OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Rep. Adam Schiff’s run for the U.S. Senate may have been hampered by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to temporarily fill Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s empty seat.
As soon as Feinstein died, Newsom said that Laphonza Butler, who was president of the pro-abortion group EMILY’s List, would take her place. Butler can run for a full term in the Senate next year. This means that Schiff, who is currently leading in the primary, may have to face a strong incumbent in the general election that same year. The end of Butler’s temporary term is in January 2025.
If Butler decided to run against Feinstein for the seat she has held since 1992, she would have an advantage because she is already in office and has a lot of political connections. EMILY’s List is a Democratic women’s fundraising group that supports abortion. Butler has been in charge of it since 2021.
Butler was one of the most important people in the campaigns of several presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton. As a leader of the Service Employees International Union, the largest labor union in California, Butler was governor before he became governor.
Senator Feinstein said in February that she would not run for re-election in 2024. Since then, a number of well-known Democrats from California have jumped into the race to replace her.
Campaign manager Brad Elkins said in a press release that Schiff’s Senate campaign now has $32 million cash on hand after Newsom appointed Butler and that he has the support of the California Democratic congressional delegation and state labor leaders.
Despite Schiff’s impressive fundraising numbers, Butler would be an extremely strong opponent in 2024 thanks to the support of liberal groups and politicians like EMILY’s List.
Representatives Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, along with other Democrats and Republicans, will compete in the primary election on March 5. The top two vote-getters will go on to the general election in November.
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.
“We were always concerned about the pay-to-play aspects,” Steve Ellis, who runs the group “Taxpayers of Common Sense,” wrote regarding Schiff’s earmarks in a statement to Politico. “If you’re getting a campaign contribution and getting your earmark for that same company or for a client of that lobbyist, it has that perception.”
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.