CA17: Battling over 2005 vote, PAC support

Rep. Mike Honda and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley held a news conference Tuesday to give an update on their efforts to eliminate the backlog of rape kits locally and across the nation.

Honda-O'Malley news conference 8-12-2014 (photo by Josh Richman)It was one of about 20 events Honda, D-San Jose, is holding in his district or the Bay Area during this August recess. But Honda’s lack of any town-hall meetings with constituents during this recess, along with his vote against a somewhat-related bill nine years ago, gave Democratic challenger Ro Khanna fodder for a renewed attack.

And later Tuesday, Khanna’s campaign also took Honda to task over a fundraising email in which campaign manager Doug Greven noted the recent formation of a Super PAC to support Khanna – a plea Khanna’s camp says is the height of hypocrisy.

Shortly before Honda’s and O’Malley’s news conference, Khanna issued a news release noting Honda in 2005 was one of 23 Democrats to oppose HR 3132, the Children’s Safety Act, which would have created a national sex offender registry database. The bill passed the House 371-52, but it died in the Senate.

“Congressman Honda has made it clear that he will do anything to avoid a close examination of his record,” Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said in the release. “His August recess consists of closed door meetings and press conferences – there’s still no open events for the public to come and engage with their Congressman. Since his constituents don’t get a chance to ask him any questions, we hope Rep. Honda will finally be forced to answer today about why he opposed the Children’s Safety Act and if he thinks we should be taking convicted sex offenders off of the registry.”

Asked about the 2005 vote after Tuesday’s news conference, Honda replied he’d have to “look at it again, there must’ve been a reason; there might’ve been a ‘poison pill’ or something.” Honda spokesman Ken Scudder later Tuesday noted the 2005 bill contained a small section about rape-kit testing – three pages out of 128 – but “in many areas it would cause more harm than good.”

Scudder provided the statement that Honda issued in 2005 to explain his vote:

“Today the House debated and passed H.R. 3132, the Child Safety Act. I opposed this measure which sets new standards for state sex-offender registries and creates a National Sex Offender Registry. While I believe it is important to have a National Sex Offender Registry and I support increased funding for state registries, several provisions in this measure create more harm without truly addressing this serious issue.

“One provision I strongly oppose is the inclusion of juveniles in the definition of “sex offender” – a designation that would trigger lifetime registration. This nation has traditionally separated the handling of juvenile offenders from adult offenders in the legal system so that youth who break the law can have the chance to correct their behavior.

“As a society, we do not stigmatize individuals for life based on their childhood transgressions. Under this bill, however, a 12-year-old convicted as a delinquent for non-violent sexual contact with an 11-year-old playmate would face lifetime registration.

“This bill also includes unduly harsh mandatory minimum sentences, expands the death penalty and limits habeas corpus review in certain cases. Studies have shown that the use of mandatory minimums distort the sentencing process and promotes plea bargaining, thereby subverting the trial process. Regarding the death penalty, reports show this ultimate and irreversible punishment has been incorrectly applied in numerous cases; limiting habeas corpus review only makes a bad situation worse.

“As a former teacher and principal, I am deeply concerned for the well-being of our nation’s youth. We absolutely must address the problem of violence committed by sex offenders against our children. But rather than address the root causes that give rise to these abhorrent crimes, unfortunately, this bill simply uses the blunt and largely ineffective tools of mandatory minimums, death penalty and onerous registration requirements to give us the mistaken notion that we have made our children safer. Because of these misguided provisions, I opposed passage of H.R. 3132.”

Honda declined Tuesday to address his lack of town-hall meetings; his website, however, notes he’ll take part in a Facebook Q&A next Tuesday, Aug. 19 and a Crowdhall online event during the week of Aug. 25. Khanna is holding a Facebook Q&A at 8 p.m. tonight, and will hold a live town-hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 3200 Coronado Dr. in Santa Clara.

On the Super PAC matter, Khanna’s campaign cited an fundraising email Greven sent to Honda’s supporters Tuesday afternoon.

“We need to be ready to fight back once these outside groups start sending mail and going up on TV to attack Congressman Honda,” Greven wrote. “We don’t have a Super PAC – but we do have you, and thousands of grassroots supporters like you.”

But Honda already has received help from a Super PAC – the union-funded Working for Us PAC sent two mailers to district voters shortly before June’s primary election. One mailer praised GOP candidate Vanila Singh, in hope that giving her a boost among the district’s Republicans could cost Khanna votes. The other accused Khanna of “sending jobs overseas” and trying to “outsource our jobs.”

“The Honda campaign appears to be operating in an alternate reality where the truth doesn’t matter at all,” Law said Tuesday. “Ro repeatedly asked Congressman Honda to sign Elizabeth Warren’s ‘People’s Pledge’ to keep outside money out of this congressional race. Congressman Honda refused. Ro also asked Congressman Honda to denounce racially offensive mailers sent by his donor’s Super PAC on his behalf. Congressman Honda refused. For the Honda campaign to blatantly lie about having a Super PAC shows that they will literally say anything to win.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said the pot is calling the kettle black.

“The fact is, when Ro Khanna’s had three times the resources of our campaign, he said he was opposed to outside spending (but turned down our proposal to limit it),” Kembaiyan said. “Now that he has $200,000 in debt and is clearly not gaining traction, he has no problem with the fact that one of his biggest Wall Street donors has created a Super PAC solely to prop up his campaign. Ro can try to spin his blatant hypocrisy and desperation all he wants, but voters will see right through it.

“There’s a difference between a Super PAC whose sole reason for existence is to provide another avenue for Khanna investors to prop up his campaign, and an organization that has been around for 8 years, supporting multiple progressive candidates nation-wide,” Kembaiyan added.

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

    I support Ro Khanna, but I’m very disappointed that his campaign is making an issue of Congressman Honda’s brave vote against H.R. 3132
    I hope that it’s due to his campaign being doing incomplete research in their overeagerness to have something to hold over Honda. But that, in itself, is also condemnable. I hope Khanna’s campaign will acknowledged that they goofed on this one.

    I also think they’re making a huge mistake by not rejecting outright the Super PAC money. There is absolutely no valor in saying “I’ll do X, if you do it too”. If you are against super-PACs, you should be against them regardless of what your opponent does. Even if that means you lose.

    Khanna’s campaign is right, however, to point out at how Honda is avoiding any situation where he has to be in actual one-to-one contact with voters that may ask him questions. I think his answer to why he opposed that bill suggests why he’s avoiding questions.

  • Elwood

    Go, RObots! Go RObots!

    What y’all gonna do for a living after your boy becomes a flyspeck on a footnote to history in November?

    I’ve heard that several brothels are looking for piano players.

  • Guest

    Honda is the laziest, least productive member of the NorCal Democratic delegation, that’s well known. he’s fooling nobody. Honda’s sudden interest in staging community events – like the one described here- is all election year “showboating”, an effort to undercut criticism of his laziness. Honda is the NorCal Democratic delegations top junket taker. In addition to being lazy, Honda is not up on the issues at all – a local editorial board said as much. They said Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo – who represent districts next store to Honda – have incredible command of local issues, but Honda doesn’t. The editorial board said they always learn a lot from Eshoo and Lofgren, but learn” nothing” from Honda, who – apparently -doesn’t even bother to keep current on issues. This Ro Khanna knows the issues backwards and forwards, and he’s brimming with new ideas on how to implement the reform voters want. It’s no accident all five newspapers in the 17th district have endorsed Khanna , he’s the better candidate here, by a country mile.

  • Elwood

    You’re pathetic, Ro staffer. Obvious doesn’t begin to describe your pathetic campaign. Better have something lined up for after November.

    “next store to Honda”

    Illiterate much?

  • Guest

    Mike Honda is a joke and so is Elwood, but they both make me laugh on a daily basis so no complaints here!

  • Tom Pyke

    Marga, I don’t think the Khanna campaign is “accepting Super PAC money.” The PAC that Chopra created will fund things that support Ro, but will not donate directly to his campaign. That is Chopra’s right and beyond Khanna’s control. That said, I hope that Ro has enough cajones to disavow any Chopra PAC actions that are untruthful or inappropriate … unlike Honda, who took the Karl Rove route by accepting the benefit of his PAC buddies in May (funding mailers for Republican Vanila Singh, the “evil Indian job outsourcer” campaign, etc.) because it was politically expedient to do so.

  • Marga

    Tom, to clarify, I think that Khanna’s campaign should publicly ask the Chopra PAC to not spend any money on his behalf. If Super PACs are bad for democracy – and I believe they are – it’s bad to profit from them. Someone needs to set the example.

  • Tom Pyke

    Thanks Marga. I don’t agree with you that Khanna should proactively discourage supporters like that, but I definitely see your point. Thanks for always being thoughtful and civil on these posts.

  • Guest

    Of course you do not agree with what she says. Ro Khanna is failing, and hes the only way he will financially survive. It is hypocrisy. Don’t be an idiot. You know it is.

    Also, nothing that was sent out on behalf of supporting Honda’s candidacy mentioned “Indian outsourcer of jobs”. Its so sickening that when all else fails, through out the race card!

    The fact of the matter is that Ro is in the pockets of tech special interests, and tech companies have been shipping jobs overseas for years! GIVE ME A F’in BREAK! No one is that stupid.

  • Jordan

    Of course you do not agree with what she says. Ro Khanna is failing,
    and hes the only way he will financially survive. It is hypocrisy. Don’t
    be an idiot. You know it is.

    Also, nothing that was sent out on
    behalf of supporting Honda’s candidacy mentioned “Indian outsourcer of
    jobs”. Its so sickening that when all else fails, throw out the race

    The fact of the matter is that Ro is in the pockets of tech
    special interests, and tech companies have been shipping jobs overseas for years! GIVE ME A F’in BREAK! No one is that stupid.