If Gavin Newsom is elected governor of California without so much as a speed bump on his political journey of entitlement, it may take future social scientists to explain why current California voters were so willing to give this guy a pass on all the things we know about him.
Can't you see this picture for what it really is?
The 50-year-old lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco is the living embodiment of privilege, and people seem to be OK with that. He has white male privilege. Class privilege. Wealth privilege. The privilege of good looks.
All creates a Teflon exterior, protecting Newsom's horrendous lapses of judgment and character, excusing his questionable background. It is simply accepted without eliciting the negative scrutiny that would dog or even derail lesser mortals.
If one of Newsom's opponents – say, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or State Treasurer John Chiang – were bankrolled by one of the richest men in California for most of their lives, as Newsom has been by oil heir Gordon Getty, they would be answering for it every day on the campaign trail. A Mexican American guy or an Asian guy having a rich, white sugar daddy greasing the skids for them at every critical turn of their adult lives would be viewed with suspicion. But that is what Newsom had with Getty.
Villaraigosa or Chiang would have been described as puppets. They would be described as being in the pocket of their patron.
But for Newsom, Getty is portrayed as a "family friend." Meanwhile, Newsom has gotten to call himself an "entrepreneur" for years.
Yeah, that's rich.
How much of an entrepreneur can you really be when one rich guy pumps huge money into just about everything you do?
Again, this isn't a new story. Back in 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Getty helped Newsom become a millionaire by investing in every one of his ventures. A story in The Sacramento Bee a year ago chronicled Newsom's ties to Getty and his financial benefits from them. Where would Newsom's privileged portfolio be without Getty pumping money into his wine business, hospitality business, real estate business?
Getty was often the lead investor in Newsom businesses and, as it always does, money followed money. The picture of Newsom that has evolved over time is of a man who just naturally runs with the wealthy. He doesn't generate headlines because, say, institutional money flows his way.
But when Villaraigosa gets a $12.5 million expenditure from billionaire Eli Broad, Reed Hastings of Netflix and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it's a story for days. It's a story about evil charter school investors using Villaraigosa to take on public schools.
Villaraigosa was also criticized for working as a consultant for Herbalife, the L.A.-based nutritional supplements company targeted by the feds for deceptive business practices. Villaraigosa consulted for them after he was mayor of Los Angeles. Newsom's wealth, according to many accounts, has risen since he became an elected official.
But apparently Newsom's money is clean, and Villaraigosa's is dirty. When you're bankrolled by a rich patron, you don't have to humble yourself by having to earn a living after you leave office, as Villaraigosa did.
Don't take my word for it: "I think it's unfair to candidates who are of modest means and can't finance their own campaigns to assert or insinuate that every single entity they take campaign contributions from they're in debt to," Garry South, a political consultant who doesn't have a candidate in the governor's race, told the Los Angeles Times. "It just doesn't work that way."
Well, it doesn't work that way for Newsom. He's banked millions of dollars without the stain of patronage sticking to him. But Villaraigosa is accused of being in the pocket of charter schools or Herbalife.
Why is this? Why is it OK for one candidate to get rich while in office but another to get criticized for making money out of office?
The reasons go deeper than Villaraigosa's brown skin and Chiang's immigrant background creating bigger hurdles for them to clear.
If another gubernatorial candidate, Delaine Eastin, had slept with a subordinate while she was state superintendent of public instruction, and if the subordinate had gotten thousands of public dollars in a payoff not seen before or since, would the public even accept her as a candidate?
Before you answer that, consider Megan Barry, the now-disgraced ex-mayor of Nashville. Barry was the first female mayor of Nashville. She was a progressive star on the rise. She had an affair with the head of her security team. Barry and her lover were accused of misappropriating more than $11,000 in public money. Barry resigned, agreed to reimburse the money. Her lover will pay back more than $40,000 he banked in overtime while working for Barry.
OK, well, in 2007 Newsom had an affair with his appointments secretary. And she wasn't just his secretary. She was married to one of his top political aides and best friend. After the affair became public, Newsom's lover somehow landed a $10,000 payout in public money from a fund intended for city employees with catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses.
How can sleeping with Gavin Newsom be considered a catastrophic or life-theatening illness?
As The Bee's Angela Hart reported: "(Ruby Rippey-Tourk) was given approval by the former director of San Francisco's public health department, Mitch Katz, according to documents received by The Sacramento Bee. She was granted approval for her substance abuse problems – a rare qualification. (Katz is a close adviser to Newsom on health care.)"
"A 2007 investigation by the city attorney's office found no one other than Rippey-Gibbey had been allowed to receive sick leave payments for substance abuse alone, and there were cases in which city employees were denied participation in the program for substance abuse unaccompanied by a life-threatening illness.," Hart wrote.
So nobody else ever got a payout like this, except the woman who slept with Newsom? And it was granted by a guy who now works for Newsom. As usual, Newsom was cleared of wrongdoing. Of course he was.
But how do you sleep with the wife of your best friend? Where do your mind and soul go when you allow yourself to descend to such a dark place? But it gets better. Newsom told everyone he had a drinking problem. So his grievous betrayal became about substance abuse. He had a problem, right? The narrative became that Newsom was going to rehab. He let everyone believe that he was going into legitimate alcohol rehab. It was all part of the Newsom redemption tour.
And then suddenly, as reported by Hart last month, it turned out he didn't. He went to some encounter group meetings run by one of his enablers. But real legitimate alcohol rehab? Nope.
Instead, he told Hart, "No, there's no rehab. I just stopped. There was no treatment, no nothing related to any of that stuff. I stopped because I thought it was a good thing to stop."
Well, if you "just stopped" drinking, that means you had control over it. If you have control over drink to where you can "just stop," that means you have control of your faculties. That means you could have "just stopped" instead of sleeping with your best friend's wife, but you did it anyway.
That means you really are capable of doing anything or saying anything. That means you don't have my vote, pal.
But you do have that little privilege-think. It resurfaced again this week when a political ad by Republican candidate John Cox comparing Newsom infidelity with an affair Villaraigosa had with a TV reporter a decade ago. It was misleading and played right into Newsom's hands. If the public thinks that their affairs were the same, it helps Newsom. Villaigosa's affair, while costing him his marriage, was an issue of consenting adults. HIs lover wasn't a government employee who got a big payoff.
That's how privilege works in Newsom's charmed life – even Republicans help him out.