FILE – In this Aug. 18, 2016 file photo, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, watches as the votes are posted for a measure before the Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. California law requires lawmakers and legislative staff attend sexual harassment training every two years, just as private-sector employees in supervisory roles do. “Some people do take it seriously, and some people are on their phones, some people are cracking jokes,” said Garcia, chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “I would say the large majority of people are not as attentive.” (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
You could see this coming the way a flatland farmer in Kansas can see a thunderstorm coming a couple of days in advance.
For the past several months, the issue of sexual harassment has been front-and-center in domestic news. It started, more or less, with the Harvey Weinstein allegations, picked up steam, and became a veritable feeding frenzy that eventually saw Glenn Thrush get suspended from the New York Times for asking a co-worker on a date (sure, Thrush is married but the whole adultery-is-bad train had pulled out of the station by the time JFK was elected). The goal seemed to be to be able to ensure the firing of any male who made any social overture if he wasn’t sufficiently hot to attract the recipient:
One rule at Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google: Employees are only allowed to ask a co-worker out once. If they are turned down, they don’t get to ask again. Ambiguous answers such as “I’m busy” or “I can’t that night,” count as a “no,” said Heidi Swartz, Facebook’s global head of employment law.
For instance, the case of poor, incompetent Lothario Aziz Ansari, has been made into a national scandal. Remember who sent this tweet:
— Cristina Garcia (@AsmGarcia) February 8, 2018
The question that I asked a couple of months ago, was how long would it be until senior women were swept up in the #MeToo. Well, we have a winner and it couldn’t be more sweet:
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia — whose high-profile advocacy of the #MeToo movement earned her national media notice — is herself the subject of a state legislative investigation in the wake of a report that she sexually harassed and groped a former legislative staffer.
In December, when Time magazine announced that “Silence Breakers” who spoke out against sexual harassment were its Persons of the Year, Garcia’s face was prominently included in the art accompanying the cover story.
Hahahahaha. This is typical of the hagiography, I mean media coverage, given her:
Garcia, now 40, admits she was cocky at the beginning of her career.
“I wasn’t raised to stroke egos,” she says. “Leadership and I had a really confrontational relationship when I first got there.”
Keep that second line in mind going forward.
For years, Garcia has pushed to make menstrual products tax-free. (She hates the term “feminine hygiene,” she says: “They’re not like my deodorant!”)
When she first brought up the idea to her staff, she says they told her: “You know, people are going to make fun of you, and you’re already kind of different. Do you really want to do this?” So she waited two years. Then she decided, “I don’t care if I’m different. I’m gonna do this.”
Last year, the Legislature passed the so-called “tampon tax” bill, along with another that would have done the same for diapers. But the famously frugal Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the two proposals, saying the state couldn’t afford the loss of revenue.
This year, the proposals were combined into a single bill, along with something to cover the cost: a 1.5 cent–per-serving tax increase on hard alcohol. “It’s time to tax liquor before ladies,” Garcia said at a press conference. But the bill failed to make it out of committee. Garcia blamed lobbying by the alcohol industry, as well as the governor.
She was also one of the leaders of the movement, if that is the word, to change the “culture” of Sacramento:
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said being an elected official did not shield her from sexual harassment. Soon after she took office in 2012, she was groped by a lobbyist, she says. A male legislator advised her not to speak out publicly, given that lobbyist’s clout in the Capitol.
“I was really disgusted by both of them,” Garcia said. She said she has not named her groper because “I’m insulated, but only to a certain point. There’s only so much pushback I can take in a given day.”
The consequences of speaking up, Garcia said, can be severe.
“They think you’re crazy or you asked for it or you’re too hypersexualized,” she said. “Or people just stop talking to you or coming to your events.”
The consequences of speaking up can be severe…how about the cost of rank hypocrisy:
But Daniel Fierro of Cerritos told POLITICO that in 2014, as a 25-year-old staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, he was groped by Garcia, a powerful Democratic lawmaker who chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee.
He said she cornered him alone after the annual Assembly softball game in Sacramento as he attempted to clean up the dugout. Fierro, who said Garcia appeared inebriated, said she began stroking his back, then squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch before he extricated himself and quickly left.
Fierro said he never reported the incident, which occurred years before the current #MeToo movement and new whistleblower legislation to protect legislative staffers. But after he mentioned the issue last January to Calderon, his former boss, the matter was then referred to the Assembly Rules Committee, which launched an investigation.
Fierro is not the only one claiming improper advances by Garcia. A prominent Sacramento lobbyist says she also accosted him in May 2017, when she cornered him, made a graphic sexual proposal, and tried to grab his crotch at a political fundraiser. He spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals.
The lobbyist, who represents a major industry association, said that Garcia appeared to have been drinking heavily at a fundraiser hosted by Governor Jerry Brown for state Senator Josh Newman at the de Veres bar in Sacramento. He said he was heading out the door in part to avoid the assemblywoman — who had been increasingly “flirtatious” and had called him on a few occasions before for late night drinks which he repeatedly declined.
She spotted him and said,“Where are you going?” the lobbyist said.
“She came back and was whispering real close and I could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone,’’ he said. “She looked at me for a second and said, “I’ve set a goal for myself to fuck you.”
At that point, Garcia “stepped in front of me and reaches out and is grabbing for my crotch,’’ he said. That was “the line in the sand,” according to the lobbyist, and he stopped her. “I was four inches from her, eyeball to eyeball — and I said, ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’”
Well, as she said, she wasn’t raised to stroke egos.
I suspect that even as I write this, the #MeToo brigade is going after the two men as liars. Because we have to believe women.
I have tons of social commentary about this that I’d love to insert but, as they say, the cop never thinks it is as funny as you do. So I’ll close with this. Why would a woman who has the power to demand sexual gratification from employees, and inclined to do so, act a damned bit different than a man? Short answer: she wouldn’t. The other short answer is that given the way our culture had commodified sex and divorced sex from marriage, there are as many Cristina Garcias out there as there are Al Frankens.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and I hope more men start speaking out on this.