The California fur ban, Assembly Bill 44, was introduced into the California state Assembly on December 3, 2018 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman. It had to go through eight major votes in the state Senate and state Assembly, including six votes in committees, and receive the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom in order to become law. AB-44 was met with a number of obstacles, but was able to surmount them all. AB-44 was sponsored by (the lobbyists were paid for by) the Humane Society of the United States, and Animal Hope and Legislation (also known as the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation). Those two groups led a coalition of animal activist groups in helping push the fur ban through - including Direct Action Everywhere, In Defense of Animals, Project Coyote, and several others. Many animal rights groups, non-animal-rights groups, and businesses showed formal support for this bill. The complete list of formal supporters are all listed under “Support” towards the end of each committee analysis which can all be viewed by clicking the committee analysis links here.
Two major groups spent huge sums of money each to fight this bill, including the Fur Ban Information Council of America (FICA) (over $300k), and Center For Consumer Freedom (CCF) ($122K), a group who also fights for the rights of the tobacco, sugar, meat and other animal abusing industries. They brought people in to testify to two committees that the fur ban was racist against African Americans, as shown in these clips (BELOW) featuring Edwin Lombard and Nicole Smith. FICA’s records later showed that they had made a $3500 payment to Edwin Lombard Management (shown on page 6), which they had not disclosed during Mr. Lombard’s testimony. In response to Nicole Smith’s testimony that the fur ban was racist against African Americans, black Assemblymember Chris Holden responded firmly in disagreement.
Four out of nine hearings allowed for public comments in favor or against the fur ban. During the first two public comment sessions, it was primarily lobbyists for guns, animal agriculture, and the fur industries who spoke against the fur ban bill, while the pro side had well over 100 animal rights activists and proponents come to show their support, the majority from Direct Action Everywhere.
However, at the third public comment session in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, a group of young adults showed up to speak against the fur ban. Some of them, too, also made claims that the fur ban was racist, this time to Native Americans (even though the bill contained an exception for Native Americans). Some of the activists felt suspicious about the idea that a group of college-aged citizens felt so strongly about protecting the fur industry as to make a special effort to come to the Capitol to speak against the fur ban. A longtime animal rights activist and lobbyist named Judie Mancuso of Social Compassion in Legislation was sitting next to a Direct Action Everywhere activist, Olga (name may have been changed), during the hearing and whispered to her “these guys are paid”. Olga was astonished, as she didn’t realize that regular people could be paid to testify for bills. The bill that day barely passed the committee, and not until hours later, by a vote of 5-4.
Olga went home that night and watched the full video of the hearing. The young adults who had spoken against the fur ban said their full names while testifying, as per hearing protocol.
Olga started searching for some of their names on social media, and she found some of their facebook pages. An opponent named Andrew Aguero had made a public post several days prior that read “Anyone in LA down to make an easy $100 this Tuesday in Sacramento and fight tyranny?”. Several of the people who responded to this post saying they wanted to come, Andrew Marc Di Giovanna and Benjamin Hunter, had also been at the hearing speaking in opposition. In fact, upon further Facebook hunting, Andrew A. seemed to be part of a big group of the fur ban opponents, which made Olga very suspicious that they had all been paid to show up. Andrew G. and several of the other bill opponents had photos on their pages of the whole group at the Capitol, that mentioned phrases like “fighting tyranny” and “making liberty win”. Many of the people involved also seemed oddly connected with a libertarian group called “Young Americans For Liberty”.
In 2019, fur ban bills were also introduced in both New York state and New York City, but the industry worked hard to make it a racial issue, as described above in the Intercept article, and as described in these two articles below, so the bills were effectively killed there.