Mia Bonta

Jul 072021

Unable to levy factual accusations, Bonta invents a millionaire father for Ramachandran.

Mia Bonta

There was never a question of whether Mia Bonta would launch a dirty whisper campaign against her opponent in the general election for the District 18 Assembly race. Rob Bonta, Mia’s husband and the most prominent and active member of her campaign, utilized a “dirty attacks” strategy when he, himself first ran for the Assembly seat Mia is now seeking. The question was what types of attacks the Bontas would launch against Janani Ramachandran, the other winner of the top-two primary. A brilliant public interest lawyer with an extensive history of social justice activism and work for non-profits, Ramachandran has as clean a background as you can find in a candidate. We now have the answer to that question: Bonta will seek to exploit resentment against Indian-Americans as a “privileged minority” and xenophobia in general. She has started by using tropes and dog whistles while making deceitful and outright false allegations against Ramachandran.

Mere days after the primary election, the Bonta campaign started sending out texts like these to voters:

May be an image of text
Janani Ramachandran

It is true that Janani Ramachandran comes from a privileged background. Ironically, it’s privilege that Mia Bonta shares. Both Janani and Mia’s fathers were college graduates and held professional jobs while their daughters were growing up. Both their mothers attended New York state public colleges, and both families pushed education on their children. Mia’s privilege was tampered by a broken home, while Janani’s by her LGBTQ identity. Both Janani and Mia were very good students and were able to attend top schools: Mia graduated from Yale College and Yale Law School, while Janani graduated from Stanford and UC Berkeley. Both of them had to resort to financial aid to attend college. Their privilege can be contrasted with that of two of their opponents in the primary: both Victor Aguilar and James Aguilar (no relation to each other) are gay Latino men who were the first in their families to attend a four year college. They both have endorsed Janani.

The text the Bonta campaign sent voters attempts to awaken resentment and racism against Indian-Americans by casting her father as the founder of “a large international corporation”. It accuses Janani of lying about her background and suggests that her father was rich. He is not. The Kumar Ramachandran who is Janani’s father, is an engineer who has worked for a number of companies in the US and India. He ran a small engineering firm in Bangalore for a number of years and later founded a start-up that tried to connect Indian farmers with food retailers, cutting the middle man, increasing farmer’s profits and decreasing food waste. Corruption in India made that start up go bust and Kumar is now back at working as a consultant.

There is another man also named Kumar Ramachandran who co-founded a company later sold to Palo Alto Networks for over $400 millions. Indeed, if you google “Kumar Ramachandran“, his profile is the first one to come up – along with photos of him and a young girl with very dark skin and very big eyes. I imagine it’s possible that the Bonta campaign recklessly assumed that this man was Janani’s father, despite being far too young to have a daughter Janani’s age, and they might think that all Indians look alike and that little girl was Janani. Just as likely, the Bontas were just hoping anyone googling Kumar would make the same mistake.

The other attacks on Janani are not as much outright lies as deceptions. I have no doubts that when Janani’s family moved back to India, they sent her to a private school. The Indian public school system is such that most everyone who has access to one of the 400,000 private schools in the country and can afford the very reasonable fees, sends their kids to them. Close to half of Indian students attend non-government schools. The same is true, unfortunately, in many developing countries, including in Latin America. Ironically, Mia Bonta herself sent at least one of her children to a private school despite living in Alameda, a city best known for the quality of its schools and despite serving as the Alameda School Board President herself.

Mia’s attack on Janani “only” moving back to the Bay Area to attend college is more puzzling. It’s extremely common for American children who moved with their parents to other countries to come back to the US for college. Kamala Harris is a prime example of this, she went to school in Canada and came back to the US to attend Howard university. The children of my American professors at the American University of Cairo did the same thing. But perhaps Mia seeks to further stroke xenophobic feelings by suggesting that Janani is not really American. Again, an ironic trope when her own husband was born in The Philippines.

Finally, Janani moved to Oakland while attending UC Berkeley Law School. I’m surprised that Mia knows so little of the East Bay that she does not know that many UC Berkeley students live in Oakland. My husband and most of my friends did at some time or another when we all were at Cal (I, instead, was fortunate to get a rent controlled apartment a few blocks from campus!). Janani originally lived within the borders of AD 15 and later – long before Rob Bonta was appointed Attorney General and his seat became vacant – moved in with her partner into a larger place which happened to be on the other side of this arbitrary border, in AD 18. Now, while Janani didn’t move to AD 18 specifically to run and Mia’s allegation is an attempt to falsely claim her a carpetbagger – it is not uncommon for activists and community organizers who live in one area and work in another to seek to run in the area where they work, as that’s where they know the community best. Indeed, one of the problems with Mia Bonta is that despite living in the Bay Area for over a decade, she still doesn’t know the community outside Alameda.

This was just the first dirty attack on Janani that the Bonta campaign launched (or that I’ve become aware of). I anticipate future ones will be nastier and even more deceitful. I hope that voters will be able to see through them.

Jun 032021
California Attorney General Rob Bonta

It’s been little over a month since Rob Bonta was sworn in as California’s Attorney General after being appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom and he is already busy selling access. For a mere $1500 contributed to his wife’s campaign for Assembly, you get to meet the AG by zoom and, well, you’ll know what you want out of that meeting. As a bonus, you can also meet with his candidate wife, in case you have any special requests in the likely case she gets elected to the Assembly. 2 for the price of 1, now that’s a bargain.

May 212021

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.

Mia Bonta

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.).