The Case for Recalling Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom took to The View this week to launch his national “anti-recall campaign,” brazenly claiming that the effort to oust him from office is coming from of a small number of Trumpists and conspiracy theorists.

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Contrary to Newsom’s polished talking points, a majority of Californians are fed up with his hypocrisy, corruption, abuse of powers, and neglect of real issues in our state. A new poll shows that 58.3% of Californians oppose his re-election. State assemblyman Kevin Kiley calls it the largest citizen’s movement in our state’s history, and it appears to have well over the required number of signatures to force an actual vote.

Kiley was willing to give Newsom the benefit of the doubt when COVID struck – seeking unity among Californians, and proposing legislation to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic in line with the checks and balances laid out in our state Constitution. Newsom, however, wasn’t having it.

The Governor abused his temporary emergency powers, extending them indefinitely, and passed executive orders left and right that benefitted his donors and California’s most powerful special interests.

Now, thanks in part to a lawsuit brought by Rep. Kiley and the grassroots “Recall Gavin” movement making its way to the ballot, the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

Kiley – a leader of the citizens’ movement to recall Gavin – joined me to provide the “PSA” version of his eye-opening and infuriating new book, Recall Newsom: The Case Against America’s Most Corrupt Governor. If you haven’t been closely following the scandals, lawlessness and incompetence of our state’s leadership, this is a must-listen program. Tune in live, and share the link with everyone you know.

Think Newsom and his pals in the California Teachers Association were just following the “science” when they closed schools for longer than any other state? Think again.

Newsom has been caught usurping the legislature’s job in violation of the law. Yet as the judge who ruled against him noted, Newsom remains unapologetic and is far from relinquishing his authoritarian grip. With the recall vote now all but a certainty, it’s time for We the People to step up and demand a change.

When I decided to get involved, it was really just to contribute in any way I could to that citizens’ movement, and to lend my voice to it. But that's what's made it so powerful as this isn't something led by politicians like me, it's led by ordinary people who are saying, “Enough is enough,” who have been disenfranchised, who have been dispossessed, who have been told for a year that they don't get to play any role as citizens in our government and in decisions that have, profound impacts on their daily lives, that everything should just be up to one person, as we've witnessed that lead to the worst outcomes here in California for any state during the whole COVID era.

This is just an extension of trends that existed before COVID-19, as our government has become more and more centralized, as more and more power has been taken away from citizens and local communities. I saw, on the one hand, the extraordinary and unprecedented harm that Gavin Newsom was causing through abuses of power, and on the other hand, the unprecedented citizens’ movement that grew up in response to it. That's why I decided to become involved. I really feel that this has the potential to be transformational, and to set California on a new course.

Newsom’s Particular Abuses of Power

What are the extreme evidences of misbehavior that warrant the extreme punishment or reaction or recall, as opposed to simply letting the voters decide in the next gubernatorial election?

California has had the most severe school closures of any state in the country and the governor says mistakes were made. Well, the mistakes are being made right now. We are 50th out of 50 in getting our kids back to the classroom. Every other state has done a better job and the vast majority of them have done a much better job of getting their schools up and running again.

But in California, that has not been the case because of the power that Newsom’s largest campaign donor – the California Teachers Association – has over his decision making. The governor has caused incalculable harm to millions of California kids at the behest of his biggest campaign contributor. If that is not something that merits the extraordinary remedy of a recall and I'm not sure what does.

Can you give us any insight into this insane decision making regarding small, consumer-facing businesses in the entire state, such that rural Redding, California is treated the same as downtown LA and San Francisco?

Big business has done okay, whereas small businesses have been absolutely crushed. For example, Hollywood has gotten an exemption for Newsom’s lockdowns. The lobbyist being vetted at the French Laundry that night – who Newsom described as a dear friend of 25 years – apparently succeeded in using his influence to get that exemption on behalf of his Hollywood clients.

You have to also look at Newsom’s statements from the earliest days of this. In April, he first saw the Coronavirus as an opportunity for “a new Progressive Era” – an opportunity to reshape the way we do business, and the way we govern. Around that time, he said on The View that because of COVID, we're going to all have to get used to adopting “a more regulatory mentality.”

Bear in mind the context of the centralization and continuing regulation that had been proceeding apace in California, for many, many years – the ability to fast-forward that process and establish the role of the state as this all-powerful regulator and dictator of economic and personal activity.

From what I observe about practicing politicians, they jealously guard their prerogatives. They value the power they have and the role they have to play in government. The California Legislature, of which you are a part, was so passive during all of this. Why would a body full of people who fought very hard to be in the legislature then minimize and trivialize their very occupation by ceding so much power to the Governor?

The only power a governor has is granted to him by the legislature. If the legislature grants power, they can take it back. The legislature wasn't required to be as passive as they were. What accounts for that?

We have witnessed a seizure of power by Gavin Newsom. But at the same time, we witnessed a surrender of power and an abdication of responsibility by our legislature. The legislature took most of last year off, and simply stood by as Gavin Newsom declared that the state of emergency quote “centralizes the state's powers in the hands of the Governor.” This is nonsense – our system of government has never worked that way, emergency or not, and it's never contemplated an executive who can simply make new laws by fiat, and skip over a legislative process.

You did have legislators, even from some of the earliest months of this, who were outspoken about the Governor's autocratic mode of handling COVID-19 but there was never any willingness to this day, on the part of the legislative legislature's leaders to actually step up and assert our branches prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government.

Why is that the case? You could float a few theories – you could say, “Well, if legislators are still getting paid, what's the rush to get back?”

There's perhaps the idea that our legislature is captured by the same special interests that have captured this governor, and that dictate his decisions. It's actually just a lot easier for those interests, like the CTA, to have one person to deal with – Gavin Newsom – than having to wrangle 120 different legislators. One man rule has worked out pretty well for them.

A lot of legislators were selected by these interest groups specifically because of their subservience to them. Given the capture of our legislature by special interest groups, the institution is adapted to rubber-stamping rent-seeking schemes cooked up by special interest groups. It's not well adapted to confronting the novel challenges of a contagious virus.

This discussion is almost a civics course. You're a member of the legislature. You're not happy with the executive. So you go to the third branch of government, the judicial, and you actually brought a lawsuit. You took on quite a powerful opponent in doing. What was the theory of the lawsuit and what was the process by which you prevailed?

James Gallagher, who's another California legislator, were the two plaintiffs. We filed it in early June of last year. We've litigated the whole thing ourselves. We had seen the Governor issuing executive orders in bunches, usurping the power of the legislature, and the legislature standing by and letting them happen. The legislature cannot even willingly surrender its powers. That's not the way our system of government works – a legislature that wants to give away legislative powers is forbidden from doing so by the Constitution.

We tried to get the Governor to act more responsibly, and had not had success on either front. So we then turn to the third branch of government, the courts.

The governor had issued the executive order that overhauled the whole election, which was still five months away. We were just using that one as a challenge to the broader legal theory that the governor was acting under, that a state of emergency centralizes all the state's powers in his hands.

We ended up getting a trial date, October 21 and the decision came a couple weeks later, whereby we prevailed. The Superior Court ruled that Gavin Newsom had violated the Constitution and abused emergency powers. With that particular executive order, the judge noted that he had done so with several other orders as well. Even Gavin Newsom agreed that the decisions cast doubt on dozens of his emergency actions, and the judge issued a permanent injunction restraining him from issuing any further such unconstitutional orders.

At present, that case is before the Court of Appeals, but we thought it was a very important moment to at least establish that this is not a one person government. The other branches of government still matter in California – in particular, the representative branch, our legislature, which is supposed to be the vehicle for the people of the state to have a say in their own government.

AB 5 and the Long Bill of Particulars

It shows in one instance the interplay of all three branches of government, in a matter that is of great importance to all the citizens of the state of California. It almost gives one faith that our system of checks and balances actually works. It ought to be taught in all the schools how the system should work if it is working properly. Every system was put in stress or opposition with another branch and it all got sorted out peacefully and produced the correct result. It's almost a miracle.

When I read the complaint against Newsom in the recall effort, the first thing that came to my mind was the third paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. In the Declaration of Independence, through Jefferson's quill pen, we assert our rights that we have that no government can take away. In order to explain to the world why we, the founders, are in the right, we listed the Bill of Particulars against the king, so that the rest of the world would be in sympathy with our position, as we declared independence. Tell us Newsom's role in AB 5, and why that gets added to the list of reasons for the recall of Newsom?

Newsom grossly mishandled the COVID. But his wrongful acts go well beyond that, during his stewardship, and you have listed many of them. AB 5 is one of the most corrupt laws ever passed in the United States. It's been described as an enormous payout to the massive union conglomerates that put Newsom in power.

With a single stroke of his pen, Newsom deprived tens of thousands of people in California of their ability to earn a livelihood. The bill banned, in most cases, being an independent contractor or being your own boss, and said, “No, you have to work for someone else.”

The most common example, which is now actually being exempted out by a ballot initiative, is Uber and Lyft drivers. It was really going after them, but it's ensnared literally hundreds of other professions – everyone from interpreters and translators and folks like tutors. Maybe you're having trouble getting a tutor right now in distance-learning. AB 5 might be to blame for that. Even the likes of mall Santas and birthday clowns have been ensnared by this.

There was this incredibly powerful movement that sprang up, even before COVID, against AB 5 to repeal the law because it was doing so much harm. Newsom refused to even acknowledge the victims of the law. Then when COVID-19 came around, and we had a stay at home order, the law was even more damaging, because a lot of the jobs that were no longer allowed or legal in California were precisely the sort of things you could do from home – freelancing type things, independent writing, or photography, or recipe writing, etc.

Even a lot of healthcare professionals like nurse practitioners, anesthetists, medical interpreters, etc. were being kept off the front lines of COVID because of AB5. So we amped up our pressure to suspend the law to help us get through COVID. Newsom refused to do that.

Lorena Gonzalez, who was your colleague in the assembly from San Diego, conducted a hearing. When the Uber and Lyft drivers were complaining that they were gonna lose their jobs, she shrugged it off by saying, “It's not a very good job anyway.” Nothing to me, Kevin, expressed the arrogance more directly than that one thoughtless shrug of her shoulders. How dare she tell somebody who voluntarily elected to be an Uber driver, that they don't have a very good job?

Now, as if that isn't enough, Newsom's bill of particulars against Newsom goes even beyond that. Tell us a bit about Newsom's contracting for personal protective equipment, masks, gloves and the like.

There was a Capital Public Radio investigation that came out a few weeks ago, showing a pattern where Newsom used the extraordinary power to award a no-bid contract to give massive contracts to his top campaign donors. They identified that they would make a big contribution, then Newsom would get them the contract, and then they would make another big contribution.

There's another article today going into how Blue Shield cultivated its relationship with Newsom for a long time as one of his biggest contributors and they got this vaccine contract on a no bid basis.

Perhaps the most egregious example is the $1 billion contract for masks with BYD China, which was given out in early April of last year, behind the back of the legislature. Half of the money – about 500 million – was wired in advance. This is a very shady company. They have a history of forced labor practices. They're run by the Chinese Communist Party. They have a history of malfunctioning products. But their subsidiary in California is a big Newsom contributor. The President has given over $40,000 to him and the lobbyist for that company was also involved in a lot of the several no bid contracts that Newsom gave out.

How the distribution of the virus got bogged down in an attempt to do it equitably?

It's one of the reasons why California was 50th out of 50 in the nation in terms of the percent of doses being administered. There's this vague notion of equity to this day. The system or the index for defining equity is this so called “Healthy Places index,” which is a grab bag of 25 characteristics that are assessed on the level of census tracts, and it includes some very interesting factors such as voter turnout in the last election, tree canopies, and alcohol availability. You score higher in terms of equity if you have more bars in your neighborhood.

This is then put into some just crazy formula to determine who has priority with the vaccine. This Healthy Places Index does not seem to be measuring equity in any meaningful sense at all, because when you look at how California has performed in the COVID era, Newsom's worst-in-the-nation school shutdowns have exacerbated our achievement gaps incredibly. We already had some of the worst achievement gaps in our schools in the country, but it's the kids in underserved communities – the ones that are struggling most with distance learning. Some of them are disappearing. They haven't been logging in to Zoom at all. That hasn't made a difference, the schools still haven’t opened.

Everything that Gavin Newsom has done during COVID-19, has just exploded the inequality that already existed in California and so for them to somehow latch on to equity as some buzzword, I think is truly perverse, especially when it's used as a sort of alibi for incompetence.

If there's one common theme in the recall it's, “Hey, Newsom, butt out, let us run our lives.” That request is not Democratic or Republican. It's not ideological. It's personal. It's intimate. Let us run our lives. Just make sure people don't harm us. Otherwise, step aside. That message in your book is loud and clear and for that, I really thank you.

When Gavin Newsom is trying to control our lives by fiat, it's a double blow to freedom. It's on one level a violation of our personal liberty as individuals to order our lives as we see fit. But at the same time, it's a blow to our collective freedom as self-governing communities – in our ability as citizens to participate in our own government and to direct our own political destiny, which was very much bound up in our founders idea of personal freedom. This notion of self-government has been eroded for a long time, but has just totally collapsed this last year. The recall and ouster of Governor Newsom, which we hope will occur later this year, can be a revival of freedom in both senses. On the one hand, a revival of the idea of personal freedom, which we lost so much of over the last year. On the other hand, the revival of the idea of self government as well.

What is the status right now of the effort to recall Governor Newsom?

The deadline to gather signatures has passed and the campaign has gathered in excess of 2.1 million. Already 1.2 million or so of those have been verified, and given the rate of validity that we've seen, it's all but a certainty that the recall will qualify. The number of verified signatures you need is 1.5 million. So you'll probably get an official announcement sometime in late April

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