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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 15 million American households experienced food insecurity at some point in 2017.




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Politics & Government

Critics Say New Capitol Parks Rules Would Curb Free Speech

Co-published by Newsweek
A plan proposed by the National Park Service would nearly seal off the area surrounding the White House, with only a five-foot-wide stretch of sidewalk remaining open to the public.

Robin Urevich




The White House: Waiting for its moat? (Photo by Ingfbruno)

Co-published by Newsweek


The Trump administration is seeking to limit protests on the National Mall in Washington, DC and in nearby city parks and squares in new rules the National Park Service has proposed in the Federal Register. The parks service argues the regulations are just a routine update. But many opponents see them as an attempt to curb the rights of Americans to assemble and speak out at the very monuments that proclaim the nation’s uniqueness as a free and democratic country.

The proposed regulations’ largest impact is likely to be felt at the White House, where Americans have historically made their voices heard on national issues. The plan would nearly seal off the area surrounding the presidential residence, with only a five-foot-wide stretch of sidewalk remaining open to the public.

The suffragettes who stood in front of the White House in 1917 demanding the vote for women would have been hard-pressed to fit in the tiny space now proposed to be available to the public. More recently, the 2014 demonstration against the Keystone XL oil pipeline, where hundreds of people were arrested after locking themselves to the White House fence with plastic zip ties, would have been impossible under the proposed rules.

“The symbolic value of getting arrested on the sidewalk was very powerful for them,” Arthur Spitzer, legal co-director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, DC said of the Keystone protesters.

Some areas around the White House have already been temporarily closed to foot traffic in response to “fence jumpers” who have attempted to enter the White House grounds. The new rules would make those closures permanent, even though jump-proof fencing was recently installed.

The government’s proposals would effectively ban stages and sound systems for spontaneous demonstrations like those that erupted in response to the Trump administration’s travel ban or against the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, because permits would be required for their use.

In an email, Brent Everitt, a National Park Service spokesman, said the new rules were proposed to address newer monuments, like the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which were built since the rules were last revised. (For the most part, the ACLU has not taken issue with those proposals.)

He argued that changes to White House rules were made in response to a request by the Secret Service. Everitt also commented that another change, a permit requirement for structures built in some Washington parks, “are in reaction to events that occurred since the last update,” namely, the Occupy protests in McPherson Square, whose makeshift buildings “created health and safety hazards for participants and for the city at large.”

Many of the government’s proposed rules would violate the Constitution, the ACLU contends in its formal comments on the changes.

“…the amendments now proposed harken back to the era in which the courts had to be called upon to protect the right to dissent in the nation’s capital,” the organization wrote, noting that some of the newly proposed regulations would also violate court orders issued in previous ACLU cases and which are currently in effect.

The ACLU is among more than 38,000 groups and individuals that have weighed in on the proposals during a 60-day comment period that ended October 15. The civil liberties group charges that the limit on protests on the sidewalk facing the White House is a “stealth proposal” because it is buried at the end of the 26-page rules document; no discussion of it is included in the Federal Register publication of why the rule is necessary.

Spitzer said the provision appears to be a response to White House annoyance with protesters.

“That’s my suspicion,” Spitzer said. “I do know that no one in the National Park Service was working on this until the Trump administration came to power.”

The administration is also requesting public comment on charging demonstrators for permits to recover government costs for large events. It has not formally proposed charging fees, but the ACLU said in its comments that doing so would amount to “charging Americans a fee to exercise their constitutional rights.” The 1963 March on Washington in which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech likely would have been impossible, the ACLU contended, had the government been able to recover its costs for the event.

The government is legally obligated to read and consider all public comments before its rules go into effect. But, if final regulations, such as those proposed are published, “The green light would be on for lawsuits on behalf of people who want to demonstrate,” Spitzer said.

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Politics & Government

Richard Blum, a $100 Million UC Investment, Feinstein Campaign Donations: Business As Usual at UC?

Co-published by Splinter
In the fall of 2017, UC regents shifted $100 million worth of university endowment and pension resources into a fund founded by a business associate of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, regent Richard Blum.




Richard Blum and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. (Photo: Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

Dianne Feinstein’s husband and the UC system are no strangers to controversy surrounding their investment and business practices.


Co-published by Splinter

University of California regents approved a nine-figure investment in a private equity fund run by a major donor to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose husband sits on the regents’ board. The investment was disclosed just as some of the private equity fund’s overseers and advisers were pumping thousands of dollars of donations into Feinstein’s campaign, according to documents reviewed by Capital & Main.

In the fall of 2017, UC regents decided to shift $100 million worth of university endowment and pension resources into the RISE fund, operated by TPG. That firm was founded by David Bonderman, who has forged extensive business relationships with Feinstein’s husband, regent Richard Blum. Over the past quarter-century, Blum served as a TPG executive, founded a fund overseeing TPG’s Asia business and partnered with TPG on numerous investment deals with his own investment fund, Blum Capital. The $100 million investment was UC’s first investment with TPG.

Securities laws require public officials to make investment decisions on the basis of merit, not personal relationships or political contributions.

Since 1992, Bonderman and his wife have donated more than $32,000 to Feinstein’s political campaigns. Additionally, donors associated with the RISE fund’s board and advisory panel have contributed more than $65,000 to Feinstein’s campaigns and political action committee. That includes $15,400 of donations in the three-week period surrounding the disclosure of UC’s investment in the RISE fund. Those donations came from Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, as well as from Ariel Investments president Mellody Hobson. Marc Benioff and Hobson, who is married to George Lucas of Star Wars fame, sit on the RISE Fund’s Founders Board.

In general, securities laws require public officials to make investment decisions on the basis of merit, not personal relationships or political contributions. A 2010 Securities and Exchange Commission rule was explicitly designed to deter financial firms from using campaign contributions to influence investment decisions.

“The decision by the UC regents to make an investment in a fund run by a close friend and business partner of Richard Blum raises potential issues of institutional corruption.”


Blum argues that there is no conflict of interest.

“I’ve never heard of the RISE Fund,” he told Capital & Main. “We used to be partners with TPG. We’ve done investments together. But I have nothing to do with TPG or the RISE Fund… [The University of California investment office] never checks with me on anything.”

Blum conceded that, in addition to his business and personal relationships with Bonderman and TPG, he also knows another top TPG and RISE Fund executive, Jim Coulter, and added, “I occasionally get together with [UC Chief Investment Officer] Jagdeep [Singh Bachher] and we talk about philosophy.”

Singh Bachher is in charge of oversight and management of UC’s investment in the RISE Fund.

Capital & Main asked TPG if it had disclosed its executives’ relationships with Blum and donations to Feinstein. In a statement, TPG said that it “adheres to the strongest compliance standards and all political donations are subjected to compliance review and clearance, and in the case of federal officials are publicly disclosed through the Federal Election Commission. TPG responded in the ordinary course to due diligence questions posed by UC in connection with its investment.”

The University of California forwarded the regents’ conflict of interest policy and made no other comment. Senator Feinstein did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

“The decision by the UC regents to make an investment in a fund run by a close friend and business partner of Richard Blum raises potential issues of institutional corruption,” said Jay Youngdahl, an attorney and pension expert. “When money saved for workers’ retirement is placed into high-fee investments that benefit those close to politicians, questions need to be asked and answered. Investment funds in several states have suffered problems with similar practices.”

Blum, Bonderman and the UC system are no strangers to controversy surrounding their investment and business practices.

Blum in recent years has faced questions about his overlapping business and political interests. In 2013, he was lambasted by investigative journalist Peter Byrne when Blum’s real estate firm, CBRE, got a $118-plus million contract to sell and lease U.S. Postal Service property. In 2015, the Postal Service’s inspector general recommended that the contract be terminated. Blum was also criticized by Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times for his role in using CalPERS, the state employees’ retirement fund, to purchase the for-profit higher education firm ITT. At the same time he was investing in ITT, which has now been shut down (at a significant loss to CalPERS), Blum was voting to increase UC tuition by 32 percent.

More recently, Blum Capital was blamed by Payless ShoeSource’s creditors for bankrupting the chain to provide $350 million in dividends to Blum Capital and its business partner on the deal, Golden Gate Capital. In the Blum and Golden Gate-initiated bankruptcy, Payless closed 700 stores, laid off hundreds and sued former employees to repay for small signing and relocation bonuses the company had given out.

Similarly, the SEC fined TPG $13 million for misleading investors in December 2017. In June 2017, Bonderman resigned from Uber’s board after making a comment widely seen as offensive to women. And in 2015, TPG was sued by its former communications director, Adam Levine, who had also worked as deputy press secretary for George W. Bush. Levine claimed in legal filings that the firm “miss-billed [sic] expenses, flouted compliance rules, and gave inaccurate information about its investment team,” according to Reuters. The lawsuit was dropped later in the year, according to the firm.

Meanwhile, the UC Retirement Plan has lately been engulfed in scandal over pay-to-play allegations.

In early September, the pension trade publication Institutional Investor published a report showing that the retirement system’s chief investment officer faced “serious charges of mismanagement.” The report also highlighted allegations from an anonymous tipster with inside information that Bachher had placed $250 million in a fund run by a former UC regent, Paul Wachter, who had participated in Bachher’s hiring. The investment was opposed by other top investment staff at UC, the article said.

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Blue State/Red District

The GOP’s Uneasy California Strongholds, Part 3

With Election Day 25 days away, we conclude our profiles of some key California congressional races.




Today we conclude a series of updated summaries from Capital & Main’s “Blue State/Red District” reports, with two Republican-held congressional districts that went for Donald Trump in 2016. As support for GOP incumbents seemed to crumble across California in 2018, Congressmen Tom McClintock and Devin Nunes suddenly looked vulnerable to their Democratic opponents.

Congressional District 04

Tom McClintock

Jessica Morse










Read Kelly Candaele’s What Do the Suburbs Want?

District Terrain: Sacramento Suburbs, Gold Country.

Facts: This is Trump Country.

Incumbent: Tom McClintock.

Challenger:  Jessica Morse.

Large Financial Backers: Koch Industries, AT&T, Gap Inc. (McClintock). Labor PACs, Democratic Party PACs, individual donors (Morse).

Issues: The economy, immigration, wildfire spending.

Takeaways: Gold Country counties are recipients of an urban exodus fueled by affordable housing, a desire for good schools and the expansion of high-tech jobs into suburbia.

Polling: McClintock is so universally presumed to be winning that no polls have been undertaken in this district, but traditional prognosticators (Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball) say this will be a likely win for the incumbent.

Key Endorsements: National Rifle Association, Americans for Legal Immigration, California Pro-Life Council (McClintock). Sacramento Bee, Emily’s List, Giffords (Morse).

Challenger’s Chances: McClintock was a late add to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s original list of seven flippable GOP congressional districts in California that had gone for Hillary Clinton. Nearly a year after his addition, the DCCC’s targeting of CA 04 seems like wishful thinking – McClintock is predicted to win handily.

From Candaele’s story: “The key geographic areas where the majority of voters live, and where elections are won or lost, are found along the I-80 and I-50 corridors — places whose dairy farms and orchards not too long ago reached to the outskirts of Sacramento. The cows have been replaced by ‘Tuscan’-style housing estates with names like Serrano Village.”

Congressional District 22


Devin Nunes

Andrew Janz









Read Donnell Alexander’s Restless Valley: Can Devin Nunes Hold His Seat in November?

District Terrain: Central Valley, covering portions of Fresno County and all of Tulare County.

Facts: The predominantly rural area has long been a Republican stronghold, and Donald Trump won the 22nd district in 2016 by a margin of 9.3 points.

Incumbent: Devin Nunes.

Challenger:  Andrew Janz.

Large Financial Backers: General Atomics, Blackstone Group, Harris Farms (Nunes). Labor PACs, Democratic Pacs, End Citizens United (Janz).

Issues: Water policies, the economy, health care.

Takeaways: Nunes has been in office since 2002, and has grown used to landslide victories. But his votes to cut Medicaid and his close association with Trump have cost him supporters – including his hometown newspaper, which for the first time endorsed a Nunes opponent.

Polling: Recent polls indicate Nunes still has a healthy lead over Janz.

Key Endorsements: California Pro-Life Council, National Rifle Association, Campaign for Working Families (Nunes). The Fresno Bee, National Education Association, Equality California (Janz).

Challenger’s Chances: Weak

From Alexander’s story: “The eight-term congressman could not be less visible to locals if he wore a magic cloak. Some visiting constituents have had to interact with Nunes’ people through an outdoor intercom.”

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Homeland Security Kicks the Ladder from Under Immigrants Seeking Green Cards

Co-published by American Prospect
“Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country’s earliest immigration statutes,” DHS tells would-be citizens. Then it lists the ways a proposed agency rule could devastate the health care of 5.5 million of them.

Robin Urevich




President Donald Trump and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

Millions of people could go hungry or forego medical treatment for fear they could jeopardize their chances or those of family members to legalize their status in the U.S.


Co-published by American Prospect

Immigrants who use Medi-Cal, food stamps, housing assistance or Medicare prescription drug subsidies could be barred from obtaining green cards or visa extensions under a proposed rule the Department of Homeland Security published in the Federal Register October 10. Currently only those who use cash assistance or who require long-term institutional care at government expense are barred on public charge grounds.

Immigrant rights advocates, health care providers and local governments predict devastating results, especially in California and other states with large immigrant populations: Millions of people would go hungry or forego medical treatment for fear they could jeopardize their chances or those of family members to legalize their status in the United States. The newly uninsured would seek care at hospital emergency rooms, likely waiting until their conditions are painful and costly to treat. Surprisingly the Department of Homeland Security echoes these predictions, but still contends the rule change is necessary.

“It’s just unconscionable that a family would have to choose between food, health care or a green card for their children.”

“DHS seeks to better ensure that applicants for admission to the United States…do not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their family, sponsor, and private organizations,” the government notes in its proposal. “Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country’s earliest immigration statutes.”

The California Primary Care Association, the trade group for the state’s community health clinics, predicts that between 20 and 60 percent of non-citizens could disenroll from public programs, including Medi-Cal, delivering a potential body blow to California’s health care safety net. The forecast is based on what happened during a similar scare 22 years ago, when Congress approved welfare and immigration reform laws that, for the first time, specified that those who received federal public benefits could be excluded from the country on public charge grounds. (The wide gap in the percentage forecast reflects varying rates of disenrollment from different programs and different immigration statuses of individuals, legal permanent residents, visa holders and refugees.) The Clinton administration initiatives didn’t define federal public benefits, but later instructed immigration officials to bar only those who used cash welfare benefits or those who required government-paid institutionalization for long-term care.

One policy analyst says the rule change is an “end run around Congress” that would favor immigration of wealthier individuals and those with advanced degrees or job skills.

“It’s just unconscionable that a family would have to choose between food, health care or a green card for their children,” says Louise McCarthy, CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.

The rule would instruct immigration officers to give positive weight to green card applicants with incomes of more than $62,000 for a family of four.

National Immigration Law Center policy analyst Jackie Vimo says the rule change is an “end run around Congress” that would favor immigration of wealthier individuals and those with advanced degrees or job skills.

Immigration officers would have broad discretion to exclude children, the elderly and non-English speakers in determining who would become a public charge.

“President Trump tried to change our immigration system, which has been a family-based system. This is trying to pass the RAISE Act through the back door,” Vimo said, referring to the 2017 Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, which would cut legal immigration in half and limit legal immigrants’ abilities to petition for legal status for family members.

The administration’s proposal would exclude those who have received 15 percent or more of the federal poverty level in food stamps or cash assistance, or $1,821 for a single person annually, as well as those who have been on Medicaid or who have received housing assistance for 12 consecutive months in a three-year period from becoming legal permanent residents. It wouldn’t penalize individuals who received benefits before the rule took effect.

Under the rule change, immigration officers would also have broad discretion to exclude children, the elderly and people who don’t speak English in determining the likelihood that an individual would become a public charge.

DHS predicts dire health consequences if its own proposal takes effect.

DHS hasn’t specifically proposed to exclude immigrants whose children are insured under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which offers low-cost care to children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, but it has asked for the public to comment on whether it should do so.

DHS estimates that the new public charge rule would cause some 5.5 million people nationwide to either disenroll from Medicaid (as the program is known outside of California) or fail to sign up for fear of immigration consequences. (The DHS estimate is based on a percentage of the foreign-born population who sought to legalize their status between 2012 and 2017.) The government would save some $1.5 billion, but DHS also predicts dire health consequences if its proposal takes effect, writing that it would lead to:

•“Worse health outcomes, including increased prevalence of obesity and malnutrition, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants, or children, and reduced prescription adherence;

• Increased use of emergency rooms and emergent care as a method of primary health care due to delayed treatment;

• Increased prevalence of communicable diseases, including among members of the U.S. citizen population who are not vaccinated;

• Increases in uncompensated care in which a treatment or service is not paid for by an insurer or patient;

• Increased rates of poverty and housing instability; and

• Reduced productivity and educational attainment.”

The DHS press office did not respond to an email query or to phone calls asking how it weighed these negative consequences against the potential benefits of the rule change.

The new rule is so stringent that if American citizens were subject to it, one in three would be excluded, Vimo said. It’s also so complicated that among its costs to society, DHS listed an opportunity cost of eight to 10 hours for immigration lawyers representing immigrant clients and others who would seek to understand it.

Thus, it’s likely that few people have read the fine print, either of the final proposal or of two earlier versions that were leaked to the public last spring.

But fear of applying for benefits is already palpable among immigrant patients at Eisner Health, a network of community health centers that serve low-income patients in Southern California, say staff members. Katie Tell, Eisner’s Vice President for Development and Communications, noted that patients sometimes make untenable choices for fear of immigration consequences.

“Do they enroll or play it safe and not get the care they need? If we have less people in Medi-Cal, it could destabilize community clinics,” she said.

But Eisner Health staff report that patients are increasingly fearful of applying for benefits. They say that several women who received Medi-Cal to pay for prenatal care and delivery have recently called insisting on reimbursing the clinic out of pocket for their services. Other patients have refused to sign up for Medi-Cal for their children, who are eligible for the program.

Today, health care providers predict similar outcomes, which they say would reverse some of the progress California has made in tightening its health care safety net. The Affordable Care Act included a major Medi-Cal expansion that added nearly four million people to its rolls and cut the uninsured rate in half, from 17 percent to 8.5 percent between 2013 and 2015. Many previously uninsured Californians who, in the past, had used costly emergency services, were able to access more cost-effective primary and preventive care. Clinics like Eisner expanded and increased their services, but Carmela Castellano Garcia, CEO of the California Primary Care Association, says disenrollment from Medi-Cal could mean some clinics would have to cut back on programs.

The Department of Homeland Security is legally required to consider public comments for 60 days in drafting its final rule, however the FCC ignored that requirement last year in scrapping net neutrality rules — claiming that it only considered comments that introduced new facts or made legal arguments. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has announced its intention to change the way immigration judges apply the public charge rule, in order to align with the DHS proposal.

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Learning Curves

2018 Has Seen K-12 Strike Wave Sweep U.S. — And It’s Still October

A generational upsurge of public school walkouts. For San Jose teachers, home isn’t where the NIMBYs are. Death of a black Humboldt State student.

Bill Raden




Austin Beutner photo by Bill Raden.

“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to, @BillRaden.


It’s official: 2018 has already seen the highest number of teacher work stoppages in a quarter-century, according to new federal numbers crunched by the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In an October 4 Labor Notes blog post, UMass Amherst sociology professor Jasmine Kerrissey says that five percent of all K-12 teachers have walked off the job since January. “Our figures for 2018 don’t yet include the teacher strikes around Washington State in September — or the big ones that may still be ahead this fall in Los Angeles and Oakland,” she adds. Chalk it up to stagnant wages and years of draconian austerity.

Whether or not L.A. Unified follows suit now is a matter between United Teachers Los Angeles, LAUSD negotiators and state mediators. Last week saw the climax to a legal tug of war between the union (United Teachers Los Angeles) and LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner over a public records request for Beutner’s official appointments calendar. The resulting cache appears to confirm longstanding union suspicions that Beutner has been working closely and in secret with “charter operators, wealthy privatizers and related organizations.” UTLA documented at least 11 meetings between the superintendent and high-powered charter interests, including Jed Wallace of the California Charter Schools Association, Republican donor and charter backer Frank E. Baxter, and charter-aligned LAUSD lobbyists Mercury Public Affairs. How the discovery might impact contract talks remains to be seen. The next mediation is scheduled for today.

A NIMBY uproar by neighbors of San Jose Unified could threaten at least part of an innovative district solution to affordable teacher housing. With skyrocketing housing costs already a prime driver of SJUSD’s annual 200-teacher turnover, and with downtown San Jose in the running for a massive mixed-use Google development, the district has been considering nine properties on which existing schools with declining enrollments could be moved to make way for as much as several hundred housing units for teachers and school employees. The angriest battles have been in the tony South San Jose neighborhood of Almaden Valley, where residents signed an online petition, complaining that employee housing for public school teachers “will negatively impact the aesthetics of the area” and “will negatively impact home values.”

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that a disconnect between diversity recruitment goals by California colleges and the state’s least diverse communities is at the center of an unsolved April 2017 murder of a 19-year-old black Humboldt State University sophomore. David Josiah Lawson was stabbed to death during a fight at an off-campus party in the mostly white Northern California town of Arcata. Charges against a 24-year-old white local, identified by partygoers as the assailant, were dismissed for insufficient evidence.

The victim’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, has blamed police indifference and a lack of urgency by the university for the stalled investigation — charges that were bolstered by complaints from a consulting retired FBI agent over the lack of cooperation and honesty from the Arcata police department. Lawson has joined with students in demanding greater accountability from HSU: “They knew the type of environment where my son was going to school, and yet they recruited him. They recruited many students of color knowing that Arcata isn’t a safe town.”

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Blue State/Red District

The GOP’s Uneasy California Strongholds, Part 2

We continue our series of updated summaries of Capital & Main’s “Blue State/Red District” reports, today focusing on congressional races in the Central Valley and Orange County.




Congressional District 10


Josh Harder

Jeff Denham











Read Larry Buhl’s Pro-Trump House Votes Could Haunt Heartland Incumbent Jeff Denham

District Terrain: Central Valley.

Facts: As the Valley’s traditional ag mantra of Guns, Jesus and Water gives way to concerns about health care and immigrant rights, the Republican candidate faces an uphill battle to win reelection.

Incumbent: Jeff Denham.

Challenger:  Josh Harder.

Large Financial Backers: Bravo Ag Group, Google, Phillips 66 (Denham). Labor PACs, Democratic Party PACs, American Association for Justice (Harder).

Issues: Health care, immigration, economy/taxes.

Takeaways: In elections past, Jeff Denham has artfully navigated between ingrained rural conservatism and the needs of his low-income constituency. But now Denham finds himself squeezed between Donald Trump’s policies and his district’s increasingly stressed constituents.

Polling: Opinion surveys say the race is too close to call — but Harder is beginning to eclipse the incumbent.

Key Endorsements: California State Sheriffs’ Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (Denham). Modesto Bee, Latino Community Roundtable (Stanislaus County), Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (Harder).

Challenger’s Chances: If Harder maintains his momentum, the first-time candidate could topple Denham.

From Buhl’s story: “Big-box retailers and plentiful Starbucks make sections of Modesto resemble Southern California’s megalopolis. One resident quipped that his city is ‘90 minutes from everywhere you’d rather be.’” 


Congressional District 21


David Valadao

TJ Cox










Read Larry Buhl’s Trump May Blow Reelection Headwind at David Valadao

District Terrain: Central Valley from the outskirts of Bakersfield to the western portion of Fresno County.

Facts: Agriculture is the leading industry in this largely rural district. Nearly three-quarters of the population is Latino, and it is among the poorest districts in the state.

Incumbent: David Valadao.

Challenger: TJ Cox.

Large Financial Backers: Agricultural organizations, Chevron, Koch Industries (Valadao). Labor PACs, Democratic PACs, American Society of Anesthesiologists (Cox).

Issues: Immigration, water policies, economy.

Takeaways: While the district tends to lean left, Valadao’s willingness to break from the Republican Party on immigration issues has earned him wider support among voters.

Polling: Surveys indicate a victory for Valadao remains likely.

Key Endorsements: California Pro-Life Council, National Rifle Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California (Valadao). End Citizens United, 314 Action, American Federation of Teachers (Cox).

Challenger’s Chances: Poor.

From Buhl’s story: “Whether voters hold Valadao accountable for his repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare, and his failure to protect Dreamers, remains to be seen.”

Congressional District 45


Mimi Walters

Katie Porter










Read Judith Lewis Mernit’s The Education of Mimi Walters.

District Terrain: Inland Orange County.

Facts: There are signs that Congressional Republicans have generally fallen from favor in Orange County through their votes to substitute the Affordable Care Act with a GOP replacement.

Incumbent: Mimi Walters.

Challenger:  Katie Porter.

Large Financial Backers: Dow Chemical Company,, Blue Shield of California (Walters). Labor PACs, Emily’s List, End Citizens United (Porter).

Issues: Health care, immigration, taxes.

Takeaways: Polls suggest that nearly two-thirds of this traditionally Republican district’s residents disapprove of Donald Trump’s performance. To win, Mimi Walters will have to prevent that dislike from rubbing off on her.

Polling: Late polls show UC Irvine law professor Porter pulling ahead of Walters.

Key Endorsements: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Orange County Business Council (Walters). The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Sierra Club, Stonewall Democrats (Porter).

Challenger’s Chances: A first-time candidate’s slight lead could spell the end of Republican dominance here in November.

From Lewis Mernit’s story: “Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in CA-45, a sign that at least some of its conservative voters might be more loyal to ideals of diversity and tolerance than they are to their party.”

See More Congressional Summaries

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Blue State/Red District

The GOP’s Uneasy California Strongholds, Part 1

In February we rolled out our “Blue State/Red District” series, which found significant voter discontent expressed against Congresspeople representing previously “safe” Republican districts. This week we present updated summaries of our reports.




Residents gather for a candidate forum in Newhall. (Photo: Steve Appleford)

Earlier this year, Capital & Main sent reporters to six congressional districts that were considered safely Republican but had favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Did Clinton win there because California Republicans were turned off by Donald Trump, or was something else afoot — were demographic shifts changing the political complexions of conservative bastions, or, perhaps, did constituents feel their congressional representatives were voting against their own local interests?

We also covered two red districts handily won by Trump (represented by Tom McClintock and Devin Nunes) for signs of discontent. Capital & Main rolled out the first stories February 1, before any polling had been conducted, and our reporters found significant dissatisfaction with incumbent Republicans in all these districts. Since publication, signs and polling have indicated further erosion of the GOP’s grip, which may result in an unprecedented political turnover on November 6.

During the next week we’ll present updated summaries of our original stories written by Kelly Candaele, Judith Lewis Mernit, Larry Buhl, Steve Appleford and Donnell Alexander.


Congressional District 25

Steve Knight

Kate Hill










Read Steve Appleford’s Is Steve Knight Too Out of Touch to Be Reelected to the House?

District Terrain: Northern Los Angeles County’s high desert, parts of east Ventura County.

Facts: The district has long been home to aerospace giants and defense contractors, but is additionally seeing an expansion of investment in solar energy. It has also experienced an accelerating increase of its Latino population.

Incumbent: Steve Knight.

Challenger:  Katie Hill.

Large Financial Backers: Alliance Coal, National Automobile Dealers Association, United Services Automobile Association (Knight). Labor PACs, American Association for Justice, Planned Parenthood (Hill).

Issues: Affordable health care, taxes (including the state’s new gas tax), immigration.

Takeaways: Knight, a second-generation district congressman, may not be able to overcome the 25th’s anti-Trump sentiments.

Polling: Late polling shows political rookie Hill pulling ahead.

Key Endorsements: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Right to Life Committee (Knight). NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List, Sierra Club (Hill).

Challenger’s Chances: Very good.

From Appleford’s story: “Economic progress has been accompanied by growing homelessness, which once barely existed here.”

Congressional District 48

Dana Rohrabacher

Harley Rouda







Read Judith Lewis Mernit’s The Great Awakening of CA-48

District Terrain: Coastal Orange County.

Facts: Clinton won this affluent district in 2016. Incumbent Dana Rohrabacher cultivates the image of a pot-smoking surfer, but Trump is very unpopular in CA 48.

Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher.

Challenger: Harley Rouda.

Large Financial Backers: GOP and conservative PACs, General Atomics, Scotts Miracle-Gro (Rohrabacher). Labor PACs, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Home Builders (Rouda).

Issues: Health care, the economy, immigration.

Takeaways: Rohrabacher, a former Reagan speechwriter, is fighting for his political life against a novice opponent.

Polling: U.C. Berkeley, Siena College and Monmouth University all call this a virtual tie – but with a slight edge going to Rouda.

Key Endorsements: National Rifle Association, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste PAC (Rohrabacher). Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club, California Labor Federation (Rouda).

Challenger’s Chances: Rouda has pulled slightly ahead in recent polling.

From Lewis Mernit’s story: “People in coastal Orange County mostly want to be left alone, to not have government taking away their money or policing their behavior.”

Congressional District 49

Diane Harkey

Mike Levin








Read Kelly Candaele’s The Dream Coast Under Pressure    

District Terrain: Northern coastal areas of San Diego County, a portion of southern Orange County.

Facts: The district has changed hands between parties several times over the last 25 years.

Incumbent: None. Its GOP representative, Darrell Issa, barely won in 2016 and decided not to run this year. The Republican candidate is Diane Harkey; Mike Levin is her Democratic opponent.

Large Financial Backers: Edison International, Occidental Petroleum and Watson Pharmaceuticals (Harkey). Labor unions, American Association for Justice, Progressive Action PAC (Levin).

Issues: Gun laws, health care, immigration.

Takeaways: The district’s traditional loyalty to the GOP, because of its support for military spending, may be eroding from fears of shrinking housing affordability and a revulsion over Trump’s immigration policies.

Polling: Latest surveys show Levin beginning to walk away with the seat.

Key Endorsements: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Susan B. Anthony List, San Diego Patriots (Harkey). San Diego Union-Tribune, League of Conservation Voters, Everytown for Gun Safety (Levin).

Challenger’s Chances: Good and getting better.

From Candaele’s story: “The 49th District is where changing demographics and Trumpism’s existential jolt have exposed political fissures that have yet to be re-aligned.”

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The Lies That Should Have Sunk Kavanaugh

Co-published by Newsweek
“Is he threatening the Democrats?” asks former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman about Brett Kavanaugh. “Is he threatening people who oppose his nomination? We don’t need a Supreme Court justice who is going to use his position to get revenge.”

Bill Raden




Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Co-published by Newsweek


Only the shaken confidence in Brett Kavanaugh by three senators stands in the way, Saturday, of the Supreme Court nominee’s lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. Republicans Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski, and Democrat Joe Manchin, will have little more on which to base their votes than the words of Kavanaugh himself versus those of his various accusers.

Below are six of the main lies Kavanaugh is accused of telling under oath, followed by a discussion with three legal experts on his behavior. The feature ends with a list of 13 other alleged lies, with thanks to GQ, the New York Times, Vox, the Washington Post, and Current Affairs.

1. May 9, 2006, SJC nomination hearing to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, response to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), again about his knowledge of the “Memogate” emails.

“I’m not aware of the memos, I never saw such memos that I think you’re referring to. I mean, I don’t know what the universe of memos might be, but I do know that I never received any memos and was not aware of any such memos.”

Distance from the Truth: Kavanaugh made the denial under oath multiple times to committee members. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), however, recently posted confidential emails on Twitter that he says were in Kavanaugh’s possession, proving his previous denials are, Leahy wrote, “just FALSE!”

2. May 9, 2006, SJC hearing on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, response to Senator Durbin (D-Ill.) about the judicial nomination of William Haynes, the Pentagon’s director of torture policy during the George W. Bush administration.

“I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants or—and so I do not have the involvement with that.”

Distance from the Truth: Kavanaugh has since been doubly implicated, both in significant involvement with Haynes’ judicial confirmation for Bush and in having a hand in Bush detention and interrogation policies. Newly discovered emails from 2002 prove the former, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) charged last month, and “show that Kavanaugh played a substantial role in the decision to nominate Haynes.”

3. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Hearing, on explaining partying activities during the summer of 1982.

I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation.”

Distance from the Truth: Both Kavanaugh’s later testimony and his personal calendars detail attending parties throughout the period of the alleged assault, uncannily similar to the one Christine Blasey Ford describes.

4. April 27, 2004, SJC confirmation hearing of Kavanaugh to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, response to Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) on whether as Associate White House Counsel he had direct knowledge of Memogate memos stolen from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and leaked to the White House.

“No. Again, I was not aware of that matter in any way whatsoever until I learned it in the media.”

Distance from the Truth: Kavanaugh made the denial under oath multiple times to committee members. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), however, recently posted confidential emails on Twitter that he says were in Kavanaugh’s possession, proving his previous denials are, Leahy wrote, “just FALSE!”

5. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Hearing, denying a New York Times report that “Renate alumnius” [sic] on his yearbook page was a sexual boast.

“That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us…It was not related to sex.”

Distance from the Truth: Sean Hagan and three other former Georgetown Prep students counter that the reference was intended as degrading, albeit unsubstantiated. “So angry. So disgusted. So sad. Integrity? Character? Honesty?” Hagan posted on Facebook after the testimony.

6. September 27, 2018, SJC hearing, response to Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) about whether he “drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened.”

“But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out… Passed out would be—no, but I’ve gone to sleep, but—but I’ve never blacked out.”

Distance from the Truth: Former Yale freshman roommate James Roche: “I saw him both what I would consider blackout drunk, and also dealing with the repercussions of that in the morning.”


Capital & Main asked congressional committee veterans and a former federal prosecutor to examine Kavanaugh’s September 27 testimony, as well as additional statements flagged by journalists as probable Kavanaugh mistruths. They were asked if the nominee’s character, temperament and credibility under fire warrant his elevation to the Supreme Court.

Former assistant U.S. attorney Nick Akerman

“[Kavanaugh] came out with an opening statement that basically tried to take away the committee’s ability to really cross examine him,” says trial lawyer and former assistant U.S. attorney Nick Akerman. “Because, I think, he realized that if he left himself open to being questioned by committee members and open-ended cross examination, he’d wind up getting himself into trouble — exactly as he did.”

Akerman cut his prosecutorial teeth in the 1970s with the Watergate Special Prosecution Force under Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski. Any kind of “he said, she said” equivalence between Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh during the hearings, Akerman argues, quickly foundered on the wealth of persuasive detail in Blasey Ford’s account that was made even more compelling when it dovetailed with the personal calendar that Kavanaugh introduced as supposedly exculpatory evidence.

“I don’t think Kavanaugh realized what he was doing,” Akerman says. “I mean, the fact that he tried to keep [the possible party date] to a weekend as opposed to a weekday during the summer is a bit ridiculous. There’s just enough little details in there that when you start adding them up all point towards him lying. This is somebody who should not be on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman

When Akerman was building cases against all the president’s men, Elizabeth Holtzman was holding Richard Nixon accountable for his abuses of executive power and for flouting the Constitution. As a first-term congresswoman from New York City serving on the House Judiciary Committee, she cast key impeachment votes against Nixon. Like Akerman, Holtzman also notes the contradictions around Kavanaugh’s interpretation of the calendar in his testimony, but what really stands out to her is how loosely, she says, Kavanaugh plays with facts.

“First of all, there was no left-wing conspiracy,” she says. “If you listen to Dr. Blasey Ford, you know that she was a very reluctant witness, and this was not an effort to undo a conservative appointment; it was to let people know about what he had done. … His claim that there was no corroboration also wasn’t true. Because there is corroborative testimony — testimony that she gave about her therapist, that she told the therapist, that she told her husband; there may be other people that she told.”

Kristine Lucas, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Kristine Lucius, executive vice president of policy for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which opposes the nomination, has been through her share of confirmation fights. But her experience as the legal and policy adviser to the former Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, did not prepare her for what played out at last week’s hearing.

“What we saw in Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony was someone belligerent and vindictive, and threatening and partisan,” Lucius says. “Even setting aside the significant sexual assault allegations, I have real concerns about how the Supreme Court will be viewed if he is confirmed.”

Holtzman also expresses concern on this point.

“He said, ‘What comes around, goes around’ — and that’s a kind of a threat,” Holtzman says. “Is he threatening the people that support Dr. Blasey Ford? Is he threatening the Democrats? Is he threatening people who oppose his nomination? Who is he threatening? We don’t need a Supreme Court justice who is going to use his position to get revenge.”

Lucius recalls past confirmation fights from her time with the Judiciary Committee, when past drug use or a sexual allegation would sometimes surface in her background briefings of a nominee for committee members. What never seemed to emerge was a consistent standard of concern by senators. It was at such moments that she saw confirmation votes as a “decency test” for each individual member.

“This is 100 percent on the shoulders of the senators,” says Lucius. “They are deciding what the standard is going to be for the highest court in the land. And that has as much to do with their institutional role as [it does] their own moral compass.”

Ten More Times Kavanaugh May Have Lied Under Oath


1. September 5, 2018, Day 2 of Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, explaining a dissent that compared the majority’s upholding of a DC ban on assault weapons “to a ban on a category of speech.”

Under Oath:

“I grew up in a city plagued by gun violence and gang violence and drug violence.”

Distance from the Truth: Kavanaugh grew up as an only child in Bethesda, Maryland, one of the country’s most elite communities, whose homicide rate was 2.1 deaths per 100,000 from 2009 to 2015.

2. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, explaining to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) what “boofed” means in Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry, “Judge — have you boofed yet?”

Under Oath:

“That refers to flatulence. We were 16.”

Distance from the Truth: “Anal sex,” insisted Georgetown Prep classmates of the slang’s meaning, interviewed prior to Kavanaugh’s testimony. None had ever heard it referring to flatulence.

3. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, to Senator Whitehouse’s question of what “Devil’s Triangle” on Kavanaugh’s yearbook page referred to.

Under Oath:

“Drinking game.”

Distance from the Truth: For most people, this is teen argot for group sex between two men and one woman.

“The explanation of Devil’s triangle does not hold water for me,” said William Fishburne, who managed the Georgetown Prep football team while Kavanaugh was a senior, to the New York Times.

4. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, to Senator Whitehouse’s question about another Kavanaugh’ yearbook entry: “Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor.”

Under Oath:

“I’m known to have a weak stomach.”

Distance from the Truth: Beach Week was a party week for Georgetown Prep kids. Yale roommate James Roche recalls Kavanaugh “frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk”; roommate Kit Winter remembers “a lot of vomit in the bathroom. No one ever cleaned it up. It was disgusting. It wasn’t incidental. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, this weekend someone puked in the bathroom.’ People were constantly puking in the bathroom. Constantly.”

5. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, to Republican staff counsel Rachel Mitchell, on whether he consumed alcohol in high school.

Under Oath:

“I liked beer. Still like beer. We drank beer. The drinking age, as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal. Senior year in high school, people were legal to drink, and we — yeah, we drank beer, and I said sometimes, sometimes probably had too many beers.”

Distance from the Truth: Technically correct … for Maryland; not so for Kavanaugh. In July of 1982, seven months before he turned 18, the state raised the legal drinking age for beer and wine from 18 to 21. Those who were 18 or older at the time were “grandfathered” in, so they could continue to drink legally. Those like Kavanaugh, who didn’t turn 18 until the following February, had to continue illegally.

6. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, on his recollections of Christine Blasey Ford.

Under Oath:

“She and I did not travel in the same social circles.”

Distance from the Truth: During the spring and summer of 1982, Ford testified she was dating a friend of Kavanaugh’s nicknamed “Squi,” who appears more than a dozen times on Kavanaugh’s calendar of social events.

7. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, commenting on the veracity of Ford’s testimony.

Under Oath:

“Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a longtime friend of hers.”

Distance from the Truth: Ford identified four people, including Kavanaugh, at the party; the other three participants only said they had no memory of the gathering, and one, Leland Ingham Keyser, told the Washington Post that she believes Dr. Ford’s account.”

8. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Under Oath:

“The event described by Dr. Ford presumably happened on a weekend because I believed everyone worked and had jobs in the summers. And in any event, a drunken early evening event of the kind she describes presumably happened on a weekend. … If the party described by Dr. Ford happened in the summer of 1982 on a weekend night, my calendar shows all but definitively that I was not there.”

Distance from the Truth: Ford never said when the alleged incident occurred. It’s also not the case that Kavanaugh’s social circle restricted its drinking to weekends in the summer. Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend, wrote in a book about his battle with sobriety that he would often show up to work either hungover or still intoxicated from the night before.

9. September 27, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Under Oath:

“The calendars show a few weekday gatherings at friends’ houses after a workout or just to meet up and have some beers. But none of those gatherings included the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified. And as my calendars show, I was very precise about listing who was there. Very precise.”

Distance from the Truth: One calendar entry is a near-perfect match to the party described in Ford’s testimony. On July 1, Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, Patrick Smyth and the boy Ford says she was going out with were headed to a friend’s house for “skis” — or beer, as Kavanaugh explained in his testimony.

10. September 10, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, responding to written questions about direct knowledge of sexual harassment by federal judge Alex Kozinski.

Under Oath:

“I do not remember any such comments.”

Distance from the Truth: Kozinski’s infamous private server containing pornographic photos and his inappropriate conduct were an open secret in the legal community, particularly the circles that included Kavanaugh, who maintained a close relationship with the jurist. Ex-clerk Heidi Bond wrote that “having clerked in his chambers, I do not know how it would be possible to forget something as pervasive as Kozinski’s famously sexual sense of humor or his gag list.”

Kavanaugh’s Misleading Statements
in Fox News Interview


September 23, 2018, Fox News interview, on his high school years.

Not Under Oath:

“I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, a Jesuit high school, where I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship, friendship with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all-girls Catholic schools.”

Distance from the Truth: A far cry from the Keg City Club Treasurer — “100 Kegs or Bust” — listed on his Georgetown Prep yearbook page, or with what is described in Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, high school friend Mark Judge’s memoir.

September 23, 2018, Fox News interview, responding to Debbie Ramirez’s New Yorker claim that a drunk Kavanaugh exposed himself to her in a room of people at Yale.

Not Under Oath:

“If such a thing had happened, it would’ve been the talk of campus. The women I knew in college and the men I knew in college said that it’s inconceivable that I could’ve done such a thing.”

Distance from the Truth: Yale classmate Richard Oh and another anonymous student remember hearing about the incident at the time. Yale roommate James Roche found it entirely plausible that Kavanaugh exposed himself to Ramirez.

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Justice John Paul Stevens’ Supreme Judgment Against Kavanaugh

The former U.S. Supreme Court Justice said he had thought Brett Kavanaugh to be “a fine federal judge and should [have] been confirmed, [but] his performance during the hearings changed my mind.”




John Paul Stevens photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told an audience Thursday afternoon that he once was a strong supporter of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but no longer believes Kavanaugh should become a Supreme Court justice. The 98-year-old Stevens expressed his view to a packed room at a Unitarian Universalist church in Boca Raton, Florida.

“I thought he had the qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court and should be confirmed if he was ever selected, but I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability or his record as a federal judge,” Stevens said. “He’s a fine federal judge and should [have] been confirmed, [but] his performance during the hearings changed my mind.”

Stevens said he agreed with news and legal commentators who have suggested that Kavanaugh had demonstrated potential bias and alienated too many people who might come before the court, such that “he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities. I think there’s merit in that criticism … Senators should really pay attention to it for the good of the court.”

Stevens said he was once such a strong admirer of Kavanaugh that “I have a picture of him in my book.” He was referring to his 2014 work, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. In it, Stevens criticizes the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Stevens famously wrote the dissent in that case, an opus that was some 90 pages.

Stevens’ book describes an opinion written by Judge Kavanaugh on the same matter.

“The issue in the case was whether a Canadian citizen and a citizen of Israel living in New York temporarily could make expenditures in elections that were going on at the time,” he told the Boca Raton audience. “Following Citizens United, they brought a proceeding in federal court asking for an injunction against enforcing the statute that prohibits expenditures by foreign citizens in American elections, and Judge Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding the statute…. I thought that was a very persuasive opinion. And one of the cases that he cited in that opinion was my dissent on Citizens United, which showed the fact he was a very good judge and had very good taste.”

The event moderator, Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino, asked if there were similarities between the confirmations of Kavanaugh and Justice Clarence Thomas, since they are both polarizing figures. Stevens said that, ultimately, there was nothing that would have disqualified Thomas. Stevens added that although he frequently disagreed with Thomas on cases, “As a person, I’m very fond of him. He’s a very decent, likable person. You cannot help but like Clarence Thomas – which I don’t think necessarily would be true of this particular [judge].”

(Audio from the event is attached below)


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