A national, union-funded political action committee is paying for two mailers, one attacking Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna and the other supporting Republican Vanila Singh, both in order to help Rep. Mike Honda.
The Working for Us PAC certainly doesn’t want to see Singh win, but rather hopes that giving Singh a boost among the 17th Congressional District’s Republicans could cost Khanna votes. The goal is at least to give Honda a more comfortable victory margin in next week’s primary election, and at most to propel Singh past Khanna to give Honda an easier contest in November.
The PAC on Thursday filed an electronic notice with the Federal Election Commission announcing it was spending $45,113.69 on direct mail opposing Khanna and $21,425.75 on direct mail supporting Singh.
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Note the careful wording – “Vanila Singh: The Right Choice for Republicans.”
The Working for Us PAC has been funded in recent years by labor unions including the United Auto Workers; Service Employees International Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and United Food and Commercial Workers. The PAC’s president is veteran strategist Steve Rosenthal, the founder and former CEO of America Coming Together – a labor-funded, national voter mobilization group – and former political director of the AFL-CIO.
“Our primary goal here is to try to ensure the re-election of Mike Honda … who has fought every day of his career to improve the lives of working people,” Rosenthal said Thursday.
“We wanted to make sure Republicans know who the real Republican is,” he said of the pro-Singh mailer, claiming Singh’s and Khanna’s platforms aren’t so far apart.
In reality, this might be more of a headache for Honda than anyone else. Given last week’s poll numbers, it seems unlikely this mailer or anything else will get Singh into the top two – and if it doesn’t change the primary’s outcome, all it’s likely to do is provide Khanna a new talking point against Honda.
“Congressman Honda’s close supporters and Vanila Singh have formed an alliance,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said Thursday. “This is a desperate move by people who claim to be progressive champions, but spend money propping up a Republican candidate. This is the worst type of old style politics and Congressman Honda should immediately denounce his close supporters who are engaging in this behavior.”
PACs making independent expenditures like this are forbidden by law from coordinating with any candidate’s campaign.
“We had nothing to do with this independent expenditure and aren’t going to be distracted by what other campaigns or groups are doing,” Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Thursday. “Our campaign is focused on getting out the vote for Mike Honda on Tuesday and making sure that voters know about Mike’s record of delivering for the middle class families of Silicon Valley.”
But Singh campaign manager Matt Shupe said “if a PAC would like to tell Republican voters that Vanila Singh is the real Republican in the race, then we agree with that message and have been working for months by contacting tens of thousands of voters to inform them of the same thing.”
Khanna asked Honda in January to join him in signing a “People’s Pledge” to shun any independent expenditure committee or super PAC support in this race; Honda, who as an incumbent stood to lose more potential support by signing such a pledge, refused. The Working for Us PAC’s spending is the first independent expenditure in this race.
Joel VanLandingham, the other Republican in the race, called the PAC’s action “extremely disturbing.”
“The fact that they’re doing that with her (Singh) proves she’s an extremely soft target,” said VanLandingham, who has refused to accept contributions for his campaign. “This is the very, very reason I’ve been pushing the no-money campaign.”