19

CA17: Union flips support from Honda to Khanna

A labor union that had endorsed Rep. Mike Honda in 2014 now has switched sides to endorse Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in this year’s 17th Congressional District rematch.

LiUNAThe Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), Pacific Southwest Region – a construction-workers union boasting 63,000 members in California and a few thousand more in Hawaii, New Mexico and Arizona – announced its endorsement of Khanna on Wednesday.

“We honor your commitment to fairness and truth as you seek to represent the interests of our communities, our Union, and all working men, women and families,” Rocco Davis, the union’s vice president and regional manager, wrote in a Dec. 18 letter to Khanna. “We take seriously your commitment to these issues that are critical to our union and our members and to this end we look forward to assisting your campaign and working with you in progressing our mutual goals in the future.”

Asked Wednesday whether Davis’ “fairness and truth” line refers to the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation of whether Honda’s office and campaign broke rules or laws by sharing resources, LiUNA international representative Izaak Velez replied, “That is not a swipe at Mike Honda in any way, shape or form.

“We fully respect Mike Honda’s service and appreciate everything he’s done,” Velez said. “We’re not here to badmouth the service Mike Honda has given.”

Ro KhannaKhanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont who now works for a company that makes water and electricity conservation software, issued a news release saying the Bay Area’s working men and women have forged the community’s and economy’s strength. “As we march into a new century we must find new, innovative ways to ensure we hold onto that strength by revitalizing our manufacturing base, expanding the middle class and strengthening educational opportunity.”

Santa Clara Vice Mayor Debi Davis and former two-term Milpitas Mayor Bob Livengood also have flipped from supporting Honda, D-San Jose, in 2014 to supporting Khanna now. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles – all of whom remained neutral in 2014 – have endorsed Khanna, too.

But overall, much of the Democratic establishment and most labor unions seem to be staying in Honda’s corner.

31

CA17: Khanna & Honda spar over Trump reference

The dark specter of Donald Trump has reared its ugly, inexplicably-coiffed head in the never-ending battle between Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and two-time Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, sent out a fundraising email Wednesday evening that name-checked the GOP presidential frontrunner.

Dear Friend,

I’ll cut to the chase:

honda.jpgMike Honda has spent his career fighting for justice and equality in Washington — and the Republicans can’t stand it. That’s why they’re aligning themselves, again, with our opponent, Ro Khanna, in attacking one of the nation’s leading progressive champions.

It’s shameful — and we can’t let Donald Trump’s Republican Party get away with [it].

Contribute $3 or more to our campaign before tomorrow’s deadline to help us fight back.

At a time when fear is rising again in American politics, we cannot afford to lose Mike Honda’s voice in Congress. Can you speak up today to support our campaign?

Khanna responded with an angry Facebook post:

Ro KhannaRep Mike Honda, is there no limit to what you will do to hold on to office? Everyone knows that I am a ‪#‎Democrat‬ inspired by my grandfather who spent years in jail under British colonialism, and have stood up against hate and racial profiling my whole life and in our community. Yet, today you sent out an email to raise money conveniently misrepresenting my party affiliation, and ignoring that I worked for President Barack Obama or that I have a record of standing up for civil rights and civil liberties. You imply that somehow I or my supporters would not stand up to hate and bigotry. That is a new low.

Once elected, I will work across the aisle to solve the issues that face our nation and be a strong voice for justice and human rights. What I will not do is engage in ad hominem, non-fact based attacks. I will not stoop to that level when dealing with either Democrats or Republicans or independents.

How about having 4-5 real debates Rep Honda instead of hiding behind your political consultants with cheap political attacks? Emails like the one below is exactly what’s wrong with politics. ‪#‎CA17‬

It’s true that some Republicans are supporting Khanna, even if only as an “anyone but Honda” vote, and that Khanna’s campaign calculus involves getting such votes – as any competent campaign would under our top-two primary system. And while plenty of Republicans are appalled by Trump’s rhetoric, there’s no denying that he has been the party’s frontrunner for all but three days since mid-July and currently is close to his all-time high, according to averages of national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics.

But it’s also hard to imagine any Trump supporter casting a ballot for Khanna – especially given that they could vote instead for conservative Republican Ron Cohen (in the primary, anyway). Beckendorf’s email never explicitly says Khanna is a Trumpist or a Republican, but rather implies that Trumpists or Republicans are using Khanna as a tool to unseat Honda – a sentiment that won’t sit well with the many Democrats who prefer Khanna.

“Neither the GOP nor Trump have ever, in any way whatsoever, shown any support of Khanna. Indeed, you have to embrace Trump’s method of politicking to even make such allegations,” wrote Margarita Lacabe, an Alameda County Democratic committeewoman from San Leandro who lives in a different House district but received Honda’s fundraising email.

“I know that like Pete Stark before him, Honda will not give up in his quest for re-election, but his staff should show respect for Honda’s past accomplishments by making sure he runs a dignified campaign,” wrote Lacabe, a longtime Khanna supporter.

0

Honda comms director Lauren Smith has died

Lauren Suzanne Smith, communications director to Rep. Mike Honda and a veteran of two other Northern California House offices, died Saturday, Dec. 26, in Washington, D.C. She was 37.

Lauren Smith“Lauren served on my staff with passion, dedication, talent and integrity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a statement issued Monday. “In addition to working in my office, Lauren was employed by many fine Democrats and institutions over the years, dedicating her communication talents to make the world a better place. She was a gracious person, loved by our team and will be deeply missed. May you rest in peace Lauren.”

Honda also penned an homage to Smith that was published Dec. 22 in The Hill, hinting at but not describing the dire nature of her illness.

“Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart,” Honda wrote in that piece.

“A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite ‘Honda Moment’ is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’” Honda added. “She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile. Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.”

Smith worked with the All America PAC in Indiana during the 2006 midterm elections and then worked her way up to serve as the Democratic National Committee’s Indiana communications director during the 2008 presidential election. She served stints as a press secretary for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And after serving as a communications consultant for John Walsh’s Montana Senate campaign, she was Sen. Walsh’s deputy communications director before going to work for Honda early this year.

“She brought a real spark to my office… She was always enthusiastic,” McNerney said Monday, praising her as a confident, quick study. “There was something about Lauren that made you accept her right away.”

I spoke often with Lauren during her time in McNerney’s office, from 2011 through 2013, and again this year in Honda’s office; she was never anything less than a consummate professional as well as a good and pleasant person – a rare combination. I’ll miss her very much.

According to the tribute page her family has created, Lauren’s wish was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

0

How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”

8

CA17: New pay-to-play claims against Honda

Rep. Mike Honda gave preferential treatment to campaign donors, according to a report published Wednesday by San Jose Inside.

honda.jpgThe alternate weekly says an anonymous source provided Honda’s “1,000 Cranes” database – a list of donors who’ve given at least $1,000 each, and the basis of accusations that Honda, D-San Jose, engaged in pay-to-play politics. The list’s existence was disclosed in an Office of Congressional Ethics report which became public in September.

The OCE report had revealed that the list, which Honda said was a personal effort he shared only with a campaign official, actually was discussed at an official staff retreat in 2012. Notes from that retreat obtained by investigators say “to work, it will require MH to use his personal touch … also will likely be transactional — i.e. help me with this visa for my grandma.”

Honda remains under investigation by the House Ethics Committee regarding whether interactions between his office and his campaign violated House rules or federal law, even as he tries to fend off a second electoral challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.

San Jose Inside’s report says Honda’s list actually consisted of contact information for 281 people and groups who’d supported his re-election bids in 2010 and 2012. Reporter Josh Koehn then listed several instances in which people on that list seemed to be cozy with Honda, ranging from the lawmaker wishing his biggest 2010 donor a happy birthday on the House floor, to an s unsuccessful Honda bill backed by two of the “cranes.” It also notes that the only bill introduced by Honda that’s been directly signed into law – to name a San Jose post office after Gordon Chan in 2009 – was followed by substantial donations by Chan’s widow in 2010 and 2012.

Most if not all members of Congress keep lists of big donors, and most if not all take money before or after saying or doing something complimentary or beneficial to the donor. It can be unsettling or unseemly, but it’s only illegal if there’s a direct, proven quid pro quo – hard evidence that the lawmaker demanded money in return for favors, or that a donor offered money for a specific official action and the lawmaker accepted. So far, there’s no such evidence for Honda.

“It seems to me there are some links missing in the chain,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University professor emeritus of political science who has followed the district closely. “I’m not so sure that this alone tells us anything terrible is amiss.”

“People contribute to people running for office – that’s as old as anything we know about politics – and people in positions of power introduce legislation or commendations for people who help them get elected,” he said. “But this doesn’t say a whole lot more than that. And how many times did Congressman Honda propose legislation or offer commendations for people who didn’t contribute $1,000 or more?”

Hari Sevugan, spokesman for Khanna’s campaign, said Wednesday that “the evidence of Mike Honda engaging in multiple pay-to-play relationships with his top donors is deeply disturbing and raises more questions than answers.”

“But what we know for sure are his priorities,” Sevugan continued. “We’ve now learned of five instances of Mike Honda doing special favors for his top contributors. All while he’s passed just one bill in his 15 years in Congress. To name a post office. After the family member of a contributor. That says it all.”

Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, said the list on which the San Jose Inside report was based is “nothing more than a list of donors that anyone could obtain from public record.”

“We can only wonder what nickname Ro Khanna gives his list of ultra conservative millionaire and billionaire backers,” Beckendorf added. “It’s no wonder Khanna opposes raising taxes on the richest two percent and puts corporations and the wealthy ahead of the middle class. Congressman Honda is the only candidate in this race who has a record of standing up for working class Americans and delivering for Silicon Valley.”

Meanwhile, the campaign grinds slowly onward.

Honda announced endorsements this week from Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, Newark Mayor Alan Nagy, Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Griffith, and Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, whose cities account for a majority of the 17th Congressional District’s registered voters.

In a news release, Harrison praised Honda’s support of the Warm Springs BART Station and advocacy in revitalizing Fremont’s high-tech manufacturing industry, while Nagy said Honda is dedicated to “expanding opportunities for people of all backgrounds.” Griffith said Honda has been “an active and visible leader in Sunnyvale” who understands the region and its residents, and Matthews said Honda has fought to fund crucial Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority projects as well as to prevent closure of the post office at Franklin Mall.

And Ron Cohen, a Fremont accountant and Republican candidate in this race, filed a complaint Sunday claiming that a mailer Honda sent at taxpayers’ expense as “franked mail” was actually a campaign communication.

“Rather than a specific discussion in his own words of this views and beliefs on legislative matters, the vast majority of the piece I received is a series of quotations of reports by news outlets and related pictures … which I would argue are campaign-like promotional statements,” Cohen wrote to the OCE.

2

Honda, Lee, Farr vote against Visa Waiver reform

The House voted 407-19 Tuesday to tighten the Visa Waiver Program that lets people from certain countries travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa – a reaction to fear of terrorism, particularly given the roles of French and Belgian nationals in last month’s Paris attacks.

But three Northern California members – Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel – were among the few who voted against HR 158.

The bill would require visas for anyone who’s been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years; exceptions are made for official government visits and military service. Countries in the visa waiver program would also be required to share counterterror information with the U.S. or face expulsion from the program. All travelers would be checked against Interpol databases, and visa waiver countries would be required to issue “e-passports” with biometric information.

Sam FarrFarr this evening said the bill “casts too wide a net to be effective. Throwing anyone who travels to Syria or Iraq into the same category as suspected terrorists won’t help us catch the bad guys but it will harm humanitarian efforts there. Investing in better human intel is how we will stop them, not by disrupting tourist travel to the United States.”

Honda went into more detail, noting that although he strongly supports the need for increased security in the Visa Waiver Program, he voted against this bill “because it unjustly targets individuals based on their nationality.”

He said the program, used by 20 million people per year from 38 countries, is far less secure than the two-year screening process to which refugees are subjected, and needs to be improved. He said he supports some parts of this bill, including requiring all travelers to be checked against INTERPOL databases, using fraud-resistant e-passports with biometric information to protect against false identities, and strengthening background check procedures and information-sharing.

honda.jpg“I cannot, however, vote for a bill that categorically bars access to the Visa Waiver Program for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Iran and people who have traveled in the last 5 years to Iraq and Syria, including humanitarian workers,” Honda said. “Under this bill, a French citizen of Syrian descent who has never been to Syria would still fall into this blanket category. Since the Visa Waiver Program functions on reciprocity, I am also concerned that this bill will trigger restrictions from other countries on travel for Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, and Iranian Americans.”

“I reject the stereotype that Arabs and Muslims are terrorists and I strongly oppose the targeting of people from these specific countries,” he continued. “I know what it is be singled out as a threat and potential enemy due to nationality, despite a lack of evidence and despite being an American citizen. We can and must protect Americans without compromising American values. It is time to refuse wartime hysteria and prejudice based on nationality, and instead show true political leadership.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Lee said she shares “the concerns of the ACLU, AILA, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and others that this bill would allow for the discrimination of individuals based on their nationality. We cannot let fear drive us to create bad policies. Congress can and should carefully examine the visa waiver program and I will work to support changes which do not open the door for blanket discrimination.”