I dropped my lawsuit against the California Democratic Party so I could write this.
My name is Kate Earley. I currently serve as Digital Director at the California Democratic Party. Up until last Friday, I was also one of three plaintiffs participating in a sexual harassment & retaliation lawsuit against the Party.
But last Friday, I dropped out of the lawsuit (which, if you haven’t already, you should look up and read in its entirety, or the excerpts published on Twitter.) I didn’t drop out because any of the allegations I made (or the allegations that my co-plaintiffs made) are untrue. In fact, I vigorously defend every allegation that has been made in that case against the Party.
However, participating in the lawsuit required me to be silent about certain information for the time being. I dropped out of the suit because there is too much at stake for this Party — and for California — for me to not act on information that I believe is vital to the future of the CDP. By the time the legal system will have resolved the lawsuit, the damage will have been done, and predators, rape apologists, and trauma vultures will have been allowed to insidiously further ascend the ranks in California politics.
I dropped out of the suit — knowing that it likely meant that I’ll never receive damages that I rightfully deserve — because being able to tell people the whole truth right now is so much more important to me.
So let me set the record straight.
First, and perhaps most crucially, Vice Chair Larimore-Hall is the “senior official” referenced in the lawsuit — the one that the lawsuit alleged engaged in retaliation and witness tampering. Vice Chair Larimore-Hall communicated to me how “displeased” and “hurt by” the lawsuit he was through a staffer he knew that I was friendly with. That person asked me if Christine Pelosi (the head of the Party’s Women’s Caucus, mind you) wrote the section that Vice Chair Larimore-Hall disliked. He himself approached one of my then- co-plaintiffs outside the Party building doors, making a number of threatening comments, reiterating the question if Christine Pelosi had dictated our complaint, and saying “if this were just Kate, that would be one thing.”
Let’s be clear: this is all unacceptable, shady, illegal behavior by the Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party, a man who is running to lead that Party. Think about that: the potential next leader of the majority ruling party of the fifth largest economy in the world engaged in witness intimidation against survivors who brought up a complaint.
But I caution people against spending all of their energy fighting Vice Chair Larimore-Hall without addressing the deeper issue. So, why was Vice Chair Larimore-Hall displeased? Why is that section — the one he thinks makes him look bad — so important?
This is where a little background is necessary. I was a junior in college and living on my own when I was just 16. I had a blossoming political career — I had just completed my first-ever internship in then-Lieutenant Governor Newsom’s office. I was on a competitive collegiate debate scholarship at the University of the Pacific. During the fall of 2013, I was raped and assaulted on an ongoing basis by the Director of Debate in the program. When the other coaches found out, they forced me to silence other women and cover up my own rape, knowing damn well that I was from an unstable home background that I would have to return to if my parents found out.
When I finally began to progress that trauma after beginning therapy at age 18, I broke things off with my abuser and filed a Title Nine lawsuit against the University. They hired a law firm called Delfino Madden. The legal process was grueling. I attempted suicide multiple times during that suit. Under the supervision of that firm, UOP had their coaches tell students that I was “unstable” and “crazy” and shouldn’t be believed or supported. While many parts of that suit are things I am legally unable to disclose, you can get an idea of how painful it was from reading the publicly available case docket, including the firm’s discovery questions.
I still have PTSD. It is something I cope with on a daily basis. It has stolen innumerable joys from my life. But I really thought I was rebuilding it all — I was happy, healthy, and ended up landing the job of Digital Director at the California Democratic Party in September 2018.
Finally, I thought, it’s over.
And then November 1st, 2018 happened. I’m not going to rehash all of the bus tour details that led me to file an HR complaint and set all of these other events in motion, you can re-read the stunning LA Times article here. My PTSD was flaring in a pretty spectacular way — I told another staffer that I was “literally having flashbacks to Pacific” — but I had hope. Vice Chair Larimore-Hall seemed to be helping, in fact, he was making a big show out of telling all the survivors how much he supported them. And to boot, Bauman was resigning. Everything seemed like it was going to be okay.
And then the Party hired Delfino Madden.
I remember calling two then-current staffers that evening when I found out at about 11pm. I was completely hysterical, in tears, panicking. Surely, this was a mistake. Surely, even if it weren’t a mistake, the Party would understand my discomfort. Surely, a group of people making political careers about how much they care about survivors would actually give a single fuck.
But no. Not even close. I raised the concern through my then-attorney. I told multiple staffers and colleagues. Still, the Party insisted upon keeping the firm. I found out that Delfino Madden had chosen the investigator for the Party’s “internal, independent investigation” and I was even more dismayed, because it is painfully obvious that the investigation is not and cannot be impartial.
Let’s recap: the CDP hired a law firm that had a history of asking a child rape victim to admit that she didn’t leave her abuser and asking if other people had assaulted her too, and when that was brought to the Party’s attention, they dug in and kept the firm on anyway. This would be reprehensible under any circumstance, but is especially awful because they knew that very child rape victim had grown up to be their Digital Director.
It’s not that I don’t think that the Party should have an attorney. I understand why they would hire employment counsel. There are thousands of law firms in California, but they stood by their decision to hire this one (Delfino Madden’s continued involvement in this case eventually caused my PTSD to flare so much that I had to restart therapy and go on unpaid leave for a month).
After I raised the concerns through my attorney and multiple colleagues, I was desperate. I then emailed Vice Chair Larimore-Hall about the situation. After all, he had been clear publicly and privately that he was there to help me and the other survivors. The email chain is in line below.
That email chain quite obviously contradicts Vice Chair Larimore-Hall’s recent public statements regarding his behavior. I went to him for help, and he did nothing. When that was communicated in the suit, he lashed out and engaged in witness intimidation. Now, he’s trying hard to salvage the situation and look like a good guy, and I’m sure he wasn’t counting on me dropping out and publicly releasing these emails — I don’t think anybody was expecting that.
Demanding that I deal with this law firm is akin to the CDP asking me to go sit on the lawn I was raped on when I was 16. That is the personal hell I am going through right now. That is the pain that Vice Chair Larimore-Hall and his supporters and every other trauma vulture out there is picking apart for their own gain. Clearly, though, Vice Chair Larimore-Hall’s camp isn’t the only group doing this, since Acting Chair Rooker was liking Bauman’s Facebook posts even after he was ousted amidst this scandal.
We cannot allow this behavior to stand. This culture of “ally opportunism” is almost as toxic as rape culture itself.
I am more aware of this than most. A lifetime of men building careers out of saying they saved me, when they were the ones pushing me over the edge in the first place. I helped her, I always help women, but she’s crazy now that she’s calling me out, where’s my ally trophy? Where’s my chair position? How dare you not sit down, shut up, support me, and smile, you ungrateful bitch.
Now, I am in the unenviable position of being a current CDP employee who is unable to engage with a compromised internal investigation that is based on the complaint I filed.
Sexual assault, harassment, and abuse are imminently pressing issues that deserve to be at the top of every single political docket. But we should be just as careful to not hand the keys to just anyone who purports to be a responsible driver.
We must do better. We must not only reject predators themselves, but people who terrorize survivors and who sit on the sidelines until it’s beneficial for their own agenda.
Just like there was too much at stake for me to stay in the lawsuit and be silent, there is too much at stake for us as a Party to let this behavior continue. Whether it’s #TimesUp or #MeToo or #WeSaidEnough, they all share a common message: we believe and support survivors. The California Democratic Party must be the champion of that message.