Karen Bass

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Karen Bass

Hon. Karen Bass is the socialist affiliated U.S. Representative for California's 33rd congressional district, winning election in November 2010. She replaced retiring rep. Diane Watson. She has been selected by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, appointed Bass to serve as an Assistant Whip.

Bass, who had one daughter, Emilia Bass-Lechuga, son-in law Michael Wright and four step children.[1]

Early life

Bass grew up with three brothers in the Venice/Fairfax area of Los Angeles. She is the only daughter of DeWitt Bass and Wilhelmina Bass. Bass graduated from Hamilton High School, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and the University of Southern California School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.

Bass also worked for nearly a decade as a Physician Assistant and served as a Clinical Instructor at the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.[2]

Early activism

Bass says that from a young age she was drawn to addressing injustice in all its forms and standing up for what she believes. As early as high school she was volunteering on political campaigns, following the Civil Rights Movement, and protesting the Vietnam War.

During the early 1970s the new San Diego State college student continued to volunteer her time and efforts to causes important to her. Bass returned to southern California before completing her degree in philosophy, and instead sought a career that afforded her time to devote to her political activism and, equally as important, one that also aligned with her values system. It turned out that an interest in health care, which came from caring for her diabetic mother, was a good fit.

“It’s that set of values that led me to a profession that would help people. That’s the same set of values that led me to be an activist,” she said. “So the passion that underlines whether I’m working in a hospital or whether I’m attending meetings, it’s the same drive.”

She became a nurse and ultimately a physician’s assistant (PA). It was while a practicing PA and teaching clinical courses in the PA program at the University of Southern California in the late 1980s that she decided to return to school to complete her bachelor’s degree. She chose CSU Dominguez Hills because it had just developed a bachelor’s in health science with a physician’s assistant option in collaboration with USC.

Bass recalls one professor who really had an impact on her, Erma Wells, former chair of the Division of Health Science.

“I worked with her, not only as a professor, but also as an administrator,” she said, explaining that after she finished her degree she taught briefly in the program and Wells had been a mentor to her in both aspects. “She recently passed away, and I wanted to acknowledge that she played an incredible role in my education.”

When Bass graduated from CSU Dominguez Hills in 1990, it was also the year her career and her activism took a new direction. Crack use among the low-income African American communities in Los Angeles was reaching epidemic proportions, and Bass saw too many people affected by it coming through the emergency room.

“A good percentage of what comes in [to the ER], it’s either fights or accidents, domestic violence, but all those, if you look at the root of them, there’s drugs or alcohol,” she said. “So when the crack cocaine epidemic hit that led me to want to figure out how to address it, and so I started Community Coalition. It wound up being a new profession for me.”[3]

Cuba, communists, Venceremos Brigade


In a May 5 2005 exchange on Yahoo group Atzlannet, Los Angeles Communist Party USA organizer Rosalio Munoz revealed his own early connection to Karen Bass, and the of another communist Leroy Parra. He revealed that communists had indeed been [part of Bass's movement, and that she had been a member of the Venceremos Brigade, whose members traveled to Cuba to do agricultural work in support of the Cuban revolution.[4]

Changing LA

Before her life in office, Karen Bass started her political organizing as a middle school student when she signed up to be a precinct captain for Robert Kennedy in 1968. In 1990, Bass founded and ran Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization in South Los Angeles to empower residents to get involved in making a difference. In addition to her 14 years as Executive Director for Community Coalition, Bass has a long history as an activist, creating change on both a local and international level.[5]

The daughter of a mail carrier, and a product of public schools, Bass began organizing as a teenager. In college, she was active in the antiwar movement. While working as a nurse and a physicians assistant, and raising her daughter, she continued her political activism as a volunteer.

As many of its factories closed in the 1980s, South LA was hit hard by the loss of decent-paying blue-collar jobs. Unemployment and hopelessness created a vacuum, filled in part by the crack cocaine epidemic and the increasing role of gangs as a way for young people to gain status and income. The community experienced a spiral of drug dealing, violent crime, prostitution and crack houses. Bass's job in the emergency room at LA County's USC Hospital--the nation's largest trauma center--gave her a close-up view of how the epidemic was destroying the lives of many young men, women and children and undermining the social fabric of inner city neighborhoods. In 1990, she founded Community Coalition to find a humane alternative to the "war on drugs"--one of the nation's first grassroots organizations to deal with this problem,

"I wanted to see if I could shift the policy agenda away from law enforcement toward a public health and economic response," she explained. "I thought it was a health and economic issue."[6]

Community Coalition

Under Bass's leadership, the Community Coalition took on other pressing issues, always reaching out to other community groups, churches, labor unions, social service agencies, employers and elected officials to enlarge the circle of collaborative partners. After the 1992 riots, Bass also worked to encourage local foundations, the United Way, businesses and community leaders to invest in grassroots organizing to strengthen community-based groups. As a result, Los Angeles is now ground-zero for successful community organizing around economic and social justice issues.

As a strong executive director, Bass left the Community Coalition on a solid financial footing and with a new generation of community leaders that she'd trained to run the organization. During her tenure, the group's budget increase from slightly over $300,000 to about $3 million, secured from government agencies and more than fifteen private foundations. In her last year, the Community Coalition had about thirty staff members. [7]

Southern Africa Support Committee

1980s SASC leaflet

In the 1980s Karen Bass was a leader of the radical Southern Africa Support Committee.

California Assembly

A colorful mosaic of activist groups--among them LA Voice, the Coalition for Economic Survival, Los Angeles Community Action Network, One LA, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, ACORN, the Southern California Association for NonProfit Housing, East Los Angeles Community Coalition, POWER (People Organized for Westside Renewal), Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy), Esperanza Community Housing, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Coalition LA, South Asian Network, Progressive Jewish Alliance and AGENDA--have forged effective coalitions across racial, economic and geographic boundaries that have improved housing, education, environmental and economic conditions in LA, a city of 4 million people.

One of the byproducts of this growing network has been the election of many LA grassroots activists to public office in City Hall, the state legislature and Congress. Bass had long worked to catapult other community leaders into public office. After years of resisting, Bass was persuaded by a diverse group of supporters to run for the state Assembly. After thirteen years leading the Community Coalition, she was elected in 2004 to represent an economically varied and ethnically polyglot district that has significant numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, Jews, Koreans and Ethiopians. Once she arrived in Sacramento, she was quickly recruited to serve as majority whip, then majority floor leader and was elevated to Speaker by her colleagues in 2008. [8]

A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Bass was elected to the CA State legislature in 2005 to represent Culver City, West Los Angeles, Westwood, Cheviot Hills, Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights, the Crenshaw District, Little Ethiopia and portions of Korea Town and South Los Angeles and the United State Congress representing Culver City, Hollywood, Ladera Heights, Silverlake, Los Feliz, Jefferson Park and Windsor Hills.

Karen Bass made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker, catapulting her to become the first African American woman in the country to serve in this powerful state legislative role.

While Speaker, Bass delivered change and results to her constituents in Los Angeles and the people of California by jumpstarting infrastructure projects to create new jobs in the state. Bass has also championed efforts to provide quality healthcare to Californians and expand opportunities for California’s youth.

Under Bass’ leadership the Assembly fast-tracked federal economic stimulus legislation that aided Californians who have been affected by the national economic crisis as well as jumpstarted billions of dollars of infrastructure projects.

Former Speaker Bass has proudly authored legislation that expands Healthy Families Insurance coverage to prevent children from going without health care. Bass’s legislation also included bills to reform schools and improve conditions and services for youth. Bass has successfully passed legislation that reduces dropouts by expanding multiple pathways in high school to prepare students for college, career and civic responsibility. Another piece of legislation Bass authored provided LA Unified School District with access to over $600 million in additional school funds.[9]

Parke Skelton support

According to Harold Meyerson of LA Weekly, it was "L.A.’s liberal operatives who helped put Villaraigosa over the top". Antonio Villaraigosa’s 2005 Mayoral victory is the crowning achievement in the career of Parke Skelton, possibly the most principled political consultant in the business, who has steered to elected office virtually every liberal pol in greater L.A. — among them, Hilda Solis, Eric Garcetti, Jackie Goldberg, Sheila Kuehl, Karen Bass and Martin Ludlow.[10]

Cuba 1989


On May 19, 1989 Karen Bass discussed her recent trip to Cuba on "Voices of the Left: A Socialist Perspective", a radio show on KPFK 90.7 FM. It was advertised in Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America's Los Angeles Left, May 1989, page 2.

Cecond trip?

At a Santa Monica town hall meeting, July 2014, Bass admitted she had traveled to Cuba, both before and since being in Congress, and was for “normalizing relations with Cuba”.[11]

West Coast Socialist Scholars Conference 1993

Dem. Left March/April 1993, page 13

The West Coast Socialist Scholars Conference 1993, "New Realities, New Identities ; Socialism and Empowerment" was held April 17, 1993 University of California, Los Angeles.[12]

Speakers included;

Co-sponsors were Socialist Community School - Democratic Socialists of America - Committees of Correspondence - Concerned Faculty (UCLA) - CrossRoads Magazine - International Socialist Organization - Socialist Organizing Network - Solidarity - Union for Radical Political Economics[13]

Socialists organize to "challenge for power" in Los Angeles

Trevor email 1 (3).jpg

On March 11, 1998, Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America leader Steve Tarzynski wrote an email to another Los Angeles DSA leader Harold Meyerson.

Tarzynski listed 25 people he thought should be on an "A-list" of "25 or so leaders/activists/intellectuals and/or "eminent persons" who would gather periodically to theorize/strategize about how to rebuild a progressive movement in our metropolitan area that could challenge for power."

Tarzynski listed himself, Harold Meyerson, Karen Bass, Sylvia Castillo, Gary Phillips, Joe Hicks, Richard Rothstein, Steve Cancian, Larry Frank, Torie Osborn, Rudy Acuna, Aris Anagnos, Abby Arnold, Carl Boggs, Blase Bonpane, Rick Brown, Stanley Sheinbaum, Alice Callahan, Jim Conn, Peter Dreier, Maria Elena Durazo, Miguel Contreras, Mike Davis, Bill Gallegos, Bob Gottlieb, Kent Wong, Russell Jacoby, Bong Hwan Kim, Paula Litt (and Barry Litt, with a question mark), Peter Olney, Derek Shearer, Clancy Sigal and Anthony Thigpenn.

Included in a suggested elected officials sub-group were Mark Ridley-Thomas, Gloria Romero, Jackie Goldberg, Gil Cedillo, Tom Hayden, Antonio Villaraigosa, Paul Rosenstein and Congressmen Xavier Becerra, Henry Waxman and Maxine Waters.

Tarzynski went on to write "I think we should limit the group to 25 max, otherwise group dynamics begins to break down....As i said, I would like this to take place in a nice place with good food and drink...it should properly be an all day event."

Progressive Los Angeles Network

Circa 2002 , Karen Bass , Community Coalition, served on the Advisory board of the Democratic Socialists of America dominated Progressive Los Angeles Network.[14]

Woolsey/Sheinbaum fund raiser

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, the first Member of Congress to call on the President to bring our troops home, was be in Los Angeles on Saturday February 4th 2006, for a 'very exciting but critical fundraiser against the most well-known, well-financed challenger she's ever faced". Woolsey was facing a primary challenge from a termed-out Assemblyman Joe Nation, a moderate Democrat who has been critical of her stand on the war and on bringing home our troops. He is raising money from people who have given money to Tom DeLay and Bush-Cheney and his legislative district covers 60+% of Congresswoman Woolsey's district. Congresswoman Woolsey is a "champion of equal rights, civil liberties, protecting the environment and fighting for single payer healthcare. Congresswoman Woolsey must be re-elected by the same victory margin she has had in the past to send a message to progressives everywhere that's it IS OK to be courageous, and to not back down on issues that matter."

The Host Committee for this fundraiser includes:

Ben Affleck; Ed Asner; Warren Beatty; Jodie Evans; James Cromwell; Matt Damon; Tom Hayden; Wendy Herzog; Mimi Kennedy; Norman Lear; Stephen Rohde; Susie Shannon; Stanley Sheinbaum & Betty Sheinbaum; Lorraine Sheinberg; Kathy Spillar; Gloria A. Totten; Peg Yorkin; Senator Barbara Boxer; Congressman Joe Baca; Congressman Xavier Becerra; Congresswoman Lois Capps; Congresswoman Jane Harman; Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald; Congresswoman Grace Napolitano; Congresswoman; Lucille Roybal-Allard; Congresswoman Linda Sanchez; Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez; Congressman Adam Schiff; Congresswoman Hilda Solis; Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Congresswoman Diane Watson; Senator Sheila Kuehl and Assemblywoman Karen Bass.

The fundraiser was at the Stanley & Betty Sheinbaum residence in Brentwood. Both Sheinbaums have been members of Democratic Socialists of America.[15]

Supporting Sandre Swanson

In 2006, Karen Bass, Majority Whip California State Assembly, was one of many prominent Northern California leftists to serve on State Assembly hopeful Sandre Swanson's Honorary Campaign Committee.[16]

Obama"truth squad"

Barack Obama’s campaign in California formed a “truth squad,” announced via conference call, in January 2008, to counter the attacks that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has leveled in recent weeks. On the call were squad members Bay Area Congressman George Miller, LA Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and LA County Labor Federation chief Maria Elena Durazo, now a national co-chair of the Obama campaign. Also on the squad are Silicon Valley Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, LA Congressman Adam Schiff, state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass, and, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Miller, one of the top congressional Democrats as head of the House Democratic Policy Committee and chairman of the Education & Labor Committee, noted that the truth squad was formed to deal with a threat that may or may not exist any longer. “We don’t know yet,” he said. “The Clinton campaign may have learned its lesson from South Carolina,” where voters mostly rejected the Clinton tactics, as exit polls make clear. Will former President Clinton, historically popular in California, be a problem for Obama in the nation’s largest primary? “I think there is a rethink underway about what he is doing.”[17]

46th Annual ACLU Garden Party

Karen Bass, Laura Chick

Sunday, September 20, 2009, at the home of Stanley Sheinbaum & Betty Sheinbaum Southern California ACLU held its 46th annual Garden Party.

Paying Tribute To These Champions of Civil Liberties:[18]

  • Stanley K. Sheinbaum Award - Ed Asner
  • Legislator of the Year Award - Karen Bass, Speaker of the California Assembly
  • Activist of the Year Award - Laura Chick, California Inspector General
  • Chapter Activist of the Year Award David V. DuFault, Desert Chapter
  • Chapter of the Year Award Pasadena-Foothill Chapter

Liberty Hill Foundation

As at 2009, Karen Bass, Speaker of the House, California State Assembly, was on the Board of Directors of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles based organization seeking to advance movements for social change through a combination of grants, leadership training and alliance-building.[19]

Congressional Progressive Caucus

In 2011 Karen Bass was a new member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[20]

Congressional Black Caucus

Karen Bass is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 113th Congress:[21]

Budget cuts protest

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among the scheduled speakers at a downtown rally march 23, 2011, to protest proposed federal budget cuts, which organizers claim would hurt the city and county governments and attempts by small businesses to avoid layoffs.

Reps. Maxine Waters, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Karen Bass, Laura Richardson and Judy Chu, Councilman Richard Alarcon, actors Tim Robbins and James Cromwell and actress Mimi Kennedy were among the other scheduled speakers for the rally at the Edward Roybal Federal Building, set to begin at 2:30 p.m.[22]

Arab American Institute

Arab American institute offers internships in Washington for Arab American college students and recent graduates interested in public affairs, advocacy and ethnic politics. The program is part of the Arab American Institute Foundation 's commitment to youth leadership, along with scholarships and awards for public and community service.

The Arab American Institute (AAI) was founded in 1985 to nurture and encourage the direct participation of Arab Americans in political and civic life in the United States. AAI provides training and resources for Arab American political effectiveness through participation in party politics, public boards and commissions, city councils and state legislatures, as well as congressional and presidential elections.

Internships during the spring, summer and fall semesters at AAI offer hands-on experience in the workings of a busy non-profit with programs that include research and information, event management, community outreach, and media relations, among others. Applications are reviewed by senior staff to determine departmental assignments based on each student's area of study, extracurricular activities, and interests.

2012 Interns were offered positions at the US Department of State, the office of Congresswoman Karen Bass, the Democratic National Committee, the Institute for Policy Studies, Churches for Middle East Peace, and others.[23]

IPS Africa event


In September 21 2012, Karen Bass and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, addressed the Africa Braintrust. Institute for Policy Studies' Director of Foreign Policy in Focus Emira Woods, featured on a panel about "Emerging Threats to Political Stability," in Africa. The day featured a distinguished keynote address, cultural performances, and other workshops with policymakers, academics, advocates and industry experts.

Other panelists included: Ambassador Johnnie Carson Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Amina Salum Ali Ambassador of African Union to the U.S. and the IPS's Dr. Clarence Lusane Professor, American University.[24]

Lifting travel ban on Cuba

A May 03, 2013 Press release from the radical controlled and Institute for Policy Studies affiliated Latin America Working Group's Cuba Team stated:

Due to your action/emails/phone calls we have 59 signatures from House representatives urging President Obama to support travel to Cuba by granting general licenses for ALL current categories of travel.
By eliminating the laborious license application process, especially for people-to-people groups, that is managed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the majority of the bureaucratic red tape that holds up licensable travel to Cuba would disappear and actually facilitate what the President wanted to see in 2011, liberalized travel regulations.

Signatories included Rep. Karen Bass.[25]

Introducing student bill

In 2013, "frustrated by the enormity of the debt problem", United States Student Association leaders took the matter into their own hands, helping to write the Student Loan Fairness Act. This bill tied student income with debt repayment and forgiveness after a decade of payment. A student who pays 10 percent of their income for 10 years toward their student debt would subsequently have their remaining debt forgiven.

Sophia Zaman, USSA vice-president, said, "We basically drafted the bill, and our strong ally, Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., introduced it."[26]


2008, Ms. Liliana Perez, Statewide Liaison to the LGBT Communities, Office of the Speaker of the CA Assembly Karen Bass (Los Angeles, CA).

Endorsing Torie Osborn

In 2012 Torie Osborn, was a candidate for California's new vacant 50th Assembly District.[27]


Fred Ross award campaign

In early 2013, mainly Democratic Socialists of America aligned activists, together with many elected officials across the United States came together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross, Sr.. The Saul Alinsky trained radical was the first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and DSAer Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Communist Party USA affiliate Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, "Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992".

Congressional endorsers of the proposal included Karen Bass.[29]

Congressional Letter for Neutrality, 2014 Salvadoran Elections

On Monday December 16, 2014 Reps. Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) sent a letter to Sec. of State John Kerry – signed by 51 Members of Congress – calling for a public statement of neutrality by the State Department before the first round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on February 2, 2014.

The letter, , highlighted several “important steps” that the current government has taken to “strengthen its democratic system and expand the right to vote to all citizens,” including those living outside of the country, who will be voting by absentee ballot for the first time in February. Since the election of Mauricio Funes, the first President from the Marxist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, the government has increased the number of polling places four-fold to increase accessibility, especially in rural areas.

“We’re glad to see so many Members of Congress expressing respect for the right of the Salvadoran people to determine their own future. That’s an attitude that’s sorely lacking in much of the US’ policy in Central America, especially with regard to economic policy,” said Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director for the pro-communist Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), in Washington, DC, which has observed every post-war election in El Salvador, starting in 1994.

Signatories included Rep. Bass .[30].


  1. Official bio, accessed April 15, 2011
  2. Official bio, accessed April 15, 2011
  3. CSU Dominguez Hills, Alumnus Karen Bass: Leading From the Hill January 4, 2013 By Amy Bentley-Smith]
  4. Atzlannnet Re: [Aztlannet_News Re: Who Killed Neto Falcon: Thu May 5, 2005 8:16 am]
  5. Official bio, accessed April 15, 2011
  6. Huffington Post, From Organizer To Elected Official, Peter Dreier, September 8, 2008
  7. Huffington Post, From Organizer To Elected Official, Peter Dreier, September 8, 2008
  8. Huffington Post, From Organizer To Elected Official, Peter Dreier, September 8, 2008
  9. Official bio, accessed April 15, 2011
  10. Weekly, New Mayor, New City, By Harold Meyerson Thursday, May 19 2005
  11. Madderthanhell's Blog, KAREN BASS, AT IT AGAIN Posted on July 6, 2014
  12. Dem. Left March/April 1993
  13. Dem. Left March/April 1993
  14. PLAN website, accessed October 2011
  15. http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=6486&pst=347342 LA Event Featuring Warren Beatty, Matt Daman for Lynn Woolsey 2/4/06 January 31, 2006 3:45 PM
  16. Sandre Swanson website, Endorsements, accessed July 28, 2011
  17. Bill Bradley's New West Notes, January 27th, 2008
  18. ACLU SC website, accessed Sept. 19, 2011
  19. Liberty Hill website: Advisory Board
  20. Congressional Progressive Caucus website, accessed April 2, 2011
  21. Congressional Black Caucus: Members (accessed on Feb. 24, 2011)
  22. Our Weekly, Rally set to protest federal budget cuts in Downtown L.A., Mar 23 2011
  23. http://www.aaiusa.org/page/s/2013-summer-internship-application, Arab American institute, 2013 Summer Internship Program]
  24. FPIF, Events, Africa Braintrust 2012
  25. Update on Cuba Travel: We Gathered 59 Signatures, The LAWG Cuba Team: Mavis, Emily and Karina on May 03, 2013
  26. PW, $1 trillion in debt, students lobby Congress for action, by: Lisa Bergmann April 11 2013
  27. TO for State Senate official page, accessed October 8, 2012
  28. TO for State Senate official page, accessed October 8, 2012
  29. Momentum Builds for Honoring Legendary Organizer Fred Ross, by Randy Shaw, 2013-03-05
  30. CISPES press release, Press Statement: 51 Members of Congress Call for US Neutrality in Salvadoran Elections December 16, 2013