I spent the balance of my op-ed alerting my fellow Californians to the weakness of the substantive case for secession. A post-exit California would not be a stable political entity, and the pro-secession campaign’s arguments don’t pass the laugh test.
Here, I want to observe that their effort doesn’t pass the smell test, either.
The San Jose Mercury News took note of this in a November 26, 2016 article that began:
After a Manhattan billionaire led a wave of working-class discontent to the White House, perhaps it’s fitting that the two men steering a left-leaning movement to get California out of Donald Trump’s America lack liberal bona fides. Louis Marinelli and Marcus Evans were both registered Republicans two years ago when they formed what is now known as Yes California, a homegrown separatist movement. At the time, the 30-year-old Marinelli, who grew up in upstate New York, had spent more years living in Russia than the Golden State.
And Evans, 39, briefly hosted conservative talk radio shows in his native Fresno. In an interview this past week, Evans wouldn’t say if he voted for Trump, but he insisted that he doesn’t fit the bill of a right-wing radio blowhard.
Is the separatist movement “home grown”? I am not so sure. On December 13, 2016, KQED’s The California Report delved deeper into those Marinelli ties to Russia:
On paper, the leader of the California secession movement lives in an apartment complex near San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood. But in reality, the Calexit campaign is being run by a 30-year-old who lives and works in a city on the edge of Siberia. Louis Marinelli heads the secessionist group Yes California. Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the organization has gone from an unknown fringe group to one discussed seriously in mainstream media.
What has not been discussed as prominently is Marinelli’s deep ties to Russia. A former right-wing activist from Buffalo, New York, Marinelli first moved to Russia almost a decade ago. He studied at St. Petersburg State University, the alma mater of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He returned to the United States to campaign against LGBTQ rights as part of the National Organization for Marriage. Marinelli then returned to Russia. He would marry a Russian citizen, and the couple moved to San Diego, where Marinelli launched a political career based on a platform of California secession.
“I immigrated to California, and I consider myself to be a Californian,” Marinelli says from his apartment in Yekaterinburg, a city of about 1.4 million just east of the Ural Mountains and about 1,000 miles from Moscow.
That brings us to Moscow itself.
On December 18, 2016, Russia Today, a media outlet controlled by the Kremlin, reported that “a campaign calling for the independence of California from the United States has opened an ‘embassy’ in Moscow. The movement, Yes California, is hoping for a ‘Calexit’ break from the US. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Louis Marinelli, leader of the movement, said the embassy will not deal with diplomatic issues, but will act as more of a cultural center that will educate Russians about California's history, boost trade ties and promote tourism.”