Senior members of a California medical trade group that has lobbied the state on COVID testing guidelines joined Governor Gavin Newsom for a dinner at an upscale Napa Valley restaurant earlier this month, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Newsom was photographed on November 6 at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif., in a party that did not observe the state’s coronavirus mitigation guidelines. The party was a birthday celebration for Jason Kinney, a lobbyist and longtime adviser to Newsom.
Also present at the dinner were California Medical Association CEO Dustin Corcoran and CMA lobbyist Janus Norman. CMA has lobbied for coronavirus testing protocols outlined by the California Department of Insurance, a state agency that oversees health insurance industry regulations, and against testing protocols from a different state insurance regulator, the California Department of Managed Health Care.
CMA spokesman Anthony York told Politico that “the dinner was held in accordance with state and county guidelines,” while both Newsom and Kinney’s firm Axiom Advisers have maintained that the dinner was held outdoors.
However, photographs of the event obtained by Fox LA showed the group of dinner-goers sitting close together without masks. While the dinner was apparently held in a barn with one wall open, the witness who took the photographs told Fox LA that the party was so loud that sliding glass doors had to be closed.
Newsom apologized on Monday after news broke of his attendance at the party, but before the photographs were given to Fox.
“I should have stood up and…drove back to my house….The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” Newsom told reporters. “I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”
The governor’s apology came the same day he announced that most of California would be placed under new coronavirus restrictions that prohibit indoor dining and limit retail stores to 25 percent capacity.
CMA spent $2.1 million lobbying state lawmakers last year and their lobbying work extends to COVID testing guidelines.