OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to temporarily fill Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s empty seat may have hurt Rep. Adam Schiff’s bid for the U.S. Senate.
After Feinstein’s passing, Newsom announced that EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler would take over for her. Butler is eligible to seek reelection to the Senate for a full term in 2019. The current frontrunner in the primary, Schiff, may end up having to challenge an entrenched incumbent if he makes it to the general election in the same year. Butler’s interim position will end in January 2025.
Since Feinstein has held the seat since 1992, if Butler decided to run for it, she would be at a disadvantage because Feinstein is already in office and has many political connections. EMILY’s List is a political action committee that raises money for pro-choice Democratic women candidates. Since 2021, Butler has been running the show.
Many presidential candidates relied heavily on Butler, including Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton. Before being elected governor of California, Butler served as president of the Service Employees International Union, the state’s largest labor union.
In February, Senator Feinstein announced that she would not seek re-election in 2024. Several high-profile California Democrats have entered the race to succeed her since then.
After Newsom appointed Butler, Schiff’s campaign manager Brad Elkins announced in a press release that the candidate now has $32 million in the bank for his Senate bid and the backing of the California Democratic congressional delegation and state labor leaders.
Butler, with the backing of liberal groups and politicians like EMILY’s List, would be a formidable opponent in 2024, despite Schiff’s impressive fundraising numbers.
According to a Berkley IGS poll released on September 7, Schiff has 20% of the vote, making him the clear favorite in the crowded primary field. Porter comes in second with 17%, and Lee comes in third with 7 percent.
Steve Garvey and James Bradley, both Republicans, got 7% of the vote. Eric Early, also a Republican, got 5%, and Lexie Reese, a Democrat, got 1 percent.
Real Clear Politics data found that other polls show Schiff ahead of Porter by anywhere from 1 to 5 points. Lee comes in third, with a lead that is mostly in the single digits.
But Schiff’s checkered past might catch up with him, especially after a Politico report detailed Schiff’s history of cultivating powerful interests and rewarding them with taxpayer money when it served his political ambitions.
A Politico analysis found that Schiff earmarked some $10 million to go to defense contractors who have donated to his campaigns.
Schiff allocated more than $10 million in taxpayer funds to five companies for the development of military technologies from 2001 to 2007, according to a Politico analysis of earmark records, which also revealed that these companies had contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign.
The Daily Caller added:
The largest donor earmarks by Schiff, totaling $6 million, went to Smiths Detection, which was developing chemical weapons sensors for the military, while another $3 million went to Phasebridge, Inc., which was developing a Naval radar system.
Both of these groups retained a lobbyist, Paul Magliocchetti, who around the same time donated $8,500 to Schiff’s campaign committees. Magliocchetti was later convicted on federal charges of illegal campaign contributions and served 27 months in prison, Politico reported.
Schiff also allocated $1 million in earmarks for Eureka Aerospace, a firm involved in the development of military technology aimed at intercepting vehicles evading checkpoints. Notably, Schiff’s campaign received contributions totaling $34,500 from the CEO of Eureka Aerospace and other members of his household, spanning the period from 2006 to 2020, Politico reported.
“Schiff earmarked an additional $1 million to Tanner Research, Inc., which was conducting research on detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which killed many U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tanner’s CEO donated $15,800 to Schiff from 2003 to 2012,” The Daily Caller noted, citing the report.
“Apart from these groups, Schiff also steered $800,000 to Orbits Lightwave, Inc. and $492,000 to Superprotononic, which was researching laser technology and solid acid fuel cells, respectively. Orbits is a contractor for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) while Superprotonic, which was reconstituted as SAFCell, Inc. in 2009, is a materials supplier to the U.S. Army,” Just the News continued.
According to Politico, the founders of both companies made campaign contributions of $3,700 and $1,500 to Schiff’s campaign.