Search Results for ‘"kamala harris"’

Federal court slaps down Kamala Harris grab for donor lists

“Today a US District Court ruled in favor of Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s lawsuit against California Attorney General Kamala Harris, ruling that her demands for the Foundation to hand over its list of members and supporters is unconstitutional.” [AFP] We’ve repeatedly covered Harris’s unprecedented drive to demand disclosure of donor lists by nonprofits that carry on activities in California, a step likely to lead to private and public retaliation against individuals and groups revealed to have donated to unpopular or controversial causes.

As the WSJ notes in an editorial, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real “declared her disclosure requirement an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights,” finding that there was scant evidence the disclosures were necessary to prevent charity fraud, that (contrary to assurances) her office had “systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality” of nonprofits’ donor lists, some 1,400 of which Harris’s office had in fact published online. As for retaliation against donors, “although the Attorney General correctly points out that such abuses are not as violent or pervasive as those encountered in NAACP v. Alabama or other cases from [the civil rights] era,” he wrote, “this Court is not prepared to wait until an AFP opponent carries out one of the numerous death threats made against its members.”

A plaintiff’s lawyer and union ally, Harris recently surfaced as an apparently key player in the alliance of state attorneys general intent on using criminal investigatory powers to probe so-called climate denial at non-profit research and advocacy groups as well as at energy companies like ExxonMobil. That makes at least two episodes in which Harris has signaled interest in unprecedented and aggressive steps to pry open the internal workings of private advocacy organizations that take positions adverse to hers. Harris is a leading contender in the Democratic Senate primary to succeed California Senator Barbara Boxer.

Update: Now expanded and adapted into a longer post at Cato.

California AG Kamala Harris demands donor list of a 501 (c) (3)

That raises the possibility of later disclosure of the information, retaliation against donors, or both; whether it’s unusual enough for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to stop it remains to be seen. Harris’s target and adversary in the resulting suit, by coincidence or otherwise, is the “Center for Competitive Politics, a vigorous supporter of political free-speech rights that does not get involved in election campaigns” but does speak out strongly about the First Amendment implications of campaign regulation; we’ve often cited its work and that of its founder, Brad Smith. [Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSBlog; Instapundit, citing “Supreme Court’s 1958 decision in NAACP v. Alabama, in which the Court unanimously protected the NAACP’s membership lists against compelled disclosure to Alabama officials.”]

Kamala Harris and the Moonlight Fire case

The burgeoning Moonlight Fire litigation scandal, which has already tarnished government agencies that include the California fire and forestry agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Forest Service, could also raise questions for California Attorney General and Senate hopeful Kamala Harris. John Fund:

“The misconduct in this case is so pervasive,” [California Superior Court judge Leslie] Nichols wrote, “that it would serve no purpose to attempt to recite it all here.”

Nichols also didn’t spare the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a candidate for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat and a national Democratic star. Nichols wrote that he can recall “no instance in experience over 47 years as an advocate and a judge, in which the conduct of the Attorney General so thoroughly departed from the high standard it represents, and, in every other instance has exemplified.” Judge Nichols then ordered the state to pay Sierra Pacific a whopping $32 million in damages and expenses. Cal Fire denies any wrongdoing, while the offices of Harris and Governor Jerry Brown aren’t talking.

Schools roundup

  • “Sen. Kamala Harris introduces bill to lengthen school day by three hours” [Yelena Dzhanova, CNBC]
  • “The Hidden Costs of Chicago’s Teacher Strike” [John McGinnis, Liberty and Law]
  • “The logic behind school busing is back. And so is flight from government-operated schools.” [Matt Welch, Reason, mentioning new report on controlled choice by David Armor for the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom]
  • Ambition of suppressing or even banning private schooling [earlier] by no means confined to the UK’s loony-Left Labour Party, so be ready for it [Ira Stoll, Education Next]
  • “The Seattle school district is planning to infuse all K-12 math classes with ethnic-studies questions that encourage students to explore how math has been ‘appropriated’ by Western culture and used in systems of power and oppression” [Catherine Gewertz, Education Week; “framework” via Amir Sariaslan on Twitter]
  • “Threatening Teachers’ Ability to Control Their Classrooms: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights gets it wrong on school discipline.” [Gail Heriot] Survey finds significant rise in number of teachers attacked by students [Hans Bader; earlier here, etc.]

Schools and childhood roundup

Discrimination law roundup

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs into law two doubtfully constitutional bills applying to campuses an overbroad, subjective definition of sexual harassment, and requiring all college employees to report such conduct on pain of criminal penalty [Tyler Coward, FIRE]
  • New York adopts workplace harassment law that’s much more speech-hostile than federal, including a dropping of the requirement that prohibited expression be “severe or pervasive” [Hans Bader; Wiggin & Dana, NLR; Douglas Oldham, Barnes & Thornburg]
  • One to watch: SCOTUS will decide standard for proving s. 1981 discrimination claims, in case accusing Comcast of bias in not carrying programming of black network [ABA Journal]
  • A thumbs-down review: “The Kamala Harris Plan to Address the Gender Pay Gap,” Cato Daily Podcast with Ryan Bourne and Caleb Brown;
  • Even when there’s nothing unlawful about an eviction, city bars landlords from telling tenants they’re being evicted for discriminatory reasons. Laws banning truthful business speech about lawful conduct should trip First Amendment review [Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus brief in Seeberger v. Davenport Civil Rights Commission]
  • Second Circuit withdraws decision that held landlords liable for tenant-on-tenant harassment under Fair Housing Act [Scott Greenfield, earlier]

The unreliable count of hate crimes

Laws on hate crimes raise longstanding questions of fairness both in theory and application, including (when enacted at the federal level) dangers of overextension of federal criminal law and inroads on the prohibition against double jeopardy. The role of hate crimes as culture war rallying points can make things worse. In the Jussie Smollett episode, journalists came under fire for raising questions about unlikely elements of the actor’s story — Smollett had been “doubly victimized as the subject of speculation by the media industry and broader culture,” said the head of one progressive outfit — and even for hedging their stories about with words like “allegedly.”

After Smollett’s story fell apart, some advocates argued that no matter what might have happened this one time, data show that hate crimes are sharply on the rise and reports of them hardly ever prove unfounded. Is that the case? I tackle the question in a new piece at Inside Sources

An oft-repeated talking point is that FBI statistics last year, to quote Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), “revealed a 17 percent increase in the number of hate crimes in America.”

Let’s be polite and say those FBI figures are difficult to interpret….

In the state of Oregon, the college town of Eugene reported 72 hate crimes to the FBI in 2017, about as many as the rest of the state put together. According to the Daily Emerald, the difference reflects “the city’s active approach. … The city carefully catalogs reported instances … and even classifies certain crimes — such as vandalism — as a hate crime that other cities would classify in a different way.”

Word is that the Eugene approach is spreading as other cities get interested in steps such as asking officers to write up on their own initiative as a hate incident a graffiti epithet they might see, rather than only if a public complaint happens to come in.

Should those methods spread in coming years, the FBI count of reported hate incidents is sure to mount — yet still not demonstrate with any certainty a genuine rise.

For whatever reason, many of us are predisposed to accept findings that seem to highlight the prevalence of terrible injustice. The impulse to believe extends to matters of scholarship. So it was with a recently retracted 2014 study that purportedly found “structural stigma” in society shortens the lives of LGBT persons by a remarkable 12 years. The authors acknowledged that they had inadvertently committed a coding error with the data; once it was corrected, there was no statistically significant correlation at all between “structural stigma” and mortality. Yet the paper, with its inherently implausible findings, had already achieved “highly cited paper” status, and has continued to garner citations even after its retraction.

More: David Kopel 2003 (recommending stronger penalties for the perpetration of hoaxes).

Hello again, reparations

Ten years ago I wrote this piece for City Journal pronouncing slavery reparations dead as a national cause. Now, as Astead W. Herndon reports in the New York Times, presidential candidates are getting behind the word: Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) affirmed her support, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “also said she supported reparations for black Americans impacted by slavery — a policy that experts say could cost several trillion dollars, and one that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and many top Democrats have not supported.” Did I speak too soon?

One complication is that while candidates have begun using the word, it’s often to describe policies that wouldn’t fit the definition accepted up to now. For example, as I noted in the City Journal piece, beginning in the 1960s many programs were enacted aiding poor persons of all races, often conceptualized and argued for as an alternative to more explicit race-based reparations. Some of the candidates who now describe themselves as being for reparations are vague about whether they intend to go beyond support for new programs that are formally race-neutral. [Jeff Stein, Washington Post]

Kavanaugh hearings roundup

The hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have wrapped up:

  • Ilya Somin on the nominee’s view of executive power;
  • “The attacks on originalism during the Gorsuch hearings were seen as failures—in the sense that they failed to persuasively portray originalism as outside the mainstream. Thus they were not widely repeated during the Kavanaugh hearings… ” [Michael Ramsey, Originalism Blog]
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took a quote in which Kavanaugh summarized the positions taken by litigants in a lawsuit, snipped off his “But they said” wording introducing the summary, and represented the remainder as his own position. Others followed [PolitiFact; Glenn Kessler, Washington Post “Fact Checker” (four Pinocchios); our earlier encounters with Harris on truancy laws and the Moonlight Fire case, and see also Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • Some critics charged Kavanaugh with not answering truthfully in several lines of questioning; David Lat responds with explanations regarding Judge Bill Pryor’s nomination, MemoGate, and NSA surveillance. Also, when you’ve lost Vox
  • I joined Newell Normand on WWL for a brief recounting of the week’s action and a look at what lies ahead (most likely, confirmation before month’s end);
  • Another overview of the four days: “Arguing about documents rather than Kavanaugh’s qualifications or his judicial philosophy has a political purpose.” [John McGinnis]

In the mail: “Scorched Worth”: new book on Moonlight Fire/Sierra Pacific case

The Sierra Pacific/Moonlight Fire scandal developed after the state of California and federal governments combined legal forces to go after a forest products company seeking to recoup millions of dollars spent fighting a fire that they claimed the company helped cause. Over the course of the ensuing litigation, judges charged a California state agency with “egregious and reprehensible conduct,” blasted the office of then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris for less-than-professional conduct, and brought in question the conduct of the U.S. Department of Justice under then-AG Eric Holder. We covered the story here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Now a new book on the story by author Joel Engel is out entitled “Scorched Worth: A True Story of Destruction, Deceit, and Government Corruption.” The author has an excerpt in the Weekly Standard (“What happens when the government lies about you in court?”). Here’s a fuller description of the book, from publisher Encounter:

To effect just outcomes the justice system requires that law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges be committed—above all—to doing justice. Those whose allegiance is to winning, regardless of evidence, do the opposite of justice: they corrupt the system. This is the jaw-dropping story of one such corruption and its surprise ending.

On Labor Day 2007, a forest fire broke out in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada and eventually burned about 65,000 acres. Investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the United States Forest Service took a mere two days to conclude that the liable party was the successful forest-products company Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), founded as a tiny sawmill nearly sixty years earlier by Red Emmerson.

The investigative report on the fire declared that SPI’s independent logging contractor had started the conflagration by driving a bulldozer over a rock, creating a spark that flew into a pile of brush. No fire had ever been proven to start that way, but based on the report the U.S. Department of Justice and California’s attorney general filed nearly identical suits against Emmerson’s company. The amount sought was nearly a billion dollars, enough to bankrupt or severely damage it. Emmerson, of course, fought back.

Week by week, month by month, year by year, his lawyers discovered that the investigators had falsified evidence, lied under oath, fabricated science, invented a narrative, and intentionally ignored a mountain of exculpatory evidence. They never pursued a known arsonist who was in the area that day, nor a young man who repeatedly volunteered alibis contradicted by facts.

Though the government lawyers had not known at the start that the investigation was tainted, they nonetheless refused to drop the suits as the discovery process continued and dozens of revelations made clear that any verdict against Emmerson’s company would be unjust.

Scorched Worth is a riveting tale that dramatizes how fragile and arbitrary justice can be when those empowered to act in the name of the people are more loyal to the bureaucracies that employ them than to the people they’re supposed to serve. It’s also the story of a man who refused to let the government take from him what he’d spent a lifetime earning.

The book can be ordered here.