California’s Newsom and Padilla in hot water over election contract with partisan firm

Among the myriad of financial issues faced by California is the use of state and federal taxpayer funds to retroactively make good on a contract with a partisan consulting firm that may have been illegal in the first place.

California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R) has accused both Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and newly-appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), as well as complicit Democrats in the state legislature, as being responsible for what bears the hallmarks of a corrupt payoff with the people’s money.

Unauthorized contract with partisan PR firm

In a recent blog post, Kiley explained that in 2020 then-Secretary of State Padilla signed a “$35 million no-bid contract for ‘voter education’ ads promoting mail-in voting,” a contract that was granted to a staunchly Democrat-aligned public relations firm known as SDK Knickerbocker.

The manner in which Padilla, who is now filling out the remainder of Vice President Kamala Harris’ term in the Senate, granted that contract to Knickerbocker was reportedly so egregious that even Democratic State Controller Barbara Yee — joined by various local media outlets — cried foul and negated the arrangement to stop the payment of the $35 million.

However, the partisan ads were still made and it appears the state was still on the hook for the price charged by the firm to produce those ads.

Illegal and unconstitutional

According to Kiley, rather than Padilla or Newsom be held accountable for what occurred, Padilla was essentially promoted to the Senate. Furthermore, the Democratic-controlled legislature has now amended a prior budget bill, AB 85, to retroactively authorize the contract between Padilla and the partisan firm, using taxpayer-funded election money for counties to cover the amount due.

The assemblyman noted that, in all likelihood, the move made by the legislature was actually as corrupt and illegal as it appears, and pointed to a specific section of the California Constitution to support his assertion.

According to Article IV, Section 17, “The Legislature has no power to grant, or to authorize a city, county, or other public body to grant, extra compensation or extra allowance to a public officer, public employee, or contractor after service has been rendered or a contract has been entered into and performed in whole or in part, or to authorize the payment of a claim against the State or a city, county, or other public body under an agreement made without authority of law.”

The key portions in that statute are “The Legislature has no power to grant” and “an agreement made without authority of law.”

“Shady deal”

The Orange County Register published an op-ed by the head of the Taxpayers Association which had filed a lawsuit over what transpired. The piece laid bare the details of how unlawful the initial contract and retroactive steps taken by the legislature on behalf of Padilla and Newsom appeared to be. Only a handful of bids from partisan firms were solicited instead of an open bidding process among nonpartisan advertising agencies, as is required by law, and the expenditure had never been authorized with a line item in the previously passed budget.

Kiley isn’t the only lawmaker calling out this apparent act of corruption. The Register shared a joint statement from Republican state Sens. Pat Bates and Jim Nielsen.

“Taxpayers should not have to pay for the shady deal that was executed by the previous secretary of state,” Bates and Nielsen said. “We call on our legislative colleagues to side with Californians and use the much-needed money as intended to help counties, not pad the pockets of political operatives at a partisan firm for partisan purposes.”

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