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California’s secretary of state has reportedly awarded a $35 million voter outreach contract to a consulting firm with close ties to the Democratic Party. Now, California Republicans are calling upon Gov. Gavin Newsom to cancel the contract for compromising the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.
The California agency responsible for overseeing elections awarded the contract last month to SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm whose managing director is Anita Dunn, a senior advisor on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and White House communications director under President Barack Obama.
FILE: Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a face mask as he urges people to wear them to fight the spread of the coronavirus during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
Under the terms of the “Vote Safe California” contract, the money was intended to help counties prepare for the November election amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. California’s budget allows the money to cover costs like ballot printing, mailing and postage, extra staffing, and outreach, among other needs, the Sacramento Bee reported.
But the nature of the contract and the process by which it was awarded to SKD Knickerbocker – who have openly declared themselves on “Team Biden” – has come under some scrutiny.
On Friday, the heads of the state Republican caucuses sent a letter to Republican county supervisors across California questioning the handling of the contract.
“We have spoken to several county supervisors, and we have yet to find a single county that asked the Secretary of State to do this work on their behalf,” California Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove and Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron said in the letter obtained by the Sacramento Bee.
Grove said she has demanded that Governor Newsom “not only investigate, but cancel this contract,” adding that the “integrity of our elections cannot be compromised.”
Asked by a reporter Monday to comment on the $35 million contract, Newsom said he was unaware of the details, according to a letter Grove sent to Newsom on Tuesday.
In her letter, Grove pointed to two statements quoted in the Bee from officials within Newsom’s administration that “call into question the legality of the contract and well as questions from both of us regarding the appropriateness of the contract, given the political bias of the firm selected for the contract.”
Grove said the purpose of a “voter outreach” campaign is intended to help counties administer vote-by-mail initiatives, but “the money was not provided to the counties for this purpose.”
“Instead the [secretary of state] used the money for a statewide voter outreach campaign. When asked about this, SOS officials, said this was appropriate because they had been told by various county election officials that they did not have the capability provide countywide voter outreach campaign,” Grove said in her letter.
She said her office has contacted several county election officials to ask about the contract “only to discover that they had not been contacted and did not ask for, nor want, the SOS’s assistance.”
Furthermore, the administration’s Department of General Services (DGS), which is responsible for approving state spending, and the state controller’s office have not yet received a copy of the contract, Grove said.
Fox News has made repeated attempts to contact DGS and the state controller’s office for comment.
The Senate Republican leader said H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs for the Department of Finance, has yet to approve of the contract and notify state lawmakers, which is required for funds to be allocated.
She noted that the issue would have been handled quite differently if a consulting firm that touted itself as on “Team Trump” was awarded a $35 million contract for a voter outreach campaign.
“Imagine the outrage that would be expressed if the shoe were on the other foot and a Republican SOS entered into a similar contract with a firm with close ties to President Trump. It certainly wouldn’t take long for such a contract to be canceled and investigated,” Grove said.