Commentary – Quentin Kopp

Kamala Harris’ Chicanery

In an expensive treatise ($70), “Democracy and Imperialism: Irving Babbitt and Warlike Democracies” by William S. Smith, assessing the “ambiguity of imperialism in democracies,” pronounces “the quality most required for a successful political order is high moral character in leaders  ….” 

Although she has ended her fanciful campaign for president of the United States, the heuristic Kamala Harris remains a United States senator. As Savannah Blackwell, SFProgressive editor, wrote 15 years ago: “… by law, Harris should not even be the city’s district attorney. Had the Ethics Commission – charged with San Francisco’s campaign finance ordinance – strictly followed the law in 2003, she would have been disqualified from the race.” In August, 2003, Harris had pledged to spend no more than $211,000 for her district attorney campaign, entitling her to official recognition in the Voter Information Pamphlet. Her campaign materials, signs and flyers were gone. She was last in the polls and couldn’t raise money, but with assistance from Susie Tompkins Buell, a multi-millionaire, she ignored her sworn pledge to voters and quickly spent nearly $100,000 more. She claimed to the Ethics Commission she didn’t realize her pledge to obey the $211,000 expenditure limit was binding. 

Eventually, on Oct. 4, 2003, the Ethics Commission fined her just $34,000 ($300,000 was the maximum) and ordered her to admit in campaign brochures that she erred in swearing to abide by the $211,000 limit. Never mind that San Francisco law unmistakably provided if a candidate was found guilty of knowingly violating a pledge to adhere to such spending limit, she or he was guilty of a criminal violation and, if so convicted before election day, disqualified and prohibited from public office for five years. Harris eventually spent $1.15 million to defeat then-District Attorney Terence Hallinan, an honest left-winger, who expended a mere $362,000. 

For sheer chicanery and dishonesty, Harris can match Donald J. Trump! Last month, Washington Examiner columnist Philip Klein concluded Harris was herself responsible for her presidential collapse sounding like a “pandering phony by trying to reverse-engineer” herself as appealing to every kind of voter.

Meanwhile, local and state tax-and-spenders continue to fleece San Francisco taxpayers. The incomparable Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who hasn’t ever seen a tax he didn’t like, proposes a “commercial property vacancy tax,” meaning if you can’t rent a store in your commercial property, you’ll suffer the further financial loss of paying City Hall for the vacancy. Another beauty, Supervisor Catherine Stefani, observes it is: “… the closest we can get to legislating commercial rent control.” The illogic of punishing store owners who can’t rent their property represents the most tendentious taxpayer ravaging I’ve seen. Fortunately, because of Proposition 13 and related constitutional requirements enacted by voters (not legislators), California’s Constitution requires voter approval in March. I urge voters to reject such insulting fiscal misconduct. 

Last August, SF Mayor London Breed approved Board of Supervisors legislation adding yet another tax-eating bureaucracy, the Office of Racial Equity, with a budget of approximately $1 million annually until increased in the 2021 budget. With control over city government, City Hall politicians claim years of “structural and institutional racism.” (That emanated from a recently defeated supervisor who spent her career as an aide to City Hall politicians.) It’s no wonder San Francisco’s annual budget exceeds Philadelphia, with its population three times larger than S.F. 

One of 2019’s sorrows is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval of bills allowing illegal aliens to serve on state boards and commissions and barring Immigration and Customs Enforcement from making arrests in California courthouses, after his predecessor, Jerry Brown, had vetoed similar legislation in 2018, declaring, “… existing law – which requires citizenship for these forms of public service – is the better path.” Brown had also vetoed in 2018 the bill barring federal immigration authorities from arresting illegal aliens in California courthouses. New York State last year adopted legislation bestowing taxpayer money on illegal aliens to attend state universities and community colleges while ignoring application of the bill to military veterans and their progeny.

I’m pleased to report the nascent Common Sense Party ended 2019 with almost 20,000 registrants, en route to securing the requisite 66,000 for certification as a political registrations required party by the Secretary of State. As co-founder, I predict we’ll achieve certification by April 1 and be ready to endorse worthy candidates, locally and legislatively, in November’s general election, with our own legislative candidates in 2022 and 2024. If you’re a fiscal conservative and social moderate who doesn’t care about race, gender or national origin, but believes in citizen participation, the rule of law and careful expenditure of taxpayer money, the Common Sense Party wants you. 

To reiterate Thomas Jefferson: “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes, the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” He added: “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away of those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.


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