The California Democrat who fought to pay out a $35 million state contract to a Biden-linked consulting firm was selected to succeed Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.
Democratic governor Gavin Newsom appointed California secretary of state Alex Padilla to replace Harris on Tuesday, months after Padilla awarded Democratic public relations giant SKDKnickerbocker a $35 million no-bid contract as part of a state voter outreach program.
The secretive deal saw Padilla ensnared in controversy as he lobbied for the Senate seat. After California’s chief fiscal officer refused to approve the contract—arguing that Padilla lacked the authority to grant it—Padilla spent months lobbying to pay the firm, which has deep ties to Harris and President-elect Joe Biden.
His efforts have so far proved unsuccessful, with the payment still yet to be approved. But Padilla’s decision to award the contract to SKDK may have boosted his standing among the nation’s top Democratic operatives. Anita Dunn—the firm’s managing director—led Biden’s presidential campaign, which disbursed more than $2.2 million to SKDK during the 2020 cycle. Other top clients include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D., N.Y.) Senate Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. SKDK’s website currently thanks “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and all of our clients who fought for the soul of the nation.”
Newsom—whose office did not respond to a request for comment—has not revealed how the outstanding payment will be handled given Padilla’s imminent promotion. Padilla’s office also did not respond to a request for comment.