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What’s next for Rep. Katie Porter after she leaves Congress?

The day after Rep. Katie Porter flipped an Orange County congressional seat blue in 2018, she set her sights on what would be a defining issue in her congressional career: campaign finance reform.

Money in politics, namely campaigns, is what she focused on after losing the primary for California’s open U.S. Senate seat last month — firing off a tweet and then having to field criticism over the language used in it — but it’s also a spot where she feels she can be helpful to other Democratic congressional candidates moving forward.

Porter, an Irvine Democrat, will leave Congress in January after six years. She opted not to run for re-election this year, instead choosing to vie for the rare open U.S. Senate seat in California. And although she was first out of the gate to announce her candidacy, Porter didn’t make it past the primary and is preparing to leave elected office.

At least for now.

Porter plans to return to her pre-congressional work as a law professor at UC Irvine, picking up some of her old classes (secured transitions, consumer law) and dabbling in some new ones that draw on her experiences in Washington, D.C. (legislation, regulation, statutory interpretation).

She is also sharing her fundraising prowess with other congressional Democrats in California, something you may already know if you’re on her oft-used email list.

Aside from state Sen. Dave Min, who she endorsed to replace her in Orange County’s 47th district, she has sent out the call to support Will Rollins in the 41st congressional district and Rep. Josh Harder, who represents CA-9 up north. She plans to continue to work on her “Truth to Power” PAC, lending aid to like-minded Democrats or President Joe Biden’s re-election effort.

Porter is “focusing a lot right now on electing candidates who refuse corporate PAC money and understand how important it is to combat the influence of money in politics,” she said in an interview.

Shortly after it became clear Porter wouldn’t advance to the general election in November, she posted on social media gratitude to supporters and blasted “an onslaught of billionaires spending money to rig this election.” That little three-letter word, “rig,” invited an onslaught of criticism and comparisons to former President Donald Trump, who did not accept his 2020 election loss.

She has since said that she regrets using that word, that the point was about how money influences politics.

“My election illustrates some of the problems with our current campaign system,” Porter said Monday.



Not knowing who — or what — is funding a campaign may contribute to the low voter turnout seen in California’s primary contests and feelings of disillusionment with government, particularly among younger voters, she said.

“We need to be asking ourselves what do we as a party, as Democrats, need to be doing to create voter engagement,” said Porter. “If we want to build trust in our democracy, we need to focus on why do voters feel like their vote doesn’t matter, why do they feel Washington doesn’t change and how can we write our rules and have a different culture in Washington to build that effect in government.”

Her part, at least for now, is helping to elect fellow Democrats and offering her services to Biden and Rep. Adam Schiff, the lone Democrat who advanced out of the Senate primary contest, she said. In particular, she’d like to increase engagement among younger voters, like college students and young parents, she said.

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That attention and aid to other candidates is a smart move, said Dan Schnur, a former campaign consultant who teaches political messaging at USC and UC Berkeley.

“It’s always helpful to get more people involved in the political process, and some of Porter’s visibility can certainly make an important difference,” Schnur said. “And it’s an absolutely ideal way for her to maintain relevance so that when, not if, she decides to run for office again, she can point to ongoing political involvement.”

“It’s a good thing to do because it’s a good thing to do, but it’s also a very politically savvy thing to do,” he said.

Porter leaves Congress with many viral moments marking her career, from wielding a whiteboard during tense committee hearings to reading a not-so-subtle book during a contentious House speaker votes, but her fight against corporations and money in politics also stands out.

And Porter “has only deepened her commitment to addressing the corrosive influence of money in politics” during her congressional tenure, according to spokesperson Jordan Wong.

“She was bold and stern and gutsy and not apologetic. It’s so refreshing and enlightening to call it out,” Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said of Porter battling “corporate greed.” Porter’s work, Briceño said, is sure to be taken up by other lawmakers as well.

“When we see someone do something, then we, too, get the courage to do it. She’s opened the door to folks in Congress to keep doing the work.”

While Porter is looking ahead — and not ruling out another run for public office somewhere down the line — she is also taking stock of her accomplishments in what was a relatively short time in Congress.

“When I first got to Washington, hearings were considered something you just sort of showed up for,” said Porter. “Your staff hands you a piece of paper and you read off that piece of paper to ask a question. We really showed hearings are an incredibly powerful tool.”

“We really helped raise the bar for what we should expect from our elected officials and using hearing to get answers for the American people. I’m incredibly proud of that.”

Source: Orange County Register

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