Housing Advocate Calls Kamala Harris a ‘Coward’ for Silence on Misspent Funds

'Luckily, with God's blessing, we won the case without her'

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris / Getty Images

Just days after touting her tough-on-banks record, Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris is facing renewed criticism from California housing advocates for her reluctance to help victims of predatory lending practices when they needed her.

Faith Bautista, president and CEO of the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC), spoke out against Harris's celebration last week of the recently paid out housing settlement in an interview with RealClearPolitics, complaining that she was a "coward" when they needed her to stand up to California's Democratic governor Jerry Brown.

In 2012, Harris and other state attorneys general negotiated a $20 billion settlement with major mortgage lenders over their role in the 2009 financial crisis. While the settlement money was meant to provide relief to struggling homeowners, then-governor Brown had his own plans, diverting $331 million to pay off state debts.

Brown's move outraged the non-profit organizations that the settlement was supposed to help, including Bautista's NAAC, which joined other minority groups in suing Brown over the misspent funds.

From RealClearPolitics' Susan Crabtree:

"She's a coward. It's political," Bautista said of Harris, opining that the first-term senator is reluctant to publicly stand up to Brown, who endorsed her in the crowded 2016 Senate primary when she and then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez were the top two contenders in a field of 34 candidates running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

"Luckily, with God's blessing, we won the case without her," Bautista said of a decision last month by the California Supreme Court to let a lower court's ruling in her organization's favor stand.

Bautista's comments came after Harris expressed pride in a court-ordered foreclosure relief fund announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Brown administration eventually lost the case, but the court battle did not stop there. Despite a record budget surplus of $21.4 billion, current Governor Gavin Newsom appealed the case to the California Supreme Court in his own attempt to misspend the money.

Harris, a longtime friend of Newsom, was silent throughout the legal process.

She refused to meet with the NAAC and other nonprofits, offering nothing but a brief statement in support of the homeowners.

"This has taken five years and I can't tell you how many times we've begged for [Democratic officials] support," Bautista told RealClearPolitics. "We went to every single one of their offices and no one would help."

Eventually, Newsom's appeal also proved unsuccessful, with the court ruling in July that the state government must use the $331 million to help homeowners. Only then did Newsom announce he would use the money for its intended purpose, making no mention of his conflicting legal battle in the process.

"The idea that human beings could take advantage of other human beings at this level and go to bed at night and hug their kids is extraordinary in and of itself," said Newsom, who did not disclose his own sleeping habits.

Bautista expressed skepticism that Newsom will follow through on his promise.

"We really don't know what Newsom's plan is—it's so vague," said Bautista.

"{The California government] stole this money for the longest time, and [Newsom] fought not to have to return it, and now he's having a press conference saying, ‘Hey, I'm a hero—I'm going to help the homeowners, I'm going to help the renters.'"

Bautista, a Democrat, added that although she hoped to support Harris in her 2020 run for president, she can no longer do so.