Just when we think we’ve heard it all about California
Warden Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “ill-advised” outing to The French Laundry a few weeks ago, well, we haven’t. For people who aren’t familiar with Napa, for all intents and purposes the entire county is one small town (my family first settled in that area in the 1890’s, though they all moved south about 40 years later). The locals all know each other, and don’t always have the best impression of the outsiders who jet in for the weekend to take advantage of the “quaint” lifestyle. Think of it as the Hamptons of the West Coast.
When weekenders who happen to be a little famous are rude and dismissive to the locals, whether a chef or a shop owner or even the lowly wait staff or hotel janitors, all of the locals know about it. When the weekender happens to be the Governor, and he’s out dining with a large party of lobbyists and special interest group execs in the middle of a pandemic, breaking his own rules, then lies about it when he’s caught, well, there’s no way that all of the details don’t eventually come out.
(Yes, even though Gavin Newsom owns a few wineries in Napa, he’s far from a local.)
After photos of the dinner were released last week, other attendees – including two executives from the California Medical Association – were quickly identified.
EXCLUSIVE: We've obtained photos of Governor Gavin Newsom at the Napa dinner party he's in hot water over. The photos call into question just how outdoors the dinner was. A witness who took photos tells us his group was so loud, the sliding doors had to be closed. 10pm on @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/gtOVEwa864
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) November 18, 2020
Newsom and his pal, the lobbyist birthday boy whose name is irrelevant, didn’t help matters when they both clammed up and basically blamed the restaurant for any breach of the “outdoor dining” request
that they never made. Politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle were furious, especially since Newsom’s other response was to lock down 90 percent of the state and implement a nonsensical curfew.
The (very) occasional voice of reason among Democrats in California, San Francisco’s Willie Brown, took Newsom to task in his weekly San Francisco Chronicle column on Saturday, with his last line being the chef’s kiss, if you will (emphasis added):
I’m not sure which is the bigger “story,” Newsom breaking his own rules or laughing it up with high-ticket lobbyists in one of the most well-known and expensive restaurants in the country.
And by the way, I hear the wine bill was $12,000.
If there were eight people there, or even 10, that’s more than $1,000 of wine per person. Just how did these people get home? We know Newsom said he arrived late and that he drove there.
On Monday journalist Adam Housley, who hails from Yountville, where The French Laundry is located, had a few more things to say about the wine bill, the number of attendees, and whether the party was held indoors or outdoors.
1/2 Because Yountville is my hometown..and where the French Laundry is located…I thought I’d do some digging. Facts about the Newsom dinner. The bar bill was around 15-thousand. 22 people in attendance, not 12. No masks. All indoors. They got so loud, other patrons complained
— Adam Housley (@adamhousley) November 23, 2020
2/2 There was “zero effort” to go outside and there was no social distancing of any type. I’m also told some of those there are now privately laughing at the controversy. Remember this is my little hometown. The walls speak.
— Adam Housley (@adamhousley) November 23, 2020
Whether the bar bill was $12,000 or $15,000 doesn’t really make that big of a difference. If there were 22 people in the party, that makes the large bar bill slightly more understandable. But how many more households are represented by 22 people than 8, 10, or 12? Is it any wonder that now, oh, about 14 days later, one of the California Highway Patrol officers in Newsom’s security detail has tested positive for COVID-19?
Some replying to Housley’s tweets were questioning who paid for Newsom and his wife, suggesting that the lobbyists in attendance paid for their meal and drinks. While that would be par for the course in the business world, that type of gift to an elected official is illegal in California. We know that Newsom’s taken much larger gifts (like his estate outside Sacramento), but Newsom is prohibited from receiving a gift from a lobbyist valued at more than $10 per CALENDAR MONTH.
Elected state officers, candidates for elective state office, and most legislative employees may not accept gifts aggregating to more than $10 in a calendar month either from or arranged by any single registered state lobbyist or lobbying firm.
Newsom can receive up to $500/year in gifts from someone who’s not a registered state lobbyist.
Could they get around that restriction by claiming it was Newsom’s wife who received the gift, and not the Governor? Nope. A gift to Jennifer Siebel Newsom is considered a gift to Gavin Newsom for the purposes of FPPC reporting.
If someone else paid for Newsom’s dinner, the only possible way that could be done without skirting required financial disclosure rules would be if his longtime friend, the birthday boy, paid for the dinner, and if none of the lobbyist birthday boy’s clients had business currently before the state. Given that executives from the California Medical Association, clients of lobbyist birthday boy, were in attendance, and that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, claiming that exemption might not work. But who knows. This is Teflon Gavin we’re talking about.
Oh. Yes. The Recall Gavin Newsom effort has been afforded an additional 120-day period to gather signatures, giving them until early March to provide the remaining 750,000 signatures necessary to qualify the recall for the ballot.