When CalMatters’ Emily Hoeven broke the story Tuesday night that California Governor Gavin Newsom was, in fact, where we all thought he was for 4th of July — at his in-laws’ ranch in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana — one of Newsom’s comms staffers went after her for pointing out that the state was now on California’s “no travel” list, meaning that the state could not pay for travel to Montana due to its supposedly anti-LGBTQ laws. Hoeven also pointed out that Newsom recently named Montana as one of the states he believed was likely to institute an abortion ban in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Newsom’s staffer, Anthony York, told Hoeven that California doesn’t legislate where people vacation and the travel ban only applies to spending state funds. He told her that the state is not paying for Newsom’s travel, but when she followed up by asking if the state is paying for Newsom’s security, York replied that the office doesn’t comment on security.
Then when Hoeven tweeted out his remarks, York accused her of attempting to engage in “gotcha” journalism and failing. Yes, it seems he treats journalists who ask actual questions the same way his boss does, but at least he hasn’t yet come out and scolded her as part of an ungrateful “homegrown” team.
His tune changed Thursday, though, when he was forced to admit that the state was indeed paying for Newsom’s security detail in Montana.
Late Tuesday, in response to York’s unprofessional responses to Hoeven, I reported that Newsom’s security detail is provided by the California Highway Patrol as part of its budget and isn’t something Newsom pays separately for. And, California’s AB-1887, signed by Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown in 2016, prohibits any state official, agency, department, etc., from “required[ing] any of its employees, officers, or members to travel to a state that, after June 26, 2015, has enacted a law…” the state considers as having the effect of abridging the rights of LGBTQ people.
There are seven exceptions to that mandate, none of which seem to directly apply to Newsom’s situation. If you’ve followed Newsom for any length of time, however, you know where this is going, and Newsom’s only being forced to actually answer the question because everyone knows he’s angling to run for POTUS in 2024.
After ignoring RedState’s piece and Public Records Act request, and insisting that Republicans were just trying to legislate where people vacation, York had to give a real answer to the New York Times. Team Newsom is about to learn what Kamala Harris learned in the 2020 election cycle — that the national press is nowhere near as forgiving or docile or malleable as the California press, even if they’re essentially all Democrats. That’s because in California there’s one ruling team instead of the numerous Democrat factions on a national level. Since Newsom’s election as governor, and especially during the pandemic, California’s political journalists have been much tougher on Newsom; it’s just impossible to ignore the scandals.
But anyway, the Times led off their story by implying that mean Republicans are causing him trouble.
Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, is being put through the political wringer once again — this time, over a family vacation in Montana.
The Times gave York a wide runway on which to land his excuse plane, explaining that Montana “holds special meaning” for Newsom since that’s where he and his second wife were married, and that their oldest daughter is named Montana, and York took full advantage .
And while California did not pay for Newsom’s Montana trip, the state did pay for his security detail.
Anthony York, a spokesman for Newsom, said the trip was very much a personal, and not political, one. “His kids are visiting their grandparents for his daughter’s birthday, as they do every year,” he said.
And, York’s snide answers to Hoeven were just about balancing transparency and security, he claims:
York denied that Newsom’s office was being coy about his whereabouts, and said that the office was trying to balance transparency with safety. “On the security side, the law explicitly states there is an exemption for public safety, and the governor has to travel with security,” he said.
It’s important to note that York did not say that Newsom planned to reimburse the state for the cost of that travel, and even if he did, that wouldn’t satisfy the law, since the law specifically states both that the state cannot require an employee to travel to any of the states on the list and that the state cannot approve a request to fund such travel. So, Newsom’s only way out is to claim an exemption.
Let’s look at the exemptions, which the New York Times did not list, to AB-1887, to which the New York Times did not link.
(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply to travel that is required for any of the following purposes:
(1) Enforcement of California law, including auditing and revenue collection.
(3) To meet contractual obligations incurred before January 1, 2017.
(4) To comply with requests by the federal government to appear before committees.
(5) To participate in meetings or training required by a grant or required to maintain grant funding.
(6) To complete job-required training necessary to maintain licensure or similar standards required for holding a position, in the event that comparable training cannot be obtained in California or a different state not affected by subdivision (b).
(7) For the protection of public health, welfare, or safety, as determined by the affected agency, department, board, authority, or commission, or by the affected legislative office, as described in subdivision (b).
The exemptions all pertain to travel that is “required” for a certain purpose. Clearly, exemptions one through six do not apply. York claims the exemption for “public health, welfare, or safety” applies, but does it? The law says that this travel can occur “for the protection of public…safety, as determined by the affected agency, department,” and so forth. So the Office of the Governor can, apparently, make a determination that sending a group of California Highway Patrol officers to Montana for a week (at this point) to provide security for the Governor is “required…for the protection of public…safety” ?
When did Gavin Newsom become the “public”? Is York’s serious contention that Gavin Newsom and his family are “the public” and that his security detail are providing “public safety”?
To provide some context, let’s look at how some of California’s legal scholars answered another question about the public safety exception. In July 2021, shortly after the Surfside condominium collapse in Miami Beach, Sacramento’s ABC10 had a question from a viewer about whether the travel ban would apply to California first responders traveling to Florida to assist in rescue efforts. In response, the reporter theorized that exception number 7 would apply, and specifically asked the Attorney General’s office for an opinion:
According to the Attorney General’s Office, AB 1887 provides certain exceptions for state-funded travel. These include travel for “protection of public health, welfare, or safety, as determined by the affected agency, department, board, authority, or commission, or by the affected legislative office.”
ABC10 asked Bonta’s office if travel for search and rescue efforts would be included.
In an email to ABC10, a spokesperson for the office said, “We’re unable to provide legal advice or analysis. It’s ultimately up to each agency to make those determinations.”
So ABC10 turned to California’s Office of Emergency Services:
In an email, an OES spokesperson said that the “law places no limitations in California’s ability to provide emergency management or mutual aid support to other states during times of disaster… Disasters do not stop at state borders and where help is needed, help will be provided. Non-essential activities like conferences or workshops would fall under the prohibition set forth in AB 1887, but not disaster work.”
Newsom’s vacation to Montana is not in any way equal to first responders going to Florida to attempt to dig survivors of a building collapse out of the rubble, and it’s insulting that he and Anthony York would even consider using that exception/exemption. For something to protect “public health, welfare, or safety,” it has to benefit Californians as a whole, not just the six privileged Newsoms and their visit to Grandma, especially when millions of Californians haven’t been able to spend holidays with parents or grandparents due to the pandemic and now gas prices.
Once again, Newsom’s behavior shows that we are most assuredly not all in this together and that he believes his constituents are ignorant. But this time, it’s also illegal.
(By the way, why couldn’t Jennifer Newsom’s parents fly to Sacramento? As RedState has reported, the couple have an incredible 12,000 square foot home on eight acres along the American River in Sacramento. It’s much easier for two adults to fly than two adults and four children. Problem solved.)