California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a former Democratic State Senator, has awarded a $35 million voter outreach contract with a “Team Biden” consulting firm with obvious ties to the Democratic Party. The $35 million is being spent on ads currently airing to tell state voters that mail-in voting is “simple, safe” and “secure” during the coronavirus pandemic, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Tuesday Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom insisting that he investigate and cancel a $35 million contract to a public affairs firm with deep Democrat ties.
This is the same firm that received 35 million taxpayer dollars for a “Vote Safe California” contract.
I have demanded that Governor @GavinNewsom not only investigate, but cancel this contract.
The integrity of our elections cannot be compromised. pic.twitter.com/hqgL5N2Af4
— Senator Shannon Grove (@ShannonGroveCA) September 30, 2020
“California’s chief election office has been compromised. The state budget this year allocated $35 million to individual counties to help them with their vote by mail program,” Grove said in a statement. “Yet, the Secretary of State unilaterally bypassed these counties and took it upon himself to use these funds for a ‘voter outreach’ campaign through a Democrat PR firm.”
“We contacted several county elections officials and asked about this only to discover that they had not been contacted and did not ask for, nor want, the SOS’s assistance,” Grove said in the letter.
“This contract is problematic, questionable, and reeks of political bias using taxpayer dollars. I ask Governor Newsom to immediately cancel the contract and investigate its legality and appropriateness. The integrity of our elections must not be compromised,” said Grove.
But at Wednesday’s noon press conference, when Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked about the $35 million contract, he said he was not aware of the details, despite the letter Sen. Grove sent to him.
“The contract was awarded to to SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm whose managing director is Anita Dunn, a senior advisor on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and White House communications director under President Barack Obama,” Fox News reported.
“Instead the [secretary of state] used the money for a statewide voter outreach campaign. When asked about this, SOS officials, said this was appropriate because they had been told by various county election officials that they did not have the capability provide countywide voter outreach campaign,” Sen. Grove said in her letter.
“Finally, we are very concerned about the conflict of interest and potential for political bias and partisanship in a ‘voter outreach’ contract with a firm that employs individuals with a history of working for high ranking Democrat officials and that touts itself as working with ‘Team Biden.’ Imagine the outrage that would be expressed if the shoe were on the other foot and a Republican SOS entered into a similar contract with a firm with close ties to President Trump. It certainly wouldn’t take long for such a contract to be canceled and investigated.”
The Bee reported:
“Secretary of State officials told the state Controller’s Office that they were spending the money on the ad campaign on the counties’ behalf, according to an email obtained by The Sacramento Bee.
“’Entering into the contract on behalf of all 58 counties was essential to maximize statewide reach and consistent messaging across all media markets for all Californians,’ Lizette Mata, deputy secretary of state for operations, wrote in the email. ‘We have contacted counties who expressed an inability to administer funds directly, lacking resources and expertise to coordinate outreach and education funds.’”
This word salad from the Secretary of State’s office leaves us with more questions than answers.
- Why are they hiding the contract?
- What’s in it?
- Why didn’t they clear it with the Department of Finance or the Controller’s Office first?
- And why play into Donald Trumps hand about the legitimacy of the election?
The Bee reported it has repeatedly asked for a copy of the finalized contract from The Department of General Services, and the state Controller’s Office, but has been unsuccessful.
Without the contract, the Controller’s office can’t legitimately authorize payments.
“On Sep. 15, Paula Valle, chief communications officer with the Secretary of State’s Office, told The Bee the contract had been delayed. When asked why, Valle said ‘contracts are just slow, as I have learned working for the state.’ As of Wednesday, the contract had still not made it to the Department of General Services for a formal review.”
SKD Knickerbocker began airing digital, TV and radio ads for “Vote Safe California” throughout the state this week despite the lack of a contract.
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