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.
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.”
Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign has sent out another mailing claiming Democratic challenger Ro Khanna “resigned from Commerce Department after missing performance marks,” but when pressed, acknowledges there was no relation between the two.
Khanna’s campaign also is reiterating that he left the Commerce Department with plaudits from his superiors, and Khanna is now airing a new online ad calling attention to Honda’s attacks.
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The Honda mailer says Khanna “worked as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, where his department failed to meet four out of six performance targets. He resigned after just two years to switch careers again.”
As I wrote a few weeks ago of a previous Honda mailer, this claim is based on a Government Accountability Office report from September 2011 which gauged the success of the department’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in supporting President Obama’s National Export Initiative, launched in 2010. “In fiscal year 2012, CS will implement revised performance measures that align more closely with the NEI,” a summary says. “Although CS did not meet four of its six performance targets in 2010, it achieved increases in most of its measures as it shifted to address NEI priorities.”
Khanna was a Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary from August 2009 to August 2011; his name does not appear anywhere in the 71-page GAO report. And Khanna’s campaign provided an August 2011 letter from Francisco Sanchez, then the Commerce Department’s Under Secretary for International Trade, commending Khanna for “leading an important agency during challenging economic times” and rendering valuable service to the nation.
Asked whether Honda is implying the GAO report led to Khanna’s departure from Commerce, spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said he stood by the quote he gave me last time. “We’re saying that Khanna has a record of trying to build his resume, rather than actual public service,” Kembaiyan had said. “This explains why he was so absent on the Parks & Rec commission, and why he left Commerce after just two years. He started raising money to run for Congress just one month after he left Commerce.”
In other words, whatever the mailer’s implication, they are NOT claiming Khanna left Commerce because of the GAO report.
Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Honda “is continuing to mischaracterize Ro’s record.”
“But the facts are clear: Ro oversaw 108 domestic offices and implemented the President’s National Export Initiative, fought for labor to have a seat at the table, led clean technology trade missions abroad, and delivered a critical manufacturing grant to Fremont, amongst many other accomplishments. Frankly, the Honda campaign’s attempt to rewrite the truth is bizarre,” Law said. “Ro has run a positive campaign focusing on growing the economy to create good paying jobs, ensuring people have the skills needed in the 21st century, leading by example on government reform, and championing an internet bill of rights. These are the issues that are relevant to improving the lives of people in the 17th district — not Ro’s college election nearly two decades ago.”
Khanna launched this online ad Wednesday that features this very Honda mailer:
In other 17th Congressional District news, California Attorney General Kamala Harris attended a fundraiser for Honda on Tuesday night at the San Francisco home of venture capitalist Andy Rappaport and his wife, Deborah. “He has been an effective champion in Congress on behalf of California’s justice system and has been there for its residents on a range of issues: from fighting to end domestic violence, improving public safety, ensuring civil rights of all people are protected and putting a stop to drug trafficking,” Harris said of Honda in a news release issued Wednesday morning. “Silicon Valley needs Congressman Honda’s effective leadership and it is my sincere hope we can continue to gain from it for years to come.”
Congressional candidate Vanila Singh will host a rally at her campaign’s headquarters in Milpitas this Saturday, May 31, with a slew of other Republicans including gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari.
“The Silicon Valley has never seen a Republican ‘Get-Out-The-Vote’ effort like this before,” Dr. Singh said in a statement issued Monday.
Also scheduled to attend are Ron Nehring, a former state GOP chairman who now is running for lieutenant governor; 10th State Senate District candidate Peter Kuo, 20th Assembly District candidate Jaime Patino; and 28th Assembly District candidate Chuck Page, as well as party leaders such as Alameda County Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Caro.
A new poll shows Rep. Mike Honda with a commanding lead over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna and two Republicans in the June 3 primary election.
Honda, D-San Jose, is at 40 percent, Khanna is at 21 percent, Vanila Singh is at 8 percent and Joel VanLandingham is at 6 percent with 24 percent still undecided, in the poll of 528 17th Congressional District voters who either already have cast vote-by-mail ballots or are likely to vote by or on June 3.
“This poll shows that voters overwhelmingly prefer Congressman Honda and want him to continue his record of delivering for the district,” Doug Greven, Honda’s campaign manager, said Friday. “Mike Honda has a strong 40 percent in a four-way primary race, while Ro Khanna has squandered what was once a $1.3 million advantage last year to barely get half the support that Congressman Honda has.”
But those now supporting Singh or VanLandingham might be more inclined to vote in November for Khanna than for Honda, who is one of the House’s most liberal members. And this poll already shows Khanna leading Honda among independents, who account for almost 32 percent of the district’s registered voters.
“We’re pulling close and have the momentum because Ro is laying out a concrete and positive vision for how to prepare people for the jobs of the 21st Century and how to reform the dysfunctional Congress that is standing in the way of that progress,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Friday. “People are tired of the status quo and are looking for fresh energy and a new direction. That’s what Ro’s offering and the voters are responding.”
Rep. Mike Honda’s re-election campaign now has a slight cash-on-hand edge over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna’s, pointing to a more level playing field this summer and fall should the two of them finish on top in the June 3 primary.
Also, Honda’s campaign has reported raising $36,100 in contributions of $1,000 or more each since May 14, and while Khanna’s has reported $16,000 in such contributions.
Khanna over the course of this election cycle has raised about $3.8 million and spent about $2.7 million, while Honda has raised about $2.1 million and spent about $1.2 million.
“The fact that Khanna’s campaign feels the need to spend $3 million just to make it into the general election means that Ro Khanna is still not getting any traction with voters, while he is quickly running out of resources,” said Doug Greven, Honda’s campaign manager. “Voters overwhelmingly prefer Congressman Honda and want him to continue his record of delivering for the district, and our campaign will continue to save our resources to communicate that message to voters in the general election.”
Honda’s campaign believes that his incumbency and name recognition will tilt things in his favor between the primary and general elections if he and Khanna have roughly the same money to spend on advertising; Honda also is counting on greater turnout in November to bring him more votes.
But Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said he’s sure “no one is surprised that we made smart investments with our resources ahead of the primary.”
“It’s what helped us reach out to over 240,000 voters, hold 173 meet-and-greets, and introduce Ro on both TV and mail,” Law said. “Ro has built an unparalleled grassroots organization, received every major newspaper endorsement, and stuck to talking about the issues that really matter. Frankly, the Honda campaign wouldn’t have avoided all debates and wouldn’t be paying to spread false attacks about Ro if they were confident in their standing with the voters.”
Republican Vanila Singh’s pre-primary report could not be found on the FEC’s website Thursday afternoon. Republican Joel VanLandingham has not raised any money for his campaign.
Swalwell over the course of this election cycle has raised about $1.5 million and spent about $830,000; Corbett has raised about $386,000 and spent about $270,000; and Bussell has rasied $4,300 and spent about $2,800.
The USA Freedom Act, HR 3361, was amended after it arrived on the House floor, and some former supporters believed it had been watered down too much; for example, a requirement for an independent public advocate on the secret intelligence court that oversees the NSA was dropped from the bill.
“Our government has a responsibility to protect people’s civil liberties and our national security, and this legislation does both. It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability of our intelligence community, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe.”
“Across the country, many people were surprised to learn that the privacy rights they believed were protected under the 4th Amendment did not apply to NSA surveillance of their communications.
“I originally cosponsored the USA FREEDOM Act when it was introduced last yearbecause it was a small step toward reform and transparency. Unfortunately the bill was changed in key ways after committee action and will no longer provide the protections I sought.
“I voted against it today because it falls short of the Fourth Amendment protections Americans deserve.
“There is strong bipartisan concern that this bill makes it legal for the NSA to continue mass surveillance of U.S. citizens. Many civil liberties groups and leading tech companies share these concerns and felt compelled to withdraw their support.
“Without much needed improvements to the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress risks a continuation of mass surveillance in this extension of the Patriot Act.”
Congressional candidate Ro Khanna has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics claiming Rep. Mike Honda improperly used taxpayer funds to mail out what essentially was campaign literature.
“With Congressman Honda’s massive amount of donations from PAC’s and lobbyists, it shouldn’t be necessary for hardworking families to foot the bill for such blatantly political mailers,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said Wednesday. “This misuse of taxpayer dollars to subsidize his campaign is an abuse of the public trust and he should reimburse the taxpayers immediately.”
Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that “all franked mail is approved by the bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, including this piece by the office of Congressman Honda.”
“This complaint by the Ro Khanna campaign about standard mailings is a desperate and unoriginal political ploy to distract from their inability to gain traction with voters two weeks before the primary, despite spending millions of dollars,” Kembaiyan said.
But Cowan countered that “the Honda campaign’s quick and defensive response causes more concern about the existence of coordination between his campaign and Congressional office, which would be illegal. We await a explanation from Congressman Honda’s official office because they should be the only one’s who know why the mailers were sent out in the first place.”
Ken Scudder, Honda’s official spokesman, replied that “responses to anything about the campaign have to come from our campaign folks.”
Khanna’s complaint cites three mail pieces – one from his campaign and two from his office, but all similar in content, Khanna claims. Here’s the campaign piece:
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Here’s one of the official mailings, sent out in March:
The third item at issue was an April 7 letter in which Honda wrote he’s “reaching out to you today about my work on behalf of our nation’s seniors. My support for critical programs like Medicare and Social Security has been unwavering and I have always taken the lead to protect, improve and expand our nation’s safety net.”
The letter goes on to talk about his efforts to increase current Social Security benefits, pass and enact the Affordable Care Act, improve Medicare Part D, and bring money to the district for projects that support seniors. “You can county on me to protect the interests of seniors in Washington,” the letter concludes. “As always, feel free to reach out to me on any issues that you care about, by signing up for my eNewsletter, through email, or social media.”
It’s not uncommon for challengers to claim that incumbents are abusing their official mail privileges for campaign purposes. State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, leveled such a claim earlier this month against Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, although didn’t file an official complaint as Khanna has against Honda.
And he says Honda, D-San Jose, should do the same.
“Being part of the district you represent is really important,” he said. “You’ve got to be part of something, you can’t just phone it in. He should do the same thing… he should be willing to be part of the community he represents.”
VanLandingham now lives off Alamden Road in San Jose, within Rep. Anna Eshoo’s 18th Congressional District. Asked where he and his family might move, he replied, “We haven’t looked at specific housing but we’ve looked at two areas: Cupertino or Fremont. We really like that Irvington district.”
The San Jose house in which Honda has lived in for four decades was in the district he represented until the boundaries were redrawn three years ago; it’s now within Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s 19th Congressional District. Honda won’t move, his campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said last month, but he “has deep roots in every part of the 17th District.”
The U.S. Constitution requires only that a member of Congress be a resident of the state he or she represents, not the specific district.
VanLandingham’s candidacy has been controversial as accusations arose that Democratic candidate Ro Khanna and/or his followers played a key role in getting him on the ballot at the last minute, in order to dilute a Republican voting bloc that otherwise would’ve gone all to candidate Vanila Singh and so endangered Khanna’s chances of finishing in the top two with Honda. VanLandingham and Khanna have denied any such collusion.
Honda has refused to attend any debates before next month’s primary; he, Khanna and VanLandingham have been together only once, for a League of Women Voters forum early this month in Fremont, which Singh refused to attend. VanLandingham said he’s still trying to convince Khanna and Singh to meet him for a debate, but so far has heard “nothing from either of them.”
Rep. Mike Honda has sent another mailer which in part attacks Democratic rival Ro Khanna’s record, while Khanna has begun airing a television commercial taking Honda to task for his negative tone and refusal to debate.
The new mailer from Honda, D-San Jose, is mostly about his own accomplishments and endorsements, but a sixth of it is given to describing “Ro Khanna: A History of Looking Out for Himself.”
“When Ro Khanna was on the San Mateo Parks and Recreation Commission, he had the worst attendance record of any commissioner – and eventually just quit,” the mailer claims. “Later, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, he failed to meet four of his six performance targets and resigned after just two years to switch careers again.”
Honda’s campaign provided an attendance tally Monday showing Khanna missed 10 of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s 23 meetings from February 2006 through March 2008. None of the other four commissioners had more than three absences during that time.
For the Commerce Department claim, Honda’s campaign cited a Government Accountability Office report from September 2011 which gauged the success of the department’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in supporting President Obama’s National Export Initiative, launched in 2010. “In fiscal year 2012, CS will implement revised performance measures that align more closely with the NEI,” a summary says. “Although CS did not meet four of its six performance targets in 2010, it achieved increases in most of its measures as it shifted to address NEI priorities.”
Khanna was a Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary from August 2009 to August 2011, responsible for overseeing Commerce’s 109 domestic offices and implementing the President’s National Export Initiative to double exports over five years. His name does not appear anywhere in the 71-page GAO report.
Asked whether Honda’s campaign was claiming the GAO report had anything to do with Khanna’s departure from the Commerce Department, spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied, “the GAO report deals with the department Khanna worked for.”
“We’re saying that Khanna has a record of trying to build his resume, rather than actual public service,” Kembaiyan said. “This explains why he was so absent on the Parks & Rec commission, and why he left Commerce after just two years. He started raising money to run for Congress just one month after he left Commerce.”
Khanna’s campaign provided an August 2011 letter from Francisco Sanchez, then the Commerce Department’s Under Secretary for International Trade, commending Khanna for “leading an important agency during challenging economic times” and rendering valuable service to the nation.
“I particularly appreciated your bottom up leadership style in boosting the morale of the Commercial Service,” Sanchez wrote. “I know trade specialists across the country looked forward to your visiting their offices and listening to their concerns. I heard time and again from our trade specialists about your strong ability to deliver a message and your genuine regard for their perspective and contributions.”
Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Monday that “frankly, it’s sad that after 14 years in Congress, Representative Honda feels compelled to continue launching false accusations even after he is called out in the press for his distortions.”
“This latest mailer is especially troubling as it targets President Obama’s Administration and misrepresents Ro’s successful record as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce – a position that he left with a strong letter of commendation and then went on to write a widely praised book about,” Law added. “It’s time for Congressman Honda to end his smear campaign and focus on the important challenges facing families in the 17th district.”
Meanwhile, Khanna’s new TV ad – his fourth so far – blasts Honda for negativism and refusing to attend any pre-primary debates, only one candidates’ forum which didn’t let the contenders go head-to-head.
“Ro has run a positive and issues-based campaign,” Law said in a statement issued early Monday morning. “The voters want a new kind of leader who will work to end the dysfunction in Congress, not refuse to debate and then attempt to distract the voters with old-style political attacks. Frankly, Congressman Honda’s negative tactics are a disappointing reflection on his campaign – and on the Washington status quo he so eagerly defends.”