"Jesse Gabriel announced that his campaign has raised more than $500,000 for the upcoming April 3rd Special Election."
- Jesse Gabriel
What do the former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's adviser David Crane, "symbol of the greed and money of the tech sector" Ron Conway and WalMart Chairman Greg Penner have in common? They are co-founders of Govern for California, an independent expenditure committee that seeks "to influence elections for the California Legislature under the state's new top-two primary system". Their efforts are focused on supporting moderates and Republicans. One of their beneficiaries has been Jesse Gabriel, who is running in Tuesday's special election for Matt Dababneh's seat.
Gabriel claims to be a "progressive for the Valley", but his acceptance of this source of funding calls into question his commitment to progressive values. His website indicates that he accepts the premise that "access to quality healthcare is a right, not a privilege", but his funders opposed a bridge to single payer. Instead, they promoted a move "away from fee-for-service reimbursement" and attacked health-care providers. Gabriel claims that he will defend "our California values" but his benefactors opposed "proposed legislation imposing a tax on private prisons in California to help fund early education." While Gabriel claims that he wants to improve neighborhood schools, Govern for California supports the same privatization efforts as Betsy Devos and the rest of the Trump administration. Instead of looking for ways to work with teachers to improve our education system, they demonize the teachers' unions.
Another featured issue on the Gabriel website is "Protecting our Environment" where the candidate proclaims that "protecting our environment is essential to the health of our community and our planet." This did not stop him from accepting $4,400 each from Stewart and Lynda Resnick. The Resnicks own the Wonderful Company whose brands include Halos (formerly called Cuties), "Fiji Water, POM Wonderful, and the world's largest pistachio- and almond-growing operation". The Federal Trade Commission cited the company for "making misleading and inadequately supported claims about the health benefits of POM products" by advertising that their products "could treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction." In drought-stricken California, the company has resorted to using the waste product from fracking operations to satisfy the needs of some of their water-intensive crops. In 2016 it was revealed that the company clear-cut "an oak forest on land managed by" one of its subsidiaries without notifying local authorities.
As pointed out repeatedly by Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign, "a political campaign-finance system that is corrupt and increasingly controlled by billionaires and special interests" threatens the existence of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Being able to raise over a half a million dollars does not prove that someone is capable of holding office, only that they have incurred an indebtedness to special interests. This is especially true when campaign-finance reports show that a large number of donations are raised from far outside the district.
In comparison, Gabriel's opponent Ankur Patel has committed to running his campaign without corporate funding. This helps to ensure that, as a state assemblyperson, he will answer to his constituents instead of to people with deep pockets who have purchased access. That is the difference between a progressive candidate and one chosen by the establishment.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.