A political action committee that supports Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates announced that it is withdrawing its endorsement of Rep. Michelle Steel (R, CA-48) over rhetoric used during her campaign.
In a statement, the Asian Americans for Good Government PAC (AAGG-PAC) noted that its members expressed extreme concern regarding the “accusations, negative advertisement, and red baiting that are coming from the 45th congressional race.”
The group’s website notes that “Negative campaigning will result in withdrawal of AAGG-PAC endorsement and support.”
Steel, who is currently running in California’s 45th congressional district due to redistricting, has been focusing her campaign on attacking Democrat Jay Chen with accusations he is friendly to China and communism.
Steel’s camp has been portraying Chen as a Communist sympathizer that supports the controversial Confucius Institution, sending out fliers featuring an edited image of Chen holding a Communist Manifesto in a fake classroom adorned with portraits of communist leaders.
The allegations reportedly stem from Chen’s time on the school board of a San Gabriel Valley school district, which voted in 2010 to adopt a free Chinese language and culture class for one of its middle schools. The plan was eventually scrapped after local residents objected to the Confucius Institute’s programs due to its ties to the Chinese government.
For supporters, the China-backed programs promote Chinese language and cultural programs, while opponents allege they are fronts for espionage and other illegal activities.
The AAGG-PAC stated that “Promotion of these stereotypes and false accusations could lead to an increase in AAPI hate incidents and discrimination.”
In response, Steel’s campaign stated that it had never acquired any form of endorsement from the AAGG-PAC to begin with. Based on campaign finance data, it has not received any donations from the group.
So far, the PAC has only made a $3,000 contribution to Rep. Young Kim (R, CA-39) and $2,055 to Rep. Doris Matsui (D, CA-06) in the current campaign season.
California Reps. Mike Honda (D, CA-17), Ted Lieu (D, CA-33), Judy Chu (D, CA-27) and Anna Eshoo (D, CA-18), as well as 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, have received funds from AAGG-PAC in previous elections.
AAGG-PAC Executive Director Amy Fabi told the OC Register in an email that the committee currently doesn’t have any endorsements up for review, noting that Chen himself has not applied for an endorsement.