Newsom announces Feinstein's successor

Plus, Clarence Thomas to rule on a case with ties to his friends in the Koch network


Following the death of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced late last night that he had selected Laphonza Butler to fill her seat.

“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she’ll represent us proudly in the United States Senate,” Newsom said in a statement.

Butler, a longtime party insider, will become the first openly gay senator to represent the state. Prior to her appointment, she led the pro-abortion PAC EMILY’s List. Her other experiences include a stint as a regent of the University of California, leading the California branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and an advisory role in Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign.

She also spent time working with tech giants like Uber and Airbnb on public policy.

That last detail could prove problematic: Some in the corridors of organized labor and left-wing politics fear that Butler was not the best option in an era where corporate liberalism can be seen as a red flag. For example, the Congressional Black Caucus had published a letter just before Newsom’s announcement urging him to select longtime progressive Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) — who is running in the 2024 election for Feinstein’s seat — to serve the rest of the late senior Democrat’s term.

"Barbara Lee has diagnosed a sickness in this country: greed. And, as a former mental health professional, she has a solution: eradicate poverty, exterminate corporate welfare, and end austerity for working families,” Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote.

“She is the only person with the courage, vision, and record to eradicate poverty, face down the fossil fuel industry, defend our democracy, and tirelessly advance the progressive agenda."

Lee, however, did express support for Butler, wishing her well and stating on X (formerly Twitter) that she would “look forward to working closely with [Butler] to deliver for the Golden State.”

“I am singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate. CA deserves an experienced Senator who will deliver on progressive priorities. That’s exactly what I’m running to do.”

It is unclear whether or not Butler will run against Lee, Rep. Katie Porter and Rep. Adam Schiff to serve a full term.

A lawsuit set to be heard by the Supreme Court tomorrow could prove to be a conflict of interest for Justice Clarence Thomas.

In the case Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) v. Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSAA), a coalition of parasitic payday loan companies are attempting to strip funding away from the most potent consumer protection institution in the country on “constitutional” grounds. The plaintiffs are arguing that the CFPB’s independent finance structure violates the Appropriations clause in the U.S. constitution.

“Given the power and reach of CFPB which ‘acts as a mini legislature, prosecutor, and court,

responsible for creating substantive rules for a wide swath of industries, prosecuting violations, and levying knee-buckling penalties against private citizens,’ this impermissible abdication of power presents more than a constitutional conundrum; it presents a legitimate threat to liberty,” allies of the CFSAA wrote in an amicus brief.

Undermining the financial integrity of the CFPB would be disastrous for millions of American consumers, especially those who are vulnerable to the abuses of payday lenders.

As ProPublica has reported over the past several months, Justice Thomas’ ties to conservative megadonors like the Koch brothers would, ideally, force him to recuse himself from suits involving his personal friends. In CFPB vs CFSAA, Koch advocacy outlet Americans for Prosperity Foundation filed an amicus brief with the case. Additionally, Thomas’ good pal Harlan Crow, whom he has substantial financial ties to, stands to benefit from the demise of the CFPB as well.

Yet Thomas, predictably, will not recuse himself from the case. And with no meaningful mechanism to penalize Thomas for his not-so-subtle influence peddling, more and more cases involving crucial civic and social infrastructure could be titled in favor of big business.  

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Jamie Larson