Levin, Hill, and Two Other California Dems Took Donations From Cardenas-Run BOLD PAC

Cardenas has been accused of drugging and fondling a minor, which he denies

Tony Cárdenas

Tony Cárdenas / Getty Images

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Democratic congressional candidate Mike Levin, who has criticized Republicans’ handling of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, received $10,000 from a political action committee chaired by a lawmaker facing charges that he molested a teenage girl in 2007.

Three other California Democratic candidates for Congress took lesser amounts from the same PAC, including $5,000 to Ammar Campa-Najjar, and $2,500 each to Katie Hill and TJ Cox.

All of them have remained silent about the sexual-misconduct charges against Rep. Tony Cardenas (D., Calif.), who chairs BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Before the allegations surfaced, Cardenas was credited with expanding the PAC's fundraising totals from $1 million when he took over its leadership two years ago to more than $9 million this election cycle.

Media reports said his fundraising success could propel Cardenas into higher Democratic leadership posts.

Stories touting Cardenas's bright political future came to a halt in late April when a woman identified in court documents only as "Jane Doe," who is now in her twenties, accused Cardenas of drugging and fondling her when she was 16 years old and a rising golf star.

The woman filed a lawsuit against Cardenas in late April. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on Thursday that the woman could amend her complaint to add new facts and an allegation of negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Cardenas's attorney vigorously denied the charges in a statement to the Washington Post in May. 

"My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue," attorney Patricia Glaser said on Cardenas's behalf.

"We respect victims who have found the strength to come forward and call out misconduct when it has actually occurred, but the type of baseless and reckless allegations that are contained in the complaint against my client can ruin the lives and careers of innocent people," Glaser said.

The PAC's sexual harassment and ethics problems are not limited to Cardenas.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D., Nev.), who sits on BOLD PAC's board, announced in December he would not seek reelection this year after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed an employee on his 2016 congressional campaign and a lobbyist when he was a state legislator. Other women have come forward with similar complaints.

Levin received the $10,000 BOLD PAC donation in June while Amma Campa-Najjar received $5,000 from the PAC in August. Katie Hill and TJ Cox each received a $2,500 check in June, according to Federal Election Commission filings compiled by www.opensecrets.org.

The PAC also endorsed another California Democratic candidate, Gil Cisneros, but hasn't donated any money to him.

Cisneros, a former Frito Lay manager and Navy veteran, won a lottery jackpot of $266 million in 2010. He has donated $4.5 million in loans to his campaign. Cisneros also faced a sexual harassment allegation from a fellow Democrat earlier this year, which he has denied.

None of the Democrats who received the donations and endorsements have returned the funds or rejected the endorsements. Nor have any of them come forward to question Cardenas's leadership of the PAC or ask him to step aside while the lawsuit makes its way through the legal system.

All five of the Democrats' campaigns failed to respond to Washington Free Beacon inquiries on Friday. The Free Beacon asked whether they question Cardenas's leadership of the PAC and feel comfortable taking and holding onto its donations in light of the #MeToo movement and the still-unfolding national firestorm over the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D., N.M.), the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, 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.

Top Democrats in Congress, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), called for an ethics investigation into the allegations against Cardenas in May. It's unclear whether the House Ethics Committee has jurisdiction over allegations that date back to 2007, when Cardenas was a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

The Ethics Committee has yet to announce whether it has launched a probe into the allegations against Cardenas.

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."

Several other Hispanics lawmakers serve on BOLD PAC’s board, including Democratic Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan of California, Adriano Espillat of New York, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Vicente Gonzales of Texas, as well as Linda Sanchez of California, who is also the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

In late August, Cardenas opened up a legal defense fund to help collect donations to pay for his legal expenses to fight the sexual misconduct charges.

Despite Levin's silence on Cardenas, he has been harshly critical of Kavanaugh and Senate Republicans' handling of the allegations that the Supreme Court nominee attempted to rape a woman when he was 17.

On Sunday, after Blasey Ford came forward and gave an on-the-record interview, Levin tweeted "Kavanaugh's accuser has passed a lie detector test. Will Kavanaugh take one?"

Levin, an environmental lawyer running to replace outgoing Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), also accused Republicans of "shaming and blaming" Blasey Ford and throwing her "under the bus" so they can 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 Friday. "Rather than shaming and blaming Dr. Ford, they should be ashamed of themselves."

Earlier in the week, 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 has so far limited her comments about the Kavanaugh controversy to statements strongly backing Blasey Ford.

Hill, who is challenging Rep. Steve Knight (R., Calif.) in a district north of Los Angeles, this week tweeted out two 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."

Campa-Najjar, Cox and Cisneros so far haven't publicly waded into the national firestorm over the Kavanaugh allegations.

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree   Email Susan | Full Bio | RSS
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. She is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.

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