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CA17: Khanna disavows Ernie Konnyu’s words

Apropos of my “please don’t help me” story in Monday’s editions, Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna on Tuesday repudiated the words of one of his most vocal Republican supporters.

Ernie KonnyuGOP former congressman Ernie Konnyu already had complicated Khanna’s life a bit by trying to rally tea party support for his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. More recently, Konnyu drew unwanted attention by getting into a Facebook argument with Republican former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen – who has endorsed Honda – over the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC’s support of Assembly candidate and Campbell councilman Evan Low. Low has led the fight on lifting the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donation by gay men.

“How sick is it that a business group endorses a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays,” Konnyu wrote on Friday, Aug. 8. “This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Konnyu has accused Honda’s staff and supporters of waging a “war of hate,” using “demonizing tweets” against him for his comments; last Thursday, he tweeted a challenge to Honda to introduce a bill to overturn the FDA policy.

Low and others issued a statement Tuesday urging Khanna to disavow Konnyu’s remarks.

“His continued silence on this issue raises concerns that he may share Konnyu’s views, and I urge him to join me, Congressman Honda, and the thousands of Americans nationwide who would like to see the FDA change its views,” Low wrote.

James Gonzales, president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee – a Silicon Valley LGBT political group – said “this kind of homophobic rhetoric has no place in our politics, from any politician of any party. We hope that Ro Khanna will quickly condemn these comments by Konnyu and denounce his support.”

Khanna issued a statement later Tuesday saying his positions and record “on defending marriage equality and the rights for all people is unequivocal.

Ro Khanna“I believe that any laws discriminating against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional. Full stop. While I am proud of all the support this campaign has received, I find any discriminatory statements from my supporters – whether they be homophobic, racist, or sexist – to be completely unacceptable and not reflective of my or my campaign,” he said.

Khanna said he has always respected Low’s public service, but Low now “has marginalized what could have been legitimate advocacy by recklessly saying that I could possibly agree with discrimination. This striking example of hypocrisy represents the worst of politics.”

Honda and Low remained silent when a union-backed national super PAC sent out a mailer just before June’s primary election that said Khanna’s policies would send jobs overseas and “outsource our jobs,” Khanna noted – a mailer Khanna calls “racially coded and xenophobic.”

“Unlike Congressman Honda, I will always speak up when those who support me use language that is not in line with my values,” Khanna said.

The FDA’s policy dates back to 1983 and has been in place in its current form since 1992 but is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Red Cross, which say the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Honda in 2008 supported San Jose State University’s effort to bring attention to the issue by suspending campus blood drives; started a petition against the ban last year that has been signed by more than 51,000 people; and has joined with several dozen other members of Congress in urging the FDA to lift the ban.

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Eric Swalwell gets second bill signed into law

President Obama’s signature this month of a second bill by Rep. Eric Swalwell – naming a Dublin post office for a late veteran and community activist – means the East Bay congressman now has had more bills enacted than the 69 other House freshmen.

That’s right, folks: Two bills signed into law is the best any freshman has done in this 113th Congress.

Eric SwalwellSwalwell’s H.R. 1671 renames the post office at 6937 Village Parkway in Dublin for Dr. Jim Kohnen, who died in May 2012 at age 69. The U.S. Postal Service will schedule a formal naming ceremony.

Kohnen retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a colonel after over 30 years of service in the Corps of Engineers; during his service, he had graduated from the U.S. Army War College, the Air War College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, earning his doctorate in education. Later in life, he was a teacher at San Leandro High School, an elected or appointed official on five local boards, and a volunteer with organizations including the Boy Scouts and the Dublin Historical Preservation Association.

“Through this Post Office, Jim will always continue to be part of his beloved community,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in a news release Monday.

Swalwell’s earlier successful bill was H.R. 3771, which President Obama signed into law in March. That one encouraged Americans to donate to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts by letting them deduct contributions to Philippines recovery efforts made before April 14 from their 2013 taxes; otherwise, a person would have had to wait until he or she filed their taxes next year to claim the deduction.

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

CA17: Khanna issues Honda ice-bucket challenge

As ugly as the 17th Congressional District battle is getting, at least there’s still a little humor and perhaps some charitable good.

Democratic candidate Ro Khanna on Saturday issued the now-ubiquitous challenge – to either donate $100 to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or make a video of dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s own head – to Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Anyone want to lay bets on whether Honda makes the donation or takes the dousing – or both?

Posted on Saturday, August 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

CA17: San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed backs Khanna

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has endorsed Ro Khanna in his bid to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda.

Chuck Reed

Reed, a Democrat who’s term-limited out of office at the end of this year, said Friday that as he prepares to leave public life, he’s been thinking about the future challenges Silicon Valley will face.

“I think our Silicon Valley team in Washington would be greatly strengthened if we add Ro Khanna,” he said, particularly for the sake of changing federal taxes and regulations that impede the region’s economy. “Silicon Valley’s interests would be his number-one priority.”

Khanna “understands the tech sector and the global challenges to the valley,” Reed said, and can make the region’s case “in a way that can get bipartisan support, which is certainly needed in the House.”

Reed said he called Honda earlier Friday to inform him of the choice, which was “a sad conversation.”

“It’s nothing personal,” he said, adding Honda is “an affable guy” and “has done a good job, but I think we need to step up our game in Washington.”

Khanna’s campaign was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Reed’s endorsement of Khanna is “not at all surprising.”

“Both politicians believe in stripping public servants of retirement benefits – even if that means decimating our public safety network in Reed’s case – and both have been labeled Republican lites,” he said. “Reed may call himself a Democrat, but his track record of pushing to overhaul unions, oppose gay marriage, block minimum wage increases and eliminate limits on campaign contribution suggest otherwise.”

Reed also has endorsed Republican Ashley Swearengin over Democrat Betty Yee in the race for the state controller’s office, Kembaiyan noted, and “has served as a faithful and longtime ally of San Jose Councilman turned evangelical right-wing activist Larry Pegram.”

“Reed’s endorsement of Khanna is just further reflection of his conservative values,” he said.

UPDATE @ 7:20 P.M.: “I think he did it because it’s what best for the future of Silicon Valley,” Khanna said of Reed’s endorsement Friday evening, despite Honda having represented the region for so long.

Taken together with endorsements from other Democrats like former state Controller Steve Westly and Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, Reed’s backing says something about philosophical differences within the Democratic party, Khanna said.

Party leaders like President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are in Honda’s corner, but “Honda is a more orthodox, traditional Democrat” while Khanna said he has always made it clear he’ll reach out to independents and Republicans for a chance to work across the aisle in the GOP-controlled House. “It raises a question of what it means to be a Democrat from Silicon Valley.”

Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

CA17: Battling over 2005 vote, PAC support

Rep. Mike Honda and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley held a news conference Tuesday to give an update on their efforts to eliminate the backlog of rape kits locally and across the nation.

Honda-O'Malley news conference 8-12-2014 (photo by Josh Richman)It was one of about 20 events Honda, D-San Jose, is holding in his district or the Bay Area during this August recess. But Honda’s lack of any town-hall meetings with constituents during this recess, along with his vote against a somewhat-related bill nine years ago, gave Democratic challenger Ro Khanna fodder for a renewed attack.

And later Tuesday, Khanna’s campaign also took Honda to task over a fundraising email in which campaign manager Doug Greven noted the recent formation of a Super PAC to support Khanna – a plea Khanna’s camp says is the height of hypocrisy.

Shortly before Honda’s and O’Malley’s news conference, Khanna issued a news release noting Honda in 2005 was one of 23 Democrats to oppose HR 3132, the Children’s Safety Act, which would have created a national sex offender registry database. The bill passed the House 371-52, but it died in the Senate.

“Congressman Honda has made it clear that he will do anything to avoid a close examination of his record,” Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said in the release. “His August recess consists of closed door meetings and press conferences – there’s still no open events for the public to come and engage with their Congressman. Since his constituents don’t get a chance to ask him any questions, we hope Rep. Honda will finally be forced to answer today about why he opposed the Children’s Safety Act and if he thinks we should be taking convicted sex offenders off of the registry.”

Asked about the 2005 vote after Tuesday’s news conference, Honda replied he’d have to “look at it again, there must’ve been a reason; there might’ve been a ‘poison pill’ or something.” Honda spokesman Ken Scudder later Tuesday noted the 2005 bill contained a small section about rape-kit testing – three pages out of 128 – but “in many areas it would cause more harm than good.”

Scudder provided the statement that Honda issued in 2005 to explain his vote:

“Today the House debated and passed H.R. 3132, the Child Safety Act. I opposed this measure which sets new standards for state sex-offender registries and creates a National Sex Offender Registry. While I believe it is important to have a National Sex Offender Registry and I support increased funding for state registries, several provisions in this measure create more harm without truly addressing this serious issue.

“One provision I strongly oppose is the inclusion of juveniles in the definition of “sex offender” – a designation that would trigger lifetime registration. This nation has traditionally separated the handling of juvenile offenders from adult offenders in the legal system so that youth who break the law can have the chance to correct their behavior.

“As a society, we do not stigmatize individuals for life based on their childhood transgressions. Under this bill, however, a 12-year-old convicted as a delinquent for non-violent sexual contact with an 11-year-old playmate would face lifetime registration.

“This bill also includes unduly harsh mandatory minimum sentences, expands the death penalty and limits habeas corpus review in certain cases. Studies have shown that the use of mandatory minimums distort the sentencing process and promotes plea bargaining, thereby subverting the trial process. Regarding the death penalty, reports show this ultimate and irreversible punishment has been incorrectly applied in numerous cases; limiting habeas corpus review only makes a bad situation worse.

“As a former teacher and principal, I am deeply concerned for the well-being of our nation’s youth. We absolutely must address the problem of violence committed by sex offenders against our children. But rather than address the root causes that give rise to these abhorrent crimes, unfortunately, this bill simply uses the blunt and largely ineffective tools of mandatory minimums, death penalty and onerous registration requirements to give us the mistaken notion that we have made our children safer. Because of these misguided provisions, I opposed passage of H.R. 3132.”

Honda declined Tuesday to address his lack of town-hall meetings; his website, however, notes he’ll take part in a Facebook Q&A next Tuesday, Aug. 19 and a Crowdhall online event during the week of Aug. 25. Khanna is holding a Facebook Q&A at 8 p.m. tonight, and will hold a live town-hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 3200 Coronado Dr. in Santa Clara.

On the Super PAC matter, Khanna’s campaign cited an fundraising email Greven sent to Honda’s supporters Tuesday afternoon.

“We need to be ready to fight back once these outside groups start sending mail and going up on TV to attack Congressman Honda,” Greven wrote. “We don’t have a Super PAC – but we do have you, and thousands of grassroots supporters like you.”

But Honda already has received help from a Super PAC – the union-funded Working for Us PAC sent two mailers to district voters shortly before June’s primary election. One mailer praised GOP candidate Vanila Singh, in hope that giving her a boost among the district’s Republicans could cost Khanna votes. The other accused Khanna of “sending jobs overseas” and trying to “outsource our jobs.”

“The Honda campaign appears to be operating in an alternate reality where the truth doesn’t matter at all,” Law said Tuesday. “Ro repeatedly asked Congressman Honda to sign Elizabeth Warren’s ‘People’s Pledge’ to keep outside money out of this congressional race. Congressman Honda refused. Ro also asked Congressman Honda to denounce racially offensive mailers sent by his donor’s Super PAC on his behalf. Congressman Honda refused. For the Honda campaign to blatantly lie about having a Super PAC shows that they will literally say anything to win.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said the pot is calling the kettle black.

“The fact is, when Ro Khanna’s had three times the resources of our campaign, he said he was opposed to outside spending (but turned down our proposal to limit it),” Kembaiyan said. “Now that he has $200,000 in debt and is clearly not gaining traction, he has no problem with the fact that one of his biggest Wall Street donors has created a Super PAC solely to prop up his campaign. Ro can try to spin his blatant hypocrisy and desperation all he wants, but voters will see right through it.

“There’s a difference between a Super PAC whose sole reason for existence is to provide another avenue for Khanna investors to prop up his campaign, and an organization that has been around for 8 years, supporting multiple progressive candidates nation-wide,” Kembaiyan added.

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Commerce Secretary attends Oakland forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined Rep. Barbara Lee and other officials Monday for a regional economic development forum at Oakland International Airport, focused on creating more jobs and growing businesses in the East Bay.

Penny Pritzker“The Department of Commerce has tremendous resources in place in this region and around the country that allow us to partner with your businesses and entrepreneurs so they can compete and succeed,” Pritzker said in a news release issued by Lee, D-Oakland, after the event.

“Here in the Bay Area, we are working with companies large and small to sell their goods and services to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside the U.S., helping to create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive, and supporting minority-and women-owned businesses through our Minority Business Development Agency,” she said, adding her department “is committed to helping your companies grow and thrive so they can create jobs – that is our mission and a core objective for President Obama.”

Lee said small businesses “are fundamental to the East Bay’s economic growth, especially women and minority-owned businesses.

“These businesses create jobs, contribute to our community and create opportunities into the middle class,” she said. “In order to ensure continued economic growth, we need to investment in sharing the available resources with these businesses and businesses owners to help them succeed.”

Other attendees included regional Small Business Administration Administrator Donna Davis; Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo; Overseas Private Investment Corp. Director of Corporate Development Alison Germak; Port of Oakland Aviation Director Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Earlier Monday, Lee had hosted a roundtable discussion with Pritzker and East Bay business leaders to discuss economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership.

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Barbara Lee, economy, Jean Quan, Oakland, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: Super PAC formed to support Ro Khanna

A supporter of Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna has formed a new Super PAC to support Khanna’s campaign against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Ash ChopraAsh Chopra of Menlo Park, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, sent a statement of organization for “Californians for Innovation” that was received by the Federal Elections Commission on Aug. 4; the papers specify the entity has been created to support Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont.

Super PACs like this can raise unlimited money from any source and then spent unlimited sums to advocate for or against political candidates; they can’t directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign, however. Super PACs must report their donors periodically to the Federal Election Commission.

Chopra and his wife, Shaili, each contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in May 2013 for the primary election. Chopra was also part of a host committee for a Khanna fundraiser, whose members have already contributed over $80,000 to Khanna’s campaign. Chopra’s LinkedIn profile lists his specialties as “wealth advisory business for ultra high net worth families, dealing with impact of corporate transactions like M&A & IPOs, co-ordinated advice on trust & estate tax issues.”

“It’s clear that Khanna and his closest supporters will try anything to save his failing campaign: from courting the Tea Party to do mailers attacking Congressman Honda, to creating a Super PAC to go beyond the legal limits his millionaire and billionaire donors are bound by,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in an emailed statement.

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the campaign knows nothing about this Super PAC.

“We do know that Ro repeatedly asked Congressman Honda to sign Elizabeth Warren’s ‘People’s Pledge,’ to keep outside money out of this congressional race. Congressman Honda refused,” Law said. “Ro also asked him to denounce racist campaign mailings sent by a Super PAC on his behalf just before the primary. Congressman Honda refused. If there’s any hypocrisy here, it’s on the part of Congressman Honda.”

But Khanna won’t shun the Super PAC’s aid. “We’re not going to unilaterally shut doors that Congressman Honda opened,” Law said.

Republican former Congressman Ernie Konnyu has been trying to rally donors to help get the Tea Party Express organization involved on Khanna’s behalf to defeat Honda, but donors basically have ignored his call, BuzzFeed reported recently; Tea Party Express didn’t rule out involvement in the race. Khanna’s campaign said he’s happy to have Konnyu’s support, but said Konnyu is acting on his own.

“Given Ro’s positions and public service record, it’s absurd to claim that our campaign has any association with the Tea Party,” Law said last week.

Posted on Monday, August 11th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

Mike Honda introduces body-armor restriction bill

Only law enforcement, active-duty troops or other authorized users would be able to buy, sell, own or use military-grade body armor, under a bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Mike Honda.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, issued a statement saying his Responsible Body Armor Possession Act of 2014 would let police respond to active shooters more safely and effectively.

“There is no reason this type of armor, which is designed for warfare, should be available in our communities except for those who need it, like law enforcement,” he said. “There’s nothing more dangerous than what a well-armored, unstoppable active shooter can do. This bill is common-sense and long overdue.”

The bill is supported by Santa Clara and Alameda counties’ district attorneys and sheriffs, as well as by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition for Peace Action and Stop Handgun violence.

“There is an ongoing arms race between violent criminals and police officers,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in Honda’s news release. “Let’s make sure that the men and women who stand bravely between us and the gunfire win that high-stakes race. Let’s make sure criminals and gang-bangers never walk our streets shielded with military-grade body armor and the arrogance of someone who cannot be stopped.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said the bill “will serve to combat our nation’s epidemic of gun violence and protect communities and law enforcement from mass shootings.”

Posted on Thursday, July 31st, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Caption contest: Swalwell trips the VR fantastic

(Click to enlarge)
Swalwell at Facebook

The real story: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, was among House Homeland Security Committee members who visited Facebook’s Washington, D.C., office Tuesday morning; he tried out the new Oculus virtual reality system as part of learning how social media can be used during disasters.

I thought maybe he was immersing himself in a virtual reality in which:

    his bipartisan bills don’t get killed at the last minute by conservative groups;
    someone is calling him “Speaker Swalwell;”
    he’s nominated by peers and chosen by The Hill’s staff to be on that publication’s 11th annual “50 Most Beautiful” list. (Oh, wait – that really happened today. Well, maybe he’s envisioning himself in a sash and tiara, gripping a bouquet of flowers while the late, great Bert Parks croons “There he is…”).

What do YOU think Rep. Swalwell is seeing in those virtual-reality goggles? Keep it clean, please; we’re a family-oriented publication.

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Congressional Soccer Caucus turns eyes to Qatar

Rep. George Miller helped introduce a resolution Thursday calling for better protection for migrant workers in Qatar who are building that tiny Middle Eastern emirate’s facilities for the 2022 World Cup.

Miller, D-Martinez, who co-chairs the Congressional Soccer Caucus…

Wait, what?

Yes, there is a Congressional Soccer Caucus. It has three other co-chairs plus 23 members.

“The mission of the Congressional Soccer Caucus is to encourage legislation, activities and events that promote soccer and issues affecting the greater soccer community, toward encouraging healthy and active lifestyles among America’s youth,” according to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s website. The foundation “serves as the public advocacy arm for the game and provides information and support for the Caucus.”

Who knew? I did not. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

qatar2022Lawmakers contend Qatar’s migrant workforce faces horrible conditions, including 12-to-16 hour working days in triple-digit heat, indentured servitude by unscrupulous labor contractors, and squalid, overcrowded labor camps. More than 500,000 additional immigrant workers, primarily from Nepal, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, are expected to arrive in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Recent reports warn that as many as 4,000 migrant construction workers could die from the unsafe living and working conditions by the time that tournament kicks off.

“After America’s exciting showing in the 2014 World Cup and as soccer fans around the world look forward to future world cups, we must ensure that the workers who make these events possible have safe working conditions,” Miller said in a news release. “The current conditions Qatar’s migrant workforce face are simply unacceptable. The Qatari government, FIFA, the United Nations, and the International Labour Organization have all recognized that conditions need to improve but have taken no meaningful action. We’ve introduced this resolution in hopes of ending the abuse of migrant labor in Qatar.”

H.Res. 862, of which Miller is lead sponsor, resolution calls on the Qatari government to make changes to their legal system to better protect migrant workers; urges the United States to prioritize the rights of migrant workers in their relations with Qatar; encourages American businesses to honor international human rights standards by holding their contractors and subcontractors accountable for labor violations; and asks FIFA to continue to advocate for fair labor practices in Qatar. The European Parliament already has passed a similar resolution.

Among the resolution’s 17 cosponsors (all Democrats) is fellow Soccer Caucus member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who attended the University of Maryland initially on – you guessed it – a soccer scholarship.

Posted on Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, George Miller, U.S. House | 1 Comment »