California’s top elections official, Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D), is pushing the state to pay out a $35 million contract to a major Democrat consulting firm while seeking to replace Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in the Senate, should she become vice president, according to a report.
Padilla awarded the multi-million dollar contract to Democrat public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK) in August as part of a voter outreach program, the Washington Free Beacon reported. However, Democrat State Controller Betty Yee’s office refused to approve the contract, arguing that Padilla did not have the authority to pay it out.
The money could “ease his path to being appointed to fill Harris’s seat,” the report said. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is planning to announce Harris’s replacement in the Senate before January 20.
SKDK’s managing director, Anita Dunn, led former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, according to the report. Biden’s campaign paid out more than $2.2 million to SKDK since December 2019.
According to internal emails obtained by CalMatters, Padilla has lobbied Yee for months to approve the payment to the Democrat firm. Padilla reportedly issued the contract on an emergency basis, which did not require a competitive bidding process and/or approval by relevant state agencies.
Yee’s chief counsel, Rick Chivaro, wrote in a September email that trying to get a “definitive answer” on the contract was “a little like catching a greased pig.”
Padilla awarded the contract to SKDK as part of the state’s “Vote Safe California” initiative to “educate the public on the safety, security, and ease of voting in the general election amid the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic.” The contract required SKDK to direct “special attention” to “reaching first-time mail voters” after Newsom decided to send every registered voter in the state a mail-in ballot.
Padilla faces competition from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and Reps. Karen Bass (D) and Barbara Lee (D).