Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the first woman of color to be put on a presidential ticket Tuesday, after Joe Biden announced her as his Democratic vice presidential running mate.
During her time as California’s top prosecutor, Harris, the first African American to serve as California’s Attorney General, was criticized for being soft on technology giants and white-collar crime. Politico reported that Harris is a relief for Wall Street in that Biden chose her over Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has long set her sights on reining in financial sector profits that outpace growth of American wages.
Under Harris’ watch, Facebook (FB) made pivotal acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, now at the heart of Congressional and federal agency investigations into suspected anticompetitive conduct. Along with Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL), both headquartered in California, and Amazon (AMZN), the companies have come under increasing scrutiny for wielding what some believe is too much power over new market entrants.
“As attorney general of California, she possessed sweeping powers to restrain the growing power of those tech platforms,” HuffPost wrote in July.
California’s current attorney general, Xavier Becerra, said in November – months after other state attorneys general had already launched probes into antitrust concerns – that his office was conducting an investigation of Facebook. In July, reports surfaced that Becerra’s office had opened an inquiry into Google too.
Harris told The New York Times in 2019 during her presidential campaign that her priority with respect to Big Tech was for companies to protect their users’ privacy and personal information, rather than to focus on their size. That priority was evident in 2013, when Harris successfully curbed cyber exploitation by prevailing in a case against a revenge porn website and its operator.
Harris has more recently been willing to scrutinize Big Tech’s market dominance and handling of political and hate speech, as well as misinformation online. In an interview with CNN last May, in response to whether Big Tech needs to be broken up she said, “We have to seriously take a look at that,” and characterized the companies’ services as “utility that has gone unregulated.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who also ran for the Democratic nomination, attacked Harris during a debate as too aligned with Big Tech to effectively regulate the industry.
Among top donors to political career contributors were Google parent Alphabet ($79,126), Apple ($56,982), Microsoft ($37,133), Cisco ($57,528) and WarnerMedia now AT&T ($40,197).
A self-described champion for middle-class Californians, Harris has touted her efforts standing up to Wall Street banks. She has frequently referenced a $20 billion settlement she negotiated on behalf of homeowners who faced foreclosure during the Great Recession. Some say Harris let big banks off the hook too easily by failing to prosecute executives responsible for crafting predatory mortgage practices.
Consumer advocates both praised and criticized the effort, on one hand calling it a win for around 150,000 families that reportedly accessed relief through the agreement, and on the other, a loss for disabled, widowed, minority homeowners who had less success obtaining relief through the settlement.
Unlike her running mate, Harris has been an advocate for removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As the lead Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE Act), which was advanced in the House in November, Harris supported its goal to both end the federal prohibition of marijuana and incentivize states to expunge criminal records of defendants with marijuana-related convictions.