Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown addressed his past relationship with Sen. Kamala Harris in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday and acknowledged giving her appointments that furthered her career.
“Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago,” wrote Brown, who said he had “been peppered with calls from the national media about my ‘relationship’ with Kamala Harris, particularly since it became obvious that she was going to run for president.”
Harris’ office did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment on Brown’s letter to the Chronicle.
Brown was married at the time he and Harris dated, but – because he had been “estranged from his wife” Blanche Brown since 1981, according to People magazine –the relationship was not kept secret. A Sacramento Bee reporter told People that Brown “had a succession of girlfriends” and would “go to a party with his wife on one arm and his girlfriend on the other.”
A 1994 Los Angeles Times report about then-California Assembly Speaker Brown’s “rush to hand out patronage jobs” described Harris as Brown’s “frequent companion” and said several people referred to her as Brown’s girlfriend. That report also cited a column from the Chronicle’s Herb Caen that called Harris “the Speaker’s new steady.” When they met, she was 29 and Brown was 60.
According to Caen, the couple split up in 1995, which “flabbergasted” those “who found Kamala the perfect antidote to whatever playboy tendencies still reside in the mayor-elect’s jaunty persona.”
Although Brown supported Harris in her successful 2003 run for San Francisco district attorney, she tried to distance herself from him in that race, telling SF Weekly that Brown – whose career was dogged by corruption allegations – was an “albatross hanging around my neck.”
“His career is over; I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years. I do not owe him a thing,” she told SF Weekly, vowing, “If there is corruption, it will be prosecuted.”
Among the issues that followed Harris from her time with Brown was the allegation of cronyism in his appointment of her to two well-paying posts.
“Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker,” Brown wrote Saturday. Brown was the speaker from 1980 to 1995, prior to his stint as San Francisco mayor.
Brown appointed Harris to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and then to the Medical Assistance Commission– positions that paid her more than $400,000 over five years, according to SF Weekly. Brown also gave Harris a BMW.
“And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco,” he said in his Chronicle letter Saturday..
“I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians,” he added.
“The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I ‘so much as jaywalked’ while she was D.A.,” Brown wrote. “That’s politics for ya.”