A note about the charges against CDP Vice Chair Rooker and Controller Weitzman.
Now that CDP Vice Chair Alex Rooker and Controller Dan Weitzman have been given notice by the CDP to resign or attend a hearing for the Officers to determine whether they may remain delegates, I wanted to share some information and opportunities for justice. This charge is centered upon Rooker and Weitzman voting to allow serial abuser and disgraced ex-Chair Eric Bauman to keep his delegate status in March of 2019. But that vote did not exist in a vacuum — it was just an intense flashpoint building on months of harassment and anti-survivor behavior in the leadership of the Party. That is what I wanted to speak about.
Plainly: Alex Rooker’s conduct is alarming, degrading, and deeply concerning. But I also try to hold space for restorative justice especially in cases like this, where someone didn’t engage in the initial harmful conduct themselves but instead harmed through their response to it. Her presumed involvement — or at least lack of intervention in — with the decision to keep the incredibly problematic law firm Delfino Madden on board as counsel deserves a broader conversation with all of the context — context that can’t be fairly provided until CDP Chair Rusty Hicks decides to honor the pledge he made. Reports of dismissive comments she made about the survivors are equally concerning. When I consider her behavior, her decision to vote to allow Bauman to keep his delegate status in March of 2019 reads to me as an out-of-touch choice, “it’s not even a big deal, just let him leave himself” justifications that exist in a world that too many California Democratic leaders — and indeed too many of us in general — live in, where “ask the survivors” or “put myself in their position” are not thoughts that cross their minds.
Alex Rooker has a lot of work to do, but it’s work that I believe could start by an apology regarding Bauman and an acknowledgment of her role in re-traumatizing survivors. I don’t think this necessarily has to end with her delegate status being removed. Whether or not she takes that opportunity is up to her, but I would urge her to just stop and put herself in the shoes of the Bauman survivors who were actively litigating against the Party and the likely countless more who did not come forward at the time of her vote. I hope that her accountability begins with empathy, and I hope that begins before the hearing.
Now, we move on to CDP Controller Dan Weitzman.
I’ve chewed over whether or not I wanted to write this for a long time. But given this push to remove his delegate status and the forthcoming hearing, not to mention Weitzman’s aspirations for higher political office, I felt compelled to do so.
Survivors are urged to not survive too much. We’re pressured to parameterize our trauma, to leave some of it on the cutting room floor. Survivors who admit to being victimized by multiple people are even more vulnerable to slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and outright hostility after coming forward. After all, people are being nice enough to listen to your trauma, can’t you just pick one when they’re doing you such a favor?
I had this problem with my alma mater, too. Originally, when I filed a Title IX suit, I was too terrified and focused on the “biggest” trauma of that time, which was the coach who forcibly raped me. I also still felt some affection for the other men in the program — they weren’t as bad, I guess they’re good to people besides me. I denied myself the ability to understand that a multiplicity of terrible things had happened, and when it started to hit me years later, it came in waves until I peeled it all away in therapy and during the course of many sleepless nights. Today, I openly speak the entire truth, which is that at least four adult men groomed, harassed, or raped me while I was there as a child. The traumas all impacted me differently, and my grief, betrayal, and pain over all of them is equally valid.
Weitzman’s involvement in the Bauman scandal implicates his own independent behavior and his affirmative endorsement of the harassment of others, and I would urge you all to not dismiss this out of hand because of how much attention has already been paid to “the heart of the scandal.” Though these details have been publicly reported and referenced in public legal filings, I don’t think that they’ve been laid out in a direct manner before.
Dan Weitzman is actually the reason that I had such good extemporaneous evidence about Bauman’s conduct. In the few interactions I had with him since starting at the CDP, he seemed to lack the understanding for personal space, coming up to talk to me and a female coworker while we were clearly in the middle of a project and lingering around. I remember that the staffer made a remark to me after he left, something that communicated he was prone to doing that kind of thing. He was on the bus on the day of November 1st, 2018 and laughed and egged an already-drunk Bauman on while we were in transit. When I walked into the restaurant for lunch, my female coworker who had driven up from Sacramento with my boss to attend this one portion of the day grabbed my arm and asked me to sit next to her. I knew that Bauman’s bodyguard had been creepy to her in the past, so I assumed she didn’t want to end up sitting alone with them. She sat in between me and John Vigna, then the CDP Communications Director, while I was at the very end of the table. Bauman’s bodyguard sat across from me. Bauman sat across from her. Weitzman sat across from John.
The whole table started conversing loudly, nearly everyone ordered alcohol, and she asked if she could “see that photo on my phone again.” I hadn’t shown her a photo, I knew that she wanted to type something out to me and I could feel how viscerally unsafe it was to talk out loud. She opened my notes app and we began to pass it back and forth.
I’m not going to share the exact conversation here, because while its contents were shared with the press and with multiple CDP leaders two years ago, it isn’t just about me. It is a uniquely weird position to be the victim of dual sexual harassment, and while I’ve been outspoken publicly, I respect that not everybody is. There is no right or wrong way to be a survivor. In light of that, I will summarize some of its contents but refrain from sharing the note itself here. (I have forwarded the full dated and timestamped note to the CDP officers who will be involved with this hearing so that they can immediately verify these claims.)
It’s the conversation that’s referenced in this LATimes article. The notes describe how Weitzman stared at her breasts “with no shame” and shared unsavory, inappropriate details about his personal love life with my female coworker, making her “so uncomfortable” to the point that she practically ran off the bus and she immediately told John Vigna about her distress, and he responded that “yeah, that’s why you’re not on the bus tour.” Weitzman wasn’t just an observer of the sexual misconduct that day, he was an active participant in it and contributed to its danger and toxicity.
As my coworker and I were passing my phone back and forth to frantically process the sexual harassment of a man sitting within arms reach and the dangerous conditions of the bus tour, we were interrupted to be sexually harassed yet again when Bauman loudly interjected, silencing the table mostly exclusively composed of men to ask if we were sleeping together, if we were having an affair. We were stunned, stuttering out confused and abrupt “no” and “we’re just friends?” denials. The men were laughing and jeering. All of them, very much including Weitzman but excluding John, followed by Bauman’s bodyguard saying “yeah, they’re definitely boning, right?” to another round of laughs.
Weitzman did not stand up for us. Weitzman joined in laughing at a table of vulgar men debating whether two 21 year old female staffers were fucking. Both of us, who had been writing notes to each other discussing Weitzman’s sexual harassment that occured just moments before. It was devastating, infuriating, violating, and terrifying; and it was all part of the same toxic culture that pervaded the CDP.
I was dazed and starting to panic, waiting to get back on the bus and triggered beyond belief. I asked one staffer for his Juul, recent heart surgery be damned. Weitzman came up to me and asked where the other female staffer was, expressed his dismay that she was not going to actually be on the bus with us, and started talking about how beautiful her eyes were. It was surreal. There had just been egregious sexual misconduct right in front of him that he laughed at and joined in on, and here he was moments later telling me how gorgeous this woman’s eyes were and how he enjoyed the way she applied her eyeliner in a manner that left two fine lines instead of a single thicker one. I saw this woman every day and was sitting right next to her at lunch, but I had never noticed that, and it was startling to realize how intensely he must’ve been staring at her face.
I realized that I was about to get back on that bus and be seen as fresh meat. I wondered how long it would take for Weitzman and the others to start staring at my eyes that closely. I wondered what other comments that the bus full of inebriated and boastful men would make to me. I wondered what would happen if this was just day one. At the core of this was Dan Weitzman, who did not object to the comment at lunch and was coming up moments later to continue ranting about his fascination with the woman he had imagined me sleeping with. It was Weitzman who made me realize that the comment at lunch was just the beginning and that I was in active danger.
When these allegations were referenced publicly in January of 2019, Weitzman denied hearing Bauman’s comments, and regarding his comments about that woman, he apologized “if I did say that.”
If I did say that. If I did say that is not accountability. If I did say that is gaslighting, flagrantly dismissing the account of survivors, an insultingly insincere apology given in response to a reporter instead of the people he harmed. To cap it off, he told the Times “I remember getting off the bus that night and saying, ‘Oh, that was pretty mellow.’”
A day full of vile sexual harassment was “pretty mellow” to Weitzman. He didn’t think any of it was a big deal. He didn’t think that the power dynamic of bragging about sexual conquests was problematic. He didn’t think that it was wrong to laugh at Bauman’s disgusting comments. He didn’t think that it was out of control that Bauman was drunk at 9 in the fucking morning. Pretty mellow.
Underneath it all, there are only two options. Either Weitzman does remember those comments and is lying to gaslight survivors intentionally — or, perhaps more disturbingly, Weitzman didn’t notice or flag the behavior as problematic because harassing women is so commonplace in his life and his own actions that it didn’t seem noteworthy. It seemed normal to him.
Weitzman’s decision to vote to allow Bauman to keep his delegate status in March 2019 came after engaging in harassment right alongside him. He did not vote that way accidentally. It was an intentional message that Bauman’s behavior was not abhorrent enough to warrant stripping his delegate status even after he had been accused of rape. He did not see the point in removing someone who, to him, was “pretty mellow” in his sexual abuse.
So I do not believe that Weitzman’s journey to restorative justice can start right at empathy like Alex Rooker’s could — though that will be an important part of his process. I believe it has to start with protection for people that he has harmed and his potential to continue that harm. Removing his delegate status allows for a rebuke of his actions and an opportunity for him to coalesce with people who want to help him seek accountability and to make amends for his actions. It also protects vulnerable staffers, survivors, and delegates around him while he corrects his course and sends a strong message that we expect our Officers to not cause harm — or to protect those who do.
I urge the Officers overseeing the vote to consider the complexity of this picture and to vote to remove Weitzman’s delegate status. I also urge Alex Rooker to apologize for protecting Bauman and for her role in re-traumatizing survivors. She should lean into her empathy before this proceeding begins, failing that, she should lose her delegate status.