The Obama campaign veterans now consulting with Democratic House candidate Ro Khanna have created a stir by charging young campaign newbies $5,000 each for a chance to learn at their knee and then get a five-week, unpaid campaign job somewhere, Buzzfeed reports.
Run by (Jeremy) Bird and (Mitch) Stewart’s consulting company, 270 Strategies, the new program’s emphasis on placing paying customers in essentially volunteer roles on Democratic campaigns is atypical in the campaign training industry, and some Democrats say it sets a dangerous precedent. The firm’s first-ever “270/360 Training Intensive” program is scheduled to begin in September.
The program’s website describes a six-week program, consisting of five days of “intensive” campaign training at 270’s Chicago HQ featuring Stewart and Bird and other “architects of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns,” followed by five weeks of volunteer work on an “an important Democratic campaign in the United States.”
Participants must pay $3,500 for the five days of training, and another $1,500 to be placed in the volunteer campaign job, though 270 Strategies said it will offer scholarships and discounts on a case-by-case basis. Applications are due next Thursday, July 31.
Asked Friday whether any of these trainees might wind up working for Khanna’s campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, 270 Strategies replied it has “not yet made decisions about campaign assignments.”
Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said “I don’t know what their plans are, but we’re definitely excited about having 170 active fellows” working unpaid campaign jobs, drawn mostly from local high schools and colleges. “Every fellow that we have has been recruited by our campaign, or has shown up at one of our campaign offices because they are ready to work for someone who will provide forward-looking leadership for the 17th District.”
Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan declined to comment Friday.
Rep. Mike Honda significantly outraised his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the year’s second quarter and has considerably more money with which to start their general-election showdown, according to Federal Election Commission reports provided by the candidates Tuesday.
Honda, D-San Jose, finished first in the June 3 primary election with 48.2 percent of the vote, while Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Two Republican candidates, Vanila Singh and Joel VanLandingham, finished further back and so were eliminated.
A report provided by Honda’s campaign Tuesday, combined with the one filed in mid-May, show he raised $522,086.37 while spending $542,605.07 from April 1 through June 30. This left him with $1,063,355.97 cash on hand as of June 30, but he also had $7,176.83 in debts, so his unencumbered cash was $1,056,179.14.
“Following the decisive 20-point win in the primary last month, the Honda campaign continues its strong fundraising leading up to the November election,” campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Mike Honda’s network of grassroots supporters – more than 7,000 of whom have given to the campaign so far – continues to grow.”
“We are going to keep this fundraising pace going and will have the resources to win in November while our debt-ridden challenger has some serious catching up to do,” Greven said.
Khanna’s report filed Tuesday, plus the one he filed in mid-May, show he raised $337,673.26 in the second quarter while spending a tremendous $1,461,930.52 – which accounts for almost half of his total spending since the campaign began. This left him with $867,672.16 cash on hand as of June 30, but he also had $239,131.92 in debts, so his unencumbered cash was $628,540.24.
“There are only two numbers that matter in this reporting period: 50 and 202,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan insisted in a news release. “That’s because a majority of Ro’s donations were under $50, while Rep. Honda doubled down on his 202 area code fundraising amongst Washington special interests. Understandably, the Honda campaign is eager to change the story after burning well over a million dollars and relying on desperate false attacks just to lose a majority of the vote. It’s become clearer than ever that voters will be supporting change in November, just as they did in the primary.”
That said, Honda begins the general-election race with a 20-point primary win, a big edge in money, the name recognition of seven terms in office, and the bully pulpit of incumbency. Khanna aired several television ads before the primary; Honda has yet to go on the air.
With two Democrats having survived the 17th Congressional District’s primary to advance to November’s general election, the battle is on for the district’s Republican hearts and minds.
Weeks after Jim Cunneen – the last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento – endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for an eighth term, Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu has now cast his lot with Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.
“I have been in touch with Ro and his staff and look forward to help unite Republican and independent voters who supported me in the western portion of the Congressional district with the thousands of voters already backing Ro Khanna,” Konnyu, 77, of San Jose, said in a statement issued Friday.
“My aim is to deliver to the House of Representatives a new bi-partisan Congressman from Silicon Valley ready to lead for jobs and greater Silicon Valley successes,” he said. “I trust that Ro will be good for America and great for Silicon Valley.”
Konnyu was a South Bay Assemblyman from 1980 to 1986, when he was elected to serve what was then the 12th Congressional District. He served only one House term, primaried out in 1988 by a more socially moderate Republican, Tom Campbell.
Honda finished first in last month’s primary with 48 percent of the vote, and Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Republican Vanila Singh of Fremont got 17 percent and Joel VanLandingham of San Jose got 7 percent, and so they were eliminated.
Only 19 percent of the district’s voters are Republican while 44 percent are Democrats and 32 percent state no party preference, but that GOP fifth of the electorate could be a crucial bloc if either campaign can mobilize it. While many had assumed Republicans might favor Khanna – generally seen as being a smidgen to the right of the ultra-liberal Honda, or at least, more attuned to the tech sector’s needs – a poll in May found 19 percent of GOP voters favored Honda while 18 percent favored Khanna.
Singh sent a Fourth-of-July email to her supporters Friday saying that in recent weeks she has been “reaching out to voters, volunteers, and donors to keep this exciting and impressive movement that we have begun in motion! I am humbled by the endless amounts of phone calls I have been receiving both locally and nationally. This proves that we have laid the organizational foundation that will endure for those who share these ideals.”
“As we celebrate our independence today, I hope you can join me in preserving their vision by continuing to fight for our beloved country,” Singh wrote. “These next couple months are just the beginning of an inspirational movement and it is imperative that we keep a presence at this very pivotal time in our nation. I want you to remember that these campaigns are about the people – make sure your voice is loud this November!”
The message, however, made no mention of an endorsement.
Honda and Khanna appear to be equally matched in campaign money to spend from now to November. You can bet that some of that money will be spent wooing the Singh and VanLandingham voters who are now up for grabs.
The last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento has endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in his bid for an eighth term, and is calling for other Republicans to do the same.
Jim Cunneen, a former Assemblyman from San Jose whom Honda defeated in 2000 to win his first House term, said he’s proud to support Honda over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.
“I’ve admired Mike for as long as I’ve known him,” Cunneen said in a statement issued by Honda’s campaign. “In the Assembly, we worked together on technology and education issues. Most of all, Mike’s integrity and good character have served our region well. His hard work and seniority has consistently delivered for Silicon Valley, including his bipartisan work to secure funding for the BART extension that is delivering thousands of jobs.
“As a previous supporter of Republican Vanila Singh, who is no longer in the race, I ask that other Republicans join me and switch their support to Mike Honda, who will continue working hard to represent all of us in Silicon Valley,” Cunneen said.
Cunneen served in the Assembly from 1994 to 2000; Honda served there too from 1996 to 2000. Honda defeated Cunneen in the 2000 House race 54 percent to 42 percent.
Cunneen later served as president and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and as an executive at Applied Materials and Cisco Systems. Now he’s a principal at California Strategies, a consulting, lobbying and communications firm.
Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said “there’s a potential upside for the voters here: Jim Cunneen can now advise Rep. Honda to engage in frequent debates, something Jim demanded and the Congressman agreed to in the 2000 election.”
“Working families in the 17th district aren’t concerned by insider politics and influence peddling. If they were, Rep. Honda wouldn’t have failed to receive a majority of the vote in the primary after seven terms delivering for special interests,” Law said. “Ultimately, this demonstrates that the Congressman has become part of a political system that has to change if the people, not the insiders, are to get the representation they need and deserve.”
Though Khanna generally is considered slightly more moderate than Honda, who is among the House’s most liberal members, a poll in late May showed 19 percent of the 17th Congressional District’s Republicans supported Honda while 18 percent supported Khanna. Other local Republican elected officials who’ve endorsed the incumbent include Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, Sunnyvale Vice Mayor Jim Davis, Santa Clara Vice Mayor Jerry Marsalli, Santa Clara Councilman Patrick Kolstad and Sunnyvale Councilwoman Tara Martin-Milius.
Yet Honda’s liberal supporters have blasted Khanna as being “Republican-lite.”
“Tonight, Silicon Valley voters decisively chose Mike Honda, the true, grassroots progressive in the race, over the billionaire-backed, Republican-lite Ro Khanna,” Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain said in an election-night email. “With the registered Republicans now out of the race, Democracy for America members look forward to continuing to make clear that Mike Honda is the only progressive Democrat in this race — a job we expect to be made considerably easier as Republican-lite Ro Khanna inevitably begins making the same right-wing pitch to voters that he used to ‘win’ the support of fringe-right millionaires and billionaires.”
Local Republicans who’ve endorsed Khanna include Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Dave Smith, former Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal, former Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Roberts and Milpitas Councilwoman Debbie Giordano.
Cunneen ran in 2000 as a moderate Republican who was savvier to the tech sector’s needs, much as Khanna is running as a Democrat now. He and Honda debated a few times in the run-up to that election.
But 14 years later, as a seven-term incumbent, Honda’s campaign says he’ll debate Khanna only once.
“Congressman Honda is going to do a debate,” spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday. “It’s just been two weeks since the primary so we haven’t figured out the details yet.”
Honda: “It’s part of democracy, I’ll be subjecting myself to it. I’m prepared to do that after June 3, there’ll be a one-on-one and we’ll have a nice vigorous exchange. Q: “So whoever, if you make the November runoff – I’m asking right now – and we sponsor a debate for our endorsement meeting between the two runoffs, you will accept?
Honda: “We can sit down and talk about it. I’m not going to say yes right now, but…” Q: “Why not?
Honda: I think it’s, it could be premature, but I can do that, I can sit down and talk, you or whomever from the editorial board. Q: “But you’re not going to commit at this point.” Honda: “At this time, I will commit to some debates.”
And at the only pre-primary event at which the candidates shared a stage – a League of Women Voters forum May 3 in Fremont – Honda said he would debate Khanna after the primary:
Q: “Are you going to agree to any other debates in the rest of the campaign, in the general?” Honda: “I think that, that makes sense because it would be one-on-one.” Q: “So you would expect after june 3 to have more…” Honda: “…I expect to do that.”
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel issued a statement praising Honda, D-San Jose, on his “decisive win” and calling him “the ideal leader for the Bay Area” with “an unparalleled record of delivering results in education, innovation and helping to rebuild the middle class.”
Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal grassroots group Democracy for America, used sharper terms, calling Honda “the true grassroots progressive in the race, over the billionaire-backed, Republican-lite Ro Khanna.”
“With the registered Republicans now out of the race, Democracy for America members look forward to continuing to make clear that Mike Honda is the only progressive Democrat in this race — a job we expect to be made considerably easier as Republican-lite Ro Khanna inevitably begins making the same right-wing pitch to voters that he used to ‘win’ the support of fringe-right millionaires and billionaires,” Chamberlain said.
And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee counts Honda among victories in what it “is calling ‘Progressive Super Tuesday’ because ‘Elizabeth Warren wing’ Democrats across the country won their races against Corporate Democrats.”
As I wrote Tuesday night, Honda’s victory margin gives him some room to breathe as he heads for his November showdown with Khanna. They’re about equally matched in money, and Honda – who already has the name recognition that comes with being a seven-term incumbent – has not yet even started advertising on television.
But Khanna – who came out swinging Tuesday night by challenging Honda to swear off negative campaigning, shun independent expenditures and meet for five debates – says he has five months to play catch-up. His campaign issued a lengthy memo Wednesday from consultant Jeremy Bird – who was national field director of President Obama’s re-election camoaign – explaining why Khanna is “in a strong position” looking ahead to November.
The memo notes that Khanna has moved from 5 percent in the polls to his 27 percent showing on Tuesday, even with three other candidates in the field, while Honda dropped from 57 percent in his own poll to 49 percent Tuesday. “And any time an incumbent falls below 50% – especially one who started with as strong name ID as Honda – that suggests a highly vulnerable candidate,” Bird wrote.
November will offer a larger, more moderate electorate, the memo says.
“Honda’s best performing group (strong partisan Democrats) is already accounted for in the primary vote,” Bird wrote. “There is no more natural constituency for Rep. Honda to reach out to. Rep. Honda’s worst performing groups, independent Democrats, DTS and Republican voters, make up the vast majority of the up-for-grabs vote pool. He has to win votes from groups outside his core appeal. This will be a formidable challenge because his vote share over the primary shrunk, especially with these groups, while Ro Khanna’s grew.”
“I have dedicated my life with my work at Commerce, on NUMMI, and book on American manufacturing to figure out how to bring jobs back to our community and country,” Khanna said in an email Saturday morning. “To imply I want to ‘outsource’ jobs is subtly playing on stereotypes about Indian Americans. Not only is it not true, but it’s appealing to the worst kind of politics.”
Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said he would stick with the statement he issued Thursday, when I broke the story about the PAC’s spending: “We had nothing to do with this independent expenditure and aren’t going to be distracted by what other campaigns or groups are doing. 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.”
The mailer echoes accusations that Singh and others have been making that VanLandingham is a straw-man candidate brought into the race by Khanna supporters to dilute the GOP vote and boost Khanna’s chances of finishing in this primary’s top two with Honda, D-San Jose.
VanLandingham in an email Saturday morning said it looks like Singh “is not only a candidate but a comedian” and that he and his wife “got a huge laugh” from the mailer.
“To claim I am a ‘fake Republican’ is completely ridiculous and A BOLD FACED LIE. I am amazed at the amount of money she is spending, it only shows that the Party is pulling her strings and will continue to if she gets elected,” he said. “Here is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I have been a registered Republican for over 25 years. Versus Vanila Singh who registered as a Republican in Dec 2013. She has NO voting record and within the same week of registering to be a Republican, she pulls papers and files to run for office, a week later she magically raises $150,000. I think the people of District 17 are an intelligent and knowledgeable people, who could see through her smoke, mirrors and misdirection.”
“If both parties are campaigning against me, then I guess I am doing something right, it’s time 4 change,” VanLandingham added. “In a final note, I forgive, release and bless Vanila Singh for spreading lies and gossip about me and I pray that God forgives her as well.”
UPDATE @ 1:17 P.M. SUNDAY: Four Indo-American community leaders who support and have contributed to Ro Khanna’s campaign have written a letter to Honda asking him to repudiate the Working for Us PAC’s mailer:
Dear Congressman Honda,
I am appalled to see the campaign mailer that was sent out to voters in the 17th district by the Working for Us Political Action Committee. On the front page, it has a picture of Ro Khanna – an Indian American. In large red letters it reads: “DON’T LET RO KHANNA OUTSOURCE OUR JOBS” and “SENDING JOBS OVERSEAS. RO KHANNA”. This is the crudest form of racially coded language.
The intentional association of an Indian American and outsourcing to gin up fear and hatred is deplorable and unacceptable – especially in the heart of Silicon Valley. It is sad to see it coming in support of your campaign Congressman; you and your family suffered much from racial hatred during the Second World War.
I implore you to disassociate yourself from such dirty tricks. These tactics should have no place in the political discourse in this meritocratic district where Indian Americans have contributed so much.
Kanwal Rekhi, co-founder, The Indus Entrepreneurs
Anil Godwhani, co-founder, India Community Center
Kamil Hasan, co-founder, India Community Center
Talat Hasan, co-founder, India Community Center
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.
Click to enlarge:
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.