Who Is Kamala Harris? Part 2 Of Series

Jordan Meadows, Staff Writer 

Kamala Harris made history in 2010 by winning the election for California’s Attorney General, marking her as the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to assume the role in the state’s history. 

Following her victory, her initial weeks were characterized by a slew of challenges, reminiscent of those she had encountered in her prior roles, reflecting the issues that had propelled her into office.

Harris and her team, finding their way out of the Great Recession, established the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force to address the ramifications of the 2010 foreclosure crisis. They secured record-breaking settlements under the False Claims Act against mortgage firms accused of illegally foreclosing on homeowners.

At first, the companies were extended an offer of $2-4 billion in aid for Californians. However, upon rejecting the offer, Harris opted out of negotiations. Being the newcomer among the nation’s attorneys general, Harris’s decision was viewed as undermining and imprudent by her peers. Even the CEOs of the firms participating in negotiations started to recognize Harris. Eventually, the settlement offer was increased to $18.4 billion in debt relief and $2 billion in other financial assistance for California homeowners.

During this period, Harris met Doug Emhoff, the current Second Gentleman, and worked alongside Beau Biden, President Joe Biden’s late son, against firms during the Great Recession.

“During those days, Beau Biden, Delaware’s attorney general, became an incredible friend and colleague. The banks were in Beau’s backyard, and the foreclosure crisis hadn’t hit Delaware as hard as it had other states. By some measures, he had every reason to keep his head down and toe the line. But that wasn’t who Beau was. Beau was a man of principle and courage,” Harris said. “There were periods, when I was taking heat, when Beau and I talked every day, sometimes multiple times a day. We had each other’s backs.”

In 2013, Harris collaborated with Assembly Speaker John Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to introduce the Homeowner Bill of Rights, one of the most robust protections against aggressive foreclosure tactics in the country.

In August of 2014, Harris and Emhoff got married in a courthouse in Santa Barbara less than a year after they met. That same year, Harris won her reelection bid and settled charges her office had brought against rent-to-own retailer Aaron’s for over $30 million.

In 2015, Harris achieved a $1.2 billion judgment against Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit post-secondary education company that was found guilty of false advertising and deceptive marketing aimed at vulnerable, low-income students and misrepresenting job placement rates to students, investors, and accreditation agencies. 

The Court ordered Corinthian to pay $820 million in restitution and another $350 million in civil penalties. Later that year, Harris secured a $60 million settlement with JP Morgan Chase, resolving allegations of illegal debt collection against credit card customers.

Harris’ office also brokered agreements with tech giants like Apple, Amazon, and Google to mandate privacy policies for apps sold in their stores. The office later established the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit to combat cyber privacy violations and enforce laws related to identity theft and data breaches.

Throughout her tenure as AG, Harris refused to defend Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage and successfully fought for its repeal in federal court. Once the Ninth Circuit court lifted the stay – after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Proposition 8 had no standing – Harris performed one of the first same-sex marriage ceremonies in the country post-ruling.

Harris also prioritized environmental protection, securing multimillion-dollar settlements for oil spills and other environmental violations. Her office took measures to combat human trafficking – receiving an award from the U.S. Department of Justice for her Rapid DNA Service team initiative.

Harris’ positions have also drawn immense attention and criticism. In 2014, attorneys representing Harris argued against the release of certain prisoners to alleviate prison overcrowding. They contended that such actions would disrupt programs employing inmates in combating wildfires. 

A judge ruled against Harris’ office’s request, prompting a public rebuttal from Harris herself, who expressed her disagreement with the argument presented in court.

Harris’ engagement with marijuana-related issues has also been subject to scrutiny. Reports indicate that a significant number of individuals were imprisoned for marijuana offenses. While Harris’ attorney general office didn’t directly prosecute most drug cases, her earlier role as San Francisco’s DA involved the prosecution of marijuana cases.

Despite supporting medical marijuana legalization, Harris opposed efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in California in 2010 and remained neutral on the 2016 ballot measure that eventually passed.

In 2024, a couple of months before the Biden Administration reclassified marijuana as a less dangerous drug, Harris stated, “Nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed… far too many people have been sent to jail for simple marijuana possession.”

Although her past leadership has garnered both praise and criticism, there is little denying that Harris’ numerous roles have had a significant impact on American politics, particularly in California.

Balancing the intricacies of public opinion while navigating the complexities of her persona was all part of the preparation for what would be the biggest challenge of her life up to that point: her bid for the U.S. Senate.

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