C-SPAN’s congressional feed can hardly be considered compelling, let alone must-see TV; but programming always seems to perk up when the House representative from California’s 45th district comes into view.
Katie Porter made waves for being the first Democrat to be elected to that position in her district. She is an adept consumer protection attorney who first made a name for herself as the protégée of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and then as the California watchdog against the state’s financial institutions, who was appointed by then California Attorney General, Kamala Harris (via KatiePorter.com). Before she was elected to the House of Representatives, Porter was a Professor of Law, specializing in consumer law at the University of California, Irvine.
But we’re not here to talk about Katie Porter the lawyer. This is about Katie Porter the congresswoman, who has become something of a folk hero who faces down the CEOs of major corporations. She is a tough, thorough interrogator that has made waves with the help of her trusty sidekick, which the internet has dubbed her “mighty whiteboard of truth.”
GOP members initially objected to Porter's whiteboard
The world first met Katie Porter in 2019, when Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan had been called to the stand, and the freshman representative was given five minutes to ask him why and how the bank had forclosed on customers, and the details behind why it had opened millions of fake accounts. Back then, it wasn’t a white board — it was a poster with “corporate puffery” in big, bold, letters and highlighted (via The Washington Post).
From there, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to the white board of truth — which she told The Los Angeles Times wasn’t always welcome at hearings. GOP members had objected to having it, but she says not having the white board made it easy for those on the stand to obfuscate, so it became a welcome addition for audiences who wanted the clarity that only Porter, the white board, and her magic marker could provide.
The white board is at Katie Porter's side through thick and thin
Since then, the white board has encountered (and shredded) drug company CEOs like Celgene’s Mark Alles, and most recently, AbbVie’s Richard A Gonzalez (via Rolling Stone). During the Trump administration, Porter and her whiteboard got CDC director Robert Redfield to promise free coronavirus testing to all Americans, and together they befuddled Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson who didn’t know what a REO (real estate e-organization) was (via The Washington Post). And when former GSA Administrator, Emily Murphy, ignored a summons to explain why she might have been holding up the Biden transition, Porter used the white board to announce to social media that Murphy was a no-show (via Facebook).
Social media has kept up with Katie Porter and her white board every step of the way. One social media user likens the white board to a “dragon glass and an Expelliarmus spell rolled into one.” A second social media warned: “You know you’re in trouble whenever the whiteboard makes an appearance. Love Katie.” And in a portent of things to come, a third user said: “Bring on the Jan 6th Commission starring Katie Porter and her White board!”
Katie Porter has a dozen white boards
Her white board isn’t always a call for truth — it’s also a call to action for Porter herself to stay organized. She uses her white board to manage her to-do list, and at the moment, she also uses it to remind her children of the code of conduct expected at dinnertime: “We sat down, and we had a family meeting, and we came up with these rules… so we have this [the white board] in our dining room…” (via The Los Angeles Times).
There can be no escaping Katie Porter’s white board because, by her own admission, she has about a dozen. “I started with one that was mounted in the hallway; it’s still there but now I have a whole bunch,” she tells The LA Times. Of these, she has a favourite — a smaller one with a blue frame, which she says she keeps tucked into her (very large?) handbag. The board, which she says is lighter than a legal pad, is for emergencies — like those times when she says people challenge her by quipping: “Too bad you don’t have your white board here.”
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