The History of Ponzi Schemes Goes Deeper Than the Man Who Gave Them His Name

In the century since his arrest on Aug. 12, 1920, Charles Ponzi’s name has been linked to the scam that led to his eventual conviction and imprisonment. At its essence, a Ponzi scheme involves a phony investment in which early investors are paid with the investments of later investors making the enterprise appear legitimate. But Ponzi was neither the first nor the last, by far, to perpetrate this type of fraud.

Ponzi schemes often appear complicated on the surface and Charles Ponzi’s fraud was no different. Ponzi told investors that he was able to take advantage of fluctuating currency values to purchase international postal reply coupons. These were postage vouchers that senders of a letter from one country could include to facilitate a reply from a recipient in another country. Ponzi claimed he could purchase the coupons abroad at a discount and then sell them at face value in the United States at a tremendous profit. Ponzi, like later scammer Bernie Madoff, refused to provide details as to precisely how he operated his investment strategy, claiming he didn’t want to give that information to competitors.

Ponzi promised investors a 50% profit within 45 days and a 100% profit within 90 days—and from all appearances Ponzi was a man of his word, as early investors were rewarded handsomely. Due to what appeared to be his phenomenal success, he soon had investors clamoring for him to take their money. The math, however, just didn’t work. Behind the scenes, Ponzi was only able to pay his investors using money from new investors, not profits. Ponzi was brought down due to a series of investigative reports in the Boston Post newspaper, which ultimately led to a federal criminal investigation resulting in mail fraud charges.

Despite the notoriety of Charles Ponzi, the scheme that carries his name appears to have been first perpetrated by Sarah Howe in Boston in 1879, when she created the Ladies’ Deposit to help invest money for women. According to famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith, “the man who is admired for the ingenuity of his larceny is almost always rediscovering some earlier form of fraud.” As with Ponzi, Howe’s promises of profits were astounding, with promises that investors’ funds would be doubled in a mere nine months. Once again, it was journalists, this time reporters for the Boston Daily Advertiser, who investigated and discovered her scam. She was eventually charged and convicted of her crimes and served three years in prison. Upon being released, she managed to perpetrate an identical scam for two years before getting caught again.

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Ponzi schemes share some common characteristics. The high visibility and popularity of their apparently lucrative investments make them appear legitimate. Many Ponzi schemers also appear to be terribly selective in who is allowed to invest with them. This was certainly the case with Sarah Howe, Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. Investors begged these scam artists to take their money. These criminals exploited a rampant fear of missing out on a golden opportunity.

A common theme among Ponzi scheme victims is “irrational exuberance,” a term popularized by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan whereby people observe others making great profits from investments and determine that this means the investments are safe—even if there are no underlying reasons to support those conclusions. Irrational exuberance is nothing new and certainly was applicable as far back as during the tulipmania of the 1600s in the Netherlands, when speculation in investments in tulip bulbs led to a dramatic market crash in 1637.

Whatever their differences, the same mistake is made by victims of all Ponzi schemes: putting money in an investment that is not completely understood. In a prison interview, Madoff, who stole $50 billion from his victims, even had the chutzpah to blame his victims for their plight, indicating that if they had looked into his investment methodology, they would have seen that it was impossible to consistently earn the returns he claimed to deliver.

So what have we learned since Ponzi was arrested 100 years ago? Seemingly little. Last year U.S. law enforcement discovered 60 major Ponzi schemes, with victims investing $3.25 billion in these totally fraudulent scams. And it is highly likely that the true number of Ponzi scams still being perpetrated is far greater, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the Trump Administration being far less aggressive in its investigation and prosecution of white-collar crime in general and investment fraud in particular.

According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, “white-collar and corporate prosecutions are at their lowest point in modern U.S. history.” That figure doesn’t mean that white-collar crime isn’t happening. In fact, knowing that the history of Ponzi schemes runs much deeper than that name suggests, perhaps it’s unsurprising that a century hasn’t been long enough to put an end to the scams.

Historians’ perspectives on how the past informs the present

Steve Weisman is a Senior Lecturer in Law, Taxation and Financial Planning at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. He is also the author and creator of


Sumner Redstone, Mogul Who Aggressively Altered the Media Landscape, Dies at 97

Sumner Redstone, who built a media empire from his family’s drive-in movie chain, has died. He was 97.

Redstone built the company through aggressive acquisitions, but many headlines with his name focused on severed ties with wives, actors and executives. In multiple interviews, he said he’d never die.

His tight-fisted grip on the National Amusements theater chain, which controlled CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. through voting stock, was passed to his daughter Shari Redstone, who battled top executives to re-merge the two entities that split in 2006.


China to Bring Up Measures Against WeChat and TikTok in Upcoming U.S. Trade Talks

U.S. and Chinese negotiators are set to discuss implementation of the phase one trade deal in the coming days, with Beijing pushing for the recent measures targeting businesses including TikTok and WeChat to be on the agenda.

A virtual meeting will likely take place as soon as this week though a date hasn’t been finalized, according to people familiar with preparations for the talks who asked not to be named. Along with agricultural purchases and the dollar-yuan exchange rate, which are among topics to be discussed, Chinese officials intend to bring up President Donald Trump’s prospective bans on transactions with the two apps on national security grounds, the people said. They did not elaborate on what China hopes to achieve on these issues.

Seven months after the signing of the agreement which paused a tariff war that had roiled the global economy, the purchases of U.S. goods it entails are lagging far behind schedule. The coronavirus crisis and the concurrent deterioration in U.S.-China relations on everything from tech security to Hong Kong has meant the trade deal remains one of the few areas where Washington and Beijing are still cooperating.

The “one area we are engaging is trade,” Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said at a White House press conference Tuesday. “It’s fine right now.” China’s commerce ministry and foreign ministry did not immediately respond to faxes seeking comment.

China is seeking to defuse an unpredictable confrontation with the U.S. that’s seen several of its tech champions targeted, with the latest actions spurring a potential sale of the U.S. operations of ByteDance Ltd’s wildly popular short video app to Microsoft Corp. Trump is also banning U.S. transactions with Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat app, which has more than 1 billion users.

Trump’s executive orders, set to take effect in September, have potentially an even wider impact than the multi-pronged assault on telecommunications hardware provider Huawei Technologies Co., as they threaten to sever communication links among the people of the world’s biggest economies. The U.S. argues that Chinese apps which collect information on U.S. citizens pose a grave national security risk as the data is prone to being acquired by the Chinese government.

Meanwhile given the collapse in the global economy this year due to the pandemic, which Trump blames on China, Beijing was only a quarter of the way through its effort to buy more than $170 billion in U.S. goods this year by the end of June. On Tuesday Kudlow downplayed the shortfall, saying China had “substantially” increased purchases of U.S. goods.

China would need to buy about $130 billion in the second half of this year to comply with the original terms of the agreement signed in January, which laid out purchasing an additional $200 billion of U.S. goods and services over the 2017 level by the end of 2021.

–With assistance from James Mayger.


Outcry Grows as Somalia’s Parliament Considers Bill Allowing Child Marriage

(JOHANNESBURG) — An outcry is rising in Somalia as parliament considers a bill that would allow child marriage once a girl’s sexual organs mature and would allow forced marriage as long as the family gives their consent.

The bill is a dramatic reworking of years of efforts by civil society to bring forward a proposed law to give more protections to women in one of the world’s most conservative countries.

The new Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill “would represent a major setback in the fight against sexual violence in Somalia and across the globe” and should be withdrawn immediately, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, said in a statement Tuesday.

The bill also weakens protections for victims of sexual violence, she said.

Already more than 45% of young women in Somalia were married or “in union” before age 18, according to a United Nations analysis in 2014-15.

Somalia in 2013 agreed with the U.N. to improve its sexual violence laws, and after five years of work a sexual offenses bill was approved by the Council of Ministers and sent to parliament. But last year the speaker of the House of the People sent the bill back “in a process that may have deviated from established law” asking for “substantive amendments,” the U.N. special representative said.

The new bill “risks legitimizing child marriage, among other alarming practices, and must be prevented from passing into law,” U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said this week, warning that its passage would “send a worrying signal to other states in the region.”

Thousands of people in Somalia are circulating a petition against the bill, including Ilwad Elman with the Mogadishu-based Elman Peace organization.

As Somalia prepared to mark International Youth Day on Wednesday, Elman tweeted this week: “I don’t wanna see any Somali officials participating online to celebrate … when you’re trying to steal their childhood away from them RIGHT NOW with the intercourse bill legalizing child marriage.”

The U.N. mission to Somalia in a separate statement has called the new bill “deeply flawed” and urged parliament to re-introduce the original one. That original bill “will be vital in preventing and criminalizing all sexual offenses,” the Somalia representative for the U.N. Population Fund, Anders Thomsen, said.

“Big moment for MPs to decide Somalia’s future values,” the British ambassador to Somalia, Ben Fender, has tweeted.

The contentious new bill comes as women’s rights groups openly worry that the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions in Somalia have worsened violence against women and female genital mutilation. Nearly all Somali women and girls have been subjected to that practice.

Some 68% of more than 300 service providers across the country have reported an increase in gender-based violence, including rape, since the pandemic began, UNFPA said in a report last month.

Nearly a third of respondents, including more than 750 community members, said they believed child marriages had increased in part because of economic pressures and in part because schools have been disrupted.

And in some cases, health facilities have closed, limiting access to care.


Ilhan Omar Defeats Well-Funded Challenger in House Primary

(MINNEAPOLIS) — Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota survived a stiff Democratic primary challenge Tuesday from a well-funded opponent who tried to make an issue of her national celebrity, the latest in a string of victories by a new generation of emboldened progressive lawmakers.

Omar, seeking her second term in November, easily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney and mediator who raised millions in anti-Omar money.

Omar and her allies gained confidence in her reelection chances after primary victories last week by fellow “Squad” member Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and by Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist who ousted a longtime St. Louis-area congressman. They also claimed momentum from the renewed focus on racial and economic justice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

“Tonight, our movement didn’t just win,” Omar tweeted. “We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”

Melton-Meaux used the cash to paper the district and flood airwaves with his “Focused on the Fifth” message that portrayed Omar as out of touch with the heavily Democratic Minneapolis-area 5th District, which hasn’t elected a Republican to Congress since 1960. He conceded defeat and acknowledged that his efforts weren’t enough, while declining to speculate on why.

“I’m also incredibly proud of the work that we did, that garnered at least over 60,000 votes from the district, from people who resonated with our message of effective leadership grounded in the district, and bringing people together to get things done,” Melton-Meaux told The Associated Press.

Omar in 2018 became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, building on a national profile that started when the onetime refugee from Somalia was elected to the Minnesota Legislature just two years earlier. Her aggressive advocacy on liberal issues, and her eagerness to take on Donald Trump, made her even more prominent.

Omar rejected Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests who wanted to get her out of Congress because she’s effective. She also downplayed Melton-Meaux’s prodigious fundraising before the vote, saying, “Organized people will always beat organized money.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Republican challenger Jason Lewis easily won their primaries in the only statewide races on the ballot. Elsewhere, in western Minnesota’s conservative 7th District, former state Sen. Michelle Fischbach won a three-way Republican race for the right to challenge Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is one of the GOP’s top targets to flip a House seat in November.

After entering Congress with fanfare, Omar hurt herself early with comments about Israel and money that even some fellow Democrats called anti-Semitic, and found herself apologizing. She also came under scrutiny when her marriage fell apart and she married her political consultant months after denying they were having an affair.

Republicans also raised questions about continuing payments to her new husband’s firm, though experts said they aren’t necessarily improper.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, police reform also emerged as an issue. Omar supported a push by a majority of the Minneapolis City Council to replace the city’s police department with something new. Melton-Meaux did not support that but did support shifting some funding away from police to more social service-oriented programs. Both touched on the issue in personal ways, with Omar saying she wanted her son to grow up safely. Melton-Meaux, who is also Black, told a personal story of being detained while at the University of Virginia by police seeking an assault suspect reported to have run into his apartment building.

Wendy Helgeson, 57, a consultant, backed Omar two years ago, even installing a lawn sign in her yard, and said she was “awfully proud of her being the first Black Muslim woman that we elected.” But she said she was concerned about campaign payments to Omar’s husband’s firm as well as her national presence, and found it easy to vote for Melton-Meaux, whom she said has been her friend for 12 years.

“I admire her as a woman,” Helgeson said of Omar. “As a candidate, ehhh … I have some reservations.”

John Hildebrand, a 47-year-old teacher in Minneapolis who voted for Omar, said her national profile is an advantage.

“I think just her presence encourages other Muslims and Somalis to run for office and to seek to be represented,” he said. “I think she just engages people in the political system more and more.”

Blake Smith, 23, a parks worker who is Black and described himself as a leftist, also backed Omar. He’s concerned about climate change, Medicare for all and getting money out of politics, and he sees her as an ally.

“It’s more time for radical change than like small — I don’t think we have time for incremental change anymore,” Smith said.


What Kamala Harris Means For Joe Biden’s Campaign—and the Democratic Party’s Future

In selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did more than make history by putting the first Black woman and first Asian-American on a major national ticket. He all but anointed an heir, positioning Harris as the future standard bearer of a party in transition.

Biden announced the selection in a text message to supporters Tuesday afternoon. In a series of tweets, the former vice president called the California senator “a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants,” noting that she had served as a state attorney general alongside his late son Beau. In a fundraising email to supporters, he called her “smart, tough and ready to lead.” The two are scheduled to hold their first official event together on Wednesday in Wilmington, Del.

Harris, who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, had long been considered a front-runner for the vice-presidential pick, which was the subject of intense and unusually overt jockeying. Biden took the unprecedented step of pledging to select a woman, and many activists urged him to choose a Black woman, especially in the wake of this summer’s racial-justice protests. The only Black woman in the Senate, Harris, 55, brings both racial and generational diversity to the ticket. More than Biden himself, she reflects a Democratic Party that is increasingly young, diverse and cosmopolitan.

Harris, also on Twitter, said Biden “can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals.”


Biden’s pick took on outsize importance due to his age. At 77, he is the oldest major party nominee in American history, and has described himself as a transitional figure. More than most would-be presidents, Biden was choosing not just a governing partner, but the woman who would lead the Democratic Party into the future. In Harris, he saw someone who could accomplish three things at once: help him win the November election, help him govern through a national crisis, and help him pass the torch to a new and diverse generation of Democrats.

Analysts described Harris as a sort of Goldilocks choice: not too far left or too inexperienced, she would neither jeopardize a Democratic Senate seat nor give the GOP unnecessary ammunition. “She checks a lot of boxes,” says Democratic strategist David Axelrod, who advised then-Democratic nominee Barack Obama on his 2008 decision to put Biden on the ticket.

Her selection is a nod to the pivotal role that Black voters have played as the engine of Biden’s own campaign, which roared back into contention in the primary thanks to the overwhelming support of Black South Carolina voters. Black voters are seen as crucially important to defeating Trump in November. Black turnout dipped in 2016 when Democrats nominated an all-white ticket, which may have cost the party vital votes in battleground states. Black women in particular are increasingly acknowledged as the party’s most loyal voting bloc: 98% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, while roughly half of white women voted for Trump.

The selection comes at a precarious moment for the country. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic devastation have heightened the stakes of the race; if elected, Biden will assume office during a national crisis. Biden’s experience as a senator and two-term vice president gave him a keen appreciation of what the job entails, and a strong desire for a running mate he could work closely with in the White House. He and Obama didn’t know each other well when they ran against one another in 2008, and their relationship was rocky at points during the fall campaign. But they grew close, and Biden describes their partnership as a model of what he was searching for. As one former Obama administration official put it: “Biden has a template, and the template is Biden.”

Harris’s biography is full of firsts. Born in 1965 in Oakland, Calif., to a Jamaican father and a Tamil Indian mother, she grew up mostly in Berkeley, where she attended a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple. She went to Howard University, becoming a member of the legendary Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, followed by law school at the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. She worked her way up in local district attorneys’ offices before being elected San Francisco District Attorney in 2003. In 2010, she was elected California’s attorney general, becoming the first Black top prosecutor in the state’s history and the first woman to serve in that post. In 2016, she was elected the second Black woman and first Indian-American ever to serve in the U.S. Senate.

In California, Harris—who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two stepchildren—has long been considered talented but politically malleable. Well-connected and skilled at winning over wealthy donors, she was equally comfortable in San Francisco’s elite parlors and its low-income neighborhoods. She impressed audiences less with a clear ideology than with personal charisma and infectious optimism. As D.A., she angered the San Francisco police union by refusing to seek the death penalty for a young gang member who killed an officer. But she also angered criminal-justice reformers with aggressive tactics, such as threatening to prosecute parents whose kids were chronically absent from school.

As attorney general, she went after big banks and the pharmaceutical industry, for-profit colleges and oil companies. She refused to defend the voter-approved Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, paving the way for the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing it. But she also backed down from many fights, declining to endorse ballot initiatives that would have reformed the three-strikes law and ended the death penalty. She even appealed a federal court decision striking down the death penalty as unconstitutional, successfully reinstating a penalty she claimed to oppose.

In the Senate, Harris thrilled liberal audiences with her punishing interrogations of Trump Administration officials such as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But when she attempted to parlay that appeal into a 2020 presidential campaign, she struggled to articulate her driving values, instead speaking to vague themes of unity and “truth” that left audiences befuddled. She called for abolishing private health insurance in an early interview, then took it back and released a health-care plan that would allow both public and private health insurance.

Many liberals viewed Harris’s prosecutorial record as a strike against her, especially in the era of Black Lives Matter and amid heightened awareness of the criminal-justice system’s brutal disparities. She attempted to retroactively cast herself as a “progressive prosecutor” who was trying to reform a flawed system from within, a description that rang hollow to many who followed her rise. Prominent Black Lives Matter activists say her prosecutorial record is more complex than the caricature. “While there are some valid criticisms of her actions during her time as a prosecutor, I can also say pretty definitively that she was seen as an enemy of the police,” says Oakland-based Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, who saw Harris’s policies in California firsthand. “If you were to talk to the police unions at that time, you would have thought that Kamala Harris was Huey Newton, the way they talked about her.”

Harris also sought to convince voters that her experience uniquely qualified her to prosecute the case against Trump. “This guy has completely trampled on the rule of law, avoided consequence and accountability under law,” she told TIME in a September 2019 interview. “For all the sh-t people give me for being a prosecutor, listen. I believe there should be accountability and consequence.”

Harris and Biden have a history. They memorably clashed in their first debate in June 2019, when she attacked him in emotional terms for his opposition to federally mandated busing in the 1970s. “That little girl was me,” she said, leaving Biden struggling to articulate a response to an allegation he considered unfair. But Harris’s subsequent surge in the polls dissipated when she couldn’t answer follow-up questions about her own position on busing, or her plans to end the continuing segregation of America’s schools. By December, languishing in the single digits in polls and running out of campaign funds, Harris quit the race before any votes were cast.

Speaking to the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists last week, Biden said that he did not “hold grudges” against Harris for the exchange. “It was a debate, it’s as simple as that,” he said. But some in Biden’s inner circle took the attack as a sign of political ruthlessness and worried she would not be sufficiently loyal if selected. Former Senator Chris Dodd, Biden’s close friend and the head of his Vice Presidential search committee, reportedly complained to a donor that Harris “had no remorse” for the debate exchange. Some party operators who disliked Harris pushed instead for Representative Karen Bass, a well-liked Californian with good relationships in Congress who was perceived to be, as Dodd reportedly put it, a “loyal Number 2.”

The efforts to undermine Harris may have ultimately strengthened her bid. Feminist Democrats seized on Dodd’s comment, rallying to her defense and noting a male candidate never would have been slammed for being perceived as ambitious. “It’s undeniable how qualified she is, how symbolic she is, but also just how ready she is to assume this level of leadership,” says Democratic strategist Jess Morales Rocketto, who was pushing for Biden to choose former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “She’s aggressive in the best possible way. The leadership style she has is really fitting to this moment.”

Even though Harris’s presidential bid fizzled out, many Democrats saw it as proof that she had been tested by the rigors of a national campaign and would be unlikely to embarrass Biden with scandals or surprises. “You don’t want to throw people into the deep end of the pool,” says Axelrod, who said a similar calculation informed Biden’s selection. Harris also appears politically aligned with Biden: an Obama-style moderate Democrat who mostly refrained from embracing the progressive movement represented in the primaries by Senators. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

As he weighed his choices, Biden was faced with several competing political realities. On the one hand, the nationwide uprising to demand racial justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd increased the pressure on Biden to pick a Black woman. A running mate like Warren or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would have struck many activists as tone-deaf under the circumstances. And yet the spate of crises the nation faces would make it difficult for a talented but less experienced pol, like Representative Val Demings, a two-term member of Congress, or former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who has never held elected office, to learn on the job.

But Biden’s chief political priority in selecting Harris was the Hippocratic imperative to do no harm. On the eve of his nominating convention next week, the Democrat holds a steady lead over President Trump in national and swing-state polling; Republicans accuse Biden of avoiding the spotlight as he seeks to keep the electorate’s focus on the unpopular incumbent. That dynamic made it all the more important to avoid picking a running mate who could give Trump ammunition by creating embarrassing scandals or unwelcome political contrasts.

After Harris’s selection was announced on Tuesday, Trump’s campaign quickly published a video that accused “phony Kamala” of “rushing to the radical left.” But any attempt to paint her as a flip-flopper will have to compete with the President’s own record. When Harris was running for re-election as California A.G. in 2014, both Trump and his daughter Ivanka contributed to her campaign.


Joe Biden Taps California Sen. Kamala Harris as Vice Presidential Running Mate

(WILMINGTON, Del.) — Joe Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, making history by selecting the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket and acknowledging the vital role Black voters will play in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden tweeted. In a text message to supporters, Biden said, “Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington.

In choosing Harris, Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the unique rigor of a national campaign. Harris, a 55-year-old first-term senator, is also one of the party’s most prominent figures and quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.

Harris, who is also Indian American, joins Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the U.S., far more than the toll experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

Trump’s uneven handling of the crises has given Biden an opening, and he enters the fall campaign in strong position against the president. In adding Harris to the ticket, he can point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as health care and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and turned off some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of systemic racism in the legal system and police brutality. She tried to strike a balance on these issues, declaring herself a “progressive prosecutor” who backs law enforcement reforms.

Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House. He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would center on two white men in their 70s.

Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of Trump won plaudits, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city garnered national attention.

Rice congratulated Harris on her selection, calling her a “tenacious and trailblazing leader.” Rice said she would support Biden and Harris “with all my energy and commitment.”

Bass tweeted, “@KamalaHarris is a great choice for Vice President. Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now.”

A woman has never served as president or vice president in the United States. Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their party lost in the general election.

The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would be 78 when he’s inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency. He’s spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn’t fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024. If he declines to do so, his running mate would likely become a front-runner for the nomination that year.

Born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and Black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings. In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Harris launched her presidential campaign in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a reference to her courtroom work. She was one of the highest-profile contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted skepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters. Facing fundraising problems, Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden. During a debate, Harris said Biden made “very hurtful” comments about his past work with segregationist senators and slammed his opposition to busing as schools began to integrate in the 1970s.

“There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

Shaken by the attack, Biden called her comments “a mischaracterization of my position.”

The exchange resurfaced recently one of Biden’s closest friends and a co-chair of his vice presidential vetting committee, former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, still harbors concerns about the debate and that Harris hadn’t expressed regret. The comments attributed to Dodd and first reported by Politico drew condemnation, especially from influential Democratic women who said Harris was being held to a standard that wouldn’t apply to a man running for president.

Some Biden confidants said Harris’ campaign attack did irritate the former vice president, who had a friendly relationship with her. Harris was also close with Biden’s late son, Beau, who served as Delaware attorney general while she held the same post in California.

But Biden and Harris have since returned to a warm relationship.

“Joe has empathy, he has a proven track record of leadership and more than ever before we need a president of the United States who understands who the people are, sees them where they are, and has a genuine desire to help and knows how to fight to get us where we need to be,” Harris said at an event for Biden earlier this summer.

At the same event, she bluntly attacked Trump, labeling him a “drug pusher” for his promotion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, which has not been proved to be an effective treatment and may even be more harmful. After Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests about the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody, Harris said his remarks “yet again show what racism looks like.”

Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since Floyd’s killing. She co-sponsored legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from liability.

The list included practices Harris did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of Justice. Although she required DOJ officers to wear body cameras, she did not support legislation mandating it statewide. And while she now wants independent investigations of police shootings, she didn’t support a 2015 California bill that would have required her office to take on such cases.

“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. But the national focus on racial injustice now shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”


Ronayne reported from Sacramento, Calif. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe and Julie Pace contributed to this report from Washington.


‘Every Girl Has to Learn How to Code.’ Reshma Saujani Wants to Make Space for Young Women in Tech

As the coronavirus pandemic deepened and students across the U.S. were forced to learn from home without WiFi or reliable devices, Girls Who Code CEO Reshma Saujani saw an opportunity: to teach more girls how to code.

“More so than ever before, every girl has to learn how to code,” said Saujani during a Time100 Talks on Tuesday. Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that works to close the gender gap in technology, has helped more than 300,000 girls since 2012. “These are the jobs of the future and we have to make sure that no children are left behind.”

With the closure of so many college campuses and the expansion of remote learning, Saujani and her team maintained a summer virtual program where students in need received hotspots and devices to their home.

The program’s 5,000 students were encouraged to build a tool that would serve a problem they’re facing. Many students chose to create websites to elevate the latest efforts of the Black Lives Matter Movement — one group, for instance, created a site combatting racial micro-aggressions and another focused on celebrating Black girls’ natural hair.

On June 1st, Saujani released a statement recognizing the intersectionalities that women of color face in the tech space. She said issues of pay inequity, healthcare, voter suppression and police brutality are all interconnected.

There are plenty of qualified female candidates graduating with computer science degrees that are still not getting hired, Saujani said. She encourages other tech leaders to be critical of their onboarding processes because “diversity is key to innovation.” Saujani commits to having at least 50% of her Girls Who Code students be Black, Latinx or under the poverty line.

Saujani, who was the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress in 2010, suspects lawmakers on Capitol Hill aren’t doing enough to advocate for high-speed internet and tech literacy programming in every home because it’s not something they’re all familiar with. “We have a lot of people in Congress who aren’t comfortable with technology,” she said.

Although she calls on those in power to take action, Saujani is most inspired by the next generation of learners to make change. “You children are our leaders. So lead us, heal us, save us,” she said. “I have no doubt that they will.”