Kamala Harris (D-CA) failed as California’s attorney general to investigate faulty advertising claims against one of the nation’s leading nutritional supplement companies, which also happened to be a client of her husband’s law firm.
As California’s chief law enforcement officer between 2011 and 2017, Harris racked up a record as a tough on crime prosecutor. From cracking down on school truancy to opposing marijuana legalization—with more than 1900 people being prosecuted for possession of the drug under her tenure—Harris was California’s self-acknowledged “top cop.”
That record, however, did not extend to clients of Venable LLP, the law firm where Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, was a high-profile partner. Harris, in particular, failed on numerous occasions to investigate the nutritional supplement giant Herbalife. At the time, Herbalife was a high-profile client of Venable, paying the firm hundreds of thousands of dollars for its legal services every year.
One such instance occurred in 2015 when prosecutors from the San Diego-branch of Harris’s attorney general’s office sent her a “lengthy memorandum” expressing the need for an investigation to be opened into Herbalife for fraudulent marketing practices, according to Yahoo News. Even before the memorandum was sent, Herbalife had a long and complicated history in California, at one point even generating nearly one thousand complaints about its marketing practices.
It is unclear if Harris ever saw the memorandum in question as no investigation was ever opened by her office. More notably, shortly after the memorandum was sent by the San Diego prosecutors, Harris appeared at a $1,000-dollar-a-had fundraiser in Washington, D.C. hosted by the Podest Group, which then represented Herbalife as a lobbying client. Later that same year, Emhoff would be promoted to managing director of Venable’s West Coast operations.
This was not the only time that Harris declined to take action against Herbalife. In April 2015, Harris refused to join 14 other state attorneys general in asking Congress to open an investigation into the herbal supplements industry for not appropriately disclosing ingredients in their products. At the time, Herbalife was explicitly mentioned by the attorneys general as one of the companies that warranted further scrutiny.