Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Suing Their Boss, DA Gascón

Primer – Officers of the Court: any person who has an obligation to promote justice and effective operation of the judicial system, including judges, the attorneys who appear in court, bailiffs, clerks, and other personnel. As officers of the court lawyers have an absolute ethical duty to tell judges the truth, including avoiding dishonesty or evasion about reasons the attorney or his/her client is not appearing, the location of documents and other matters related to conduct of the courts.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón Resigns | KQED

DA George Gascon is and was supported by BLM along with more than $19 million has been pumped into the contentious Los Angeles County district attorney race, with donors lining up on opposing sides of a stark ideological divide between incumbent Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón.

Spending in the race intensified a few weeks before Election Day, when New York billionaire George Soros and Bay Area philanthropist Patty Quillin combined to put millions of dollars behind Gascón. Quillin’s husband, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, has also helped Gascón maintain a commanding fundraising lead over Lacey, who has support from law enforcement unions up and down the state.

In the weeks before the general election, donations from Gascón’s supporters – including $3.4 million from the criminal justice reform group Color Of Change – helped the challenger take a large fundraising lead.

LATimes:The union representing Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys on Wednesday sued Dist. Atty. George Gascón, alleging that the dramatic changes he has brought to the nation’s largest prosecutorial office have defied state law and forced rank-and-file prosecutors to violate their oaths of office.

The lawsuit is the most public expression yet of the pushback Gascón has fielded from within his own office since being sworn in Dec. 7. It focuses on his so-called special directives that ordered his deputies to forgo sentencing enhancements.

The union, which represents about 800 prosecutors, is seeking a court order that would compel Gascón to rescind the directives and declare them “invalid and illegal,” as well as a temporary restraining order that would bar Gascón and his administration from enforcing the directives.

Gascón’s policies have “placed line prosecutors in an ethical dilemma — follow the law, their oath, and their ethical obligations, or follow their superior’s orders,” wrote the union’s lawyer, Eric M. George.A spokesman for Gascón had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

On his first day in office, Gascón announced his deputies would no longer seek enhancements that — if proved — lengthen defendants’ prison sentences under certain circumstances, such as if they committed a crime to a gang’s benefit or if they had a criminal history.

Initially, the prohibition extended to enhancements for hate crimes, sex trafficking, financial crimes and elder and child abuse, but Gascón has since modified his directives to allow such enhancements. His deputies are still barred from seeking enhancements for prior strikes, committing a crime that benefits a gang, using a firearm and any special circumstance allegation that would send a defendant to prison for life without parole.

The union argues that prosecutors should pursue or forgo sentencing enhancements using “case-by-case discretion,” basing their decisions on the circumstances of a crime and a defendant, not “rubber stamp blanket prosecutorial policies barring the wholesale enforcement of criminal laws.”

The union asserts that Gascón’s prohibition on enhancements for prior strikes violates the state’s three strikes law, which, in the union’s view, requires prosecutors to seek longer sentences for defendants with previous convictions. Gascón “enjoys wide — but not limitless — discretion,” George wrote; he may believe such enhancements do not protect public safety, but he has no authority to circumvent lawmakers and legislate “by fiat,” the lawsuit says.

Gascón has said he was elected with a mandate to overhaul an outdated, heavy-handed approach to law and order that hasn’t proved effective in protecting the public. He promised during the campaign to no longer charge gang enhancements, which have come under scrutiny after several Los Angeles Police Department officers were charged over the summer with falsifying records that misrepresented people they had stopped as gang members and associates.

In a statement released by Stanford’s Three Strikes Project, the program’s director, Michael Romano, and two other law professors said the California Supreme Court has held that district attorneys have “complete authority” to enforce state laws within their jurisdiction.

Romano, Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Berkeley Law School, and David Mills, a professor at Stanford Law School, said in the statement that Gascón’s policies will make Los Angeles safer and reduce “epidemic” levels of incarceration. The union’s lawsuit, they added, “is more reflective of their longstanding opposition to reform and the will of millions of Angelenos than it is the legality of DA Gascón’s directives.”

The union also contends that Gascón, a local executive branch official, is encroaching on the authority of the courts in ordering his deputies to move to withdraw enhancement allegations. If a judge refuses those motions — as several have in recent weeks — line prosecutors have been instructed to file new charging documents without the enhancements. In doing so, the union argues, the district attorney’s office is making an end-run around the courts’ authority.

This scenario played out in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday. A deputy district attorney, reading from a script, said he was seeking to dismiss enhancement allegations in a murder case against a defendant for belonging to a gang and using a firearm. When the judge denied the motion, the prosecutor said he would file new charges without the enhancements.

“I’m not going to accept an amended information,” Judge Mark S. Arnold said. “Legally, there’s no justification. There’s no defect.”

Warnock’s Voter Registration Group Failed to Pay Unemployment Taxes

Primer: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has launched investigations into several groups, including one founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, for seeking to “aggressively” register “ineligible, out-of-state, or deceased voters” before the state’s Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections. When New Georgia Project CEO Nsé Ufot spoke with Teen Vogue earlier this week, it was on the heels of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger announcing that he was investigating the organization for potentially violating election laws when registering voters, as the Associated Press reported. In her interview, Ufot blasted the investigation as “sad and desperate” and “ridiculous.”

Image of Nse Ufot from the chest up she is holding a microphone to her face in both hands and has a look of skepticism...  All In: The Fight For Democracy Review: Stacey Abrams on Voting Rights |  IndieWire  Georgia Senate runoffs: Raphael Warnock sermon attacks could backlash on GOP

Nse Ufot                                                        Stacey Abrams                                         Raphael Warnock

Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock’s voter registration group was hit with thousands of dollars in tax liens for unpaid unemployment insurance, according to state records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The New Georgia Project, where Warnock served as CEO from 2017 until February 2020, owes $7,808 to the Georgia Department of Labor for allegedly failing to pay state unemployment contributions in 2018. The liens are still outstanding, according to records.

The tax liens could pose an obstacle for Warnock, who has campaigned for the expansion of unemployment benefits and vowed to crack down on tax loopholes. They could also draw more scrutiny to the New Georgia Project, which is currently under investigation by the Georgia secretary of state for allegedly attempting to register out-of-state voters.

The Georgia Department of Labor issued a $4,385 lien against the New Georgia Project in February 2019, according to records from the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority. The amount included $3,847 in estimated unpaid unemployment taxes for the quarters ending June 30, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2018, plus interest, penalties, and fees.

The department issued a second $3,423 lien against the group in May 2019, which included $3,009 in estimated unemployment taxes, according to the records.

Neither the Warnock campaign nor the New Georgia Project responded to requests for comment.

The unemployment insurance tax is used to pay out benefits to workers who lose their jobs.

The organization was ordered to pay the assessment within 60 days, but records indicate that both liens are still pending.
Harvey Bezozi, an accountant who specializes in tax debt resolution, said tax authorities typically give multiple notices before filing a lien.

“In almost all circumstances, it takes quite a while before a lien is filed against an individual or business taxpayer by the IRS or any state taxing authority,” Bezozi said. “Throughout my career, I have only seen liens filed when an individual or business blatantly ignores ongoing written correspondence sent to them by a taxing authority.”

Warnock has made the extension of unemployment benefits a centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that his opponent, Republican senator Kelly Loeffler, won’t do enough to help Georgians who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to make sure that the people who can’t work have the benefits they need,” said Warnock in an interview with the AARP in October. “And we have to make sure that when people are unemployed, that unemployment insurance benefits are there.”

Warnock, a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is locked in a tight runoff race against Loeffler. The Jan. 5 election is one of two runoffs in Georgia that will determine party control of the U.S. Senate next year.

US Companies Riddled with Members of Chinese Communist Party

Latest CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY | The Straits Times


In his speech just a few days ago at Georgia Tech University: Pompeo called China’s Communist Party “the central threat of our time” and highlighted efforts by Chinese security services to pressure and recruit Chinese academics and students as spies.

“Americans must know how the Chinese Communist Party is poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends and how those actions degrade our freedoms and American national security,” Pompeo said.

“If we don’t educate ourselves, if we’re not honest about what’s taking place, we’ll get schooled by Beijing.”

NYP: As we try to come to terms with the extent of Chinese influence over the Biden family, a leaked database of registered members of the Chinese Communist Party has exposed a mass infiltration of American companies — with serious national security implications.

Boeing, Qualcomm and Pfizer are just three US companies that have employed dozens of CCP members in their Chinese facilities, the database reveals.

As well, three female employees of the US consulate in Shanghai have been identified in the list of 1.95 million party members that was leaked to an international group of legislators, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which includes Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

All CCP members swear an oath to “fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the party and the people, and never betray the party [and] guard party secrets, be loyal to the party.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said yesterday: “CCP agents have no place in US government facilities, and this report should serve as a much-needed wake-up call to Washington, DC, and corporate executives, who continue to welcome the Chinese government with open arms.

“[It] is just more evidence of the extent to which the CCP has successfully infiltrated American companies and government.”

While none of the people listed in the database have been identified as spies, mounting concerns in the State Department about the CCP have resulted in tightened visa rules for its members earlier this month. CCP members and their immediate families now are limited to one-month, single-entry US permits.

The database was verified by international cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0, which found it was originally leaked on encrypted messaging app Telegram in 2016. It was passed on to IPAC six weeks ago by a third party.

“We have high confidence this list is authentic,” Internet 2.0 co-founder David Robinson, a former Australian army intelligence officer, told me Sunday.

“Someone — an insider, a dissident — managed to get physical access to the server [in Shanghai] from outside the building. They didn’t have to hack it over the internet.”

Each data entry contains the CCP member’s name, ethnicity, place of birth, education level, identification number and, in some cases, a phone number and address.

Robinson has verified the identity of three women who work at the US consulate in Shanghai.

The three, all listed as ethnic Han college graduates, are registered in a 31-strong Communist Party branch listed as Shanghai Foreign Institutional Service Co., which is a state-owned employment agency, which provides local staff for foreign consulates, schools and news media.

A department spokesperson yesterday had no comment about “an allegedly leaked database of Communist Party members” and said “the department does not discuss security protocols or personnel matters.”

However, she said: “Influence and interference operations are fundamental to how the Chinese Communist Party engages with the world.

“China’s role in the world today cannot be understood without reference to the wide array of malign activities that the [CCP] undertakes to influence our societies in ways that are covert, coercive and corrupting.”

The CCP database is split into 79,000 branches.

For example, Boeing has 17 branches, totaling 252 CCP members. Sixteen members are part of Boeing’s Hongqiao Maintenance Base Boeing Line Maintenance Division . . . First Workshop Party Branch; 22 are in the Second Workshop Party Branch; 13 are in the Third Workshop Party Branch, 14 in the Fourth Workshop Party Branch.

There are four subdivisions of the Pudong Maintenance Base Boeing Line Maintenance Branch, totaling 49 members.

Two branches of the Pudong Maintenance Base Boeing Line Maintenance Branch Cargo Aircraft Line Maintenance total 33 members.

Also listed are 27 members of the Party Branch of Boeing Fourth Branch of the Flight Department of Eastern Airlines Yunnan Co. and 23 members of the China Eastern Airlines Beijing Maintenance Department Party Committee Boeing Maintenance Workshop Party Branch.

Boeing spokesman Bradley Akubuiro said last night the company was satisfied with its security.

“As a global company, we enforce strict security protocols and maintain secure firewalls to protect both our customer and company proprietary data in all countries we operate in.”

According to the database, 96 members in the Qualcomm Wireless Communication Technology (China) Co. Ltd. Party Branch, and 133 additional members spread over six party branches of Qualcomm Enterprise Management (Shanghai) work for semiconductor manufacturer and 5G wireless technology company Qualcomm, a US-based multinational.

Qualcomm was awarded a contract by the Defense Department in 2018 to develop multifactor authentication security systems for US military computers.

Another US company crucial to national security is pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which began rolling out COVID-19 vaccines Sunday.

The database lists 69 CCP members in four Pfizer branches in Shanghai.

Neither Qualcomm nor Pfizer responded to inquiries yesterday.

New York University also appears with 71 members attached to a branch named East China Normal University Shanghai New York University Faculty and Labor Party Branch.

The database leak comes just days after a number of disturbing revelations involving CCP infiltration of American institutions:

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe warned that China has targeted members of Congress and poses “the greatest threat to democracy and freedom” since World War II.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of China’s infiltration of US universities, which are “hooked on Communist cash” and stifle criticism of Beijing.
Media reports identified Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of House Intelligence Committee, as one of several San Francisco politicians courted by Chinese spy Christine Fang.

It was confirmed last week that Joe Biden’s son Hunter is under federal investigation over tax fraud and potential money-laundering over his foreign business dealings, including in China.

“Communist China has been allowed to infiltrate our universities and corporations with people loyal to only the Communist Party,” former Acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell said Sunday.

“Our beloved Chinese American community has been warning us about these tactics for many years, and the political class has ignored those warnings.”

*** Communist party is 'leader of all religions' in China - world news - Hindustan Times

Sensitive data of around two million members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have been leaked, highlighting their positions in major organizations, including government agencies, throughout the world.

According to reports from The Australian newspaper, featured in the Economic Times, the information includes official records such as party position, birthdate, national ID number and ethnicity. It revealed that members of China’s ruling party hold prominent positions in some of the world’s biggest companies, including in pharmaceutical giants involved in the development of COVID-19 vaccines like Pfizer and financial institutions such as HSBC.

The investigation by The Australian centred around the data leak, which was extracted from a Shanghai server in 2016 by Chinese dissidents.

It noted that CPC members are employed as senior political and government affairs specialists in at least 10 consulates, including the US, UK and Australia, in the eastern Chinese metropolis Shanghai. The paper added that many other members hold positions inside universities and government agencies.

The report emphasized there is no evidence that spying for the Chinese government or other forms of cyber-espionage have taken place.

In her report, The Australian journalist and Sky News host Sharri Markson commented: “What’s amazing about this database is not just that it exposes people who are members of the Communist Party, and who are now living and working all over the world, from Australia to the US to the UK, but it’s amazing because it lifts the lid on how the party operates under President and Chairman Xi Jinping.

“It is also going to embarrass some global companies who appear to have no plan in place to protect their intellectual property from theft, from economic espionage.”

In September, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the US Department of Justice issued a joint advisory warning US government agencies and private sector companies to be on high alert for cyber-attacks by threat actors affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS).

Is Zuckerberg’s $400M U.S. Election Donation Demands Legal?

Factually, Conservative/Republican votes have been minimized…this is a whole other level of collusion/conspiracy under the guise of free speech…but read on.

Primer: Georgia/The Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted to accept a $6.3 million grant from the Mark-Zuckerberg funded Center for Technology and Civic Life “Safe Elections” project at a September 2, 2020 board meeting. It proceeded without asking a single question about the name of the group providing the funding, the origin of the funding, or the details of what the funding would be used for.

Here is the report on the clawback provisions Zuclerberg demanded if his money was not used as he required.

It begins with the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), which received nearly $400 million from Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg began the sizeable donations is September boost resources for local election officials, such as additional polling places and ballot drop boxes. Four federal lawsuits were filed in late September by Michigan’s Election Integrity Fund, by the Wisconsin Voters’ Alliance, by the Minnesota Voters’ Alliance, and by two Pennsylvania congressional candidates and several state house members. The lawsuits contend federal law prohibits local governments from accepting private federal election grants. Zuckerberg won the lawsuits in each case, so far.

The lawsuits focus on the Center for Tech and Civic Life spending about $26 million in grants across 12 cities in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin, which combined cast over 75% off their two million votes in favor of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, according to the plaintiffs.

The suits contend the federal Right to Vote Act and the Help America Vote Act require states provide resources fairly and equally, thus should not allow cities to accept private donations in election processes — particularly if the donation appears results oriented. The suits state private parties and individuals are free to spend money directly on get-out-the-vote efforts but not seek a desired outcome through government election administration.

About the Organization   Skoll | Center for Tech and Civic Life

According to Influence Watch, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) is: “a Chicago, Illinois-based center-left election reform advocacy group formed in 2012. The organization pushes for left-of-center voting policies and election administration. It has a wide reach into local elections offices across the nation and is funded by many left-of-center funding organizations such as the Skoll Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.

The organization boasts that more than 250 million voters have accessed its data and that CTCL acts as a major supplier of ballot data for tech giants Facebook and Google. Additionally, Rock the Vote, the Women Donors Network, and the Voting Information Project have all used data provided by CTCL

In August, 2020, CTCL announced that it had donated $6.3 million to five cities in Wisconsin, a swing state in the upcoming election. The organization explained that the funds are meant to ensure Wisconsin has a “safe, inclusive, and secure election.” CTCL recommended the recipient cities to “Encourage and Increase Absentee Voting,” “Dramatically Expand Strategic Voter Education & Outreach Efforts, Particularly to Historically Disenfranchised Residents,” “Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training and Safety Efforts,” and “Ensure Safe and Efficient Election Day Administration.”

***  https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSt_isw3MaJu7EeY7Kqww5cJHnQf9OTySC_Wg&usqp=CAU

Voting is a fundamental lever for engaging in U.S. democracy—a key mechanism for the public to have their voices heard, hold officials accountable, and shape the future of their communities. However, the U.S. is facing a crisis in participation, with voter turnout rates among the lowest of comparable democracies and persistent inequities between those who are engaged in the voting process and those who are not. At the same time, the responsibilities of election officials are more complex than ever—the administration of U.S. elections is decentralized, with over 8,000 different entities at the state, county, and municipal levels with independent election roles.

Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) is a team of civic technologists, trainers, researchers, and election administration and data experts working to foster a more informed and engaged democracy fit for the 21st century. It works to make voting more inclusive and secure, increase public confidence in the electoral process, and to ensure that voters are better informed. CTCL provides free and low-cost trainings and implementation tools for local election administrators to help modernize the voting process and better engage with voters—its trainings and professional development reach more election officials that any other organization. It publishes free, open-source civic datasets that are used in some of the most powerful tools that drive civic participation.

CTCL harnesses the promise of technology to modernize the American voting experience and believes that a civically engaged electorate creates thriving communities. CTCL sees a future where elected officials are more reflective of their constituents, government is more responsive to community needs, and citizens advocate effectively.

One of the top 3 leaders of the CTCL/Skoll based in Chicago is Whitney May. Her resume reads as follows:

Whitney May is Co-founder and Director of Government Services with the Center for Technology and Civic Life. She leads a team that’s building the best professional development network for election officials who want to learn about new ways to engage the public and keep up with changing technology. Prior to founding CTCL, Whitney served the Durham County Board of Elections in North Carolina from 2007 to 2012 then joined the New Organizing Institute to work on the Voting Information Project. Whitney holds a BA in Business Administration from Belmont University. Tiana Epps-Johnson is the Executive Director of the Center for Technology and Civic Life. She is leading a team that is doing groundbreaking work to make US elections more inclusive and secure. Prior to CTCL, she was the New Organizing Institute’s Election Administration Director from 2012 to 2015. She previously worked on the Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. In 2015, Tiana joined the inaugural class of Technology and Democracy Fellows at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2018, she was selected to join the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Fellows. Tiana earned a MSc in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics and a BA in Political Science from Stanford University. Donny Bridges is Co-founder and Director of Civic Data of the Center for Technology and Civic Life. He leads a team that’s helping to make information about government and elections accessible to all Americans nationwide and developing the data infrastructure that civic engagement organizations need in order to have maximum impact. Prior to founding CTCL, Donny was the Election Administration Research Director at the New Organizing Institute from 2012 to 2015, where he developed his obsession with local government and its data. Donny holds BAs in Political Science and Philosophy from Stanford University.


More detail: The Skoll Foundation is a private foundation based in Palo Alto, California.

The foundation makes grants and investments (pursuing its “invest” strategy) in social entrepreneurs through its Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship, and through partnerships with and support of organizations and agencies important to social entrepreneurship networks and ecosystems. It provides opportunities for social entrepreneurs to meet with each other (its “connect” strategy) through support of events including the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, convenings, and online content platforms. It also conducts media campaigns (the “celebrate” strategy) to publicize the work of social entrepreneurs through projects such as short films and partnerships with other media outlets, including The Sundance Institute, NPR, PBS, Public Radio International, and HarperCollins. Its founder is Jeffrey Skoll who was the first employee and first president of eBay.

The total assets of the foundation (including its affiliated funds) are $1,127,000,000 as of the end of 2018. The foundation, which moved to its Palo Alto headquarters in 2004, also collaborated closely with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, established in 2009, to address climate change, pandemics, water security, nuclear proliferation, and conflict in the Middle East.

The partnership between the Obama Foundation and Skoll is resolute. David Simas seeks to “carry on the great, unfinished project of renewal and global progress” and oversee the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, Illinois. Simas spoke at a panel discussion at the Skoll World Forum titled “Democracy in Crisis? Populism, Polarization, and Civic Engagement,” on ways to prevent and combat attacks from populist political entities or politicized media.

David Simas is the Chief Executive Officer of the Obama Foundation. A native of Taunton, Massachusetts, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in 2007. Simas then joined President Obama’s administration in 2009 as a Deputy Assistant to the President, working with senior advisors David Axelrod and David Plouffe. In 2012, he served as Director of Opinion Research for President Obama’s reelection campaign. Following the reelection, Simas returned to the White House as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Simas holds a B.A. in political science from Stonehill College and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. He serves on the national board of directors of OneGoal and lives in Chicago with his wife, Shauna, and their two daughters.

Rep Swalwell (D-Calif.) and the Chinese Spy is Still on Intel Cmte

And he ran in 2019-20 for President….

Axios:  A suspected Chinese intelligence operative developed extensive ties with local and national politicians, including a U.S. congressman, in what U.S. officials believe was a political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency between 2011 and 2015, Axios found in a yearlong investigation.

Why it matters: The alleged operation offers a rare window into how Beijing has tried to gain access to and influence U.S. political circles.

  • While this suspected operative’s activities appear to have ended during the Obama administration, concerns about Beijing’s influence operations have spanned President Trump’s time in office and will continue to be a core focus for U.S. counterintelligence during the Biden administration.
Montage of three images of Fang with Bay Area politicians  Clockwise from top left: Fang with then-Dublin City Councilmember Eric Swalwell at an October 2012 student event; undated photo of Fang, now former Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison and Rep. Judy Chu; Fang with then-Rep. Mike Honda and then-San Jose city Councilmember Ash Kalra at a March 2014 event at the Chinese Embassy in D.C. Sources: Renren, Facebook, Facebook

The woman at the center of the operation, a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christine Fang, targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the Bay Area and across the country who had the potential to make it big on the national stage.

  • Through campaign fundraising, extensive networking, personal charisma, and romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors, Fang was able to gain proximity to political power, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and one former elected official.
  • Even though U.S. officials do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information, the case “was a big deal, because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up” in the intelligence network, a current senior U.S. intelligence official said.
  • Private but unclassified information about government officials — such as their habits, preferences, schedules, social networks, and even rumors about them — is a form of political intelligence. Collecting such information is a key part of what foreign intelligence agencies do.

Among the most significant targets of Fang’s efforts was Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

  • Fang took part in fundraising activity for Swalwell’s 2014 re-election campaign, according to a Bay Area political operative and a current U.S. intelligence official. Swalwell’s office was directly aware of these activities on its behalf, the political operative said. That same political operative, who witnessed Fang fundraising on Swalwell’s behalf, found no evidence of illegal contributions.
  • Federal Election Commission records don’t indicate Fang herself made donations, which are prohibited from foreign nationals.
  • Fang helped place at least one intern in Swalwell’s office, according to those same two people, and interacted with Swalwell at multiple events over the course of several years.

A statement from Swalwell’s office provided to Axios said: “Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI. To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”

What happened: Amid a widening counterintelligence probe, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that around 2015 they alerted Swalwell to their concerns — giving him what is known as a defensive briefing.

  • Swalwell immediately cut off all ties to Fang, according to a current U.S. intelligence official, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
  • Fang left the country unexpectedly in mid-2015 amid the investigation. She did not respond to multiple attempts by Axios to reach her by email and Facebook.

Between the lines: The case demonstrates China’s strategy of cultivating relationships that may take years or even decades to bear fruit. The Chinese Communist Party knows that today’s mayors and city council members are tomorrow’s governors and members of Congress.

  • In the years since the Fang probe, the FBI has prioritized investigations into Chinese influence operations, creating a unit in May 2019 within the bureau solely dedicated to countering Beijing’s activities at the state and local levels. U.S. national security officials believe the threat posed by China has only grown with time.
  • “She was just one of lots of agents,” said a current senior U.S. intelligence official.
  • Beijing “is engaged in a highly sophisticated malign foreign influence campaign,” FBI director Chris Wray said in a July 2020 speech. These efforts involve “subversive, undeclared, criminal, or coercive attempts to sway our government’s policies, distort our country’s public discourse, and undermine confidence in our democratic processes and values,” Wray said.

The FBI declined to comment. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Details: Axios spoke with four current and former U.S. intelligence officials about the case over a period of more than a year. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media about the case.

  • Axios also spoke with 22 current and former elected officials, political operatives, and former students who knew Fang personally when she was based in the United States.
The cover: How Fang worked

Fang’s friends and acquaintances said she was in her late 20s or early 30s when she was based in the U.S. and was enrolled as a student at a Bay Area university.

She used political gatherings, civic society conferences, campaign rallies, and campus events to connect with elected officials and other prominent figures, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Bay Area political operatives, former students, and current and former elected officials who knew her.

  • U.S. intelligence officials believed she was overseeing likely unwitting subagents whom she helped place in local political and congressional offices.
  • Fang attended regional conferences for U.S. mayors, which allowed her to grow her network of politicians across the country.
  • She also engaged in sexual or romantic relationships with at least two mayors of Midwestern cities over a period of about three years, according to one U.S. intelligence official and one former elected official.
  • At least two separate sexual interactions with elected officials, including one of these Midwestern mayors, were caught on FBI electronic surveillance of Fang, according to two intelligence officials. Axios was unable to identify or speak to the elected officials.

Between 2011 and 2015, Fang’s activities brought her into contact with many of the Bay Area’s most prominent politicos.

  • She volunteered for Ro Khanna’s unsuccessful 2014 House bid, according to a former campus organizer and social media posts. (Khanna, a Democrat, was elected to the House in 2016.) Khanna’s office said he remembers seeing Fang at several Indian American political gatherings but did not have further contact with her. Khanna’s office said the FBI did not brief him on her activities. Khanna’s 2014 campaign staff said that Fang’s name does not appear in their staff records, though they said that their records do not include all volunteers.
Flyer from a fundraiser for Tulsi Gabbard
Flyer for fundraiser for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Source: Facebook
  • Fang helped with a fundraiser for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) in 2013, according to a flyer from the event Fang shared on Facebook. She appeared in photos over multiple years with a host of California politicians, including Khanna, Swalwell, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and then-Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.).
  • Gabbard “has no recollection of ever meeting or talking with her, nor any recollection of her playing a major role at the fundraiser,” a spokesperson said in an email to Axios.
  • Fremont City Councilmember Raj Salwan, whose name appears on the flyer, told Axios he was unaware of Fang’s role in the event and her name was added to the flyer by other Asian American leaders.
  • Chu’s office said they have no records of Christine Fang. Honda said he had no memory of meeting Fang.
Photo of Fang with Salwan and Khanna and of Fang with Chu and APAPA
From left: Fang with Fremont City Councilmember Raj Salwan (L) and then-U.S. House candidate Ro Khanna at a September 2013 fundraiser for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; Fang helped organize a 2012 town hall for Rep. Judy Chu. Sources: Facebook

The bottom line: U.S. officials believe Fang’s real reason for being in the U.S was to gather political intelligence and to influence rising U.S. officials on China-related issues.

  • Close relationships between a U.S. elected official and a covert Chinese intelligence operative can provide the Chinese government with opportunities to sway the opinion of key decision-makers.
  • Beijing may aim to influence foreign policy issues directly related to China, or issues closer to home, such as partnering with Chinese companies for local investment — an issue particularly salient among local-level officials such as mayors and city council members.
Sounding the alarm: The U.S. response
Illustration of US Capitol Building through torn China flag
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. counterintelligence officials said they believe Fang acted at the direction of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), the country’s main civilian spy agency.

  • U.S. officials first noticed Fang through surveillance they were conducting on a different person — a suspected MSS officer working undercover as a diplomat in the San Francisco consulate, a current U.S. counterintelligence official said.
  • The suspected officer used the consulate as a base to do outreach to state and local-level U.S. politicians, including inviting them on trips to China, the official said.
  • The official added that both Fang and the suspected officer were focused on gathering political intelligence and conducting influence operations in the Bay Area. (Axios corroborated through U.S. State Department records that a Chinese diplomat with the same name as the suspected MSS officer was stationed in San Francisco during the period Fang was there.)
  • Fang and the suspected officer met or spoke on numerous occasions, leading U.S. officials to look into Fang’s own background and activities, the official said.
  • However, Fang’s main intelligence handlers were believed to be based in China, according to two U.S. officials.

Fang was put under FBI surveillance, four current and former U.S. officials said. The FBI’s San Francisco Division led a counterintelligence investigation into Fang’s activities, according to one current and one former U.S. intelligence official.

  • “The fact that she was traveling around the country” getting close to U.S. politicians “was a big red flag,” said one of the officials. “She was on a mission.”

What happened next: Senior U.S. intelligence officials provided multiple defensive briefings around 2015 to warn targeted local and national politicians about Fang’s connections to Chinese intelligence and potential Chinese assets in their offices, one of these officials said.

  • U.S. intelligence officials also provided multiple briefings to White House officials and members of Congress on the case, a current senior official said.
  • Bill Harrison, the mayor of Fremont, California, at that time, said he knew Fang because she volunteered in his office and participated in numerous local political and community events. Harrison told Axios that in August 2015 he was contacted by FBI officials who warned him about Fang’s suspected activities in the Bay Area.
  • Bureau officials said Fang’s activities were part of a “long game play” targeting local politicians, Harrison recalled. The FBI told him the Chinese government’s strategy is “to strike up a relationship with you and see if you move up the line,” Harrison said.
How it ended: Fang left the U.S. suddenly
Illustration of a duffel bag
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. officials said China’s intelligence operation broke up in mid-2015 when Fang left the U.S. amid the FBI-led probe.

  • Fang had planned to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend a June 2015 event.
  • But shortly beforehand, she said she could no longer attend because she unexpectedly needed to return to China, according to an acquaintance from California on the same trip, who spoke with Axios.

Many of Fang’s political contacts in the Bay Area were surprised and confused about her sudden departure from the country.

  • “When she left kind of abruptly, we all kind of scratched our heads,” recalled Harrison, the former Fremont mayor. (The FBI reached out to Harrison after Fang’s departure.)
  • “She disappeared off the face of everything,” remembered Gilbert Wong, the former mayor of Cupertino, California, who had seen Fang frequently at political events.
  • But in the months surrounding her departure, rumors swirled in Bay Area political circles that the FBI was investigating her, according to four local organizers, political operatives, and elected officials who knew her.

Fang has not returned to the U.S., said intelligence officials and her former political acquaintances. She appears to have largely cut off contact with her U.S.-based friends and the networks she spent years building in California.

The Justice Department has filed no public charges against Fang.


Why Beijing targets California’s Bay Area
Data: FEC; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: FEC; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Bay Area offers ideal conditions for a foreign intelligence operative aiming to identify and target ambitious local politicians with national aspirations.

The big picture: Some of America’s most powerful politicians got their start in Bay Area politics, and China recognizes California’s importance. The MSS has a unit dedicated solely to political intelligence and influence operations in California.

  • Silicon Valley is also the world’s most important center for the technology industry, making it a hotbed for Chinese economic espionage. Russian intelligence has also long targeted the Bay Area.
  • California’s economy is the largest of all the U.S. states, giving California state lawmakers significant influence over national trends.

Democrats dominate the Bay Area, from mayors to its numerous U.S. congressional districts, and anyone seeking proximity to power needs to be in their political circles.

Context: The FBI’s extensive surveillance of left-wing political groups in the 1960s and 1970s has created a lingering distrust of the bureau that still exists today in Bay Area politics.

The Bay Area has one of the largest and oldest Chinese American communities in the country. Keeping tabs on Chinese diaspora communities is a top priority of China’s intelligence services, U.S. officials said.

  • China’s spy services want to influence these communities to become more predisposed to the regime, as well as surveil and stamp out potential organized opposition to the Communist Party.
  • Access to local political offices can give Beijing’s intelligence operatives opportunities to collect information on communities of Chinese descent in the United States.
  • A high-profile example of this occurred in the 2000s, when China’s Ministry of State Security allegedly recruited a San Francisco-based staffer in Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office. This person, who was fired when the FBI alerted Feinstein to his activities, was responsible for liaising with the local Chinese community.

What’s at stake: Chinese Americans find themselves in a difficult position in 2020, being squeezed both by influence campaigns from the Chinese government and a rise in anti-Chinese racism in the United States.

  • “We want to fight against racism, we want to call it out,” Wong, the former mayor of Cupertino, told Axios. “But if there’s a spy, we definitely support full prosecution and we don’t support China penetrating the Chinese community.”
  • “How do we address this issue without infringing on Chinese American rights?” he added.
  • Khanna said in a statement: “I respect the need for law enforcement to protect our nation from espionage. [But] we need strict guardrails to make sure the FBI’s investigations do not have collateral damage to the privacy of American citizens or to the legitimacy of Asian Americans in this country.” He underscored his concern about “the chilling effect” of overbroad surveillance on Chinese American political participation.
How Fang rose to prominence among Bay Area politicos

In 2011, Fang enrolled as a student at California State University East Bay, where she served as the president of the school’s Chinese Student Association and president of the campus chapter of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA), a national organization that encourages Asian Americans to get involved in civic affairs.

  • She used those positions as her initial platform to gain access to political circles. She frequently invited political figures, business executives, and Chinese consular officials to attend the flurry of high-profile events she organized over a period of several years, according to current and former local officials, former students, Bay Area politicos, and social media activity.
  • Fang’s first known contact with numerous politicians, including Swalwell, Harrison, Chu, and then-candidate Khanna was through her role as president of these organizations.
  • Fang received a campus pride award for the work she did on behalf of the Chinese Student Association during the 2012–2013 academic year.

During this time, Fang maintained unusually close ties to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

  • It’s common for Chinese student association presidents to communicate frequently with Chinese consular officials.
  • But Fang’s relationship to the San Francisco consulate was especially close, according to social media posts, event flyers, photographs, and one current U.S. intelligence official.
A “certificate of honor” awarded to Christine Fang by the Chinese consulate in San Francisco for her work serving as the president of the CSU East Bay Chinese Student Association.
A “certificate of honor” awarded to Fang by the Chinese consulate in San Francisco for her work as president of the CSU East Bay Chinese Student Association. Source: Renren

As Fang branched out into off-campus politics, she relied heavily on her APAPA affiliation. Many of Fang’s activities were “under the auspices of APAPA,” said one Bay Area political operative, an observation echoed by five other Bay Area political figures and activists.

  • Henry Yin, who is president of the APAPA Bay Area region chapter, told Axios in a phone call that he had seen Fang at numerous events and remembered her as being “very active.”
  • APAPA is “not involved with foreign countries,” said Yin, adding that the organization tries “to make connections with concerned citizens for the betterment of Asian and Pacific Islanders, and also benefit all citizens at large.”

Fang soon became a mainstay at Bay Area political events, fundraising for candidates and bringing along donors.

  • “She was everywhere,” said Raj Salwan, a current Fremont City councilmember, expressing a sentiment echoed by several other current and former local officials who spoke to Axios. “She was an active student. I was surprised at how active she was and how she knew so many politicos.”

Fang’s Facebook friends list is a virtual who’s who of local Bay Area politicos, and includes city council members, current and former mayors, Khanna, and Swalwell’s father and brother.

  • She positioned herself “to be the connector between the Asian American community and members of Congress,” recalled a Bay Area political operative who knew her.
  • One photo, taken at a March 2014 event at the Chinese Embassy in D.C., shows Fang together with Honda and Ash Kalra — at the time a San Jose city councilmember, later elected to the California State Assembly in 2016. A representative of Kalra’s office said he does not remember meeting Fang.
  • Fang attended events in support of former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, according to an acquaintance present at the gatherings. (Lee, who began serving as mayor in 2011, passed away in 2017 while in office.)

What they’re saying: Several acquaintances in political circles told Axios that Fang was “charismatic” and “well liked” — though others described her behavior as “secretive” and even “suspicious.”

  • “Christine was a political player and she was someone who was good to know,” said a former campus political organizer who knew her.
  • But others found her less substantive. “She never really, to me, was interested on the policy side,” recalled the Bay Area political operative.

Few seemed to know Fang on a personal level. Several acquaintances told Axios she seemed to come from wealth — she drove a white Mercedes, according to one official — but said she never spoke about her family or her hometown.

Fang’s connection to Swalwell
Three photos of Swalwell and Fang at events
From left: Fang and Swalwell at a 2013 Lunar New Year banquet, held at CSU East Bay; Fang and Swalwell at another 2013 event; Fang and Swalwell at an October 2012 CSU East Bay event. Sources: Facebook, Facebook, Renren

Fang’s ties to Rep. Eric Swalwell, which began when he was a councilmember for Dublin City, California, demonstrate China’s long game.

  • Swalwell rose to prominence rapidly, and in late 2012 became one of the youngest members of the U.S. House.
  • In January 2015, Swalwell was assigned a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, serving as the lead Democrat on the subcommittee on CIA oversight.

Details: Fang’s earliest known engagement with Swalwell occurred through the Chinese Student Association. By 2014, she had risen in local political circles and developed close ties to Swalwell’s office.

  • Fang “was a bundler” for Swalwell and other candidates, according to a Bay Area political operative with direct knowledge of her efforts. A current U.S. intelligence official confirmed her activity for Swalwell; a local elected official also said she brought in donors for other candidates. Bundlers persuade others to write checks for campaigns; they can bring in substantial sums of money as well as deepen the campaign’s engagement with target communities, making bundlers a valuable and thus potentially influential ally to a candidate.
  • The Bay Area political operative who witnessed Fang fundraising on Swalwell’s behalf was concerned whether donors she brought in were legally permitted to donate. They found no evidence of illegal contributions.
  • Fang facilitated the potential assignment of interns into Swalwell’s offices, the political operative said. In at least one case, an intern recommended by Fang was placed into Swalwell’s D.C. office, this person said. A current U.S. intelligence official confirmed the intern placement.

For Fang, targeting Swalwell made sense. His 2012 campaign — which was something of a longshot bid, pitting a young and relatively inexperienced city official against a longtime incumbent from the same party — relied heavily on Asian American support, said a former congressional staffer from the East Bay.

  • That made Swalwell’s ties to the Chinese American community, and particularly APAPA, the Asian American civic organization, especially important.
Fang sought out mayors around the U.S.
Illustration of person wearing a suit with gold ribbon on chest
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Fang attended conferences for mayors around the U.S., according to three U.S. intelligence officials, as well as numerous current and former politicians who knew her.

Why it matters: By attending conferences for local officials, Fang went to extraordinary lengths to meet and befriend U.S. politicians, ostensibly as part of her activities as a Chinese agent, U.S. officials believe.

Details: Fang engaged in sexual or romantic relationships with at least two mayors of Midwestern cities, said one U.S. intelligence official and one former elected official.

  • At a 2014 conference in Washington, an older Midwestern mayor “from an obscure city” referred to Fang as his “girlfriend” and insisted the relationship was genuine despite the clear age difference between Fang and himself, according to former Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong, who was directly present for the conversation.
  • Fang also had a sexual encounter with an Ohio mayor in a car that was under electronic FBI surveillance, said one current U.S. official. When the mayor asked why Fang was interested in him, Fang told him she wanted to improve her English, the same official said.

What they’re saying: Wong told Axios he knew Fang from her political activities in California, where she would attend fundraisers and Chinese cultural events.

  • But Wong said he was “shocked” to see her appear at an event for U.S. municipal officials hosted by the Chinese Embassy in D.C. in March 2014. Wong told Axios he had gone to D.C. twice that year to attend mayor-focused events, and that he saw Fang at both of those events.
  • At the Chinese Embassy event, Fang introduced Wong to the mayor of Shenzhen, a city that, like Cupertino, is home to a major tech industry. She translated so that the two mayors could have a conversation.
The bottom line
Illustration of US and China flags
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials believe China’s spy services have become more aggressive and emboldened, including in their U.S.-focused influence and political intelligence-gathering operations. Fang’s case shows how a single determined individual, allegedly working for Beijing, can gain access to sensitive U.S. political circles.