US House Races in California Could Shape Future of Congress

U.S. House battles took shape in heavily Democratic California that could tip the balance of power in Congress, while former Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in a tight match to claim the Republican nomination for a new House seat in Montana.

In Mississippi, two Republican congressmen were forced into runoffs to keep their seats. Rep. Steven Palazzo had been dogged by ethics questions over his campaign spending, while Rep. Michael Guest faced a challenger who criticized his vote on a proposal to create an outside commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Primary elections across seven states Tuesday set up November contests in dozens of races, as Democrats look to protect the party’s fragile majority in the House.

In a diverse district anchored in California’s Orange County, Republican U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, a South Korean immigrant, will face Democrat Jay Chen. The district, which includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community, is widely considered a toss-up.

In other districts in the nation’s most populous state, two Republican House members were trying to surmount challenges tied to former President Donald Trump: One voted to support Trump’s impeachment after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, while the other fought against it.

A look at results in key U.S. House races Tuesday:

BATTLEGROUND CALIFORNIA: TRUMP HISTORY LOOMS IN KEY DISTRICTS

In 2020, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia won a narrow victory in a Democratic-leaning district north of Los Angeles. The former Navy fighter pilot was endorsed by Trump that year, then joined House Republicans who rejected electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania and opposed Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol insurrection. That record will be a focus for Democrat Christy Smith, who earned a chance for a rematch with Garcia, after losing two years ago.

In a Democratic-tilting district in the state’s Central Valley farm belt, Republican Rep. David Valadao is highlighting an independent streak while contending with GOP fallout for his vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection. Early returns showed him holding an edge over Republican Chris Mathys, who made Valadao’s vote a centerpiece in his campaign to oust him. The winner will face Democrat Rudy Salas, a state legislator.

California uses a top-two election format in which only the two leading vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party.

In the Central Valley, Republican Connie Conway won a special election to complete the term of former Rep. Devin Nunes, who resigned to head Trump’s media company.

TWO MISSISSIPPI CONGRESSMEN FORCED INTO RUNOFFS

A pair of GOP congressmen in Mississippi are headed to June 28 runoffs.

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, first elected in 2010, will face Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell after failing to win the GOP nomination outright on Tuesday, earning less than 50% of the vote.

A 2021 report by the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Palazzo, a military veteran who serves on the Appropriations and Homeland Security committees, abused his office by misspending campaign funds, doing favors for his brother and enlisting staff for political and personal errands. His then-spokesperson, Colleen Kennedy, said the probe was based on politically motivated “false allegations.”

In another Mississippi district, U.S. Rep. Michael Guest will face former Navy pilot Michael Cassidy in a district that cuts through parts of central Mississippi.

Cassidy criticized Guest for being in the minority of Republicans who voted to create an outside commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — a group that would have been separate from the congressional committee now conducting the investigation. Cassidy also says on his website that President Joe Biden should be impeached.

FORMER TRUMP CABINET MEMBER SEEKS RETURN TRIP TO WASHINGTON

Montana gained a second congressional district this year thanks to its growing population, and Zinke, an Interior Department secretary under Trump, is one of five Republicans on the primary ballot for the open seat.

Zinke’s rivals have been drawing attention to his troubled tenure at the agency, which was marked by multiple ethics investigations. One investigation determined Zinke lied to an agency ethics official about his continued involvement in a commercial real estate deal in his hometown. He’s faced a smear campaign over his military service from the extreme right wing of his party and questions about his residency following revelations that his wife declared a house in California as her primary residence.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and former Montana congressman, was in a tight race Wednesday against former state Sen. Al “Doc” Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and hard-line conservative who has tried to paint Zinke as a “liberal insider.” The results of the race were being delayed because of ballot printing errors that forced officials in one county to count votes by hand.

The winner will face Olympic rower and attorney Monica Tranel, a Democrat, in the general election.

IOWA’S SOLE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE MEMBER FACES A TOUGH FIGHT

A Republican state senator has captured the slot to take on Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne this fall in a newly drawn district that appears more favorable for the GOP.

Axne is the only Democrat in Iowa’s House delegation.

State Sen. Zach Nunn easily outdistanced rivals Nicole Hasso, a financial services worker, and Gary Leffler, who works in the construction industry, to claim the GOP spot. Nunn, an Air Force pilot who has served in the Legislature since 2014 and has worked to cut taxes, was the best known among the GOP contenders.

In previous elections, Axne was elevated by her strong support in the Des Moines area, even as she struggled in rural counties that typically lean Republican. The new district includes several counties in southern Iowa known to turn out strongly for Republicans, increasing the pressure on Axne to drive up her numbers in Democrat-friendly Des Moines and its suburbs.

REMATCH COMING IN NEW JERSEY HOUSE BATTLEGROUND

In what could be New Jersey’s most closely watched contest in the fall, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Tom Kean Jr. won their primaries, setting up a rematch of their closely contested 2020 race.

Malinowski, a State Department official in the Obama administration, is seeking a third term as his party faces headwinds heading into the general election. His district added more Republican-leaning towns during redistricting, making his reelection bid potentially more difficult.

Another complicating factor is an ethics investigation he’s facing over stock transactions in medical and tech companies that had a stake in the pandemic response. A report from the Office of Congressional Ethics said the board found “substantial reason to believe” he failed to properly disclose or report his stock transactions.

Malinowski said his failure to initially disclose the transactions was “a mistake that I own 100%.” He said he didn’t direct or even ask questions about trades made by his brokerage firm.

Kean, a former state Senate minority leader and the son of the former two-term Republican governor, said in a tweet that he was humbled by his victory and looks forward to seizing the seat in November.

Click here to read the full article in the AP News

Republican Beefs Up Campaign Spending as O.C. Threat Emerges

GOP Rep. Young Kim of Orange County has all the elements for a fairly easy path to reelection in November — a gloomy national mood favoring her party, a formidable campaign war chest and a new, more Republican-friendly district. Most prognosticators considered her June 7 primary to be an afterthought.

UNITED STATES – MAY 23: Young Kim, Republican running for California’s 39th Congressional district seat in Congress, speaks with attendees at the Brea & Placentia Caravan gathering of real estate professionals at Panera Bread in Brea, Calif., on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. California is holding its primary election on June 5, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

But now she is campaigning with a sudden sense of urgency. Kim has unleashed $1.3 million in advertising as the primary approaches. Outside allies are coming to her aid with more spending.

Most of Kim’s focus is on fending off Greg Raths, an underfunded GOP opponent who has been a staple on the political scene in Mission Viejo, the district’s largest city. After years of touting her bipartisan bona fides, she is upping her appeals to the GOP base, emphasizing her conservatism and hard-edged rhetoric on illegal immigration.

The explosion in spending may just be a cautionary measure, or a sign of a suddenly rattled front-runner. More broadly, Kim’s tilt further to the right reflects redistricting’s influence on politicians. With a shift in district boundaries, Kim’s campaign style has shifted too — vying for a constituency that is more conservative and less diverse than the residents she now represents.

“We think she is the heavy favorite to win reelection, but you can’t win reelection if you don’t make it through the primary first,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, which provides nonpartisan campaign analysis. “I don’t think campaigns make these sort of moves unless there is a concern she isn’t going to make the top two.”

Kim still enjoys the powerful benefits of incumbency. If, in a huge upset, she fails to advance, the implications could reverberate in the national battle for control of the House. The sole Democratic candidate, physician Asif Mahmood, would have improved chances of turning the seat blue, a rare pickup opportunity in a cycle where his party is largely on defense.

Kim’s campaign portrayed the moves as due diligence that was long expected, particularly because she must introduce herself to 80% of the district’s voters.

“We don’t take anything for granted as Congresswoman Kim takes every campaign seriously,” said Sam Oh, a Kim campaign strategist. “She’s working hard to earn every vote.”

The first hints of a changing campaign dynamic came earlier this month, in a text message from Kim linking Raths, a Mission Viejo city councilman, to President Biden, blaming them both for illegal immigration. “We CANNOT risk the Raths-Biden agenda,” it read.

Since then, her advertisements have continued to pile on Raths, showing his photo with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and accusing him of being liberal.

That’s an unlikely label for the 68-year-old retired military colonel who is a devoted fan of former President Trump and the Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republicans in Congress. If the GOP takes the House, his choice for speaker would be Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a conservative firebrand, over House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Californian.

Raths was largely dismissed by political observers in his challenge against Kim, who had the backing of the Republican establishment and raised nearly $5 million as of March compared with Raths’ $100,000. Another Republican in the race, Nick Taurus, a right-wing extremist who has aligned himself with white nationalists, brought in less than $10,000.

But Raths does have an advantage of familiarity, especially among faithful Republican voters. He has appeared on their ballots multiple times in his city council runs. He also ran for Congress three times, most recently losing to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in 2020.

After the decennial redistricting process set off a musical chairs among incumbents to compete in redrawn districts, Kim, 59, declared she’d run in the new 40th District. The predominantly inland Orange County swath includes Aliso Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita. Her residence in La Habra sits just west of the boundaries (members of Congress are not required to live in their districts).

Although a majority of eligible voters in Kim’s current district are people of color (30% Asian American and 29% Latino), the new district has fewer minority voters and is nearly 61% white, according to the nonpartisan California Target Book, which handicaps races.

In previous races, Kim faced an uphill battle against a 5-point Democratic registration advantage. Biden easily beat Trump in that district by 10 percentage points in 2020. To win, she had to appeal to crossover voters — and she did so by emphasizing her moderate politics and making little mention of Trump. Her congressional website touts that she was recently rated the most bipartisan freshman member of Congress and among the top 10 most bipartisan Republican members.

In her unsuccessful run for Congress in 2018, she struck a moderate tone on immigration, emphasizing her support for a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” who were brought to the country illegally as children and opposing Trump’s policy of family separation at the border.

Now, running in redder territory — Republicans hold a 5-point registration advantage in the new district — her ads tell voters to “Vote Conservative. Vote Kim.” The immigration-focused text message sent by her campaign touts her support for securing the border, including “Keeping Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy.”

“We’re highlighting her positions that the voters in this district care about that are timely and at the forefront of their minds,” said Oh, the campaign strategist. “It’s as simple as that.’

But Kim’s attempts to outflank Raths on the right may ring false with some voters.

“That’s crazy,” said Nancy Sandoval, 78, a Raths supporter and Mission Viejo resident who runs a website that offers voting advice for conservatives. “I know his heart. He certainly isn’t a liberal.”

Unable to afford television advertising, Raths has put his faith in what he called “an amazing stealth ground game.” He said his campaign has visited 70,000 houses in the district since February. Walking 12 miles a day, Raths said, he’s lost 27 pounds. He would also campaign while working as an Uber driver, pitching his candidacy to passengers.

Some Republicans worry he would be a flawed general election candidate. In 2020, he joined a lawsuit alleging the California election was rife with fraud, echoing Trump’s false election claims; the suit was thrown out by a federal judge. Fox News reported in April that his campaign website copied several passages nearly word for word from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s site. And this month, he said at a candidate forum that the Jewish community “control[s] a lot of politicians.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Democrats’ Fate Lies In The Nation’s Political Battlefield: Orange County

Orange County is at the center of the political universe again, the battleground where upward of $35 million — or about 10 times what’s typically spent on Bay Area House campaigns — will shower each of two key races that will help determine whether Democrats keep control of Congress.

But a lot has changed since 2020, when Republican Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim made history by being the first GOP Korean American women to ever serve in Congress. Or 2018, when Democrats flipped four GOP seats here to help take the House. Now, Steel’s race is rated a “toss-up,” while Kim is seen as having a slightly better chance of holding her seat.

For starters, both must introduce themselves to a new crop of voters after California’s redistricting commission redrew the state’s political boundaries. Plus, a number of outside factors could reshape their races, from abortion to Donald Trump to COVID to a battle to win over Asian voters that is among the most intense — and complex — in the country.

In Steel’s race, much of that struggle will be fought in Little Saigon, a hub of more than 200,000 Vietnamese residents that stretches over parts of Orange County, about 10 miles southwest of Anaheim. It’s one of the largest such enclaves in the country.

Instead of running in the more conservative, coastal district where she won in 2020, Steel is now running in the 45th Congressional District, where Democrats have a 5-point registration advantage.

But Steel’s campaign is confident, largely because Little Saigon boosts her district’s Asian American slice of the electorate to 35%. Vietnamese voters were an integral part of the coalition that helped carry Steel to victory in 2020 over incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda, who is white, said Fred Whitaker, chair of the Orange County Republican Party.

“That’s why Michelle Steel moved over (to run in that district), because that was one of her strongest bases,” Whitaker told me. “The party registration may be a little more Democratic, but the way that they vote is Republican.”

The Republican National Committee took notice and last June opened an office in a strip mall in the heart of the community to try to strengthen its ties there. Since then, the GOP has knocked on 75,000 doors and made 200,000 calls in the Steel’s new turf, according to GOP officials.

Steel visited the storefront recently during a training for volunteers to make calls in Vietnamese. Strung across one wall is a 12-foot-long banner featuring a quote attributed to her: “I live in the best country on Earth and I want future generations to achieve their own American Dreams.”

“We’re going to win,” Steel told the dozen volunteers at the training. “No matter what.”

Long Bui, a professor of global and international studies at UC Irvine, said Vietnamese American businesses and voters “will be key to determining who wins this race.”

Their voting patterns, however, aren’t predictable.

Bui, the author of “Returns of War: South Vietnam and the Price of Refugee Memory,” said there’s “a tendency” to think that older Vietnamese — particularly those who fled the Communist takeover of their homeland after the war ended — vote more conservatively than the younger generation.

Instead, Bui said, “the community often considers personalities and who runs the most savvy, impactful campaign. Issues and charisma matter as much or sometimes more than party affiliation.”

Diedre Tu-La Nguyen, the mayor pro-tem of Garden Grove, which is part of Little Saigon, said the Vietnamese community is still small enough that personal relationships often trump party affiliation. The Vietnam-born Democrat, who fled a refugee camp as a child after the war and is now a cancer researcher, is running for Assembly.

“Vietnamese don’t vote for a party, they vote for people,” Nguyen told me over dinner of sea snails, garlic noodles and grilled shrimp at a Little Saigon restaurant. She said that until she ran for office, many didn’t know she was a Democrat. “You just know who people are in the community by their reputation, by what they’ve done.”

In a sign of how unpredictable voters are here, even Nguyen’s household is split. Nguyen’s husband is a Republican.

Democrat Jay Chen is running for Congress in California's 45th Congressional District.
Democrat Jay Chen is running for Congress in California’s 45th Congressional District.Allison Zaucha/Special to The Chronicle

Steel’s main opponent is Jay Chen, a child of Taiwanese immigrants, U.S. Naval Reserve officer, school board member and owner of a real estate firm.

Chen is a better fit for the new district, which “is more working class,” said Ajay Mohan, executive director of the Orange County Democratic Party. Democrats intend to pound Steel for not supporting the federal Paycheck Protection Plan that provided funding to the small businesses that drive the community.

They say Steel — a fervent Trump supporter who received a 77% rating by the Conservative Political Action Committee scorecard (slightly higher than House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield) — is too conservative for the newly drawn district.

Perhaps even more damaging, Chen said, is that she voted against establishing the commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and against the bipartisan $1.9 trillion American Recovery Plan last year.

Steel said the plan was too pricey and sprawling.

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

With Trump, Against Cheney

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy endorses primary challenger to the Wyoming Republican.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed the GOP primary challenger to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Thursday, his latest show of fealty to former President Trump as Republicans try to take control of Congress.

McCarthy did not mention Cheney by name as he announced he was backing attorney Harriet Hageman in the August primary.

“The most successful representatives in Congress focus on the needs of their constituents, and throughout her career, Harriet has championed America’s natural resources and helped the people of Wyoming reject burdensome and onerous government overreach,” the Bakersfield Republican said.

Hageman — once a Cheney ally — did not hold back, saying that Cheney has become an ineffective leader and was being used by Democrats to “achieve their partisan goals.”

“Cheney is doing nothing to help us, she is actively damaging the Republican Party — both in Wyoming and nationally — and it’s time for her to go,” said Hageman, who has frequently battled the federal government over its environmental policies and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018.

A Cheney spokesman pointed to comments from prominent Wyoming journalists deriding the importance of a California politician’s endorsement to Hageman’s prospects.

“Wow, she must be really desperate,” spokesman Jeremy Adler said.

McCarthy’s move against Cheney is not surprising. Though Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, overwhelmingly supported Trump’s policies, she became an outspoken critic of his bogus claims that the 2020 election was rigged and of his role in urging his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Report Card: What Did Congress Members From Orange County Accomplish In 2021?

Register looks at voting records, legislation, constituent response and attendance for seven House members.

Of the seven U.S. House members who represent portions of Orange County, Rep. Mike Levin had the best attendance record in 2021, as the only local lawmaker not to miss a single vote this year. Reps. Katie Porter and Lou Correa weren’t far behind, missing just one vote each.

Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, also helped recover the most money for constituents from federal agencies, while Rep. Young Kim, R-La Habra, grabbed headlines for breaking with her party in votes on a few high-profile bills. And every local lawmaker communicated with residents through town halls, detailed websites, newsletters and social media.

With this year’s legislative session closed, the Register took a look at what Congress members who represent portions of Orange County got done in 2021.

It’s not a ranking, per se. Simple bills are much easier to get passed, for example, but often don’t create real change in people’s lives. Also, legislation — particularly in the House of Representatives — also often gets wrapped up into other bills, as lawmakers cosponsor or add amendments to colleague’s bills. And there are, at times, legitimate reasons why members miss votes.

But voters should be able to expect attendance, advocacy and communication from the people they pay to represent them in Washington, D.C. So here’s a report card of sorts for how each local House member put your taxpayer dollars to work in 2021.

Keep in mind that most of these lawmakers plan to stand for reelection in 2022. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, already has announced he’s retiring after this term. And for the others, the number and geography of their districts will change at the end of next year, when new political district maps take effect.

Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Whitter, of CA-38

Sánchez, 52, is in her 10th term representing the 38th District, which includes La Palma and a slice of Cypress, plus southern Los Angeles County cities. She serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. She also belongs to the Hispanic, Labor and Working Families, LGBTQ+ Equality and Progressive caucuses.

Legislation: Sánchez sponsored 18 bills and three resolutions this year. So far, none have been signed into law, though figure to be discussed in the second year of the session and others have been incorporated into new legislation. For example, Sanchez was asked by President Joe Biden to author the now-stalled U.S. Citizenship Act, which would reform immigration and create a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented residents. That idea is being debated in the budget reconciliation package. Sánchez also is still pushing bills she reintroduced this year to let family caregivers get a tax credit of up to $5,000 for expenses and to let service members dispute negative credit information that appeared while they were in a combat zone or aboard a U.S. vessel.

Reaching and helping constituents: Sánchez held more than 40 town halls, “Coffees with the Congresswoman” and other events to engage directly with constituents in person or virtually. Her office returned over $1 million to constituents in veterans’ benefits, tax returns, Social Security checks and other federal benefits. They also resolved more than 1,000 cases involving passports, small businesses and immigration-related issues.

Vote record: Sanchez missed 1.1% or five out of 449 votes this year, according to GovTrack. (For context, the median is 2.1% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving.) Here’s how she voted on seven high-profile bills that passed the House this year:

-Yes on the Build Back Better Act, Biden’s nearly $2 trillion signature social spending bill that would taxes very wealthy individuals and corporations to address climate change, offer universal preschool, expand Medicare and extend the Child Tax Credit. The package is still being debated in the Senate.

-Yes on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will funnel $1 trillion to states and local governments to upgrade outdated roads, bridges, transit systems and more. The bill became law in November.

-Yes on impeaching President Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Senate voted Trump not guilty.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

With California’s Congressional Maps Set, Candidates Swoop In

After months of stall as they waited for new district lines, California’s congressional incumbents and challengers rushed to declare their candidacies Tuesday as key matchups, including a potential high-stakes contest between Orange County Democrats, began to crystallize.

The redrawing of California’s congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization boundaries will shape the contours of the state’s political landscape for the next 10 years. Politicians, however, immediately turned their attention to a more pressing question for the next 11 months — where they will run in the 2022 midterm election.

Soon after the state’s independent redistricting commission approved the new maps — in some cases, within minutes of the vote — incumbents had announced reelection plans and specified which of the reconfigured seats they’re seeking.

The flurry of announcements underscored how antsy California politicians are to introduce themselves to new voters, scope out potential challengers and, in some cases, physically relocate, in response to the commission’s work.

“We have our maps now. We’re talking to all of our members to see who’s running where,” said Jessica Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party. “We will be pushing on those [recruited] candidates we think are ready to step up to the next level.”

The new district lines were not drawn according to partisan considerations — the independent commission is not allowed to take partisanship into account. But the lines were broadly good news for the Democratic Party. All of the seats now held by Democrats will tilt even more blue with the new boundaries. By contrast, five of the 11 seats held by Republicans will grow more competitive.

But the shuffling has led to at-times awkward maneuvering for candidates of both parties, especially in Orange County and the Central Valley, two of the most politically contested parts of the state.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

The SALT Fight Is Coming To a Head

In April, this column reported on the great SALT controversy and how it impacts California taxpayers. SALT stands for “state and local taxes,” and for many years prior to President Trump’s term in office, taxpayers could deduct those taxes from their federal tax returns without limitation. But in 2017, Congress enacted Trump’s tax reform, which limited the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers could deduct up to $10,000. Whether limiting the SALT deduction is good or bad tax policy is not nearly as interesting as the politics behind it.

The adoption of the limitation by the Republican-led Congress was broadly perceived as a big middle finger to high-tax states such as California. Whether a pretext or not, states with modest income tax rates, or no income tax at all, complained that their residents were essentially subsidizing residents of profligate, big-spending states.

But moderate- to high-income taxpayers in California and other high tax states lost a valuable deduction on their federal returns. Suddenly they felt the full pain of high state income tax rates and property taxes. Frantic state politicians began plans to lessen that pain. For example, immediately after passage of the tax reform law, California floated the idea of a semi-voluntary “charitable deduction” scheme to give high-wealth Californians some relief. It would have created a “charitable” fund within the general fund so high-earning taxpayers could claim a deduction for “donating” the equivalent of what they owed in state taxes. But the IRS, in an opinion letter, quickly shot down that idea.

More successful was a method adopted by many states to provide relief for certain “qualified entities,” consisting mostly of small businesses organized as partnerships, LLCs or S corporations. While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s workaround embodied in Assembly Bill 150, it provided little relief for citizen taxpayers.

Click here to read the full article at the Pasadena Star News

Government Regulation of Social Media Won’t Protect Free Speech

Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to put HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the former California attorney general with a reputation for being a partisan hack, in charge of “health disinformation” online.

Is it me or does the Facebook whistleblower’s “bombshell” revelations seem like much ado about very little? The company’s former product manager, Frances Haugen, has given the Securities and Exchange Commission and The Wall Street Journal thousands of internal documents that say more about the state of American culture than they do about the social-media company.

“No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right?” Haugen told CBS News. “Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”

If that’s the issue, then one can just as easily blame newspapers, TV news shows, talk radio, and political parties—all of which benefit by stirring the pot. For some reason, people prefer conflict to happy thoughts about puppies (although there are plenty of those posted on Facebook). Do we blame the medium or the human condition?

Haugen shared an internal Facebook survey showing that Instagram increases thoughts of suicide and worsens eating disorders among teens. I would never minimize the tribulations of being a teenager, but Haugen seems woefully naive. Young girls have always compared themselves to the photos of fashion models in magazines. Teens were vicious to one another long before Instagram.

Again, do we blame social media or something deeper? The same goes for commenters who post incendiary information on their Facebook pages. These are platforms, which people use for good or ill. This nonsense reminds me of liberal politicians who blame video games for gun violence and conservative politicians who blame Hollywood movies for an erosion of the nation’s morals.

It’s time to grow up. The problem with the latest hysteria: A rash of new rules and regulations will certainly follow. As The Wall Street Journal noted, Haugen’s testimony before Congress “builds momentum for tougher tech laws.” Of course it does, and conservatives—who will be on the receiving end of whatever passes—will only have themselves to blame.

“(T)he time is ripe for the regime and the digital medium to face a long-overdue just comeuppance,” wrote Josh Hammer in The American Mind, in a typical conservative diatribe against tech firms. Hammer calls for Congress to “rein in the ‘Mountain View-Menlo Park nexus of woke leftist corporatism…lest technocracy vanquish democracy anew.'”

Click here to read the rest of the article on Reason.com

Democrats consider attacking their own California candidates to win back Congress


The filing deadline for California’s June primary has passed, but Democrats and their affiliated groups aren’t done trying to shape the field of candidates running to unseat Republican members of Congress.

Facing the risk that the party could get shut out of the general election race for one or more competitive Republican-held seats, liberal groups formed to attack Republicans now say they are at least considering spending money to support particular Democratic candidates in the primaries. National Democratic officials say all options are on the table in the lead-up to June – including launching negative attacks on members of their own party, a tactic that stirred controversy in the Texas primary.

Democrats’ efforts in California could determine whether the party wins back control of the House of Representatives this fall.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won seven Republican-held congressional districts in the state 2016, which has raised hopes that Democrats could win seats in traditional GOP strongholds like Orange County and the Central Valley in 2018. Six of the seven Clinton-won districts now have four or more Democratic candidates bidding for the seat. That’s prompted spirited, and sometimes downright nasty, Democrat-versus-Democrat campaigning. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Ed Royce, longtime Orange County congressman, announces retirement


Longtime Orange County congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the high-profile Foreign Affairs Committee, announced Monday that he will retire when his current term is completed at the end of the year.

The conservative Republican, 66, has repeatedly won reelection by broad margins but has seen the GOP advantage in his district slip to less than 2-percentages. And since Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in his district in the 2016 election, Royce has drawn six Democratic challengers.

While he said Monday that his polling shows he’d win reelection, the task would require considerable time on the campaign trail and away from Washington.

Royce, who is required by Republican protocol to step down from his committee chairmanship after 2018 because of a 6-year limit, said he plans to focus his last year entirely on his committee work. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register