Irresponsible is irresponsible, regardless of party affiliation

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at

Like many people who call this state home, I have long taken an interest in the careers and achievements of people who got their start in Iowa. 

As a kid, I was fascinated to walk through that two-room cottage in West Branch, knowing a president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was born there.

Having grown up in the early years of the Space Age, I have marveled at the achievements of Peggy Whitson, whose record-breaking space career was “launched” in Beaconsfield and the public schools of Mount Ayr.

And more recently, I have been amazed by the talents of Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa basketball wizard who has drawn attention from fans around the globe.

All of this may help explain why I have paid more than passing attention to Democrat Katie Porter, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California—and why I was greatly disappointed by her outlandish, baseless comments after she lost the recent California primary election for an open U.S. Senate seat.

Porter’s roots run back to the soil of southern Iowa, a few counties west of where I came from. Now 50, she grew up on a farm outside of Creston during the farm crisis of the 1980s. Her father, Dan, was a farmer and banker. Her mother, Liz, is the Porter of “Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting” magazine and public television fame.

Katie Porter received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University and her law degree from Harvard University. Before being elected to Congress in 2018, she interned for U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and later taught law, including several years at the University of Iowa before she moved on to the University of California, Irvine law school.

In Congress, the mother of three quickly developed a reputation as a member whose focus was on consumers and middle-class Americans, not the well-heeled interests of corporations and their executives. Using a whiteboard and marker to make her points or highlight evidence, she proved to be an aggressive, effective interrogator of government officials and corporate executives when they were called to testify at congressional hearings.

Along the way, she also wrote a best-selling book called, “I Swear: Politics Is Messier than My Minivan.” (That van bears the license plate OVRSITE.)

Porter has many fans. Actress Whoopi Goldberg wrote on the dust jacket of the book, “When Representative Katie Porter speaks, I know she knows what she’s talking about and gives it to you straight up.”

It is because of Porter’s reputation as a no-nonsense speaker that I was especially disappointed by her comments following her loss to another California Democrat, Adam Schiff, in the March 5 primary election.

Porter spouted off following her loss, sounding too much like a former president. She said billionaires had “rigged” the election in Schiff’s favor through what she called “dishonest means”—a reference to ads critical of her that were paid for by interest groups favoring Schiff.

Porter could have thanked voters who supported her. She could have expressed her appreciation to voters who elected her to represent them in the U.S. House for the past six years. She could have congratulated Schiff and wished him well in the November election, when he faces Republican Steve Garvey, a former Major League Baseball player.

She could have accepted her defeat with grace and gone home to rest and reflect on what she wants to do in the next chapter of her life, the way farmers in Iowa reflect on low crop prices or lousy weather.

You can dislike the campaign finance laws, as Porter does. You can believe political groups have outsized voices because of their ability to spend staggering amounts of so-called “dark money,” as Porter does. And you can believe you would have been a better senator than Schiff, as Porter surely does. 

But using words like “rigged” and “dishonest” is wrong in so many ways, as anyone who has been listening for the past four years understands. A Harvard-educated lawyer with southern Iowa common sense should understand that.

Porter should realize her rash comments, not supported by evidence, only help to further undermine public confidence in our election system. The comments have seriously eroded her reputation as an important voice in American politics and have added to the unhealthy rhetoric that saturates our nation.

Her angry words are all too reminiscent of the comments by people like Donald Trump, Arizona’s Kari Lake (an Eldridge, Iowa, native, by the way), My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, and other Republicans who continue to make fact-free claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. 

Steve Schale, a longtime Democratic strategist in Florida, told the political news and fact-checking website PolitiFact, “There is nothing more important to our democracy than people acknowledging they lose elections.”

Michael Thorning of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit organization, wrote on the social media site formerly known as Twitter that Porter’s comments were “completely irresponsible and unserious.”

Too often, we Americans are quick to point out the flaws and mistakes by politicians we oppose but are too blind to similar flaws and mistakes by politicians we support. Katie Porter’s embarrassing display after this month’s election should not be defended by her fellow Democrats any more than Trump’s post-election nonsense should be defended by his fellow Republicans.

Irresponsible is still irresponsible, regardless of the party affiliation of the person making such wild accusations.

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: In a March 19 appearance on the popular podcast “Pod Save America,” Porter said, “Obviously I wish I’d chosen a different word” rather than calling the election “rigged.”

“At no time and in no way would I ever suggest that there’s anything other than a careful, thoughtful, amazing election system that actually should be the model for a lot of the country, in my opinion,” she added. […]

On Tuesday’s podcast, Porter argued that a point lost in the controversy over her comments was that “big money does influence our elections.”

“Outcomes are manipulated and distorted when you have people coming in spending millions and millions of dollars at the last minute and that money is not disclosed until after the election,” she said.

Top photo of U.S. Representative Katie Porter first published on her Facebook page on March 5.

About the Author(s)

Randy Evans

  • Schiff is no angel

    Yes Ms Porter is a sore loser. Compare with Mr Schiff, who was dishonest during the Trump impeachment proceedings, stating there were proofs of collusion with Russia. Thus, Schiff’s reelection is a disgrace. Ms Porter words are just more evidence of a general ethical failure in the Democratic Party.

  • she was right to point out how the party machine organized

    against her and more importantly against Barbara Lee who should have been appointed long before this by the no-good Gov of California but of course she shouldn’t have used the word “rigged” to do it and corporate Dems will use this as an excuse to tank her career and all of the insightful criticism of their crooked ways that she brought to the work…

  • Katie's Home

    Her dad was a 1963 graduate of East Union. He was a banker in Lorimor. Katie has denied repeated requests from the Afton Star Enterprise and Creston New Advertiser for interviews. She does not seem to give a damn about where she grew up at. On the good side I think Elizabeth Warren was one of her instructors. She learned more about ethics from Senator Warren than from that creep Grassley

  • why are so many Iowans so "thirsty" as the kids say?

    “He was a banker in Lorimor. Katie has denied repeated requests from the Afton Star Enterprise and Creston New Advertiser for interviews. She does not seem to give a damn about where she grew up at.” that’s quite a leap to make and seems to say much more about the psychology of the commenter then Rep. Porter….

    “Porter’s mistrust of those in power is rooted in what she witnessed growing up in Iowa in the 1980s. She watched families lose their farms as land values plummeted. At the same time, as Iowa hosted the first-in-the-nation caucuses in presidential politics, she saw candidates campaign throughout the state, making promises they didn’t see to keep.

    “So many people lost farms that had been in their family for generations, and there was also a sense of a loss of a future. What would we do here? There was no economy in a rural area like that, ready to replace it. So we saw people, including my mom, driving 120 miles a day round trip into the nearest city to be able to work. I think a lot of us felt like, ‘what will happen to our town?'” explained Porter.”

  • California's open primary

    My understanding is that California has an open primary, rather than a Republican primary and a Democratic primary. So all the candidates, regardless of party, are in the same primary. The top two vote getters then go on to the general election. Therefore, it is theoretically possible, and in a Blue state like California likely, that two Democrats could be running against each other in the general election.

    So Adam Schiff used his campaign funds and other means to support Steve Garvey, the Republican. His strategy was that he would help Garvey be the second vote getter and because Democrats have a 2-1 edge in California, Schiff would almost certainly beat Garvey in the general election. That strategy was certainly legal but does seem a bit dirty. I can understand Katie Porter’s frustration. But Randy is probably right that she did not respond as well as she should have in the heat of the moment. But comparing her to Trump is not fair, either.