After weeks of meeting late nights, drafting talking points, and revisiting scripts to update the Gazan death toll, we were ready for our appointment with California’s 21st district representative, Jim Costa. Costa has spent his career preaching progressive rhetoric. He spoke out for the Armenians subject to ethnic cleansing and supported Ukraine against Russian attacks. Why wouldn’t Fresno’s representative, at the very least, hear out his constituents on the genocide in Gaza? Throughout the process of trying to meet with Rep. Costa, questions like the former compounded. Would Costa’s actions align with his words? Are politicians in the Democratic party as progressive as they boast? 

Many of us were strangers prior to witnessing a genocide in Gaza. Despite working day jobs and navigating personal struggles, we organized in the evenings. Fueled by the fact that every year the U.S. funnels 3.8 billion of our tax dollars into Israel’s illegal collective punishment of Gazan civilians, we chose to fulfill our civic duties and make our voices known. So, November 2023, our group of Central Valley residents convened over pizza and tea to discuss one, unified goal: a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. 

October 7th, 2023 sparked civilian uprisings all around the world. People mobilized globally from Dakar to Dublin to Fresno-all demanding that the Israeli entity stop killing Palestinians in Gaza. This demand is especially relevant in the Central Valley where Rep. Costa has been pushing to send more of our money to Israel in a recently passed aid package. Strangers, family, and friends in our town have been spreading awareness in a variety of ways, including fundraising for a billboard, hosting community events, raising the Palestinian flag, and protesting weekly on the corner of Blackstone and Nees. Among these efforts, many of us recognized our democratic duty to inform local representatives on their constituents’ concerns. We wanted to operate our democratic right to let Congressman Costa know that the people of Fresno do not want our tax dollars funding genocide. Until today, U.S. representative and self-proclaimed Democrat, Jim Costa, has canceled or postponed every opportunity to meet with us. He refused us that right.


Fresno County supporters of a ceasefire find out the doors are closed and locked for Congressman Jim Costa’s office, during advertised office hours.

Costa is among a number of Democrats who claim party values, but act out of self-interest. Depending on the issue and who is lobbying them, our progressive officials falsely claim they are acting out of bipartisan and humanitarian reasons. Apparently, self-interest is a bipartisan issue and greed transcends party lines. 

For California’s 21st District rep., the drive to disregard our group’s request to discuss Gaza wasn’t due to a scheduling conflict. Rather, Costa represents the flaws found in many U.S. lawmakers. He is driven by money. Jim Costa received $31,550 in funding from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), his top contributor for 2023-2024. Costa isn’t the only congressman whose stance on Gaza is more a reflection of the money he’s given, rather than of his values. In fact, a study by The Guardian showed a direct link between Pro-Israel PAC money and congress members-many of which are centrist Democrats-in support of Israel’s inhumane conduct against civilians. 

AIPAC bribery is just one example of Costa’s propensity to prioritize paychecks over people. Despite touting empty plans to address climate change, Costa has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from powerful PACs like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. These two corporations in particular have served as some of the largest threats to our environment. For years, they’ve been weaseling out of lawsuits, directly deceiving the public, and lobbying lawmakers like Costa to pass laws that will serve their interests. By taking money from Exxon and Chevron, Costa is not only compromising his party values, but any chance we have at battling global warming. 

In addition to taking oil money, a quick search will show he still accepts funds from other problematic corporations like Walmart and Boeing Inc. 

A demonstrator holds up a ceasefire signs in front of Congressman Jim Costa’s office building. 

Since 2004, Jim Costa has served as one of the few liberal policymakers in a largely conservative area. While that title may seem valuable to the growing left-leaning voter population in the Central Valley, it is ultimately just that: a title. In reality, Costa serves himself. 

Congressman Costa and his failure to represent his constituents is just one example of liberal politicians in the Central Valley disregarding their residents. Even Democrats elected to Fresno City Council have acted in ways that suggest their liberal rhetoric is ultimately a Trojan Horse for greedy pursuits. 

A 2023 investigation by Fresnoland reported that Fresno City Council’s budget committee has been hosting closed-room meetings for at least five years. As a result of the investigation, the ACLU is suing Fresno for keeping large portions of its budget secret to the public. A representative from the ACLU added that the council’s actions “are not how our democratic principles work.” The budget committee is led by three city councilmembers in the Democratic party: Tyler Maxwell, Mike Karbassi, and Annalisa Perea. 

Questionable use of Fresno’s money isn’t just a Democrat problem. Corruption has always been a bipartisan issue; it seeps through party lines. For example, Mayor Jerry Dyer, a Republican, was accused in 2022 of using the One Fresno Foundation to solicit funds from developers that exceed the maximum amount. 

Whether or not Dyer’s manipulation of One Fresno funds is a verifiable fact, it is clear that he is abusing the city’s money. Dyer has proposed an outstanding budget of 1.85 billion dollars for the 2024 fiscal year. He put forth this estimation knowing that Fresno is projected to be in an egregious deficit. Despite the need for “some cuts” to the budget, Dyer is proposing to expand the police budget by 25.5 million dollars. While some may argue Fresno’s mayor is fulfilling his elected duty to prevent crime in Fresno, it is understood that there is little to no correlation between police budget increases and public safety. One clear correlation to Dyer’s proposed increase, however, is that Mayor Jerry Dyer is the city’s former Police Chief. So, is Dyer risking the people’s money for the sake of safety? Or is he following in the steps of Costa and other self-interested politicians by prioritizing his own, personal stakes? 

Corruption knows no bounds, when it comes to Democrats or Republicans. However, it is important to recognize the hypocrisy of the Democrat Party. Their rhetoric boasts equality and representation, while resulting in the same harm any career politician might enact. 

People of the Central Valley have long been witness to corrupt politics. But now, we are tasked with seeing and testifying to the truth, when our elected officials fail to do so.

Fresno County residents from the Palestinian community hold a press conference with allies, calling on Congressman Jim Costa to meet with them and stand against the genocide.

Following another cancellation by Jim Costa, our group decided to move forward with a press conference on March 22nd, with or without the his participation. The death toll in Gaza had nearly doubled since the first time we asked to meet with the congressman. Again, we employed our democratic rights and raised our voices. Our press conference gained media attention and we  were picked up by multiple local news agencies. 

On that day, months into Israel’s genocide, Costa finally released a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire. 

Our group’s pressure combined with U.S. polling showing majority support for an immediate ceasefire may have played a role in Costa’s statement. Or, if we consider his history, Rep. Jim Costa did not speak on behalf of the American people and his constituents. He simply followed suit.

Demonstrator with sign calling for a ceasefire. 

Although Costa released a half-hearted ceasefire statement, he also just helped pass another $26 billion to fund weapons in Israel. He is still receiving AIPAC funding. We should be holding our politicians like Jim Costa and our Fresno City Council accountable. They represent us. 

Take action by staying informed, attending Fresno City Council meetings, contacting your representatives, demanding that Costa stop funding a genocide, involving yourself in community work, and speaking out. Your voice matters. Your voice represents your community and it transcends political self-interest.