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  • Dan Connors

Katie Porter - one of the few good ones

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan

“If you’re full of bullshit, I’m coming for ya, I just don’t have time. I’m a single mom. The dinner’s burning. I’m late to something. I have 4,000 emails. My hair is frizzy. I haven’t shaved my legs in a week. No bullshit.” Katie Porter

It's no secret that most politicians are full of bullshit. They say what they need to say to get elected, and take dark money from the rich and powerful once in office to influence policies. This applies to politicians of both parties, though there are several notable exceptions in Congress at any one time. Katie Porter of California is one such exception, and her new book, I Swear: Politics is Messier Than My Minivan is her debut book. Generally I shy away from autobiographies, especially by politicians, executives, or celebrities, because they tend to be self-serving and cherry-picked. Porter is one of the most appealing politicians to come along in many years, and from this book she appears to be the real deal.

Porter was elected to congress as a Democrat in 2018 in a wave election in an Orange County, California district that had long been dominated by Republicans. Out of the hundreds of people elected that year, she has stood out for her tough questioning in congressional hearings. Few people have the stomach for these hearings as they tend to be dull affairs punctuated by preening politicians and evasive witnesses. Porter became a national figure thanks to her dogged preparation and smart, tough questions. A consummate teacher and educator, she makes frequent use of a whiteboard to add details to her presentation.

Katie Porter was born in Iowa and grew up in a small farming community. With very limited resources she managed to get herself scholarships to three of the most prestigious schools in the country- Phillips Academy, Yale, and Harvard Law School. She is both hard-working and bright, a great combination that we all want in leaders, especially when it's combined with a belief in public service and not private enrichment. She worked closely with Elizabeth Warren when she was a Harvard professor, and learned much about the bank industry and bankruptcy law from her experiences there.

I Swear is a fascinating story of the formative moments in her life. She worked closely with Kamala Harris in California dealing with the aftermath of the mortgage crisis in 2012, and her disdain for banking executives is understandable. She blames them for deceptive contracts, exploiting poor homeowners, crashing the economy, and being out of touch with the working conditions for their own bank employees. Her greatest moments on You Tube include tough questions that honest people would have no problem with. Watching executives squirm under her questioning makes me wonder why more of our representatives, (who are supposed to be there protecting our needs), don't follow suit and hold liars and crooks to account.

A few of the tidbits I got from this book:

- Congress in not a welcoming place for people of limited means. Most of the people there are already wealthy and are more in it for the rush of power and influence than for the $174,000 salaries. Porter, who had limited personal resources, struggled to keep up with the financial side of working in Washington.

- Washington is also not a welcoming place for single parents. Porter, a divorced mother of three, had to juggle parenting duties with her work life. Most other congresspeople have grown children or are have spouses to pick up the slack.

- Porter spent January 6th hiding in a nearby office with AOC while congress was being invaded by protestors. She helped AOC change her appearance in fear that she'd be a main target if found.

- Representatives depend on their staffs more than we realize. These are the people who make most of the things happen behind the scenes.

- Members of congress are advised to stick to prepared talking points and suck up to the voters and interviewers, with the result that we feel like we're being talked down to.

Working in congress is a lousy job, according to Porter, with little room for advancement, long commutes, and ridiculous amounts of time spent on fund-raising. But she still appears to love it because of the good that she can do with powerful legislation or tough committee hearings. So much so that she's planning on running for US Senate in 2024 and I wouldn't be surprised to see her rise further in the years ahead. I only hope that more power and influence doesn't ruin her strong sense of ethics and accountability, both of which are in short supply in Washington and everywhere else.

So what is the secret sauce that gave us Katie Porter? I think it is the fortunate collision of a brilliant mind, humble beginnings, and hard work ethic. There are many brilliant minds in Washington, but most of them came to power as beneficiaries of privilege and never had to experience hardship or empathy. There are also many not-so-brilliant minds in Washington that come from humbler beginnings, but most of them are also dependent on the rich for their campaign contributions and willing to milk the benefits of envy and resentment rather than compassion and empathy. Porter is the real deal, and I hope Washington doesn't blacken her heart like it has so many others.

Here are some other quotes about Ms. Porter from her hearing videos on You Tube:

"Can you imagine if every member of Congress was as intelligent and honorable as Katie Porter? Think how strong America would be. America needs more like her. 🇺🇸"

"This woman is a legend. She does her homework. And she's really there to do the job she supposed to be doing. Rare and beautiful."

"Holy moly! She’s good at getting down to reality! If she were my life coach i would be balling my eyes out after every session. But for the betterment of myself."

"Ms. Porter fascinates me, I could watch her on a loop 27/7. She goes for the jugular and doesn't break a sweat. The best part, she doesn't do it for show, she truly cares about the people she represents and the rest of us are fortunate enough to be along for the ride. "

I listened to the audio-book, narrated by Katie Porter, and it was an enjoyable education on the inner workings of both banking and Washington. For those who want to get more of a feel for her antics, here is one of my favorite You Tube videos. (There are many)

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