Kamala Harris has been deemed the democratic party establishment’s next big thing. They’re pushing her as the figure head of the resistance, the anti-Trump: a staunch, strong progressive who relies on her intelligence and empathy to combat the authoritarian belligerence of the current administration. While Harris is certainly poised and intelligent, her progressive credentials are fuzzy and her past is punctuated boldly by her decision to not prosecute OneWest Bank and the “foreclosure king” who ran it, current Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Steve Mnuchin and OneWest Bank were, according to a memo obtained and reported on by The Intercept, guilty of “widespread misconduct” in the form of over 1,000 legal violations. The memo was the result of a year-long investigation and it asserts that OneWest Bank operated to intentionally boost foreclosures. The Campaign for Accountability called for a federal investigation of Mnuchin and OneWest Bank claiming they used “potentially illegal tactics to foreclose on as many as 80,000 California homes.”
Yet despite internal memos explicitly mentioning numerous prosecutable offenses by Mnuchin and co., then California Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to prosecute.
She’s never given an explanation for her decision and Mnuchin later donated $2,000.00 to Harris’ campaign. It was his only donation to a democratic candidate.
Her only direct acknowledgment of the memo uncovered by The Intercept was when speaking to The Hill the day after the story was published. It was a non-answer that simply restated already established facts:
“We went and we followed the facts and the evidence, and it’s a decision my office made[.] [W]e pursued it just like any other case. We go and we take a case wherever the facts lead us.”
The Democratic party is a fractured entity. The anti-establishment, anti-corporatist, anti-centrist, anti-plutocratic wing of the party is growing every day and they are unwavering and passionate about their ideals. Harris, who met with Clinton donors last month and is against party purity tests, has certainly failed to impress those pining for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
In addition to an array of progressive moves as AG which included her opposition to Prop 8 and the death penalty, as well as founding the “Back on Track” program which reduced recidivism by providing job-training and schooling for low-level drug offenders, Harris made a few particularly troubling decisions. She opposed legislation that would’ve made it mandatory for the California DOJ to independently investigate all police shootings, she did not support the use of body cameras on all police state-wide, and she once attempted to block a court ruling granting gender reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.
Moreover, she has yet to publicly endorse single-payer health care, which may end up being a litmus test for Democratic presidential candidates.
For the most part, Harris aims to stay in the middle, but by all accounts, centrism is dead. While she may be able to distance herself from some earlier mistakes, the one looming specter from which she cannot escape is Steve Mnuchin. If she wants to be considered as a viable Democratic candidate, she needs to appeal to the Sanders/Warren wing of the party. And to do this, she must provide an adequate justification for this glaring omission, or, at the very least, admit she made a terrible error. Voters on both sides of the aisle have grown tired of the corporatist model. This issue will not go away, she had myriad reasons to prosecute a man who brazenly and illegally exploited the citizens of her state and failed to do so.
Simply stating “it’s a decision my office made” is not enough.
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.