Mia Bonta’s campaign casts fraudulent vote in failed attempt to obtain the California Democratic Party’s endorsement
Update: Bonta’s campaign appears to have forged delegate signatures on dues waiver applications.
At the top of Mia Bonta‘s Facebook page, right below her name, lies a question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. In the present circumstances the question sounds almost mocking. Party activists have kept quiet about the attempted fraud to secure the California Democratic Party endorsement — exactly because they are afraid of angering Mia’s husband, Rob Bonta, California’s recently appointed Attorney General. Nobody wants to make powerful enemies. It’s exactly this fear that makes powerful politicians get away with all sorts of misdeeds.
Rob Bonta, California Assemblymember for District 18 (Alameda, San Leandro and much of Oakland), was appointed Attorney General a couple of months ago – leaving his Assembly seat vacant and precipitating a special election in late June.
Mia Bonta, Rob Bonta’s wife, is running for his seat against a myriad of other candidates (8 at last count). Five of those candidates sought the endorsement of the California Democratic Party – a valuable endorsement as campaign finance laws allow political parties to funnel money into their endorsed candidate’s campaigns with little transparency and high contribution limits.
To get the coveted endorsement, a candidate needs to receive 60% of the votes cast in the endorsement election. The rules of who can vote in endorsement elections are rather arcane, but in this case it included about 40 people who had been Democratic Party delegates for Assembly District 18 in 2020. I was one of them.
It was clear the endorsement would go to Mia Bonta or nobody at all. Rob Bonta controlled many of the votes, either because he had appointed the delegates himself or he endorsed and financially supported the delegates. However, it was an open question whether he controlled enough delegates to get his wife the endorsement.
Not long before the endorsement meeting, a woman showed up to the house of the parents of a delegate. This delegate had not yet cast her ballot. The woman identified herself as Mia Bonta’s mother.
The woman presented the delegate’s father with a ballot already filled out. The woman falsely told him that his daughter had agreed to sign it.
She then asked him to sign his daughter’s name on the ballot. The father complied.
The woman from Mia Bonta’s campaign marked the ballot for Mia Bonta and e-mailed an image of it to the Party’s regional director, who was responsible for receiving the ballots and counting votes.
When the delegate learned what happened, she immediately contacted the regional director and told him that she had neither cast nor authorized anyone to cast a vote on her behalf.
The delegate then went on to cast a valid ballot for “no endorsement”. Mia Bonta ended up being three votes short of receiving the Party’s endorsement.
This whole chicanery might have flown under the radar, but at the end of the endorsement meeting, a delegate close to Rob Bonta asked whether anyone had cast two votes. This prompted the regional director to explain what happened.
Mia Bonta has yet to give any explanations as to why her campaign cast a fraudulent vote. I reached out to her personally asking to speak about this, but have not received a response. It is possible that Mia’s mother acted on her own and lied to the campaign about who had signed the ballot and how she had procured it. It is also possible that she acted under the direction of either Mia or someone else in the campaign.
The candidate, of course, is ultimately responsible for what their campaign does. It is incumbent on Mia to address this matter publicly. How and whether she does it will speak to her character, and voters have the right to know about it before they cast their votes. As things stand, Mia Bonta is the likely frontrunner in this race. Thanks in no small part to Rob Bonta’s efforts, her campaign has raised twice as much money as her closest opponent. If she does win the Assembly seat, her term should not start with questions about her ethics.
Update: I have recently confirmed that Mia Bonta’s campaign not only cast a fraudulent vote, but they are likely to have forged one or more delegate’s signatures in fee waiver applications. In order to be able to vote for this endorsement, delegates had to have paid their 2020 delegate fees. Usually, delegates pay these fees together with their California Democratic Party annual convention fees. However, there was no convention in 2020 (the 2020 convention actually took place in the fall of 2019) and thus many if not most delegates were in fee arrears when they learned they were called to vote for this endorsement. Delegates could either pay the $85 dues before the endorsement caucus or request a dues waiver due to financial difficulties. Requests for waiver require the signature of the delegate making the request.
The delegate mentioned above did not pay her 2020 dues nor did she request a dues waiver. However, a dues waiver application was filed with the party, which included a forged signature, and the only likely party to have made this fraudulent dues waiver request is the Mia Bonta campaign, the ones who cast the fraudulent vote in the name of the delegate.
It is possible, and even likely, that the Mia Bonta campaign also forged the signatures of other delegates who applied for due waivers and then proceded to vote for her, it appears that quite a few of the delegates who voted for Mia Bonta had their dues waived.
The California Democratic Party should investigate this matter. However, it is very unlikely that they will given the close relationship of the Party Chair, Rusty Hicks, with Rob Bonta, who endorsed him when he ran.
Similarly, falsifying someone’s signature with the intent to defraud is a crime under California law. However, no DA is likely to investigate the campaign of the wife of the Attorney General.
Full disclosure: I voted no endorsement on the CDP’s endorsement election, but I personally intend to vote for Victor Aguilar – as a San Leandro City Council member Victor has worked to bring reforms to the police department and has pushed a progressive agenda. I thought I had left political blogging behind – but misdeeds like this one need to be part of the public record.
(Note, this article was slightly edited for grammar/clarity.).