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Garcetti tells U.S. Senate committee he didn’t see sexual harassment

“I never witnessed, [..] the behavior that’s been alleged […] I would have immediately taken action to stop that”

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LA Mayor Eric Garcetti testifying at his confirmation hearing (Screenshot via CSPAN-2 December 14, 202)

WASHINGTON – Appearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told Senators he never witnessed his former top advisor sexually harass a member of his staff.

Garcetti, appearing for his confirmation hearing as President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to India said “I never witnessed, nor was it brought to my attention, the behavior that’s been alleged. … If it had been, I would have immediately taken action to stop that.”

Some of the allegations against Garcetti’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Jacobs were publicly disclosed earlier this month in New York Magazine. Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s director of communications, told journalist Alissa Walker that after returning from an event, Jacobs who was her boss charged into the office, “He crushes me against his body, pulling me in with all his strength,” she said. “I’m like a rag doll. He’s pulling me into him and kisses me on the lips for some long, uncomfortable period of time. He kisses me on the lips. I’m trying to push back, but he has my arms pinned down against the sides of my body so I have no leverage to push back.”

According to Seligman, she then went to find Ana Guerrero, Garcetti’s then–chief of staff, who treated her account of the incident; ‘Like it was an annoyance,” Seligman says. “She wouldn’t talk about it. She didn’t even want to say, ‘I’m sorry it happened to you.’ The only thing she said was that there’s nothing we can do about him.”

The New York Magazine details that Seligman’s experience was not unique and that according to the magazine; “Despite alleged harassment so rampant it was called an open secret, some of which Garcetti allegedly witnessed, Jacobs kept his job at City Hall and later became Garcetti’s most influential strategist, laying the groundwork for a White House run, orchestrating off-the-schedule meetings, and traveling around the world with the mayor.

The most damaging accusation leveled publicly by four people within the Garcetti camp was that the mayor was fully aware of Jacobs’s behavior.

A lawsuit filed in July 2020 against Jacobs by LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, a member of Garcetti’s security detail, alleges that Jacobs sexually harassed him.

Garza sued the city saying that Jacobs made crude sexual comments, massaged his shoulders and hugged him between 2014 and 2019. Garza alleged that the harassment happened in front of the mayor, but that Garcetti did nothing to stop it, KTLA reported.

Garza testified that he worried he would face retaliation if he reported the sexual harassment. “I would have been ostracized,” Garza said in a deposition taken in March of 2021 and reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. “I would have been removed from the [security] detail. If I made that big of a deal of it, if I had sought out a complaint with the sexual harassment division within the city, I no doubt would have been retaliated against. The mayor and his staff is extremely vindictive.”

During Tuesday’s conformation hearing, New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen told the mayor she was concerned about the accusations against Jacobs, which include allegations detailed in the New York Magazine article that Garcetti “did not respond to those allegations in a way that would have stopped the behavior.” The Senator then stressed that women’s rights and sexual harassment remain priority issues in India, the world’s largest democracy.

“I think it’s very important that we model the behavior that we want to see in our allies,” Shaheen told the mayor.

Garcetti told her that “persistent action” was needed to support and protect victims. He emphasized that as mayor, he established policies to centralize complaints and permit victims to submit reports of alleged abuse anonymously.

“Harassment and discrimination have no place in the workplace, no place in our society. I have zero tolerance for that. And I also know that words are not enough,” he said.

Shaheen reacted saying, “I look forward to your strong stance when you are confirmed.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the exchange stood out in what was largely a drama-free hearing for the two-term mayor.

Garcetti was one of three nominees who appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee during a lightly attended hearing. The others were University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, Biden’s pick to serve as ambassador to Germany, and career diplomat Donald Armin Blome, the president’s selection for ambassador to Pakistan.

The mayor has been a strong supporter of the president and was named co-chair for the Biden’s inauguration last January.

The mayor is ending two terms, which were plagued by the coronavirus pandemic and a homeless crisis that has seen homeless encampments spread into virtually every corner of Los Angeles.

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Congress

Senate rejects codifying Roe v. Wade into law along party lines, 49-51

“What resources are they prepared to provide to support these women and the children they’ll bear? The answer, we know is none”

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U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) urges passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (Screenshot/C-SPAN2)

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate in a 49-51 vote rejected an effort to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). The Democrats were unable to break a Republican-led filibuster to stop the legislation as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was the lone Democratic to vote no. None of the Republicans voted in the affirmative.

Manchin in clarifying his opposition said that the bill “is not Roe v. Wade codification, it’s an expansion.”

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday to urge his colleagues to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify the right to an abortion into federal law.

“It is abundantly clear that Congress must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All across America, a strong majority support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions,” said Padilla. “We can’t stand by and watch while right-wing politicians and judges roll back the clock on women’s rights. We must protect the fundamental rights of women across the country.”

The debate on the Senate floor Wednesday reflected the unyielding partisan divide over the issue of abortion rights. The New York Times noted that Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican asked on the Senate floor; “Where’s the tolerance? Where’s compassion? Where’s the humanity?” Sasse accused Democrats of promoting “brutal indifference hiding behind euphemisms” by holding on to abortion rights instead of policies that would help mothers, babies and children.

“What laws are these states prepared to pass?” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, asked. “What resources are they prepared to provide to support these women and the children they’ll bear? The answer, we know — and I fear — is none.”

The New York Times observed that amid the fury of the abortion debate and the charges and countercharges of hypocrisy, it is hard to imagine the parties coming together around a bipartisan effort to ease the burdens of pregnancy and child-rearing.

Vice-President Kamala Harris who presided over the Senate today was asked by a reporter; “what does this vote mean? And what is your message to women and childbearing people in America about what’s next?”

She answered;

“Yeah, so, I just presided over the Women’s Health Protective Act vote. And sadly, the Senate failed to stand in defense of a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

And let’s be clear, the majority of the American people believe in defending a woman’s right, her choice to decide what happens to her own body. And this vote clearly suggests that the Senate is not where the majority of Americans are on this issue.

It also makes clear that a priority for all who care about this issue — a priority should be to elect pro-choice leaders at the local, the state, and the federal level, because what we are seeing around this country are extremist Republican leaders who are seeking to criminalize and punish women for making decisions about their own body.”

In an emailed statement to the Blade, Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund noted:

“Once again, conservative political extremists and Senators from both parties blocked a vote on, let alone passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). The final vote was 49 yay, 51 nay. Our Senators, sent to Washington to do the people’s work, continue to support filibuster to the detriment of the people who put them office. Here the filibuster rule wrongly enabled a minority of Senators to block what the people of this country need and want. The WHPA is federal legislation – passed by the House on September 24, 2021 – designed to bar states from enacting laws to restrict access to abortion to people who need it.   

Passage of the WHPA is vital to our communities’ health and people’s bodily autonomy especially considering last week’s news that Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion portends the Supreme Court reversing the longstanding precedent, Roe v. Wade. A full 69% of people in this country disagree with overturning Roe, erasing 50 years of abortion access, critical health care, for which our communities fought hard and upon which we rely. The research is clear: where abortion access is restricted, the greatest harms occur to Black and Brown people, LGBTQ people, people living in poverty and people living in rural areas. Alito’s reasoning threatens important case precedents impacting LGBTQ people, people of color, and others whose rights the people won after the Constitution was ratified. 

In the last 24 hours, The Task Force mobilized hundreds of voters who sent close to a thousand letters to Senators, urging for their support of WHPA and sharing the dire impacts to their lives without federal protections in place. Today’s vote reflects an infuriating intertwining of racism, sexism, and classism. The possible overturn of Roe reflects the ongoing and escalating attacks on bodily autonomy, efforts that are profoundly wrong and harmful as well as unconstitutional.   

The people elected U.S. Senators to uphold justice and equity – but some have chosen to use their positions of power to take away our basic human rights, our civil liberties, and our dignity. Each person deserves their humanity to be affirmed, protected, and celebrated. Where, as here, the filibuster undermines democracy, where it undermines our power to shape our families, our lives, and our futures, it must be set aside. 

Despite the historic gains we have made as queer people, conservative activists and lawmakers threaten these victories, accelerating anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-reproductive rights legislation as well as anti-democratic, often anti-Black, voter suppression. The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund has launched “Queer the Vote” a civic engagement campaign to engage, educate and mobilize LGBTQ+ rights supporters while creating paths to activate and organize with direct action. Together we can hold our elected leaders accountable in the 2022 Midterm Elections and continue to expand and leverage our collective power to rebuild and reclaim our Democracy.”  

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Congress

Legislation to expand access to small business innovation programs

The funding helps move technologies from the lab to the marketplace or from the lab to insertion in a government program or system

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Graphic via U.S. Small Business Administration

WASHINGTON — To commemorate National Small Business Week, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced the Encouraging Small Business Innovation Act Friday. The legislation would make several reforms to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs to enhance access to capital, improve diversity, and expand the eligible uses of funds for small businesses.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country’s economy, and for more than 40 years, the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs have spurred innovation, job creation, and economic growth,” said Senator Padilla. “I can see no better way to celebrate this National Small Business Week than to make sure these programs are even more inclusive of underserved populations and better equipped to meet the needs of all U.S. small businesses.”

“BPC Action commends Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) for introducing the Encouraging Small Business Innovation Act. For decades, the SBIR and STTR programs have enjoyed bipartisan support among lawmakers and has been essential means of government support for innovators across the country. BPC Action looks forward to working with Congress to reauthorize and reform the SBIR and STTR programs beyond their September 30th expiration date,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director, BPC Action.

Specifically, the Encouraging Small Business Innovation Act would:

  • Require federal agencies to conduct outreach and technical assistance to increase the participation of underserved populations and states in the SBIR and STTR programs.
  • Allow Small Business Investment Companies to participate in these programs and allow applicants to seek funding for testing and evaluation activities.
  • Require participating federal agencies to conduct a joint annual meeting to share best practices for improving data collection and streamlining processes across the programs.

Senator Padilla has been a strong advocate for small businesses in California and across the country. Earlier this year, he secured over $12 million in federal assistance for California small businesses to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also introduced bipartisan legislation to create a new competitive grant program to provide tailored, on-the-ground assistance to small businesses in both urban and rural communities.

In conjunction with several federal agencies, the SBIR and STTR programs foster government-industry and industry-university partnerships by making competitive awards to small firms with the best scientific proposals in response to the research needs of agencies. The funding helps move technologies from the lab to the marketplace or from the lab to insertion in a government program or system.

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Congress

Republicans: Block kids from seeing TV Shows with LGBTQ+ characters

The letter “strongly urged” the Monitoring Board to update its guidelines to ensure parents are aware of the “disturbing” content

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Photo credit: Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board

WASHINGTON – A group of five U.S. Senators sent a letter Wednesday to the Chairman of the the Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, Charles Rivkin, asking for a new rating so parents can block their children from watching shows with LGBTQ characters.

In the two-page letter signed by Republicans Roger Marshall, Kansas; Mike Lee, Utah; Mike Braun, Indiana; Kevin Cramer, North Dakota and Steve Daines, Montana, they cited The Telecommunications Act of 1996, placing emphasis on “studies indicate that children are affected by the pervasiveness and casual treatment of sexual material on television, eroding the ability of parents to develop responsible attitudes and behavior in their children.”

The Senators also took aim at Disney’s ongoing opposition to a recently enacted state law – dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” measure in the letter. The letter “strongly urged” the Monitoring Board to update its guidelines to ensure parents are aware of the “disturbing” content.

One industry source, who is aware of the letter, told the Blade Thursday that Senate GOP lawmakers “are targeting content that currently has what is generally considered ‘G to PG-13’ standards and if enacted would prevent many LGBTQ+ children from seeing stories about kids like themselves.”

In addition to the chairman, the Board includes 18 industry representatives from the broadcast, cable and creative communities appointed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association (MPA), and five public interest members, appointed by the Board chairman.

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board is responsible for ensuring there is as much uniformity and consistency in applying the Parental Guidelines as possible. The Monitoring Board does this by reviewing complaints and other public input and by facilitating discussion about the application of ratings among members of the Board and other relevant industry representatives.

The Monitoring Board typically meets annually or more often, if necessary, to consider and review complaints sent to the Board, discuss current research, and review any other relevant issues.

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