McClatchy: Why hasn’t Kamala Harris signed on to anti-sex trafficking legislation in the Senate?
WASHINGTON — California Sen. Kamala Harris’s name came up multiple times at a Senate hearing last month on child sex trafficking legislation, an acknowledgement of her long record fighting the crime.
But Harris’ name does not appear – at least not yet – as a co-sponsor of the trafficking legislation in question, which targets Backpage.com, a web site for classified ads that Harris once labeled “an online brothel.” Activists blame the rise of internet advertising and Backpage, specifically, for an 846 percent spike in reports of suspected sex trafficking since 2010.
“She’s conspicuously absent from being a sponsor” of the bipartisan legislation, known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, says Lisa Thompson, vice president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “That raises eyebrows.”
Harris’ public reticence on the issue is a departure from her time as California attorney general, when she made sex trafficking one of her signature issues and zealously prosecuted Backpage.com.
Behind the scenes, however, Harris is heavily involved in the negotiations on the bill, her first major foray into Senate dealmaking. Harris, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, has assumed the role of point person for a handful of Democrats and some of the country’s most powerful tech companies, including Google and Facebook, who worry the bill could undermine internet freedom.
Her bid to be a power broker has her walking a delicate political tightrope. On the one hand, the neophyte legislator is trying to represent Silicon Valley, a powerful constituency in her home state – not to mention a critical funding source for a Democratic presidential run. On the other, she risks angering anti-trafficking advocates she once teamed with, as well as feeding the narrative pushed by some on the left that she’s too cozy with corporate interests.