Speaker Anthony Rendon and SF Mayor Willie Brown show how capital and corruption work
LOS ANGELES—California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is in the hot seat for his misogynistic behavior during the final days of the State Assembly session. Former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown is sitting pretty, having used his capital with Governor Gavin Newsom to continue his Sunday political column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Both men are flanked by corruption: Willie’s has been well documented. Rendon’s California District 63, and its surrounding districts (57, 58) have been called—even by him—the “Corridor of Corruption”, and some of his Assembly have stepped down or been wrist-slapped under his watch. Rendon himself seems to stay untouched from this, which simply means no one has the incentive to turn on him… yet.
On September 3, Marcos Bretón took to the Sacramento Bee to pen, “Meet California’s new laughingstock: Anthony Rendon’s treatment of a new mother defies belief”.
For the last two days of the Assembly floor sessions (August 31 and September 1), Speaker Rendon purportedly denied District 15 Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks the ability to vote by proxy, a limited ability instituted during this coronavirus pandemic to keep other members safe from COVID exposure. Wicks did not have COVID-19, but had just given birth a month ago, something that does not fall within the narrow rules of the proxy.
Wicks choosing to travel from Oakland to the Sacramento Capitol
Buffy Wicks having her newborn baby in tow meant images of Wicks cradling her one-month-old while speaking on the Assembly floor went viral.
But according to sources in the Capitol, Wicks wanted to make her vote count on SB1383, the unlawful employment practice: California Family Rights Act, in person. The bill was authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and co-sponsored by—wait for it—Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who has systematically killed the professional careers of mothers, especially single mothers, through AB5. Wicks (and probably Gonzalez’s) intent was to create a national conversation on expanding this type of leave nationwide.
The images of Wicks holding her newborn girl, coupled with her impassioned plea for the bill was peak political theater. Then came the faux outrage among the female assembly members, who then spilled the tea to certain union-protected female journalists within the Capitol. Those journalists then threw the political football to the national outlets from the New York Times to the Indianapolis Star Tribune, who made it top of the feed coverage.
Even shadow presidential candidate Hillary Clinton decided to tweet about it.
The next day, Speaker Rendon promptly issued an apology to Wicks with a commitment to “doing better”.
Despite the rushed and contentious legislative sessions which showed how the Republican minority is treated like cannon fodder, and disgusting bills like SB145 (sex offender inequity) getting pushed into law, days later the “Buffygate” story still had legs.
It was staged for maximum impact, and Speaker Rendon played his role as a foil in order to see that done.
But apparently, people began going after his staff. Rendon took to Twitter to rebuke constituents, and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who has been on a campaign to recraft herself as the Mother Teresa of policy and mediation, came to the Speaker’s defense.
You can follow the lengthy thread here; best catch it quickly in case she decides to delete it.
Suffice to say Gonzalez relies heavily on the “Mom” card that she enjoys pulling when it suits her purposes.
Allow Gonzalez to tell the story, and she says she single-handedly raised two children and two stepchildren all by herself, while advocating for the disenfranchised and the marginalized. From recent puff pieces in CalMatters and KQED to burnish her credentials for her 2022 Secretary of State-run, to manipulating Buffygate, Gonzalez will do anything to distract from the debacle that is AB5.
Thanks to the former Speaker and San Francisco’s mayor, she did not succeed in this.
Willie Brown is still much beloved in San Francisco where he served two terms as mayor. The former mayor pens a weekly Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle. That is, until the publication informed him that because of AB5, he could no longer write it.
The poorly written law instituted a cap on freelance writers of 35 submissions per outlet, per year, and the former Speaker had reached his cap.
According to Politico, Brown was none too happy to be sidelined at such a pivotal time in the nation.
“‘Lyft has never obeyed AB 5 .. I don’t know anybody that has, except the Chronicle,’ Brown fumed of the move by Hearst Newspapers’ flagship publication. “For 12-plus years, every Sunday, I’ve written that column in the paper and never taken a vacation. And this is the most important year. This is a campaign year when there’s really a contest.”
The article continued,
“Demian Bulwa, the managing editor of the Chronicle, said Brown last week reached the 35-article limit — and the paper had no choice but to comply with the law. He said the restriction would apply to every freelancer who has written more than 35 submissions in the last year.”
While Speaker Brown recently became aware of the effects of the law, the 4.5 million California freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers have been suffering its damages since before January. Hardships that are exacerbated by the statewide shutdowns from COVID-19. Over the last several months, Gonzalez cobbled together an exemption bill, AB2257, which addressed the 35 submission freelance writer cap. It also opens the exemptions for certain musicians, interpreters, translators, and videographers.
In that final Assembly session, the Legislature passed it into law as an urgency bill. All that is required is for Governor Gavin Newsom to seal it with his signature. Newsom has until September 30 to do this, but between his botched COVID management, 30 lawsuits filed against him for said mismanagement and other violations of Californians constitutional rights, and bleeding senior staff, he’s had a lot on his plate.
This is where the political capital of Willie Brown was brought to bear. Politico continued,
“But Newsom on Friday took action that will assist his former mentor by signing AB 2257, a bill passed by the Legislature in the final hours of the legislative session Monday to address the concerns of freelance writers, photographers and musicians who said their livelihoods were at danger. The bill takes effect immediately because it was written as an urgency measure and received two-thirds support.
“‘I signed the bill, write the damn column!,’ Newsom wrote to Brown in a text message that Brown shared with POLITICO.”
Willie Brown was California Assembly Speaker for 14 years (1981-1995). He then became Mayor of San Francisco and helped to launch Gavin Newsom’s political future. So, Willie called upon now Governor Gavin Newsom to pay fealty, and Newsom obliged.
Brown plays the Kingmaker, while Rendon plays the court jester
Queen Lorena, and others hold court in the out of control Assembly.
Since Speaker Anthony Rendon won his first Assembly race in 2012, he has danced between Democrat moderate to progressive Democrat. He received death threats in 2017 for tabling Senate Bill 562, a single-payer healthcare bill, and there was a recall campaign mounted because of the same which was ultimately dropped by its initiators.
Apparently, Planned Parenthood and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) expressed “concerns” about the measure which Ballotpedia described as, “its financing and its interaction with healthcare programs offered by county governments.”
An educated politico would say that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America did not want to have to battle with the newly installed Trump administration and its efforts to nationally defund them. Any “health care” inroads they would have with single-payer in California would have expanded that battleground. So, they decided to put on the brakes.
According to Follow the Money, after SB562 was tabled, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates across California contributed $34,264 to Rendon’s 2018 District 63 Assembly campaign. Rendon has been a faithful soldier ever since, advocating for the abortion provider on his Instagram account, and donning pink boxing gloves to show that he is in the fight for women’s “reproductive rights”.
Follow the Money also reflects that SEIU and its connected entities have contributed over $75,800 to Rendon’s campaigns since his first win in 2012.
Other Labor entities have shown their generosity to this former educator, administrator, and theoretician, contributing $8,275,186 to his Assembly campaigns since 2012.
Rendon’s biography on his campaign website touts his work on the Proposition 1 Water Bond and his advocacy in bringing clean water to low-income communities. The bio says,
The process that ushered in AB5, and continues to plague its passage, amendments, and enforcement, has been anything but “clean and open”. All this has happened on Rendon’s watch.
More to come in the next article.