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CA Democrats Spar Over Whether Party Should Take Money From Juul, Fox, Uber

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- As is common at conventions, the California Democratic Party Convention features major sponsors on signs; enormous ones on either side of the stage. The signs show the names of people and organizations that have contributed to the party and helped make the convention possible.

This year, Planned Parenthood, Biden for President and numerous union logos were featured, as one might expect. But right up there with them were AirBNB (accused by some of unfairly removing housing stock from the rental market), Fox Broadcasting Company (an entertainment subsidiary of Fox Corporation which is also the parent company of Fox News), Uber and flavored tobacco company Juul.

On Sunday, Hene Kelly, the party Director for Region 6 (which includes San Francisco and San Mateo counties), raised an issue with Uber and Juul's contributions.

After the presidential candidate speeches, during party business, Kelly approached the microphone and asked, "What committee would take a resolution or a statement from this party that we will not take money from Uber which is non-union and treats its workers terribly?"

To applause, Kelly continued, "What committee should I go to to ask this party not to take any money from Juul, who preys on children?"

Acting party chair Alex Gallardo-Rooker, replied, "Can the chair say take that to the Finance Committee?" then pointing to Kelly. "Hene, can we put you on a subcommittee to replace that money that we're not going to take? So, we'll have to raise a few hundred thousand dollars."

When some in the crowd voiced disagreement, Gallardo-Rooker said, "Come on...come takes a lot of money to run this party and make sure we win."

A few minutes later, Kelly approached the mic again to accept the assignment. "And I accept a position on that committee," she boomed. "If I have to bake and I have ten thousand challahs and sell them on Friday evenings, I sure as hell will!"

It's not clear how much money Uber or Juul gave to the party but Juul had an entire sign all to itself (the only other entity with it's own sign was the California Teacher's Association). Sponsorship materials from last year's convention show that the largest package goes to donors giving $100,000.

This is consistent with Gallardo-Rooker's claim that Kelly would have to find an alternate source for "a few hundred thousand dollars" if the party refunds or refuses money from Uber and Juul.

Do contributions to the party actually buy preferential treatment? On the one hand, legislation classifying Uber and Lyft drivers as "employees" (with the attendant protections) instead of "independent contractors" (without protections) has passed the Assembly. Uber really, really does NOT want this bill to become a law, and yet Democrats are moving it forward.

On the other hand, a number of bills were introduced this year to regulate and restrict flavored tobacco products sold by companies like Juul, and in the state legislature where Democrats have a supermajority, all the bills have quietly died.

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