same candidates, as well as Rep.-elect Katie Porter (D., Calif.), also said nothing in support of a fellow Democratic activist who accused Rep.-elect Gil Cisneros (D., Calif.) of sexual harassment earlier this year.

The activist, Melissa Fazli, withdrew the complaint against Cisneros late in the campaign after speaking out about pressure on her from Democrats to recant that led her to move her home.

Fazli also has publicly complained that Democratic Party officials never responded to her sexual harassment concerns about Cisneros when she contacted them about it. She has said they only reached out to her in order to remove her as a voting delegate after learning through news reports that she had moved away from the area she represented.

During the campaign, Hill and Levin were particularly harsh in their criticism of Republicans and the Kavanaugh controversy.

"Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee won't consult the FBI or hear testimony from key witnesses and won't listen to any shreds of conscience they might have," Levin tweeted in late September. "We won't forget."

Hill also stood up for Julie Swetnick, the third woman to come forward against Kavanaugh who accused him of participating in high school parties in the early 1980s in which women were "gang raped."

"Julie Swetnick risked everything to come forward with her story and she is not alone. This is not about the Supreme Court, this is about believing women and protecting survivors," she tweeted. "I've lived this reality and I know why so many of us never report."

Hill previously tweeted out two videos of her explaining why she did not report #MeToo experiences and calling on people to stand up for women accusers and believe them.

Democrats blame Swetnick and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, for botching the plan to sink Kavanaugh's nomination by touting Swetnick's uncorroborated complaints.