CA17: Examining a few Khanna & Honda donors

House candidates have until Jan. 31 to file their year-end campaign finance reports, and in the Bay Area, folks will be waiting with bated breath to see who has anted up for whom in the South Bay’s Democrat-on-Democrat battle for the 17th Congressional District.

So far, challenger Ro Khanna has enormously outraised incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. Khanna had a bit over $1.9 millon cash on hand with about $36,000 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30, while Honda had about $560,000 banked with $4,700 in outstanding debts.

And each side probably can find fault with some of the other side’s contributors.

Ro KhannaFor example, a few donors to Khanna’s campaign seem to be Republicans taking an “anybody-but-Honda” stance.

Marc Leder – the Florida hedge-fund executive who hosted the fundraiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” comment, and who gave Romney and affiliated groups more than half a million dollars – contributed $5,200 to Khanna’s campaign. Khanna isn’t the only Democrat to whom Leder has contributed – he has given to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Fla.,; and a few others – but his money skews heavily toward the GOP.

Khanna also received $2,500 from billionaire PayPal cofounder, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a libertarian-leaning GOP funder who has given $2.6 million to the Endorse Liberty PAC and $2 million to Club for Growth Action in recent years.

And Khanna received $5,100 from Bay Area venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, whose only other contribution in recent years was $5,000 to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Palihapitiya made waves during October’s government shutdown by saying “stasis in the government is actually good for all of us. It means they can neither do anything semi-useful nor anything really stupid.”

Such contributions seem an inevitable result of California’s top-two primary system, in which all candidates from all parties compete and the top two vote-getters advance to November regardless of party. The 17th District’s voters are 44.4 percent Democrats, 31.5 percent independents and 18.8 percent Republicans, giving GOP candidates precious little chance of advancing, so any challenger to Honda – among the House’s most liberal members – is likely to get support from a wider political spectrum.

honda.jpgOn the other hand, Khanna has stuck by his pledge not to take any money from political action committees, while Honda has accepted at least $165,335 from PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis. Labor has given Honda more PAC money than any other sector – $54,700 – but Democratic and social issue PACs, health sector PACs and communications/electronics sector PACs have anted up, too.

And Honda, unlike Khanna, accepts contributions from federally registered lobbyists. Among such contributions on Honda’s latest report: $500 from Micky Ibarra, whose firm’s clients have included various Latino organizations and the pharmaceutical industry’s trade group; $500 from Christopher Mitchell, a former Honda aide whose firm’s clients have included an electronics industry trade group and defense contractor General Dynamics; and $500 from Daron Watts, whose firm’s clients include several big pharmaceutical companies.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Holy crap, $500 each from three lobbyists!

    Honda is obviously corrupt!

  • RRSenileColumnist

    RoKha is starting to remind me of Steve Forbes, a smart, highly successful tycoon who no one takes very seriously when he seeks office

  • Pooja Patel

    This article points out a key difference between Ro and Honda: one is receiving bipartisan support and the other is funded by Washington special interests. In light of this being the least productive Congress OF ALL TIME…who would you rather have representing you?

  • Elwood

    Yo, Pooja!

    You funny!

  • JohnW

    “Who would you rather have representing you?”

    Hmmm! Does Eric Swalwell have a brother or sister in the district?