[guest post by JVW]
The excellent news outlet, CalMatters, has a pretty fascinating story about a quiet standoff between two ambitious Democrat politicians regarding taxpayer dollars and an influential and progressive public relations firm [note: all links in quote below are from the original article]:
The unpaid invoices piling up in Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office had climbed to more than $34.2 million.
It was Nov. 2. Since early September, his staff had been wrangling with the staff of State Controller Betty Yee over whether Padilla’s office had the budgetary authority to pay for a $35 million contract it had awarded to public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker to run a statewide voter education campaign called Vote Safe California. The secretary of state’s office maintained that it did have budgetary authority. The controller’s office, which approves payments, maintained that it did not.
With the two agencies at an impasse, SKDKnickerbocker was left to shoulder millions of dollars in costs for a campaign explaining new pandemic voting procedures. One invoice for a month’s worth of media buys on TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat topped $11 million, and two others topped $9 million, according to documents obtained by CalMatters through a public records request.
On Oct. 20, about two weeks after the controller’s office publicly said it would not approve payment of the contract, Padilla sent an email to Yee.
“Betty,” he wrote. “To support the payment of the voter education program the Secretary of State’s office has been directed to conduct by the Governor and the Legislature, I’m attaching background materials of how similar contracting on behalf of counties has been done previously by the SOS as well as other state departments/agencies.”
“I hope this addresses any remaining questions or concerns.”
Two days later, Yee’s chief counsel sent an email to Padilla’s chief counsel. “Our position remains unchanged,” Rick Chivaro wrote. “Moreover … the (State Controller’s Office) will not be making any further considerations regarding this matter.”
According to the terms of the contract, an impasse on paying the invoice would ultimately force SKDKnickerbocker to eat the costs, now nearly $35 million. No matter how much work the firm did for the Biden/Harris and other Democrat campaigns, that is a huge chunk of change to be denied for work which you provided.
Secretary of State Padilla, as we have mentioned earlier, is in consideration for the United States Senate seat about to be vacated by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. Controller Yee is running to be vice-chair of the California Democrat Party and has been mentioned as the possible first female governor of California once Gavin Newsom is through ruining the state. Though the two of them are apparently seeking different positions, the sheer number of ambitious Democrats combined with the relatively low number of prestigious offices — not to mention the jungle primary system — ensures that any election will likely be hotly contested.
In this dust up, Secretary Padilla is playing the role of the Sacramento insider, shoveling taxpayer money to a powerful agency whose help he might need down the road. Controller Yee is positioning herself as a reformist Democrat, working on behalf of the taxpayer and unafraid to take on entrenched relationships within her own party. In this battle I have to abandon my old schoolchum Alex and declare myself a part of Team Betty, since I object to the degree in which elected officeholders have seen fit to abuse their power and blithely toss around money during the pandemic. SKDKnickerbocker should learn a valuable lesson that when contracting with the Golden State you should get your fee paid before you deliver your work.