CA17: A few Khanna contributors want refunds

Three contributors to South Bay congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign want their money back.

They gave to the Fremont Democrat during the final quarter of 2011, in which he shattered fundraising records with a $1.2 million haul. At the time, it was widely believed he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 15th Congressional District; instead, he later chose to run against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, this year in the 17th Congressional District. And these three contributors are Mike Honda fans.

After consulting with Honda’s campaign, they sent this e-mail to Khanna on Monday morning:

Dear Ro,

In 2011, you asked us to contribute to your campaign to be Pete Stark’s successor when he retired. You are an energetic, smart person who shared our values, so we gave you $6,000 to support this goal.

But you are not using our money the way you promised. Instead, you’re using it to run against Congressman Mike Honda, a man who has spent his life increasing opportunities for people to better themselves, including you. We cannot support you in this and we don’t want our money to play any part in it either.

We request a refund of the $6,000 we gave you under the false pretense that you would use it to run in an open seat, which you clearly are not doing now. We did not give you the money to replace Congressman Mike Honda — a well-respected, accomplished, former Japanese internment camp survivor, former science educator, Asian-American trailblazer and legislator.

Sophia Yen
Steve Silberstein
Ted Fang

“I want people to know who we are backing and who we feel should win,” Yen, 42, of Los Altos, said Monday afternoon. “I love Mike Honda and I think he’s well qualified and has done so much.”

A clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medical School and a physician at the Center for Adolescent Health in Mountain View, Yen gave Khanna’s campaign $1,000 on Nov. 30, 2011, and said Monday she hopes Khanna “will be honorable” and refund her contribution. She said she knows Khanna from having worked alongside him on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and for other causes: “I feel bad, but I’d feel worse if he were to take out Mike Honda.”

Fang, 50, of San Francisco – president and executive director of the AsianWeek Foundation and a former editor and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and AsianWeek – gave Khanna’s campaign $2,500 on Dec. 8, 2011. He declined comment further Monday, saying the email speaks for itself.

Silberstein, 70, of Belvedere, the retired co-founder of a company that makes software for libraries and a prolific philanthropist and Democratic donor, gave Khanna’s campaign $2,500 on Oct. 18, 2011. He couldn’t be reached for comment Monday and Tuesday.

They’re not getting their money back, Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said Tuesday.

“Ro has been running a positive campaign focused on his ideas and vision for the future of the Bay Area and our nation,” she said. “Since launching his campaign to represent California’s 17th district, Ro has received support from many people who contributed to Congressman Honda in the past. We’re not aware that any of them have requested to be reimbursed by the Honda campaign, nor would we expect the Honda campaign to honor such a request. Because this donation to Ro was made almost two years ago, it would be impractical to return at this point.”

Also Tuesday, Khanna’s campaign launched a “Truth Squad” – with its own Facebook and Twitter accounts – which it described as a group of volunteers in the district “committed to confronting distortions with facts.”

“Ro’s candidacy is about engaging a broad group of voters and allowing them to make an informed choice on the kind of representative they want in Washington. But Ro’s opponents aren’t confident they can win on the truth alone – and that’s why they have been making baseless attacks since we launched this campaign,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law wrote in an e-mail announcing the effort. “When you sign up for the Truth Squad, you’ll get updates and tip sheets so you can make sure your friends, neighbors, and family have the facts about this race. All information that you find on the site will be fully sourced so you can see where we got it.”

UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M.: It seems the “Truth Squad” needs a dose of its own medicine.

In a post that sought to shore up Khanna’s Democratic bona fides, the campaign listed a dozen “local Democratic officials” who support his candidacy. But three of those officials – Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Dave Smith and former Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal – actually are registered Republicans. And I’m hearing that a fourth – Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward – has either made a dual endorsement or no endorsement at all in this race. Click to enlarge:

Truth Squad screencap

Law said this was a minor, behind-the-scenes snafu in which a few local endorsers inadvertently were added to a list of Democratic supporters, and it will be changed immediately.

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.

  • Marga

    So Khanna promised them he’d be running for an open seat. Now, that promise obviously became an impossibility in March 2012, when Stark filed to run for re-election, and then most definitely in November 2012, when he lost re-election.

    Why wait a year to request a refund? Khanna announced he was running for Honda’s seat in early 2013, after all.

    Of course, ethically Khanna should refund the contributions. But I’m not sure if /legally/ he can do so, after such a long time. Can you find out, Josh?

  • Elwood

    The refusal by Ro to return the money is pathetic and says a great deal about him.

  • AmusedToDeath14

    What I find amusing about this whole thing is that these individuals consulted with Honda’s campaign before sending an email to Khanna. This clearly means Honda’s campaign orchestrated this whole thing. Why did Ms. Yen feel the need to alert the press by sending this email to Khanna and copying the media in the loop? She was obviously advised by Honda’s campaign to forward her email to the press as well. I think it reeks of desperation from Honda’s camp.

    Also, Khanna announced his candidacy and intentions to run against Honda almost a year ago. Why did Ms. Yen and these donors wait so long to request a refund when they could’ve requested their money back immediately? Sure, they can request a refund but something stinks here. Due to it being over 2 years since these donations were made, I actually agree with Khanna’s campaign’s decision not to refund the money. Yen and the other donors made a huge mistake in getting the media involved, otherwise refunding their money likely would’ve been a non-issue.

    Crazy!! I’ve been shocked at some of the dirty tactics Honda’s campaign has employed in recent weeks. I guess we are seeing his true colors now that he has a formidable challenger for the first time. Regardless, this is going to be a fun race to watch!

  • RRSenileColumnist

    I want my 10 bucks back! I didn’t give any dough to a quitter!

  • Elwood

    What would you say the odds are that all the pro Ro posts are made by a Ro staffer?

    They all sound exactly alike.

    Nice try. Fail!

  • AmusedToDeath14

    Nope, I’m not a staffer but I am supporting Khanna! I also live in the 17th district. I had refrained from posting comments for a long time until Honda’s campaign sent me an email last month tying Khanna to the tea party. Until then, I was still somewhat neutral. I know both candidates well as they have both been good Democrats over the years. However, after some of the sleazy tactics that Honda and his cronies like Howard Dean have employed, I’m going with the candidate who is running a clean and honest campaign. Say what you want about Khanna, but at least he isn’t making up a bunch of crap lies like Honda. That’s certainly how I see it anyway.

    Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions and you and RR have seemingly had a vendetta against Khanna for a long time. So be it, but I respectfully disagree with the both of you. Albeit, I do find some of your posts funny and even insightful at times.

    Have a nice day!

  • Ro Khanna could easily refund these contributors’ donations — 100-percent legal.

    Of course, these clearly well-moneyed donors also could just max-out with $5,200 each to Congressman Honda — that likely would blunt any benefit of their donations to Ro Khanna.

  • Marga

    What is interesting is that usually you attack an opponent when you are losing. Otherwise, your risk that negativity backfiring.

  • Marga

    Well, even if he can’t refund them – and my concern would be that there has been a transfer of moneys between accounts, so that it would no longer be making a “refund” to a contributor to this campaign -, he can always donate the money to a charity of the donors’ choosing. That would be the right, ethical, thing to do.

    $6K is a lot of $, but the damage of keeping the money is greater than $6K.

  • Marga

    BTW, Steven Tavares, why are you calling yourself DanvilleDemocrat?

  • Crazy_Like_A_Fox

    Yeah, I agree. I’m wondering if there is some new polling data out there by Honda’s campaign that the public doesn’t know about yet. I find it odd that an incumbent is attacking like this so early. He’s lost a few supporters because of it, including myself. I’m just tired of all the petty games which is why I’m all for new blood. And I actually think Khanna is a terrific candidate, especially in this district. People may disagree, but that’s how I feel.

  • Willis James

    I guess everyone should start demanding their money back from everyone who isn’t just right a year or two later.
    Change their views on abortion or health care, or climate change…
    “I want my money back”

    Mary Hayashi collected $750,000 for a Senate race prior to her conviction.
    Can everyone now demand their money back?
    If not, then I guess she is obligated to run.
    To not do so would be unethical.

    No, this whole thing is cooked up by Honda’s operatives.

    Honda should concentrate on issues that will win him votes.
    Like dropping about 30 pounds so he looks vital and active rather than sleepy and aging.
    I mean, if we’re talking real retail politics then deal with what sells, not some silly old contribution controversy.

  • Marga

    Attacking elders because they are old in a majority-Asian district may not be the best strategy.

  • Willis James

    “Attacking elders because they are old”.’

    Who in any of the campaigns is “attacking elders”.

    Do you think I am part of candidate X’s team?
    There are actually folks out here with a interest in politics without being on a side-A or side-B.
    You know, plain old interested citizens.

    I am making a marketing observation.
    Too often Honda appears tired and out of shape.
    Yes, with obviously excess pounds.

    Or don’t you think energy, health, fitness, and vitality are important attributes to the voters?
    You don’t think Pete Starks physical image cost him votes?

    I seriously doubt you’ll ever hear Khanna or Singh saying anything about Honda’s age but one would have to be naive to think it doesn’t play a role in politics.

  • Marga

    It doesn’t matter whether you officially are part of Khanna’s campaign or not. Attacks on Honda’s age don’t help Khanna, no matter where they come from.

    I think we all tend to believe that everyone shares our prejudices, but it’s not always the case. To you, Honda may appear tired and out of shape. To others, he may appear kind, wise and happy. Physical vitality is important to you, but not to everyone else. Stark didn’t lose because he looked old, he lost because he was re-districted into a district with a large proportion of conservative voters, because people disliked the fact that he didn’t live in the district, and because he didn’t seem to be fully “there”.

    Obviously you have an issue with weight, but being heavy has not hurt Assembly leader John Perez. It also didn’t hurt Abel Guillen in AD18. He lost, but by much, much, much less than anyone anticipated, after being overspent 4-to-1. And, in Fremont – which falls within CD17 – Bill Harrison was elected Mayor. Bill is not a small man.

    As for age, in AD16, Bill Quirk is in his 60’s but he defeated the young and beautiful Jennifer Ong. There are a bunch of older people who run for councils and school boards around who have also defeated younger, more svelte opponents.

    Remember, the median age of voters is around 50.

  • Willis James

    If Abel Guillen had been as fit and vital as Bonta, he would now be sitting in the Assembly.
    The election was that close.

    You ignore the fact that Speaker Perez was elected under the old system and once elected, there were never any competitive follow up elections.

    The only reason why Stark and now Honda are being faced with real challenges is because of the new top two system.

    A system that Honda opposed, just as he opposed a new fair redistricting system.

    NO, vitality is not everything, but it is a element.
    If Pete Stark had been as vital and energetic as he was 25 years ago, there is no way Swalwell would have prevailed.

    I never said fitness and vitality were the primary factors.
    You seem to have boosted my comment to that status.
    Rather what I said was that a foolish focus on returning the few thousand dollars in contributions was easily overshadowed by the perception that Honda has lost his vigor and visually looks flabby and slow…. reduced to a nice older man image.

    I repeat, he is flabby.
    My advice was to drop 30 pounds.
    We’re not supposed to discuss such superficial features but any political consultant will tell you that he’d rather have a fit and vital candidate.

    Compare Mike Honda, age 74, with Jerry Brown, age 74.
    There is no comparison.

    Go back and look at the film, The Candidate (with Robert Redford, 1972) Ask yourself who is Crocker Jarman in the 17th District?

    BTW, just as I was typing, Ro appeared on KGO, Ronn Owens show. I heard most of it.
    Laughably a caller brought up the issue of “returning the contributions”
    Seems to be one of the chief talking points for the Honda team.
    Clearly the caller was a organized Honda supporter.

    The hour long show ended with Ronn Owens offering to have both Honda and Ro appear for a hour long debate.

    What will Honda do?

    I don’t live in the district. I just want competitive elections after living through 40 years as a voter where I had only Stark, Dell

  • Marga

    You make assertions but you base them on nothing but your own prejudices. You might as well say “If Abel .Guillen had worn a blue suit he would have won”. OK, maybe you would have voted for him, but there is no reason to believe that you represent any voters other than yourself (assuming you are a voter).

    .And what makes you think that speaker Perez would not be elected under this system? Are you saying that it’s because Republicans, but not Democrats, judge their candidates in their personal appearance?

    In any case, think about how you react to Honda’s negative campaigning. That’s exactly how everyone else reacts to your personal attacks on Honda.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Fatness has been mentioned by many leftists when they disparage Gov Chris C. Now the same folks will call him a fat or bulky bully.

  • JohnW

    How about portly godfather of the port authority?

  • Willis James

    Marga your posts are becoming absurd on this issue.

    I make mention of Honda’s weight as a appearance/marketing issue and you call it a “personal attack”

    What, you don’t think political consultants and campaign managers discuss such issues?

    Sure, they won’t discuss it in the politically correct public discourse, but they talk about it all the time.

    In the Bonta / Guillen race, you don’t think personal appearance was a factor? That all those photos of Bonta, with wife and children were emphasized for a real effect. A well calculated reason.
    You aren’t so naive.

    The brochures played on all those elements. Appearance, vitality, ethnicity. Heck, 90% of the effectiveness of a mailer is ALL about that. About 10% is related to issues.

    But you would have such discussion here be forbidden or labeled as “personal attacks”…

    A sanitized version of real world political calculations.

    No one is attacking Honda when they say it wouldn’t hurt him to lose 30 pounds.
    If a bald candidate could grow hair, I’d advise that also.

    I save campaign brochures. I can assure you they don’t dwell on issues. No, they fill about 80% of the space with photos and family, a lots of well represented niche groups.

    Come late October, the average time a voter spends on the daily mailer is about 7.8 seconds.
    After all, you’ve got about 10 pieces to sort through. Often 2 to 3 from the same candidate.
    I’m sure I got multi-mailer days from both Bonta and Guillen.

  • Marga

    You criticize Honda for his personal appearance. I think that’s pretty much the definition of a “personal attack” 🙂

    .Do political consultants speak about these issues? Of course. But if they are smart, they don’t do so in public because it can backfire very, very quickly..
    Of course Rob Bonta’s mailers featured photos of him with his family. But you miss the point of those photos. It wasn’t about appearance, ethnicity or vitality – none of those things matter that much. The point was to ground him as a family man, with roots in the community and a vested interest on making California better for his children. That’s why every politician who has a family includes a picture of them – mattering little whether the politician is fat or thin, old or young.

    Again, if appearance mattered as much as you think, Guillen would have done much more poorly. .Bonta had everything going for him: he came out of the primaries with a much greater percentage of votes, had a sense of inevitability, the Democratic endorsement, endorsement by many labor unions (even the nurses split co-endorsed him), and four times more money than Guillen. He also had this beautiful family and was running as the less progressive of the two – which meant he got the non-.Democrat vote. And yet, he barely won. I supported .Guillen but felt Bonta would win by much, much more. If Guillen’s appearance mattered to more than a handful of voters, he should have.

  • Willis James

    “Of course Rob Bonta’s mailers featured photos of him with his family. But you miss the point of those photos. It wasn’t about appearance, ethnicity or vitality – none of those things matter that much. ”

    You live in a absolute dream world.

    “none of those things matter that much”

    LOL… “appearance”, “ETHNICITY”, “vitality”

    Oh sure, and Honda being Asian, and Ro being Indian will have nothing to do with the campaign or the voting patterns in Fremont, San Jose and the area.

    Lets review.
    I mention that Honda is looking a little less vital and that it wouldn’t help to drop “30 pounds” and you spend the next dozen posts suggesting I am “attacking” Honda and that people care nothing about ethnicity, appearance, or vitality as a marker for age.

    Yet you readily admit that political consultants regularly discuss such matters.
    So according to Marga, in this forum we should never discuss that which the political world regularly discusses almost every day.

    NO, you would have this Political Blotter be a sanitized version of the real world.

    Never mention gender, race, sexual preference, body shapes, and I the like.

    In other words, HERE, don’t discuss the 80% of the focus that political consultants spend their time on.

    Assume the electorate pays no attention to these issues.
    That selling a candidate has nothing to do with selling cars or beer. No Budweiser should only pay attention to ingredients and alcohol content during their Super Bowl commercials.

    Bonta’s looks had nothing to do with him winning by a narrow margin.
    That Honda wouldn’t benefit at all from dropping 30 pounds and looking a little more vital (less sleepy).

    But most importantly don’t ever discuss this stuff in public.
    Keep it all behind closed doors, away from the public, in those smoke filled rooms, where “the pros” can talk about it endlessly, while keeping the rest of us out of the loop.

    Josh should never write about it or allow it to be discussed.
    These forums should be edited to only include items deemed suitable.

    Again, ethnicity, appearance, gender, have nothing to do with politics.
    We only discuss issues in the East Bay.

  • Marga

    There are districts in which ethnicity may matter. CD18 is not one of them. Exactly why do you think that looking Asian gave Bonta an advantage? Not only are Asian voters a minority in CD18, but they have very, very low voting records.

    You can discuss anything you want in this forum. You can attack anyone you want. What I’m telling you is that if you support Khanna, attacking Honda will be counterproductive. You may not be part of his campaign, but nobody can know that for sure. Your comments show a degree of nastiness and prejudice that is likely to turn off many more people than it will attract. In particular, people from communities that actually respect their elders.

    But in any case, I don’t think there is any point on these discussions. You believe what you want to believe and no argument, fact, data point or anything will ever convince you otherwise. I get it.

  • Willis James

    Good God Marga, you really do read your own interpretation into everything… even when its not there in what is written.

    I never mentioned Bonta being Asian. I spoke about ethnicity being a element in any campaign plan.

    I don’t live in CD18. I don’t even live in a directly adjacent district.

    I have never met Honda or Khanna and I don’t imagine I will any time in 2014. I have not and will not be donating any funds to either of them.

    One of your best lines

    ” Your comments show a degree of nastiness and prejudice”

    I see and the nationwide discussion of Chris Christie’s weight is something NO ONE ever mentions as having a potential impact on his run for president.

    The talk of Pete Stark’s age was of no importance to that election.

    Sorry Marga but you are so far off base in your narrow allowance for what may and may not be discussed in public discourse.

    If discussing such is “nasty” and “prejudice” than you might as well condemn almost everyone involved in Bay Area politics.

    Please give us a list of which topics are acceptable.

    It wasn’t that long ago when you were complaining that the party insiders were unwilling to discuss certain topics.
    You would attend candidates forums or endorsement meetings and were disturbed because certain questions were forbidden.
    Those in the room were to act like the Emperor had beautiful clothes when actually the Emperor was a criminal…

    Enough of certain topics being off the table. Especially those topics that the insiders all discuss on their own, but the pubic isn’t suppose to mention.

    That is the kind of stuff that gave us the Nadia Lockyer mess.
    Insiders, controlling the agenda and what could and could not be discussed.

    To state it one more time.
    Suggesting that Mike Honda, losing 30 pounds, would approve his appearance and sense of vitality is politics 101.
    Only a ignorant political adviser wouldn’t deem that a reasonable part of a overall campaign.

    Amazing that you turn such a suggestion into “nastiness”, “prejudice” and “attacking elders”
    (I’m past 60 myself)

    Why not just shout “racism” in a crowded theater for equal effect.

    I don’t buy it and I’m sure most readers here don’t either.
    I resent your suggestion.

  • Marga

    Seriously, at 60 years of age you have not learned the difference between criticizing person based on their deeds and on their physical/personal characteristics? MLK said it long ago, before I was even born, “judge a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin”. For the latter, understand any physical or personal characteristic that while arouses the prejudices of some, does not objectively have any relevance to the job at hand. Things such as age, personal appearance of any kind, race, ethnicity, disability status, religion, socio-economic background, family background, etc. etc.

    So, I criticized the Democratic Party for not calling Mary into account for her *actions*: breaking the law, while a lawmaker, and not owning up to it.

    But I rebuked those who had criticized Mary for using her husband’s last night which gave people the impression that she was Japanese rather than Korean. That racist accusation is despicable.

    Again, I am not telling you what you can or cannot discuss. You can talk about anything you want. You can express all the prejudices in the world. And I am sure, some people will share some of your prejudices. What I am telling you is that it’s silly to assume those prejudices are widespread, without any data to prove so.

    Yes, some people are going around criticizing Christie for being too fat. And maybe it matters, and maybe it doesn’t. The problem with comments on internet posts is that those who comment are self-selected, and they tend to be the people with the strongest ideas, on both sides. They are not representative of the voting population as a whole, and much less of the population that votes for lower offices.

    If you want to get a better take on what voters are thinking, talk to people. Random people. I’ve found the best place to do it is while waiting on lines. Everyone is bored and talking makes the time goes faster. It’s amazing how much people will tell you if you just ask.

  • Willis James

    Here is what i really resent in your posts

    “You can express all the prejudices in the world. And I am sure, some people will share some of your prejudices.”

    In this Political Blotter where all things political are discussed.

    I bring up the very real issue that in marketing Mike Honda, that the issue of his age and vitality are important from a political reality.

    That losing 30 pounds would indeed be advantageous in overcoming of the perception that he is older and lacks vitality (read, New ideas, in a high tech district)

    Then you somehow over and over twist and contort that into me personally holding prejudices.

    “And I am sure, some people will share some of your prejudices.””

    I don’t think we need to go there. You seem fully intent on taking any discussion of such issues and turning anyone who may talk about such into “holding prejudices”.

    I guess in your circles, no one ever mentions the very realities that political consultants spend days pondering.

    Perhaps you can review the topics here on Political Blotter and tell everyone what may and may not be discussed without fear of being labeled “racist” or “prejudice” or “attacking the elderly” and on and on.

    I have lived in my multi-ethnic neighborhood for decades and seem to do just fine with all my neighbors of every imaginable background.
    I was at the March Fong victory celebration the night of the June primary in 1966 when she became the first female Asian ever elected to the state legislature.

    I don’t need you to tell me what is permissible subject matter that can be discussed here without fear of being labeled “prejudiced” or anti Asian or anti-elderly.

    You really have taken license to tell others what may or may not be discussed. That is the kind of censorship by suggestion that puts a blanket on honest discussion.
    The same discussion that you readily admit is discussed by any worthwhile political consultant who may be advising a candidate.

    So you would have us here just not mention anything political should it not meet your criteria.

    Please advise Josh to make out some formal guidelines so we can all stay within your acceptable list of topics and views.

  • Elwood

    Oh, good grief!

    Why don’t you two take it outside?

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Let’s sit you two down for a beer summit. U buy and I’ll be the moderator.

  • There’s been no transfer of money between accounts … smartly, Ro never designated which district he would vie for in his FEC filings until 2013. The money’s all in one place.

  • I’m not Steven Tavares.

  • Marga

    You just use Tavares’ photograph for fun? 😉

  • Something like that.

  • Elwood

    Who the hell is Steven Tavares?

  • Marga

    A political blogger who apparently hasn’t learn how to cover his tracks when he wants to comment anonymously 🙂