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CA17: Khanna won’t refund wage-theft CEO’s $$$

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna won’t refund a contribution from the CEO of a company fined this week for labor abuses, as the Alameda Labor Council – which solidly supports seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda – has demanded.

Electronics For Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company’s Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. Honda, D-San Jose, on Thursday promised to introduce legislation to stiffen penalties for wage theft like this.

EFI CEO Guy Gecht contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in September 2013; campaign staffers removed his name Thursday from a list of Khanna’s tech-executive endorsements.

Khanna issued a strong denunciation of EFI’s practices, but the labor council on Friday urged him to refund Gecht’s money.

“When Khanna approached us for support, he promised that he was a progressive, but we’ve long been concerned that Khanna has been acting as a tool for right-wing millionaires and conservative CEOs to push their policies,” Josie Camacho, the council’s executive secretary-treasurer, said in a news release. “Hopefully even he can agree that there is no room for this kind of practice in Silicon Valley. Ro should immediately refund the $2,600 donation from Gecht.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied Honda “seems to have just discovered that wage theft exists two weeks before an election.

“Further, he has had no problem taking huge amounts of money from defense contractors, big pharma, and many other special interests including PG&E – even after their criminal negligence resulted in the death of eight people,” Law said. “It’s unfortunate that Congressman Honda is playing politics on the backs of workers.”

But Gecht’s money is “not returned,” Law added when pressed on the issue.

Law noted Honda’s campaign also has paid more than $15,000 to “one of the most anti-labor communications firms in the Bay Area,” San Francisco-based Singer Associates. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan, a former SEIU staffer, emailed local and state labor leaders on Monday with a litany of cases in which Singer Associates has worked against unions, including during last year’s BART strike; during a battle between AT&T Park management and concessionaires in 2013; and during hotel workers’ 2010 fight for better wages.

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

CA17: PCCC aids Honda, Newsom aids Khanna

It was a battle of the proxies Friday in the 17th Congressional District as a national liberal grassroots group came to Rep. Mike Honda’s aid while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made a plea on Democratic challenger Ro Khanna’s behalf.

Both say the race is basically tied, and that their chosen candidate needs a little added oomph to seal the deal.

PCCCThe Progressive Change Campaign Committee and liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., sent an email to PCCC members – about a million nationwide, including about 125,000 in California – urging them to donate money to or make phone calls for Honda’s campaign. PCCC also is adding Honda to its “Call Out The Vote” program, mobilizing calls to voters from its national election headquarters and volunteers across the country on his behalf.

“Mike Honda is one of my closest allies in the House — a solid progressive champion,” Grayson writes in the email. “But today he’s in a tight race against a challenger lavishly funded by corporate big shots. The latest poll in his California district shows Honda up two points – and in this progressive district, that’s only due to corporate money.”

The email lauds Honda’s record before claiming “a bunch of corporate CEOs have decided they’d rather have a tool of their own in that seat, so they’re backing Mike’s opponent – a guy who has refused to commit to protecting Social Security benefits, let alone expanding them.”

As I’ve previously reported, Khanna has balked at expanding Social Security benefits but has repeatedly vowed to protect existing benefits for “current and future seniors.”

PCCC spokeswoman Laura Friedenbach said Friday that helping Honda win is a no-brainer for her group, especially since Khanna sent out a mailer blasting Honda as being too liberal.

“Khanna can’t seem to decide what party he sides with, but he’s made one thing clear: He’s not on the side of progressives,” she said. “This race is center stage in a national battle taking place between corporate Democrats and Elizabeth Warren wing Democrats for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

The plea for help on Honda’s behalf comes as Honda appears to have the upper hand in cash to spend from now until Election Day. But Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said it’s a sign of desperation.

“Yesterday the Honda campaign sent out a desperate email saying they might have to close down a field office,” Law said. “Today they’re begging for out-of-state-support because they don’t have enough local volunteers. Actions speak louder than words, and their actions are making it pretty clear they are worried.”

Newsom, in an email blast sent out by Khanna’s campaign, urged voters to sign up to volunteer in the campaign’s final weeks.

Gavin Newsom“Silicon Valley leads the world in innovation, and it deserves a representative who works as hard and is as entrepreneurial as the people in this district,” Newsom wrote. “That’s what Ro brings to the table.

“We need someone who will fight to make sure local businesses can grow, help create good paying jobs, and make sure the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top,” he added. “Ro has concrete plans to get it done. And throughout this campaign, he’s shown that he will listen to the people in this district and fight for what matters to you.”

Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that Honda “is proud to fight for progressive values like raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security, and grateful to have the backing of grassroots allies like the PCCC and it’s thousands of members. This is a stark contrast to Ro Khanna, who is relying on the millionaires, billionaires, and companies that fund his Super PAC to call the shots.”

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda spends big while Khanna runs dry

That dull thud you heard echoing across the 17th Congressional District recently was the sound of Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign dropping a massive $651,000 in October’s first half, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Ro Khanna, Honda’s Democratic challenger, spent only about $168,000 during the same time, his report shows – and his campaign is now on the financial ropes.

Recent polls have shown a close race between the seven-term incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, and Khanna, and each have tried to maximize their impact since vote-by-mail ballots went out Oct. 6.

Honda’s report shows his campaign – which started the month with about $1 million in the bank – raised another $106,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, leaving him about $420,000 cash on hand but just short of $10,000 in debt at the close of that period.

The lion’s share of the spending went to the Washington, D.C. media and strategic communications firm of Adelstein Liston: $370,960 for a digital media buy and another $66,926 for “media services.” Next came the San Francisco-based Terris, Barnes & Walters campaign firm: $107,348 for direct mail, and $25,000 for campaign consulting.

Khanna – who started this race with far more money but spent most of it before June’s primary, in which he finished 20 points behind Honda – had about $218,000 cash on hand at the start of this month but about $141,000 in debt.

His new report shows he raised about $97,000 but spent about $168,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, leaving him with $148,000 cash on hand but $141,000 in debt – so, about $7,000 in unencumbered money.

Most of Khanna’s October spending – almost $111,000 – went to Chicago-based AKPD Message & Media (run by Obama campaign paid-media mogul Larry Grisolano) for direct mail.

I don’t yet see a pre-general report for Californians for Innovation, the independent super PAC formed this summer to support Khanna’s campaign and bankrolled in large part ($250,000 that we know so far) by Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold. When I do, I’ll update this post accordingly.

UPDATE @ 10:20 A.M. FRIDAY: (Sorry this is late, but I made an executive decision to take last night off.) Californians for Innovation’s report shows it raised $90,000 and spent $233,000 in the first half of October, leaving it with about $175,000 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt as of Oct. 15. Other FEC filings show it has spent about $58,000 more since mid-month.

Its contributors in the month’s first half were:

  • Arthur Patterson of Accel Partners (Palo Alto) – $10,000
  • Venkatesh Harinarayan of Cambrian Ventures (Mountain View) – $25,000
  • Anand Rajaraman of Cambiran Ventures (Mountain View) – $25,000
  • Rajeev Madhavan of Magma Design Automation (San Jose) – $5,000
  • OO Investment LLC (San Francisco) – $25,000
  • I initially can’t find much about OO Investment, but I’ll pursue it.

    Most of the spending – about $214,000 – went to Mailrite Print & Mail Inc. of Sacramento for direct mail. The $30,000 debt is owed to veteran Democratic political consultant Roger Salazar of Sacramento, for campaign consulting services.

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

    CA17: Honda blasts firm fined for wage theft

    Rep. Mike Honda talked tough Thursday against a Fremont company that the Labor Department has fined for unfair labor practices – the CEO of which is a donor to and endorser of his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna.

    Electronics For Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company’s Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday.

    Honda, D-San Jose, issued a statement Thursday saying these practices “constitute the most egregious type of wage theft and employee abuse. They undermine fair labor competition among businesses, and if left unaddressed they would erode the idea that this is an economy of opportunity.”

    Honda said the Labor Department “operated within their guidelines to deliver justice” – a $3,500 fine plus payment of more than $40,000 in back wages – but wage laws must be updated to deter such things “especially for a publicly traded, multi-national corporation that generated $197.7 million in revenue in its last quarter.”

    “As soon as Congress comes back into session, I will introduce a commonsense change in our labor laws which will ensure that there a strong, effective minimum penalty in place for offenders, and increase the maximum penalty enough to deter unscrupulous employers from contemplating wage abuses against workers in the United States,” Honda said. “We will send a message that wage abuses are human rights abuses and competitive abuses that will not be tolerated by our economy and society.”

    EFI CEO Guy Gecht contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in September 2013, and is listed among Khanna’s tech-executive endorsements on the campaign’s website. (UPDATE @ 5:19 P.M.: Khanna’s campaign has just removed Gecht’s name from the endorsement list.)

    “The inexcusable exploitation by Electronics for Imaging goes against everything that Silicon Valley stands for,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Thursday. “Their behavior is not representative of the hardworking and honest people who live and work in the 17th District, and should serve as a reminder of why we need strong labor laws in this country. Ro is encouraged that they have been fined by the Labor Department and is committed to forcefully confronting any company that engages in wage theft.”

    UPDATE @ 5:45 P.M. FRIDAY: The Alameda Labor Council, which staunchly supports Honda, has called upon Khanna to refund Gecht’s money; Khanna has declined.

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 20 Comments »

    CA17: Honda launches attack ad against Khanna

    Rep. Mike Honda rolled out a new television ad Monday attacking Democratic challenger Ro Khanna for having right-wing billionaires support his campaign, for favoring tax breaks for the rich and companies that offshore jobs, and for not being committed to protecting Social Security.

    But Khanna’s campaign says Honda, D-San Jose, is making up many of the ad’s charges.

    Honda’s campaign says this six-figure ad buy comes after Khanna’s campaign has been on the attack for weeks, including a recent mailer attacking Honda by calling him a “liberal Democrat.”

    “After losing the primary by 20 points, Khanna’s entire campaign has been about attacking Congressman Honda, and today we’re hitting back,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Voters need to know that Khanna is more concerned with representing his wealthy right-wing donors than the people who are working hard in this district to get by.”

    Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the ad is flat-out wrong.

    “It’s a shame that after 14 lackluster years in office, Congressman Honda is resorting to false attacks and a ‘guilt-by-association’ strategy that ignores the facts,” Law said. “More than ever, this race is a clear choice between an old school politician with one of the poorest records in Congress and a new leader with a clear vision for creating good-paying jobs, fostering innovation, and preparing our children for success in life.”

    Khanna sent an email to his supporters Monday morning calling the ad “full of lies” and saying that while his campaign does “not have the money for television, we will respond in the press, in mailers and on the ground.” Reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission showed Honda still had close to $1 million banked for his campaign as of Sept. 30 while Khanna’s campaign was running dangerously low – a tremendous reversal of fortune, given that Khanna had vastly more money for the campaign’s first year but spent most of it before June’s primary.

    “My hope is that voters in Silicon Valley will see through this kind of politics,” Khanna wrote. “My hope is they will choose intellectually honest positions over distortion.”

    Let’s examine the ad point by point, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014
    Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

    Nancy Pelosi lays bet on Giants in World Series

    House Minority Leader Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver have laid their bet on the upcoming World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals – and it sounds delicious.

    Gates BBQ ribsIf the Royals win, Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will provide the Kansas City congressman with a basket of her city’s finest chocolates. (Ghirardelli? Recchiuti? Poco Dolce?) If the Giants win, Cleaver will send Pelosi a President’s BBQ Platter from Kansas City’s Gates BBQ.

    (Ed. Note: I LOVE Gates BBQ.)

    “There are many savory delights that Kansas City has to offer and I can’t wait to savor them, but nothing would be sweeter than a Giants victory,” Pelosi said. “The Royals are a fine team, but they are no match for the talent, toughness, and heart of our Giants. I look forward to enjoying the Giants’ latest championship with some fine Kansas City BBQ.”

    Cleaver replied the Giants “are a worthy team, but they underestimate the Kansas City Royals at their peril.”

    “With their spirit, their skill, and their sweeping victory in the ALCS, the Royals will surely succeed in the World Series,” he said. “I don’t usually gamble, but I will make an exception and wager some of the finest barbecue Kansas City, Missouri has to offer. Victory shall be sweet indeed.”

    Posted on Friday, October 17th, 2014
    Under: Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

    CA17: FEC reports show Ro Khanna running low

    Rep. Mike Honda still had almost $1 million banked for his re-election campaign at the end of September, while Democratic challenger Ro Khanna was almost out of money, new Federal Election Commission reports show.

    Honda, D-San Jose, reported raising $412,167.16 and spending $450,861.74 in this year’s third quarter, and had $964,638.14 cash on hand as of Sept. 30 with no outstanding debt.

    Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, reported raising $323,291.72 and spending $972,139.27; he had $218,106.35 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, but with $140,980.31 in outstanding debt.

    This is a tremendous turnaround from the campaign’s early days. Khanna had entered this race with a huge bankroll because he’d raised a record-setting $1.2 million in the final quarter of 2011, when people thought he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District. When Stark didn’t retire, Khanna pivoted instead to this 17th District race, and outraised Honda for the rest of 2013.

    But Honda has outraised Khanna in the first three quarters of 2014, while Khanna spent most of his campaign’s fortune before the primary – in which he finished 20 points behind Honda.

    Honda’s campaign said the new report shows Khanna’s campaign lacks enough money to meet its payroll and rent.

    “With less than 20 days to go until Election Day, Ro Khanna is 15 points down and in the position of deciding whether to spend his little remaining cash on his large staff or on continued attacks on Congressman Honda,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release Thursday. “Our campaign has nearly $1 million in cash, $900,000 more than Khanna, and we are just now starting to spend the majority of our resources when voters are paying the most attention to the election.”

    Honda’s internal poll showed him 15 points ahead; Khanna’s poll showed a dead heat, and spokesman Tyler Law said that’s helping raise new money.

    “The fact that the race is now a dead heat is also helping our final push to Election Day, both in terms of grassroots enthusiasm and financing,” Law said Thursday morning. “In fact, in the three days since we released our poll, we’ve raised nearly $55,000. We expect that kind of support will continue in the final weeks of this race.

    Law noted 70 percent of Khanna’s third-quarter contributions came from Northern California, while only 41 percent of Honda’s did.

    “With recent polls confirming this race is wide-open and the momentum is on our side, it’s clear that our early investments in an aggressive mail program and focus on building a state-of-the-art grassroots organization are paying dividends,” Law added. “As we’ve said all along, our team will have the resources needed to win in November. Just as importantly, we did it without taking a single dollar from PACs or lobbyists and have raised the vast majority from right here in the Bay Area — a stark contrast from our special-interest and Washington-funded opponent.”

    But Khanna is getting external help. Californians for Innovation – a Super PAC formed in August by Khanna supporter Ash Chopra of Menlo Park, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch – has reported spending $211,036.36 on the race this month forvoter data, mailers and postage.

    Honda launched his first TV ad of the year on Sept. 29, and has had some help from the California Democratic Party to keep it on the air. Khanna, who aired a few ads before the primary, seems to be concentrating more on direct mail for his general-election advertising push.

    UPDATE @ 4:58 P.M.: Click here to read the more complete story, including who’s bankrolling the pro-Khanna Super PAC.

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

    CA17: Khanna mailer, Honda letter create buzz

    Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s new mailer attacks incumbent Rep. Mike Honda as a diehard, partisan, tax-and-spend liberal – a move that Honda’s liberal supporters say calls Khanna’s own loyalties into question.

    The mailer asks “Have you had enough of Mike Honda?” and cites various sources to underscore how Honda, D-San Jose, consistently votes a liberal line, including on budgetary matters.

    (Click to enlarge:)
    Khanna mailer p1

    Khanna mailer p2

    Khanna mailer p3

    Khanna mailer p4

    Democracy for America – a national grassroots liberal group that supports Honda and has already been criticizing Khanna since mid-2013 as “Republican lite” – blasted the mailer out to its email list Wednesday.

    “As the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” DFA founder Howard Dean wrote in that email. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

    Meanwhile, Khanna’s campaign is once again accusing Honda of using taxpayer dollars to fund what basically amounts to a campaign mailing.

    Much like the pre-primary “franking” complaint Khanna filed in May, Khanna’s campaign says an Oct. 3 letter that Honda’s office sent to constituents serves no real official purpose. The letter is a litany of Honda’s accomplishments – various instances of money he has brought back to the district, legislation he has cosponsored or supported, and so on.

    “You can count on me to work to close the skills gap and increase the competitiveness of our workforce, and to continue to work to deliver for our district,” the letter concludes. “Thank you again for letting me serve you in Congress.”

    Wonderfully, Khanna was among the constituents who received it.

    (Click to enlarge:)
    Honda's franked letter to Khanna

    As I noted three years ago when Republican challenger Ricky Gill leveled a similar complaint against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, House members must submit their mailers to the House Franking Commission for an advisory opinion. They cannot contain personal biographical material, make direct references to an election, make statements of a partisan tone or ask for money. The House also imposes a 90-day blackout period on mass mailings prior to an election; that means Honda probably sent these letters only to parts of his constituency, or sent different letters to various segment to get around it being a “mass mailing.” (Read the full checklist here. Or if you really want to know more, click here for the full manual.)

    But there are no prohibitions on stating your positions on policies or touting your record or accomplishments as an elected member of the House of Representatives.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

    CA17: A closer look at Honda’s & Khanna’s polls

    I’ve just posted a story about new internal polls released by Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the 17th Congressional District: Khanna’s poll shows a dead heat, while Honda’s shows him with a 15-point lead.

    Both campaigns have veteran pollsters – David Binder for Khanna, and Lake Research Partners for Honda. But any poll’s accuracy depends on the sample’s composition, and these have some interesting quirks.

    Khanna’s poll respondents were 46 percent Democrats, 27 percent independents and 23 percent Republicans; Honda’s poll respondents were 46 percent Democrats, 30 percent independents and 21 percent Republicans. The district’s overall voter registration is 44 percent Democrat, 32 percent independent and 19 percent Republican, though that may not be the breakdown of the district’s likely voters.

    Also, Khanna’s poll respondents were 51 percent white, 29 percent Asian and 12 percent Latino, while Honda’s poll respondents were 43 percent white, 38 percent Asian and 13 percent Latino. The U.S. Census estimates the 17th District is about 33 percent white, 52 percent Asian and 16 percent Latino.

    Finally, Honda’s poll, conducted Oct. 7 through 12, indicates 21 percent of respondents already have voted by mail – that seems awfully high, given that ballots just went out Oct. 6. Only 1 percent of the respondents to Khanna’s poll, conducted Oct. 8-9, said they already had voted.

    Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

    Rep. Eric Swalwell attended Ebola hearing in Dallas

    Rep. Eric Swalwell was in Dallas on Friday for a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing on the Ebola virus.

    The only person so far to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday in Dallas. People with whom he came into contact are being watched carefully for signs of the disease.

    Swalwell, D-Dublin, and other members of Congress at Friday’s hearing discussed with health officials how the federal government is working to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and prevent a serious outbreak in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security will be implementing enhanced security procedures at the five international airports in the U.S. that account for over 90 percent of travel to the U.S. from areas affected by Ebola.

    “As we respond to the Ebola crisis overseas, I called on health officials to aggressively address the situation in West Africa, prepare local hospitals and clinics, and to bust the myths that threaten to cause unnecessary panic,” Swalwell in a statement issued after the hearing.

    Swalwell will hold a conference call Tuesday with East Bay hospital officials and the Centers for Disease Control about the Ebola virus and how his office can help to ensure local hospitals and clinics are prepared to screen, diagnose and treat potential Ebola patients.

    Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2014
    Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | No Comments »