By John Ruberry
Willie Brown is not a household name unless you are a political junkie–or a Californian. Nationally he may be better known for playing himself, when he was mayor of San Francisco, in The Princess Diaries. When asked if it would rain by a reporter, the Democrat replied, “It never comes down on Willie Brown.”
Indeed it does not. Despite ethical lapses that go back decades–as well as several FBI investigations–like Bill and Hillary Clinton, there is plenty of smoke surrounding Brown, who was also a longtime speaker of the California State Assembly, but the law can never find the fire.
Why does this matter? Last week, on Martin Luther King Day, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), announced that she is running for president.
Let’s get back to Brown. On the current version of Harris’ Wikipedia page is this innocent sentence, “In the 1990’s she dated California Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown.” Well, I guess you can call it dating. Did they participate in candlelight bowling? The relationship began in 1994 when Brown was 60 and Harris was 30. Brown was married at the time and he still is. The affair lasted two years.
The morals argument against such behavior in regards to politicians is out the window and drowned in the river. Bill Clinton and Donald Trump’s moral shortcomings have seen to that. But the problem with affairs involving people in power is that the less powerful person in the relationship often gets rewarded in ways that raise eyebrows.
From the Washington Examiner:
More questionable than the romance is the relationship’s apparent effect on her finances and her career. Brown, according to contemporary news accounts, gifted his then-girlfriend two government jobs with ample salaries — while she was just getting her start as an assistant DA.
As the San Francisco Weekly reported in 2003:
Aside from handing her an expensive BMW, Brown appointed her to two patronage positions in state government that paid handsomely — more than $400,000 over five years. In 1994, she took a six-month leave of absence from her Alameda County job to join the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Brown then appointed her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, where she served until 1998, attending two meetings a month for a $99,000 annual salary.
Brown continued to aid Harris’ career after they stopped “dating,” most notably by convincing former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa not to run for the US Senate seat against Harris.
In case you think I’ve been drowned by a tidal wave of conservative rage and innuendo on Brown and Harris, the word came down yesterday from Willie Brown, who admitted in a San Francisco Chronicle piece to what many people already knew.
I’ve been peppered with calls from the national media about my “relationship” with Kamala Harris, particularly since it became obvious that she was going to run for president. Most of them, I have not returned.
Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker.
This is a big problem for Harris. I’ve worked several jobs–but not my current one–where bosses were sexually involved with underlings and those subordinates were promoted. Once the snickering about it wears off anger settles in. More deserving employees wonder if they have to “date” the boss to move ahead and earn more money. Many people will believe that Harris got ahead by going to bed.
In preparation for this post I typed “Kamala Harris Wille Br” into my Microsoft Edge browser bar. The autocomplete supplied these responses, “Kamala Harris Willie Brown relationship, Kamala Harris Willie Brown cheats, Kamala Harris Willie Brown girlfriend, and Kamala Harris Willie Brown albatross.”
Willie Brown may come down as Harris’ albatross.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is another Dem candidate for president. After violating a Senate rule prohibiting insulting another senator, Warren defended herself by declaring, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Harris can build on that by answering, “Nevertheless, she dated Willie Brown.”
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.