Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism.
American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them.
Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic state attorneys general that attempted to criminalize dissent in the matter of global warming, using her office’s investigatory powers to target and harass non-profit policy groups while she and her counterpart in New York attempted to shake down Exxon on phony fraud cases.
Until she was stopped by a federal court, Harris was laying subpoenas on organizations such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative-leaning group that is critical of Democratic global-warming proposals. She demanded private information that the organizations were not legally obliged to disclose, including financial information and donor lists, in order to be able to subject the supporters of right-leaning groups to legal and financial harassment. This was, as a federal judge confirmed, an obvious and unquestionable violation of the First Amendment.
It was also a serious abuse of power. Harris’s actions were coordinated with those of then attorney general Eric Schneiderman in New York, who argued — preposterously — that Exxon’s taking a different view of global warming was a form of securities fraud. This isn’t a conspiracy theory: They held a press conference and organized their effort into a committee, which they called AGs United for Clean Power.
This was not happening in a political vacuum. At approximately the same time, the IRS was being weaponized to harass and disadvantage right-leaning nonprofits and policy organizations, for example, leaking the confidential tax information of the National Organization for Marriage as an act of political retaliation, an offense for which the IRS was obliged to pay a settlement. (The IRS’s other abuses, as in the Lois Lerner matter, remain largely unpunished.) A lawyer with connections to Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo attempted to extort billions of dollars from Chevron in a mammoth racketeering project that involved falsifying evidence and bribing judges, a project that was cheered on by green activists such as musician Roger Waters and Democratic operatives such as former Cuomo aide Karen Hinton, both of whom had negotiated for themselves a percentage of the settlement. That went on until a federal judge intervened on RICO grounds. Democratic voices in the media were calling for the authorities to — this part is even less subtle —“arrest climate change deniers,” a project to which activists such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lent their voices.
And this was not idle talk: As with Harris’s abusive investigation in California, a legal pretext was offered, albeit a patently ridiculous one.
Harris’s self-serving prosecutorial abuses have been directed at political enemies, but they also put hundreds — maybe thousands — of people in jail or at risk of prosecution on wrongful grounds when it suited her agenda. As Lara Bazelon of the Loyola law school wrote in the New York Times:
Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.
Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.
Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.
In the context of Harris’s political vendettas, that eagerness to engage in “systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights” is particularly terrifying.
In choosing this corrupt prosecutor as his vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden has made a serious error, one that highlights his already substantial deficiencies in judgment.