Kamala Harris Cleared, but Campaign Woes Mount

Kamala Harris hands (Nick Ut / Associated Press)
Nick Ut/Associated Press

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has been cleared in an ethics inquiry over personal gifts–but her financial management of her campaign is drawing serious criticism.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (CFPPC) determined that Harris is innocent of accusations that she violated state laws by accepting gifts from a company owned by San Francisco interior designer Ken Fulk.

The Los Angeles Times quotes Galena West, Chief of the Enforcement Division of CFPCC: “We found no violation of the Political Reform Act.”

The laws limit gifts given to elected officials, but exemptions include gifts bestowed by a “close personal friend” who remains unaffected by an official’s decision. Exemptions are also made for citizens who have an existing personal relationship with the government official, and where the donor does not function as a lobbyist and has no business relationship with the government official’s agency, according to the Times.

Harris reimbursed Fulk $10,245 for his advice in designing her apartment and his company’s repair of a kitchen wall; for painting some of her living and dining rooms; for putting up wallpaper; and for sundry other chores.

Harris had made three “substantial payments” to Fulk though he had not sent her an invoice. Once the commission informed her of the amount she owed, she paid the remaining bill.

Meanwhile, the Harris campaign is struggling with finances, according to The Hill. Last week campaign manager Rory Steele left the campaign and was replaced by Rodriguez, the campaign’s senior adviser. Two finance directors had left earlier this year.

A political strategist told The Hill:

She’s perceived as very, very difficult to work for. She doesn’t have real relationships and partnerships. She has acquaintances….Here she is, she’s running for Senate, as an African American woman, she should be raising gobs of money. The fact that she’s raising one and a half to 2 million a quarter is absurd. She expects fundraisers who helped Obama to help her….She gets upset when donors don’t flock to her, it drives her crazy that she actually has to meet and talk with people.”

Since the announcement of her candidacy, Harris has raised $5.9 million and spent nearly half of it. In the last quarter, she raised $1.7 million and spent almost all of it, $1.4 million, according to Federal Elections Commission filings.

The Sacramento Bee reported in late October that other candidates across the nation running for safe Democratic seats had far lower burn rates than Harris, including Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Charles Schumer of New York, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

Roy Behr, a California-based Democratic consultant, told The Hill, “It does raise some eyebrows. Having said that…none of this really matters because in the end she’s virtually unbeatable. There’s nobody in the race who poses a threat to her.”