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Neel Kashkari named CEO of Minneapolis Fed

Neel Kashkari, the Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, won’t be running for public office in California again any time soon – he’s trading the warm sun of Laguna Beach for the cold snows of Minneapolis to become president and CEO of that city’s Federal Reserve Bank, effective Jan. 1.

NEEL KASHKARIKashkari, 42, will replace Narayana Kocherlakota, who has served in the post since 2009 and announced last December that he wouldn’t seek reappointment at the end of his term, according to the Minneapolis Fed’s news release.

Kashkari will be part of the Federal Open Market Committee that helps formulate U.S. monetary policy, and will oversee 1,100 employees in Minneapolis and in Helena, Mont., who do economic research, supervise financial institutions and provide payments services to commercial banks and the U.S. government.

Kashkari said in the release that he’s “truly honored” to get the job. “I look forward to working with the Bank’s dedicated staff and continuing the Bank’s long-standing tradition of excellent service to the Ninth Federal Reserve District and to the nation. The Minneapolis Fed has built a strong reputation for economic research and thought leadership as well as excellence in Bank operations. I am delighted that I will be working with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis team to build on the Bank’s many achievements.”

Kashkari beat a more conservative Republican, then-Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, by about five percentage points to finish second behind Brown in June 2014’s top-two gubernatorial primary. He lost to Brown by 20 percentage points in November’s general election.

Before running against Brown, Kashkari had been a managing director and head of global equities at PIMCO from 2009 to 2013; before that, he served in the Treasury Department from 2006 to 2009, culminating with his oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out reeling Wall Street firms under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Mr. Kashkari is an influential leader whose combined experience in the public and private sectors makes him the ideal candidate to head the Minneapolis Fed,” said MayKao Hang, incoming chair of the Minneapolis Fed’s board of directors and co-chair of the search committee. “We were fortunate to have outstanding candidates during our national search. Mr. Kashkari stood out because of his inspiring leadership skills, solutions-oriented nature, collaborative style and deep commitment to public service,” she added.

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Ro Khanna has a new job & got engaged

Former congressional candidate Ro Khanna has a new job, and is engaged to be married.

Khanna, 38, has joined Smart Utility Systems – a company with offices in Irvine and in Noida, India – as vice president of strategic initiatives.

Ro Khanna“I am excited about opening Smart Utility’s Silicon Valley office, and working on increasing awareness for an energy-efficiency software that will save consumers money and reduce energy consumption at peak hours,” Khanna said Wednesday.

Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lives in Fremont, last year mounted an insurgent Democratic campaign against seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District. After a costly and hard-fought race, Honda prevailed by 3.6 percentage points.

Khanna also said his longtime girlfriend, Ritu Ahuja, is now his fiancée.

As reported here last week, Khanna has been spending some time recently helping organize opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill, at the end of Dixon Landing Road in Milpitas.

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Ro Khanna’s new project: Opposing landfill growth

Ro Khanna, the renegade Democrat who came within a few points of unseating Rep. Mike Honda last year, has found a new, local cause to champion: a fight against stinky garbage.

Ro KhannaThe former Obama administration official is helping to drum up opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill. Expanding the dump at the end of Dixon Landing Road by 15.1 million cubic yards, and delaying its estimated closure from 2025 to 2041, would create the Bay Area’s highest landfill. Residents of Milpitas and other nearby communities say the dump’s odors already are affecting their health and quality of life.

Khanna, 38, of Fremont, said Wednesday that Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves – who had endorsed Khanna in the 17th Congressional District showdown that Honda won by 3.6 percentage points – has appointed him “to be a liaison to community groups on this and to work with the city’s lawyers.

“I am involved in a public strategy to make sure Newby takes actions to mitigate the odors that are affecting residents in Milpitas, Fremont and even Santa Clara,” Khanna said. “Also I am opposed to the expansion permit.”

Khanna said he’s no longer of counsel to the Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm Wilson Sonsini, but he remains a visiting lecturer at Stanford’s Economics Department and may have an iron in the fire with a tech firm – stay tuned for that.

Khanna forwarded information about a demonstration the landfill’s opponents intend to stage at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside San Jose City Hall, before the city planning commission’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Activists say they’ve gathered 10,000 petition signatures opposing the expansion permit since November; they want the planning commission to deny the permit and order an odor-mitigation study.

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CA17: FEC reports reveal final spending frenzy

New Federal Election Commission reports shed new light on the frenzy of spending that occurred in the final weeks of the 17th Congressional District showdown between Rep. Mike Honda and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, which Khanna lost by 3.6 percentage points.

Perhaps most illuminating is the report filed by Californians for Innovation, a super PAC formed by Khanna backers to raise and spend money independently in support of his campaign.

Californians for Innovation reported raising $310,000 and spending $484,692 from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24, leaving $14,930 cash on hand and no debt at the end of that time. In all, the super PAC raised $790,000 and spent $805,070 this year to support Khanna.

Notable donations during the final weeks included another $100,000 from Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, bringing his and his wife’s total contributions to $350,000 – far and away the super PAC’s biggest benefactors.

The next-biggest contribution after mid-October was $70,000 from billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Portola Valley. Other notable contributions included $25,000 from Ashok Krishnamurthi, vice chairman and co-founder of San Jose’s Xsigo Systems; and $25,000 from Anil Godhwani, CEO and co-founder at Milpitas’ Habitera Inc. (bringing Godhwani’s total contributions to $45,000).

And another $15,000 came in from San Francisco-based OO Investment LLC, bringing that shadowy entity’s total ante to $40,000. Corporate records reveal nothing about OO Investment’s partners or activities, and the lawyer designated as its agent has not answered repeated queries.

The super PAC’s money paid for radio ads and mailers on Khanna’s behalf as his own campaign – once far more well-funded than Honda’s – ran dry in the contest’s final weeks.

Khanna’s campaign raised $172,368 and spent $314,598 from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24, leaving $5,134 cash on hand but $114,415 in debts at the end of that period. Over the entire course of the campaign, Khanna raised $4,597,033 and spent $4,460,621.

Honda’s campaign raised $317,663 and spent $710,226 from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24, leaving $27,732 cash on hand and no debt at the end of that period. Over the entire course of the campaign, Honda raised $3,244,647 and spent $3,202,356.

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Kashkari’s 20-point defeat margin is slipping away

Republican former gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari is holding onto his margin of defeat by his fingernails.

NEEL KASHKARIIf that doesn’t make sense, it’s because practically nobody ever expected Kashkari to beat Gov. Jerry Brown – but some political pundits had wondered whether he could even get within 20 percentage points of the popular Democratic incumbent.

The dynamic duo of Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts over at Calbuzz were keeping an eye on the 20-point margin, for example. And when I interviewed Jack Pitney – a former GOP operative who now teaches politics at Claremont McKenna College – in late October for my pre-post-mortem on Kashkari’s campaign, he had told me that given the lopsided race’s low expectations, “if he gets anywhere north of 40 percent, that’s a moral victory for him.”

Kashkari’s campaign on the day after the election proudly noted he was at 41.3 percent, meaning he had far outperformed the GOP’s voter registration (28.1 percent) and done better than 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman (40.9 percent).

But that failed to account for how pathetic it would be for a candidate to essentially get no votes beyond his own party, and for the fact that Whitman – who ran before the dawn of our top-two primary – faced Brown along with four other third-party candidates who together drew 5.3 percent of 2010’s vote. (Two were Libertarian and American Independent candidates, arguably to Whitman’s right, drawing 3.2 percent.)

Now that might be moot, because as the post-election canvass has proceeded, Kashkari’s share of the vote has dropped bit by bit.

As of Friday afternoon, he’s at 40.0 percent. And the Secretary of State’s office reports 30 of the state’s 58 counties – including San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma – are still processing vote-by-mail, provisional and other ballots during the 28-day post-election canvass period.

So much for moral victories.

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Field Poll memo: Why GOP wave missed California

California was an exception to the Republican wave that swept the nation in Nov. 4’s low-turnout midterm election in part because Californians are happier than the rest of the nation with how things are going, according to a new Field Poll memo.

Mark DiCamillo“At the time of this year’s election, the average of national polls showed that more voters disapproved than approved of the job President Obama was doing 53 percent to 42 percent,” wrote Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. “By contrast, in California more voters approved than disapproved of the job their chief executive Governor Jerry Brown was doing 58 percent to 36 percent. In addition, the direction of change in voter assessments was moving in the opposite directions, with Obama’s ratings trending downward, and Brown’s on the rise.”

Likewise, “for some time now many more Americans have felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track than have believed it was moving in the right direction,” DiCamillo wrote. “The average of the national polls at the time of the election showed that 66 percent of U.S. voters felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track, while just 28 percent felt it was moving in the right direction.”

But in California, the most recent Field Poll “showed slightly more voters here believing the state was heading in the right direction than seriously off on the wrong track, 43 percent to 41 percent, and that over time it was trending in the positive direction.”

Nationally, 81 percent disapprove of Congress’ job performance while just 13 percent approve. “In California, while voters have not been wild about the job performance of the state legislature – the most recent Field Poll shows 34 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving – views about its performance have been improving compared to prior years,” DiCamillo noted.

Exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research for NBC and CNN found that when voters nationwide were asked about the influence that President Obama had on their voting preferences in their local House races, more said theirs was a vote against President Obama (33 percent) than said it was a vote in support of him (19 percent), while the rest said he wasn’t a factor. But the reverse was true when California voters were asked the same question, with more saying their House vote was a vote in support of Obama than a vote against him, 28 percent to 22 percent.

And when asked to assess the nation’s health insurance reform law, slightly more voters nationwide (49 percent) felt the law went too far than said it was about right or didn’t go far enough (46 percent) – but here in California, the exit poll showed a 54 percent majority saying the law was about right or didn’t go far enough, while just 38 percent felt it went too far.

The exit polls also found Californians likelier than the nation as a whole to support the government’s response to the Ebola crisis and to support same-sex marriage.

Not only is California’s electorate less white than the rest of the nation’s, but while exit polls showed whites across the nation generally voted Republican in House races by a wide margin, California’s white voters split evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the contests for six partisan down-ballot statewide offices. Combined with wider margins for Democrats in the population-rich coastal counties than for Republicans in the sparser-populated inland counties, this was a recipe for a blue victory, DiCamillo wrote.