Former aides to Vice President Kamala Harris say she terrorized them in a hostile work environment, continuing a pattern that dates back to her time as a San Francisco prosecutor.
Criticism of Harris’s management didn’t stop her from rising from state attorney general to California attorney general to US senator, from the nation’s most populous state to presidential candidate, all the way to vice president.
Two senior staffers in her vice presidential office recently announced their departure, in a manner that some former employees say looks familiar to them.
“Look, this is a bottom-line business,” a senior Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner after the recent allegations came out. “And the bottom line is that the vice president has challenges with the workforce wherever she is.”
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However, the criticism of Harris’s leadership style has acquired new relevance, as she is well positioned to become the Democratic presidential candidate at some point in the future. President Joe Biden, already the oldest person to ever hold office, will turn 81 in 2024.
Presidential historian David Greenberg, who wrote Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American President, said it’s too early to say whether the claims will weigh on Harris’s future electoral prospects.
“Nothing in the news will matter now in 2024. If these reports are well-founded, Harris will have a lot of time to sort them out, and other, more important things will happen before then,” said Greenberg, who said the allegations were “purely.” within baseball”.
However, according to Business Insider, these issues have been cropping up for years.
Barbara O’Connor, a communications professor at California State University, Sacramento, told the outlet that at least 20 interns who had worked in Harris’ attorney general and the Senate offices tearfully asked her for advice. O’Connor said she was helping some of them get out of Harris’s offices at the time.
There have also been high-dollar settlements related to the veep’s former staff.
In 2011, a settlement was reached between the California Department of Justice and a top aide to then-Attorney General Harris. Upon his departure, Terri Carbaugh, Deputy Chief Attorney General, signed a nondisclosure agreement and received a $34,900 settlement, just below the $35,000 limit that would have required Treasury approval.
A spokesman for Harris said last July that Harris would support releasing Carbaugh from the nondisclosure agreement if the former staffer wishes.
After the Sacramento Bee demanded about $400,000 paid by the California Department of Justice in 2018 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit involving a longtime assistant, the staffer resigned.
Harris’s office declined to comment on specific claims, but in a statement to Insider, a Harris spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said:
“The vice president and her office are focused on the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda of building an economy from the middle and bottom-up, not top-down,” Singh said. “To ensure that racial equality is at the heart of everything the government does, to combat the existential threat of climate change, and to continue to protect the American people from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
After Politico described “a tense and sometimes stern office atmosphere” in which “ideas are ignored or faced with hard layoffs and decisions dragged away,” an ex-employee said the story traveled “like wildfire.” This person sent the report to their therapist, accompanied by a note that read, “Rarely in life are we publicly justified,” according to Insider. They told the publication they were seeking therapy to “solve the trauma of the abuse at work” after discovering Harris would be Biden’s vice presidential candidate.
Earlier this month, there were reports of deep frustration with Harris’s current chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, a long-time Democratic aide who served in the White House under former President Bill Clinton.
Flournoy reportedly shielded Harris from backers and old friends.
Democrats and former aides have defended Flournoy, telling the Washington Examiner, “It feels like Tina Flournoy’s intentions are good, which is to clean up some of the mess and keep the hangers-on away.”
This person addressed the executive: “The common thread running through all the infighting and discord, with all of Kamala Harris’s different centers of power, is Vice President Harris.”
The news was “not surprising,” the person added. “Harris’ inner circles, and I’ll use that plural because they were several inner circles in California, in her Senate office, during her presidential campaign, and now in her vice presidential campaign [and] in office they were always rife with much disagreement and much infighting. It’s probably a little unfair to say it’s her. But she is a common denominator in all these situations.”
According to Insider, one ex-employee reached out to another to say, “Poor Tina.” Another replied, “I know lol everyone is pointing at her when it’s clearly KDH,” with the vice president’s initials.
A former Harris assistant recently told the Washington Examiner that he wasn’t surprised to see the vice president under a microscope.
“Hopefully this is a wake-up call,” he said, pointing to what he called “self-inflicted wounds.”
“She tackles incredibly complex issues and is scrutinized like never before in her career. So this kind of treatment is part of the territory,” he added. “But she really can’t afford self-inflicted wounds because they distract from the important work she has in front of her.”
Biden vowed early on to fire employees if he learned they were mistreating others.
“I’ll fire you on the spot,” Biden told staff during a swearing-in ceremony shortly after he took office. He complied when a top White House communications officer verbally insulted a reporter.
Asked about some of the charges at a news conference this month, press secretary Jen Psaki protested.
“I’m not trying to talk or engage with anonymous reports or anonymous sources,” she said, adding, “I’ll say the vice president is an incredibly important partner to the president.”
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“She has a challenging job, a tough job. And she has a great, supportive team of people around her,” Psaki said. “But other than that, I won’t comment on those reports anymore.”
Speaking to Axios, Cedric Richmond, a top adviser to Biden, blamed the stories on a “whisper campaign designed to sabotage her.”
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Keywords: News, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, White House, Biden Administration
Original author: Katherine Doyle
Original location: ‘Consistent thread’: Harris staff complaints predate her vice presidency