Katie Porter Runs for Climate and Against Adam Schiff In California

Katie Porter QA

Katie Porter — the California representative famous for skewering corporate CEOs in congressional hearings — is sick of the “glacial” pace of the U.S. Senate and is brimming with plans to shake up the “stale” institution. If she can get elected.

The Golden State’s primary election wraps up Tuesday, March 5. And Porter stands out in the crowded field by making combating climate change a key component of her closing argument. Her plan calls for new investment in climate resilience and clean technology, as well an end to subsidies for Big Oil, which she would also force to pay the full cleanup costs for irresponsible drilling.

But there’s a danger Porter may not get an opportunity to make a general election pitch to California voters. Under the state’s unusual “jungle” primary, the two highest vote getters — regardless of political party — advance to the November election. In recent years, this top-two system has produced all-Democrat general elections for statewide office. But 2024 could be an outlier. 

Adam Schiff — the Burbank Democrat best known for leading the first impeachment of Donald Trump — has the backing of Nancy Pelosi and much of the state’s party machinery, and is leading in the polls. But a split in progressive support between Porter and the legendary Oakland congresswoman Barbara Lee could allow the top Republican — former Los Angeles Dodgers great Steve Garvey — to squeak into a playoff with Schiff. A recent poll puts Garvey at 22, Porter at 20, and Lee at 11 percent.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Porter didn’t hold back, taking big swings — particularly at Schiff. She tags the congressman, who maintains his home in Maryland and just a condo in California, as an avatar of “stale,” special-interest friendly politics in the Senate, which are failing to meet the urgent needs of California and the nation. “It’s very clear that on climate — and so many other issues,” Porter says, “that more of the same is going to mean that we fall farther and farther behind.”

Rolling Stone spoke with Porter by phone on Thursday. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

I watched the closing arguments in the final primary debate. You gave an incredible, literal, side-eye to Steve Garvey describing his lack of ideas. And then you insisted that California also shouldn’t have to settle for a “career politician” doing corporate America’s bidding in Washington. Is that how you see Adam Schiff?

The facts are the facts here. Adam Schiff has been a politician for nearly 30 years, has been in Washington for 20-plus years. And during that time, until he decided to run for the Senate, he has taken corporate PAC money. Sadly, unfortunately, he has voted like it. He got money from predatory lenders, like payday lenders, and then he voted to undermine consumer protection rules. He took money from Big Oil and big energy companies from BP to Sempra Energy. And he has voted to delay green energy reforms. 

If we want change — and faster change — on life-and-death issues like climate change, we need to send people to Washington who will do things differently. The glacial pace in the Senate is not getting us where we need to be. If you send someone there who has been vigorous — I think it’s fair to say — in his defense of politics-as-usual, who has been unrepentant about taking corporate money and then voting like it, this is not going to change the policies of Washington.

In Schiff’s closing argument to voters, he named-checked Dianne Feinstein I think seven times

Sen. Feinstein, as you know, has passed away, and is not able to endorse from the grave.

But my point is he clearly wants to be seen as the continuity candidate, building on that long political legacy. The contrast you’d like to make is that the status quo has got to go?

Look. California has not had a really strong climate champion in the Senate. We have people who are conflicted on this issue, who have taken money from Big Oil, or who have become lobbyists. We can’t lead the way on green energy, and we can’t get Washington to pick up and use the successful tools that California has developed, if we don’t have a real climate champion in the Senate. Both Californians and America need that.

Can you highlight key points from your plan — and explain why you think you’ll have any luck maneuvering it through the Senate?

Why should voters trust me on climate? I serve on the House Natural Resources Committee. I’m the only candidate in this race who has actually put in the time behind their talking points — and served on a committee that has direct jurisdiction over climate issues, vulnerable species, water issues, holding polluters accountable. This has not been a priority for these other candidates. 

I am also the candidate who has actually held polluters accountable. My bill to end taxpayer welfare for oil and gas companies — raising the royalty and rental rate on public lands — was signed into law. I also successfully pressed the Biden administration to update the rules so that Big Oil cleans up its own messes, instead of leaving taxpayers on the hook. And why is this important? It’s because it creates a more level playing field for greener and cleaner sources of energy. I’ve also been a champion for addressing climate injustices that we face. Climate change is not hitting everyone equally. It is definitely an issue about racial justice. And California is at the front of it. 

This is also an economic issue. China and other countries continue to invest more, and move more quickly toward renewable energy. They know that the jobs of the future, including the manufacturing jobs of the future, are going to go to the country that has made those investments. And we’re already paying hundreds of billions of dollars in climate-related disaster costs. The longer we wait, the more it costs, and the fewer options we have. 

This week Mitch McConnell announced he’ll be stepping down as Senate Minority Leader.


Even those who are eager to see him go recognize that he’s been very effective — the Lucy with the football to the Democrats’ Charlie Brown. How do you go to an institution like the Senate and help Democrats be more effective? You just called it a “glacial” place, and it tends to grind reformers down. 

I am somehow the only candidate in this race who actually sees what voters see. The status quo isn’t delivering the change that we need. My plan to shake up the Senate focuses on cleaning up some of the corruption and the influence of corporate money. I would ban corporate PAC donations, and ban federal lobbyist contributions. 

But nobody makes you take money from big corporations. That is a choice that each candidate makes. Nobody makes you take money from federal lobbyists. That’s a choice. We need to do other good-government things, abolishing the filibuster is huge. Banning the singular holds on nominations. This idea that any single U.S. Senator can halt the entire business of our democracy is terrible. 

I’m willing to think about these institutions from a place of: This is the core of our democracy, Why is it not working? We have failed to make the changes we need. That’s the gap that’s leaving voters — especially younger voters, and “no party preference” voters — really discouraged. I want to show people that you can do Washington differently. If you elect different people, you will get different outcomes.

But in the Senate everything — including the changes you suggest — requires 60 votes. And the rap on you from critics is that you’re a bit of a “bull in a china shop.” In a place that runs on seniority and collegiality, is that going to limit your ability to get things done?

I think that is a bunch of nonsense. Okay? Let me tell you why.


I was elected by my colleagues to be the number two in the Progressive Caucus. Why? Because they recognize that I have fresh ideas. And I have an unusually strong ability to communicate those ideas to the American public, and to my colleagues, and to build consensus for them. I am effective in how I engage in hearings, not only in my own questioning, but in picking hearing topics that actually can move the needle, and that are often bipartisan. 

I have a bill on tracking mail-in ballots that just passed out of the House Oversight Committee 41-to-0. Nothing moves out of the oversight committee 41-to-0 — especially on a topic as controversial as voting. [Archconservative Rep.] Byron Donalds [R-Fla.] was one of my co-leads on the bill. That is an unprecedented ability to build relationships, to get along with people, and to create consensus. That doesn’t mean that those who have power in Washington aren’t threatened by me. Clearly, corporate America — including Big Oil and the fossil fuel industry — doesn’t want me pointing out that they enjoy tax breaks and that they are buying off politicians. 

You have proposed a Stock Act 2.0 to prevent politicians in Washington from trading stocks. I just saw an article about a new exchange-traded fund now that’s mirroring Nancy Pelosi trades — and it is up substantially over the S&P 500 this year. What would your bill do to limit lawmakers from gaming the system to get rich off their work in Washington.

This is a great example of why it matters which Democrat we elect. I have pushed on banning congressional stock trading since I got to the Congress, and I have never traded stocks in office. Which is a very pointed contrast to Rep. Schiff. I’m holding the AbbVie CEO accountable for spending 10 times more on stock buybacks and dividends than on research and development; Representative Schiff is trading AbbVie stock in the same year. 

The idea of the Stock Act 2.0 is to recognize that the original Stock Act isn’t working. People don’t disclose their trades. They say, “oops,” and they blame their broker. We’re going to restore trust in government by doing things differently — by passing new laws. This bill would not just end stock trading in Congress, it would also cover Supreme Court justices, the President, Vice President, the Federal Reserve, spouses and dependents. This would also require members to disclose whether you’re getting grants, contracts, or subsidies from the federal government.

It was long a point of pride that California had two women senators. With reproductive rights now on the chopping block, politically, what’s your pitch, as a woman and a mother, about the importance of that kind of representation?

Some of the biggest challenges — both areas where we have moved backward, like abortion rights, and issues that have been problems for 50 years, that we have not moved one inch forward on, like child care — are issues where women have a life experience and a commitment to the fight that is different. We are not going to see progress if we don’t have people who understand what’s at stake.

President Biden, in his first iteration of Build Back Better, put forward an incredible plan addressing childcare costs. You know who stripped it out? The Senate. Look, the Senate is a stale body, and it is losing the American people’s trust. It’s important that we elect people who have had life experiences, like I have, as a single mom of school-age kids. There are like 10 million single parents in this country, but only in Congress is that a unique perspective. 

You and Barbara Lee — by polling — appear to be splitting the progressive vote. She’s a lion for many Californians, but is not expected to emerge as a top-two candidate. Is there a contrast that you draw for voters who are drawn to her candidacy?

I think that what sets me apart is the vision I have for the future. If Congress had a slogan, it would be something like: “Solving yesterday’s problems, tomorrow — maybe.” And we need to be solving tomorrow’s problems. Some of the ways that we’re thinking about our problems are not working. Like, yes, we need to help people who are experiencing homelessness find permanent supportive housing. But you also have to stop people from becoming homeless. Yes we need climate resilience to prepare for clear climate change effects that we are going to experience. But you also have to be investing in the technology of tomorrow. 

I have a perspective that is grounded more in the future, grounded more in how things need to change, grounded more in today’s struggles than yesterday’s struggles. I went to college in a generation where people graduated with six-figures of debt. Our Senate doesn’t have enough people who have had the life experiences of the last decade or two, much less who are grounded in their daily lives as I am, so helpfully, by my three children.


Feinstein’s age and infirmity was clearly a detriment to 40 million Californians who needed more active representation in the Senate. Should there be age limits for politicians? Should there be some sort of fitness test that people must pass to run for office? 

This is a conversation that we need to be open to having. For our president, we do have term limits — two four-year terms. Right? And I think it’s appropriate to have this discussion within Congress. An approach that uses term limits is much more fair. It would address the fact that people can make contributions at all different stages of their life. But it is very clear that we have too many people, collectively, who have been in Washington for too long, who packed up and moved to Maryland 25 years ago, and have never really looked back at life in California. That is a persistent problem that Californians have faced. And this is a real opportunity to change that.

Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/katie-porter-schiff-senate-climate-change-1234979576/

Recommended For You

About the Author: News Reporter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *