Freedom Foundation

Gov. Newsom Fiddles While California Burns

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has a lot to say about the current situation in California, as things have changed in a big way over the last two months. Originally, the Golden State was hailed as the model for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. With nearly 40 million residents, experts were perplexed by how California could manage to keep the virus so well contained for so long.

But like many of the shiny, bright things in California that attract national attention, it turned out to be a fluke. California’s Bay Area and Los Angeles County are now two of the largest epicenters for the virus in the country while many rural areas continue to effectively fight the virus.

If you’ve been watching the news, you probably already know this — the California model for dealing with COVID-19 has fallen apart. What you may not have heard throughout all of this is that the governor’s shady dealings and personal transfers of wealth that have eluded headlines.

It turns out Newsom is a major shareholder in the PlumpJack Winery, located in Napa County. While about 80 percent of wineries around California have been shut down by the governor’s dictate, this particular enterprise was somehow spared.

While that may be fishy on its own, a recent revelation by Jennifer Van Laar of the conservative news site RedState really brings perspective to the issue.

Newsom, after taking office, resided only briefly in the governor’s mansion before deciding the Victorian structure wasn’t really his style. He moved out to a sprawling estate in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento, with a price tag of $3.7 million.

The home was registered to an LLC operated by Newsom’s cousin and long-time business partner, Jeremy Scherer, who is also the co-president of PlumpJack Winery. A talking head for Newsom claimed it was the governor himself who paid for the home, which was odd given that Newsom was still paying on a $3.2 million mortgage for his previous home.

Questions about where he got the money began to swirl.

In October 2019, the LLC responded by simply gifting the home to Newsom, claiming the governor was a member of the LLC. Shortly thereafter, Newsom received a $2.7 million tax-free cash-out refinance on the home.

Oddly, Newsom’s yearly financial disclosure forms didn’t mention the LLC or the gifted home, which would have exceeded the $500 limit for gifts.

And to the surprise of almost no one, Gov. Newsom was never listed as a member of the LLC, and the only listed member is his cousin.

Nearly two years later, Newsom is still not listed as a member.

This isn’t the first time Gavin Newsom has found himself in a pickle over unreported assets. In 2003, while still a San Francisco supervisor, Newsom failed to report more than $11 million in real estate and business loans over a four-year period.

Newsom also failed to report the value of six months’ worth of rent the LLC gifted to him in 2019. The average rent, if Newsom hadn’t been staying there free of charge as we now know, would have totaled $17,463 per month and again would have exceeded the $500-a-year gift limit.

Depending on how you look at it, Gov. Newsom either has a deep-seated hatred for paperwork or is guilty of money laundering, tax evasion and concealing and receiving improper gifts.

Either way, the connection to his business dealings with PlumpJack Winery and the apparent special consideration Napa County has been given with keeping their wineries open is extremely questionable.

As Newsom has said, we’re all in this together. It’s time he started practicing what he preaches and living like the rest of us who don’t get free mansions.