Dems Who Slammed GOP Over Kavanaugh Attended Puerto Rico Trip with Cardenas

Cardenas faces allegations that he drugged and molested a 16-year-old

Tony Cárdenas
Tony Cardenas / Getty Images
January 21, 2019

Some of the same Democrats who accused Republicans of whitewashing sexual misconduct allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh left town during the shutdown to attend a weekend retreat in Puerto Rico organized by a senior Democrat being sued by a woman who claims he drugged and molested her when she was 16.

The Democrats cannot claim they don't know about the allegations. Eight months ago, now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) publicly called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into the molestation allegations against Rep. Tony Cardenas (D., Calif.). The panel has yet to formally launch a probe.

Cardenas is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's BOLD PAC, which organized and hosted the winter retreat in San Juan where some 30 Democrats, including Cardenas, mingled with 109 lobbyists and corporate executives.

The weekend retreat included attendance of a performance of "Hamilton," parties with the cast, as well as meetings with key officials to discuss the Hurricane Maria cleanup, the Washington Examiner reported.

Last week, the woman suing Cardenas over the sexual misconduct allegations identified herself for the first time as 28-year-old Angela Villela Chavez and called for a House ethics inquiry. Chavez, the daughter of a longtime Cardenas aide, said she was inspired to come forward following Christine Blasey Ford's accusations against Kavanaugh.

Chavez says Cardenas molested her in 2007 while driving her to the hospital after she collapsed while playing golf with the congressman. In her lawsuit, Chavez says Cardenas gave her water that "tasted distinctly different from both tap and filtered water," and she collapsed. She says he fondled her breasts and genitals before he took her to the hospital.

Cardenas has vigorously denied the allegations, accusing the woman of seeking revenge for her father, a disgruntled former Cardenas staffer. His lawyer issued a statement arguing that the request for a House ethics investigation shows that she has a "meritless and weak case."

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has determined there is enough merit to charges to move forward and has set a trial to begin in August.

In late August of last year, Cardenas opened up a legal defense fund to help collect donations to pay for his legal expenses in the case.

Despite the high-profile media accounts, senior Democrats who attended the Puerto Rico trip and members of the Hispanic Caucus remain silent on the charges Cardenas is facing.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.), who attended the BOLD PAC winter retreat, did not return the Washington Free Beacon's inquiries into their decision to attend despite the pending molestation court case against Cardenas.

It is unclear exactly which Democrats and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members attended the retreat. Spokespersons for Pelosi and Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan (D. N.M.) said they did not attend.

Menendez, who lashed out at Fox News for airing an unflattering photo of him on a Puerto Rico beach, and Nadler have acknowledged participating.

Several leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Reps. Pete Aguilar (D., Calif.), who serves as the CHC whip, and Joaquin Castro (D., Texas) and Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.), the group's vice chairs, also did not respond to an inquiry into whether Cardenas should remain as BOLD PAC chairman while the court case remain pending and undecided.

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda Sanchez (D., Calif.) also remained mum on the charges last week. In November, her husband was indicted by federal authorities on corruption charges and she announced the end of her race to chair the House Democratic Caucus, the No. 3 House Democratic leadership position.

Sanchez in late September joined 65 Democratic members of Congress in calling on McConnell to postpone the Kavanaugh hearings, citing "credible allegations from three women" who spoke about their traumatizing experiences of sexual assault and misconduct at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh.

Nadler's decision to attend the BOLD PAC Puerto Rico retreat is particularly perplexing given his early October pledge to investigate the 36-year-old sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh and new Democratic accusations that he committed perjury on the issue during his explosive Senate confirmation hearing.

In early October, Nadler told the New York Times that he intended to launch an investigation into Blasey Ford's accusations if his party won control of Congress and he became chairman of the Judiciary Committee early this year.

"It's not something we are eager to do," Nadler told the Times. "But the Senate having failed to do its proper constitutionally mandated job of advise and consent, we are going to have to do something to provide a check and balance, to protect the rule of law and to protect the legitimacy of one of our most important institutions."

Nadler went on to say once Democrats took power in January, he expected the committee to immediately subpoena records from the White House and the FBI, which conducted a week-long supplemental background investigation into two of the sexual misconduct claims against Kavanaugh.

He also said he would seek to interview Kavanaugh's accusers and dozens of potential witnesses who came forward to level accusations against Kavanaugh, some of which have been withdrawn and others refuted by other witnesses who interacted with Kavanaugh during the same time period in question.

Menendez was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee last year over corruption allegations, but the Justice Department ultimately dropped its case again him after a deadlocked jury could not reach a verdict in the high-profile case.

In early October, after the FBI completed a week-long investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, Menendez blasted the probe as a "bullshit investigation."

"The reality is, that is not a full and thorough investigation. Evidently, the Republicans who gave the direction to the FBI of what could be investigated was extremely limited."

It's not the first time Democrats have ignored the sexual misconduct charges against Cardenas while slamming Kavanaugh.

During the Kavanaugh firestorm, several Democratic candidates who slammed Kavanaugh took political donations from the Cardenas-run BOLD PAC and declined to return the money.

Mike Levin, Katie Hill, and TJ Cox, who were all Democratic candidates for Congress at the time and were all elected to Congress, did not return Free Beacon inquiries into whether they would return the donations. Levin received $10,000 from BOLD PAC while Hill and Cox received $2,500 each.

Levin, an environmental lawyer who replaced former Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), also accused Republicans of "shaming and blaming" Blasey Ford and throwing her "under the bus" so they could rush Kavanaugh's nomination through the Senate.

"We cannot as a country let Senate Republicans get away with throwing Dr. Ford under the bus so they can rush Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," he tweeted in late September. "Rather than shaming and blaming Dr. Ford, they should be ashamed of themselves."

He also retweeted Sen. Kamala Harris' (D., Calif.) tweet that argued Blasey Ford "courageously stepped forward to tell her story—it is a credible and serious allegation."

"The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to scrutinize SCOTUS nominees. A vote on Kavanaugh's nomination must be delayed until there is a thorough investigation."

Hill during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, tweeted out dramatic videos in support of Blasey Ford.

In one, she discloses that she has "experience sexual assault multiple times and in different ways—I never reported and I know how hard it is for somebody to come forward."

"I also know that many women are in the same place," she said. "It is not your fault. You deserve to be heard. We believe you. #WhyIDidntReport."

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D., N.M.), who chairs the CHC, has reportedly privately relayed concerns to Cardenas about the lawsuit and allegations, although she has not asked him to step down from running the PAC.

Lujan Grisham told Politico in a May statement that Cardenas has "appropriately asked us to withhold judgment until there is a full investigation of the facts."

"Congressman Cardenas said he will fully cooperate with an ethics investigation," she continued. "I agree there should be a prompt investigation by the House Ethics Committee."