Laura Richardson (born April 14, 1962) is the U.S. Representative for California's 37th congressional district, serving since 2007. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district encompasses the inland section of Long Beach, Carson, Compton and Signal Hill, as well as parts of other municipalities. She previously represented the 55th district in the California State Assembly for the 2007 term until she was elected to the House of Representatives for California's 37th congressional district in a special election on August 21 to fill the vacancy resulting from the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald.
Richardson was raised by a single mother after her parents divorced when she was two. Her father belonged to the Teamsters labor union.
Her father was black and her mother was white. Richardson has said that racism against their mixed-race family was "what got me since the age of about six of wanting to be a public servant." Richardson was previously married to Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts. During the marriage, she took the name Laura Richardson-Batts. Richardson graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1984. In 1987, she joined Xerox Corporation where she worked for 14 years. In 1996, Richardson received her MBA from the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. She often credits her studies in China at Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai as significantly expanding her educational experience.
Early political career
Richardson served on the Long Beach City Council from 2000 to 2006. In 2004, Richardson won a second term outright on the first ballot. As a councilwoman, she made statements that her priorities included neighborhood improvement, public safety, attracting jobs and businesses to the cities’ central corridors, job training programs for adults, after-school programs for youth and expanding senior programs. Richardson established the Sixth District Master Plan, a strategic guideline for development in the area.
Other significant accomplishments during her council tenure include securing the first funding for alley maintenance by the city of Long Beach, initiating the planning process for a Senior Transportation Program in the Central Area of Long Beach. While serving on the city council, Richardson joined the staff of Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante and served as his Southern California director for five years.
Richardson served as the assistant speaker pro tempore in the Assembly. Richardson was the first African-American and South Bay representative to achieve this position. Additionally, Richardson was appointed to serve on the Budget, Human Services, Utilities & Commerce, Government Organization, and Joint Legislative Budget committees. She was chair of the Select Committee on Proposition 209-Equal Opportunity.
In 2003, Richardson said she believed weapons inspections in Iraq should have continued, and that she did not favor an invasion.
She was asked by anti-war groups to support a Long Beach City Council resolution declaring the city's opposition to the Iraq War. She did not support this resolution, but cosponsored a resolution declaring support for local members of the National Guard. Once hostilities began, she stated that it was important to support the troops. She argued that once Saddam Hussein was caught and executed, American troops should have come home. She supports a withdrawal plan beginning in six months, according to her mailers, which often contain pictures of former president George W. Bush with a slash mark through his image, indicating her opposition to Bush's policies. She pledged to oppose any new spending for war in Iraq.
She co-wrote AB 43, the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 43 in 2007.
Richardson supported AB 900 to create 40,000 more prison beds in California at the cost of $7.4 billion dollars.
Richardson has faced some harsh scrutiny for not co-sponsoring Rep. Henry Waxman's global warming legislation. As a result, Greenpeace has mounted a public awareness campaign about her position.
Richardson does not support building a border fence. She does support some path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants.
Laura Richardson endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, although her district voted for 54.2% to 43.5% in favor of Barack Obama.
Richardson voted in favor of a controversial update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on June 20, 2008. As part of the bill, telecommunications companies that have allegedly acted illegally in allowing the Bush Administration to spy on customers will be protected from prosecution. The administration's surveillance of U.S. citizens and residents is part of the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
Richardson defeated State Senator Jenny Oropeza and 9 other Democrats in the June 26 primary election to win her party's nomination. On August 21, Richardson won more than 65% of the vote in a four-way race against the nominees of the Republican Party, Green Party, and Libertarian Party.
Richardson was accused of receiving preferential treatment by a bank when it rescinded an erroneous foreclosure of her house, but was cleared of wrongdoing by the House Ethics Committee, in accordance with the recommendations of the Office of Congressional Ethics. Upon the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald, her predecessor in the 37th Congressional District, Richardson seems to have put all of her funds into winning the resulting special election, and as a result stopped paying her mortgages. Following the special election, she made agreements with Washington Mutual to catch up payments on her 3 properties, but the bank violated this agreement with regard to the Sacramento property when it foreclosed on the house. The bank then rescinded the foreclosure, causing the controversy.
After her election to the California Assembly, Richardson purchased a home in Sacramento with no money down and a subprime mortgage. According to county records, Richardson received a default notice and Notice of Trustee's Sale in late 2007. In December 2007, Richardson was behind in payments by more than $18,000. According to the couple that sold the home to Richardson, Richardson was not maintaining the home. Sharon Helmar has stated: "The neighbors are extremely unhappy with her. She didn't mow the lawn or take out the garbage while she was there. We lived there for a long time, 30 years, and we had to hide our heads whenever we came back to the neighborhood."
The real estate broker who bought Richardson's Sacramento house at the foreclosure sale accused her of receiving preferential treatment because her lender had issued a notice to rescind the sale. James York, owner of Red Rock Mortgage, said he would file a lawsuit against Richardson and her lender, Washington Mutual, but settled out of court with the terms not disclosed. Richardson had not been making payments on the property for nearly a year, and had also gone into default on her two other houses in Long Beach and San Pedro. Richardson, D-Long Beach, has said that the auction should never have been held, because she had worked out a loan modification agreement with her lender beforehand and had begun making payments.
The House Ethics Committee, following the recommendations of the Ethics Office, found no wrongdoing other than by Richardson's Mortgage Broker, who was referred to the Justice Department for mortgage fraud, which was widespread at the time the mortgage was made. Mistaken foreclosures despite paid-up recovery agreements, such as the one that happened to Richardson, were also becoming rampant during this period.
Richardson also initially did not disclose a loan from a strip club owner when on the City Council, public records show.
Rep. Richardson was presiding speaker of the house during the November 29, 2010 lame-duck session of Congress. She can be seen initially refusing to recognize, then relenting to allow committee ranking member Steve Buyer to talk despite the failure of the Committee chairman to appear. She is seen discussing with the House parliamentarian and aides how to handle the failure of the committee chairman to appear to present his bill under rules and procedures that minorities in both parties have often denounced when out of power in the House, as Boyer does when recognized in this instance.
September 20th, 2011