CA17: Khanna & Honda argue over campaign $$$

Rep. Mike Honda and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna got into another dustup over each other’s campaign contributions Wednesday, while a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows Republican challenger Vanila Singh gave her campaign a hefty loan.

PG&EKhanna says Honda, D-San Jose, should give back all the money he has ever received from PG&E’s political action committee because the energy utility now has been indicted on criminal charges related to 2010’s devastating gas explosion in San Bruno. But Honda’s campaign said Khanna should walk his talk by refunding money to contributors who say he pulled a bait-and-switch on them.

Honda raised $679,470.91 in the first quarter, and had $1,083,690.92 cash on hand and $22,472.21 in debts as of March 31. Khanna raised $464,220, and had $1,946,871.19 cash on hand and $93,613.53 in debts. As previously reported here, this is the first quarter in which Honda has outraised Khanna in this 17th Congressional District race.

Higher percentages of Khanna’s contributions came from California, and from Northern California in particular, than those of Honda’s, though that’s not surprising given Honda’s seven terms in Congress.

Singh raised $138,860 and loaned her campaign $74,000 in the first quarter, and as of March 31 had $300,422 cash on hand and $79,000 in debts including that loan. Among contributions she received was $2,000 each from the campaigns of Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and $1,000 from the campaign of Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. Sessions – former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee – co-hosted Singh’s meet-and-greet with Republican doctors at last month’s state GOP convention; Burgess and Harris are doctors.

Republican Joel Vanlandingham has said he doesn’t plan to accept contributions.

Khanna issued a news release Wednesday announcing he sent a letter to Honda that notes Honda has accepted $28,000 from the PG&E PAC during his 14 years in Congress, including $6,500 in the past two cycles since the San Bruno blast; the latest contribution was $1,000 on March 21.

“In light of last week’s federal criminal indictment, I am asking you to return the tens of thousands of dollars in PAC contributions you have received from PG&E,” Khanna wrote, also urging Honda to join him in demanding that PG&E reveal which people within the company were responsible for the actions and decisions leading to the crimes alleged in the indictment. “I believe such steps are necessary to demonstrate to your constituents that you put the rights and safety of California consumers ahead of corporate PAC contributions.”

PG&E regularly gives money to House members on both sides of the aisle. In fact, the only Bay Area member who seems not to have received a contribution from the company’s PAC in this cycle is Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, in whose district the San Bruno blast occurred and who has been hard on the company ever since.

“Congressman Honda has confidence in the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case against PG&E, and expects that justice will be served,” Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday. “If Ro Khanna wants to talk about refunds, he can start by explaining why he isn’t refunding the thousands in contributions being demanded by his own donors.”

Indeed, a few people who contributed to Khanna’s campaign in late 2011 – when everyone thought he would run to succeed then-Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District – asked for their money back this January, saying they don’t want it spent against Honda. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan on Jan. 14 said it would be “impractical” to return contributions made more than two years earlier. But that’s exactly what Khanna’s campaign had done just a day earlier, his FEC report shows: The campaign on Jan. 13 refunded $2,500 to Carl Page of Palo Alto, who had contributed that amount in November 2011.

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied, “None of Ro’s past or current contributors is under federal criminal indictment for putting the public safety at risk.”

Meanwhile, amid all the national buzz about Khanna’s well-funded Democratic insurgent campaign, the latest FEC report gives a clearer picture of how that big bankroll is being spent. Details, after the jump…

Khanna’s first-quarter report shows the single biggest block of money going to 270 Strategies, the campaign strategy firm headed by former Obama 2012 national field director Jeremy Bird – the firm was paid about $63,000 in the first quarter of this year, and is owed about $93,000 more.

AKPD Message and Media of Chicago – where Obama 2012 ad-buying chief Larry Grisolano is a partner – was paid $80,500 for advertising buys. Khanna rolled out his first television ad on March 25 and his second one this past Monday.

Open Society Media of Santa Clara got almost $16,000 for printing costs; AMS Communications of San Francisco got $9,850 for direct mail; and Facebook was paid about $6,600 for advertising.

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.

  • Willis James

    PG&E gives money to almost everyone.

    Regardless of their background.

    In November, they gave $4,100 to Mary Hayashi’s 2014 State Senate campaign fund, despite her running for office while still on 3 years probation.

    Heck, if Leland Yee wasn’t termed out, they’d be giving him $4,100

    They even gave money to the WRIGHT LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, TAXPAYERS FOR ROD
    $5,000 last July

    $2,500 Dec. 14th of 2013
    $5,000 in August 2013

    From our monthly bills to their bought and paid for legislators.

  • Elwood

    Ro’s campaign has gone from desperate to silly.

    I own PG&E stock. Does that make me culpable in their misdeeds?

  • Marga

    Perhaps we should make it a practice to not vote for anyone whom they give money to. I take it they gave money to Barbara Lee as well? She should return it.

  • Crazy_Like_A_Fox

    I do like that Khanna is being consistent with his pledge not to take PAC money. This is a bold request which probably won’t make him many friends in Washington, however I admire his tenacity and courage to stand up to the machine. Too bad there are not more candidates like that. Interesting to see how much PG&E has given other members of Congress over the years.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    A spokesman for Shrimp Boy, noted activist, says if RoKh has received any funds from Senator Yee, would he kindly return the cash as it is needed elsewhere.

  • Guest

    The critical factor in this race – from what I can see – is Mike Honda appears to have lost the support of the high tech community, high tech appears to be in open revolt regarding Honda’s leadership in the 17th district I myself think this is incredibly significant. You can surmise high tech leaders aren’t impressed with Honda’s leadership, and they believe Ro Khanna will do a better job.
    My own impression of Honda is he is bumbling back-bencher – who has – at the age of 72 – morphed into something of a fuddy-duddy. I’m just a blue collar worker myself but common sense tells you the Congressman from the Silicon Valley ought to be powerhouse in DC – you have all this capital in the valley, you should have a House member that get’s stuff done – a powerhouse, like George Miller, a couple of districts over. Amazingly – I’m finding out – Honda doesn’t even live in the 17th district, nor does he have district offices in the district. Why should the 17th district – which has all these incredibly talented people working in it – have a non-resident like Honda – a back bencher mind you, representing it? It makes no sense. When you think things through you can see why the high tech leadership is in open revolt like they are. This Ro Khanna fellow, with his impressive back round in high tech, his back round as an economist, and his back round on trade issues looks like a far better fit for this district. And Khanna is a young guy – just 37 – got lot’s of energy, he’s brimming with new ideas. I think you’ll see an upset here, Mike Honda is going to walk-the-plank.

  • Elwood

    Oh, please!

    The efforts of Ro’s staff are obvious and pathetic.

    You need better writers.