Sacramento Bee Editorial Board: "If Gavin Newsom picks Alex Padilla for the U.S. Senate, who owns his $34 million mess?"

DECEMBER 17, 2020  

…  The governor could also make quite a mess for himself by picking Padilla, who currently finds himself embroiled in a scandal over a $34 million bill he can’t pay.

Earlier this year, Padilla’s office handed a $35 million state contract to a public affairs firm called SKD Knickerbocker. …

… it seems Padilla did not have the authority to spend the money. As a result, State Controller Betty Yee refused to approve the contract and the state’s Department of Finance declined to write a check. Yee’s office says the money in question was supposed to go directly to voter outreach efforts in California’s 58 counties, not get funneled to one PR firm by the secretary of state’s office.

Republican legislators have jumped on the controversy, which was first reported by The Sacramento Bee’s Lara Korte. They blast Padilla’s apparent violation of the law as well as his decision to give all of the money to a Democratic firm. SKDK billed itself as part of “Team Biden” during the 2020 election, leading the Republicans to accuse Padilla of casting a cloud of partisanship over the voter outreach effort.

“Did the taxpayers get $35 million worth of public outreach during the general election?” asked state Sen. Patricia Bates and state Sen. Jim Nielsen, both Republicans. “We believe taxpayers were fleeced.”

Now the election is over and SKDK wants its $34 million. But Controller Yee is standing firm in her decision to decline approval for the apparently illegal contract. Meanwhile, Padilla — rumored to the frontrunner for Harris’ senate seat —awaits Newsom’s verdict on his senatorial hopes. …

… Padilla has dedicated most of his life to politics and public service. That’s what makes his voter outreach contract debacle resemble a Greek tragedy. … Padilla’s hubris appears to have clouded his judgment and resulted in a very costly mistake. His qualifications for Harris’ open senate seat are now marred by a $34 million asterisk.

Who gets stuck with Padilla’s bill if Newsom promotes him? The governor must be prepared to answer this question, since Padilla’s SKDK headache will immediately another problem for Newsom to solve.

How will the governor pay Padilla’s bill? Will he stick it to California taxpayers? …

…  it’s a serious question. Newsom should not pick Padilla without simultaneously explaining how he’ll pick up the tab for Padilla’s $34 million contract mess.

Click here to read this editorial in the Sacramento Bee.