A California Democratic Convention Brought to You By ... Juul?

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A man exhales vapor from an e-cigarette.  (Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

A vaping company whose products could soon be banned in San Francisco featured prominently in last weekend's California Democratic Party State Convention in the city.

But not all party members welcomed the company.

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San Francisco-based e-cigarette maker Juul was one of a few controversial corporate sponsors of the convention, including ride-hailing company Uber and President Donald Trump's preferred television channel Fox.

During a general session on Sunday, California Democratic Party Region 6 Director Hene Kelly voiced concern for her party accepting money from companies like Uber and Juul. She represents districts in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

After Juul's logo popped up on a screen, Kelly passionately questioned her own colleagues: "What committee should I go to to ask this party not take any money from Juul, who preys on children?"

Acting party chair Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker responded from stage.

"Hene, can we put you on a subcommittee to replace that money that we're not going to take? So we'll have to raise a few hundred thousand dollars." The crowd's former cheering shifted to boos, as Gallardo-Rooker continued: "Come on, it takes a lot of money to run this party and make sure we win. So Hene Kelly, I would like to appoint you to the finance committee."

Kelly found her way back to the microphone and accepted Gallardo-Rooker's off-the-cuff proposal. "I accept a position on that committee. And if I have to bake 10,000 challahs and sell them on Friday evening, I sure as hell will," Kelly said to cheers.

In a phone interview Monday, Kelly said the challah comment hearkens back to her college days at the University of Chicago, where she baked and sold challahs to support her fellow students taking part in a 1962 sit-in against segregation, including her then-classmate Bernie Sanders.

While Kelly said she wanted to make people laugh with her comment on Sunday, she is very serious about the issue at hand.

"We really want that kind of money out of the Democratic Party," she said. "We really want everything we stand for to be ethical, to be for the people, not to hurt the people."

Kelly said she is writing a resolution stating that the California Democratic Party cannot take money from any companies that have practices that disagree with the party's platform. She said the resolution will go in front of the executive board, which will meet in August. She said she is confident it will pass.


According to their website, Juul's mission statement is to "Improve the lives of the world's one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes."

Regarding the convention debate, a Juul spokesperson shared the following statement: "At JUUL Labs our philosophy is to support people and organizations to improve the lives of the world's one billion smokers and to combat underage use so we keep Juul products out of the hands of young people."

But the company has been continually attacked for targeting young people.

San Francisco officials have also placed Juul Labs under scrutiny, and proposed legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city and prevent companies that make them from renting city-owned property.