CA17: Khanna tops Honda again in fundraising

Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna significantly outraised incumbent Rep. Mike Honda in 2015’s final quarter, and now has about three times as much money banked for their electoral rematch this year, according to initial reports from both campaigns.

Both Democrats want to represent the 17th Congressional District, which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley and is the first district outside Hawaii in which Asian-Americans make up a majority of voters. Khanna, a Fremont resident who served for two years in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department, lost 2014’s bruising, nationally watched election by 3.6 percentage points as Honda held on for an eighth term.

Ro KhannaKhanna’s campaign said Wednesday that he raised more than $500,000 and spent about $117,000 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, leaving him with more than $1.7 million cash on hand and about $52,800 in outstanding debt.

“I am proud to see support for our campaign to strengthen the middle class create this type of enthusiasm and energy,” Khanna said in a news release. “Because we refuse to take PAC and lobbyist money, we’re going to need our grassroots support to take on the special interests and bring change to Washington. As we grow our campaign in 2016, we will continue to fund a grassroots campaign that engages and empowers the people of the 17th District.”

Khanna spent big on television ads and campaign consultants in 2014’s primary, leaving his campaign almost broke in the final weeks before that November’s general election; a super PAC called Californians for Innovation independently spent about $776,000 on his behalf to help bear him over the finish line.

Honda’s campaign said Wednesday that he raised $290,250 and spent $276,137 – a much higher burn rate than Khanna’s – in 2015’s fourth quarter, leaving him with $571,266 cash on hand and $20,907 in outstanding debt.

honda.jpgThe congressman “has raised more money at this point in the campaign cycle than in 2014, and like last time, the campaign is on track to raise the resources necessary to win this race,” campaign manager Michael Beckendorf said. “Even without the luxury of conservative millionaires and billionaires bankrolling his campaign, Mike Honda will win this race because he is the only candidate who has a track record of reaching across the aisle to deliver for Silicon Valley while standing up for justice and equality.”

But it’s not just re-election for which Honda is raising money. His campaign in the first three quarters of last year paid out a total of about $109,000 to two Washington, D.C., law firms and a San Francisco crisis-communications shop to combat the ongoing ethics investigation of which he’s a target. The House Ethics Committee is still probing whether Honda’s office and campaign broke House rules or federal laws by sharing resources, and it’s not yet known how much he paid his lawyers and spokespeople in the year’s final quarter.

Neither candidate’s full report to the Federal Election Commission is available yet; the filing deadline is Jan. 31. Khanna outraised Honda in 2015’s third, second and first quarters, too.


Carly Fiorina to raise funds Dec. 14 in Palo Alto

A lawyer who helped then-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina beat back a lawsuit that aimed to prevent 2001’s HP-Compaq merger now is about to host a fundraiser for Fiorina’s presidential campaign.

Carly FiorinaBoris Feldman, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and his wife, Robin, will host a reception for Fiorina on Monday, Dec. 14 at their Palo Alto home. Tickets for the “New York Deli style luncheon” cost $500 per person – here’s hoping that pastrami is excellent – or $2,700 for a host-committee reception and photo opportunity with the candidate.

Fiorina will head to Las Vegas the next day, Dec. 15, for the next Republican presidential debate, hosted by CNN, Facebook and Salem Media; CNN personality Wolf Blitzer will be the moderator, joined by correspondent Dana Bash and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Fiorina, a former Los Altos Hills resident who proudly touts her time at HP’s helm despite experts’ questioning of her business record, last visited the Bay Area in early October, for a fundraising reception in Piedmont.

According to the 2008 edition of Northern California Super Lawyers, Feldman usually defends “companies and senior executives facing shareholder suits and SEC investigations involving alleged violations of securities laws.

Boris Feldman“One example is a court victory that prevented a shareholder and former director of Hewlett-Packard from stopping the company’s merger with Compaq Computer,” the publication reported. “At the trial, Feldman put then-HP CEO Carly Fiorina on the stand. By carefully preparing her, he made Fiorina a knowledgeable, persuasive witness. ‘Too often litigators allow [senior executive] clients to look stupid for tactical reasons,’ he says.”

Feldman told the New York Times in mid-September that Fiorina’s first foray onto the prime-time debate stage would be “a defining moment in Carly’s career.” Her poll numbers did improve sharply after that first show-down with frontrunner Donald Trump, but the surge didn’t last: After a brief stint in third place nationwide with 11.8 percent of the vote in late September, she’s now in sixth place with 3.7 percent, according to an average of recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. In Iowa, she’s ranked sixth at 3.7 percent as well; in New Hampshire – where she’d been ranked second for a while – she’s now tied for eighth, at 4.3 percent.

Before Fiorina gets here, Marco Rubio will step up to the Bay Area campaign ATM with a fundraiser next Monday, Dec. 7 in Mountain View (as previously reported here).


Mike Huckabee to raise funds in Bay Area

Hot on the heels of being dropped from prime time to undercard status in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debates in Milwaukee, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will be in the Bay Area on Wednesday to raise money for his apparently flagging campaign.

HuckabeeHuckabee will attend a reception Wednesday evening at the Los Altos Hills home of tech entrepreneur Joe Tan and his wife, Mary (insert manger joke here); tickets cost $500 per person, or $1,000 or $2,700 for a photo opportunity with Huckabee. Co-hosts include Christian grant-making charity founder and former tech executive Ken Eldred and his wife, Roberta, of Portola Valley; Cepheid cofounder Tom Gutshall and his wife, Kipp, of Los Altos Hills; venture capitalist Tim Eun and his wife, Amanda, of Los Altos; and several others.

Huckabee now polls at 2.4 percent – in ninth place among GOP candidates – according to an average of five recent national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, down from a high of 13.3 percent in early March. He has dipped below the 2.5 percent threshold that FOX Business Network and the Wall Street Journal set for participation in Tuesday’s prime-time debate; Huckabee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had been in the first three prime-debates, both didn’t make the cut this time.

As previously reported here, Christie will be in the Bay Area next Thursday, Nov. 19 for a fundraiser at the Atherton home of Hewlett Packard CEO and 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Christie now polls at 2.2 percent – in 10th place – according to Real Clear Politics, down from a high of 11.5 percent about a year ago.

Marco RubioA somewhat more successful Republican candidate is on the way too. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – already the beneficiary of Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s largesse – will return to the Bay Area for a fundraising reception on the evening of Monday, Dec. 7, at the Mozart Foundation Automobile Museum in Mountain View; tickets cost $1,000 per person, or $2,700 including a photo opportunity with the candidate. Rubio is now polling at 11.8 percent nationwide – in third place behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson – according to Real Clear Politics, down from a high of 14.3 percent in May.

The host committee for Rubio’s event includes former longtime tech executive Susan Atherton of San Francisco; angel investor Oren Dobronsky of Palo Alto; buyout firm CEO Saul Fox of Woodside; real estate developer John Mozart of Los Altos Hills; former Accenture general counsel Doug Scrivner and his wife, Mary, of Los Altos Hills; and more than 20 others. Mozart’s car private collection of automobiles including Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow, Packard, and Ferrari is not open to the public.


Meg Whitman to host Chris Christie fundraiser

Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman will host a fundraising reception for a Republican presidential candidate next month – but not for her HP predecessor and 2010 ticket-mate, Carly Fiorina.

Meg WhitmanWhitman and her husband, Griff Harsh, will host a $2,700-per-person fundraiser for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 19 at their Atherton home. Whitman signed on to Christie’s campaign in June as a national finance co-chair.

This event’s host committee includes real estate developer Steve Eggert and his wife, Pam, of Sacramento; businessman and Wall Street heir Nick Loeb of Florida; Bullpen Capital managing director Paul Martino of Mountain View; Palo Alto Networks chairman, president and CEO Mark McLaughlin and his wife, Karen, of Saratoga; real estate investor Carole McNeil of San Francisco; and GOP strategist Jeff Randle and his wife, Kellie, of Sacramento.

Christie currently is ranked ninth in the GOP field, with 2.4 percent support, according to an average of five recent national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. Fiorina is in sixth place, at 5.4 percent.

Whitman and Fiorina made their first runs for public office at the same time in 2010 – Whitman, who had been eBay’s CEO from 1998 to 2008, ran for governor of California while Fiorina, HP’s CEO from 1999 to CEO, challenged U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Both lost – Whitman by 13 percentage points, Fiorina by 10 – with Fiorina garnering more raw votes than Whitman.

Fiorina has raised $317,879 and Christie has raised $37,200 from the greater Bay Area this year, according to Federal Election Commission data crunched by the Center for Responsive Politics.


Hillary Clinton to raise funds Nov. 4 in Bay Area

Here she comes again: Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be raising funds in the Bay Area again in the first week of November, after doing so here in May, June, August, and September.

This time around, she’ll start Wednesday, Nov. 4 in Sacramento, with a $2,700-per-person luncheon hosted by Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 2010 to 2013. Kounalakis is a four-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention and the daughter of Angelo Tsakopoulos, a Sacramento developer, mega-donor to President Bill Clinton, and key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential bid in 2008.

Then the candidate is headed for Los Altos, where she’ll attend a “family celebration” hosted by Anne, Esther, Janet, and Susan Wojcicki; $1,000 buys admission for one adult and two children under 16, while $2,700 allows that plus a family photo with Clinton. (Apparently there were $500 tickets available too, but those have sold out.)

Anne Wojcicki is co-founder and CEO of the personal genomics company 23andMe, and the ex-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Susan Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube. Dr. Janet Wojcicki is a pediatric epidemiologist and assistant professor at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine. The three sisters’ mother, Esther Wojcicki, is a Palo Alto High School journalism and English teacher who is vice chair of the board of Creative Commons.

Clinton will finish that day down in Beverly Hills with a $2,700-per-person reception at the home of pop star Christina Aguilera and Matthew Rutler; Aguilera will perform. The next day – Thursday, Nov. 5 – she’ll attend a morning event in Los Angeles co-hosted by director Rob Reiner and his wife, Michele, and interior decorator Michael Smith.

UPDATE AT 8:54 AM MONDAY: Whoops, there’s one more Bay Area event. After looping down to Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, Clinton will come north again for a reception Thursday evening at Hall Wines in St. Helena; tickets cost $1,000, or $2,700 for a photo with the candidate.


Banding together to buy back Congress

The $3 million – and possibly more – that Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison has given to a super PAC backing Republican Marco Rubio’s presidential bid is a perfect example of why ordinary Americans need a way to balance out megadonors’ money, Rep. John Sarbanes said Friday.

John Sarbanes“It’s about who can get their phone calls answered, who can get the attention of candidates in the first place,” Sarbanes, D-Md., said during an interview in San Francisco. “Obviously the super PAC benefactors are in a position to do that with the presidential candidates.”

But now super PACs also are playing increasingly large roles in Senate and House races too, dragging America toward the day when every federal candidate will need to have “have a sugar daddy in the wings,” he said.

Unless regular voters band together to become sugar daddies themselves.

Sarbanes is the author of H.R. 20, the “Government By the People Act,” which would give every citizen taxpayer a $25 “My Voice Tax Credit” for House campaign contributions, and then augment those small contributions – and give candidates a bigger incentive to seek them – with a six-to-one match from a taxpayer-funded “Freedom From Influence Fund.” The bill also would let candidates to earn additional public matching funds within 60 days of the election so that citizen-funded candidates can combat Super PACs and outside groups.

“Even before Citizens United, we had a problem with direct campaign contributions to candidates having a lot of influence,” Sarbanes said, so pursuing a constitutional amendment to overturn that 2010 Supreme Court decision – a longshot at best – wouldn’t solve the problem. Instead, he said, it’s time to “build a different system that gives everyday people power.”

Some might complain that the answer to the corrosive influence of money in politics shouldn’t be putting more even money into politics. But Sarbanes said “the problem is not so much the amount of money – the problem is the source of the money,” coming from a tiny percentage of the mega-rich and amplifying only their interests.

Someone is going to own the levers of government – “either it’s going to be the big money crowd… or it’s going to be the public,” he said. “And if the public wants to own the government, there’s going to be a cost associated that, but it’s a pretty modest investment.”

This could help reverse the long downward trend in voter turnout, too, he said. “A lot of rational voters, either consciously or subconsciously, are saying to themselves, ‘Why bother voting if the guy I elect is going to work for someone else’” with deeper pockets, Sarbanes said. Fighting for access to the ballot box is important, but it’s useless if that ballot box is then hijacked on its way to Washington by moneyed special interests. “There’s a right to vote, and then there’s a right to have your vote mean something.”

Disclosure requirements, non-coordination rules and other campaign finance regulations “are about putting a referee on the field, to blow the whistle when someone is going out of bounds. It doesn’t solve the problems of most Americans still sitting up there in the bleachers,” he said. “The disaffected, disillusioned, frankly desperately cynical voters who’ve packed their things and fled the town square – this is a way to bring them back.”

Sarbanes’ bill has 155 co-sponsors, including the Bay Area’s entire House delegation but one Republican, Walter Jones, R-N.C. Sarbanes acknowledges he’s playing a long game and doesn’t expect the bill to pass any time soon, but he said he’s hitting themes that should appeal to voters across the political spectrum. After all, he said, voters on the far left and Tea Partiers alike talk about wanting to take their country back from the fat-cat special interests.

“I do see increasing use of the same lexicon, the same narrative I’m talking about here… and if they’re speaking this language, then we’re winning,” he said.